back to article Same old iPad? NO. The new 'soft SIMs' are BIG NEWS

Buried in the hypegasm around the new iPad Air 2 and Mini 3 is a genuinely earthshaking reveal from Apple that could seriously change the way people buy their data. The iGiant has a introduced a software SIM card in "cellular" versions of the iPad Air 2 and Mini 3 models that can be configured to work with various carriers in …

Facepalm

Genius!

Well done Apple! I, for one, have never needed to swap sim cards in order to test or solve a problem and so I welcome the shining future where I simply need to either obtain internet access in order to configure the device for internet access or spend hours on the phone with foreign support staff who will try and blame my paid-for-but-not-functioning data plan on bad reception/me/my device/the weather.

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Re: Genius!

it will be like wearing a pair of handcuffs

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Re: Genius!

Er, is this a problem?

I seem to remember that the SIM card will still be a SIM card in a SIM slot, so it is swap-out-able, otherwise other, non-Apple-SIM-providers will not be able to put theirs in.

The only advantage to having an AppleSIM in the iPad will be that with the AppleSIM inside, you can swap carriers without removing it.

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Re: Genius!

Yeah, I was right:

https://www.apple.com/uk/ipad/compare/

What is the problem? If you do not like your AppleSIM on EE, just swap it out for a Vodafone, O2 or Three SIM!

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Re: Genius!

"I seem to remember that the SIM card will still be a SIM card in a SIM slot, so it is swap-out-able, otherwise other, non-Apple-SIM-providers will not be able to put theirs in."

For now. Come the next iteration of the iPad next year/the year after, and you'll suddenly find the removable sim is no longer removable.

And soon after you'll find the other device manufacturers following suit.

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Anonymous Coward

Oh mobile data on your iPad overseas....

...nice hypothesis, if only it actually worked.

I'm looking at you Vodafail

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Anonymous Coward

Re: Oh mobile data on your iPad overseas....

I can confirm mobile data works in various countries around the world on Vodafone (or at least roaming using a Vodafone SIM).

Based on a number of execs who decided to save money in various countries by watching Netflix on their iPads vs paying for "expensive" movies in the hotel. They thought they were using the hotel wifi but something went wrong. A few US$10,000 bill's later...

Why weren't there restrictions on their accounts to prevent this? There were, but they are set a little higher than this due to "normal" usage.

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Silver badge

This _is_ designed to make carrier switching harder

After all you now have one more company in the loop and this is probably how this is sold to the carriers.

However this could potentially bring positive possibilities. Jailbroken devices could allow you to swap your IMSI on the fly by accessing a large pool of virtual SIMs. If you could also change your IMEI you could effectively restore privacy to mobile phones.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: This _is_ designed to make carrier switching harder

"If you could also change your IMEI you could effectively restore privacy to mobile phones."

I'm not sure you get that much privacy in prison:

http://www.legislation.gov.uk/ukpga/2002/31/section/1

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Silver badge

Re: This _is_ designed to make carrier switching harder

Let me tell you something. When I was a child, in Germany, the penalty for extending your phone line used to be higher than for accidentally causing a nuclear explosion.

Laws can be wrong. Eventually people will realize that those laws are wrong and they will be changed in a democratic matter. In this case we essentially have an old law which prevents people from becoming targets of terrorism. After all terrorists could now easily build IMEI triggered bombs. So in the name of counter terrorism, this law has to go. (change that argument to anti surveillance state for the other political direction)

Maybe one should build an IMEI triggered light and publicly demonstrate it saying it's trivial to add a bomb, urging policy makers to root for a "right to change and randomize" your IMEI.

BTW this law is rather curious as in 2002 there was no possibility to gain anything from reprogramming your phone in that matter. You couldn't defraud your carrier that way. However in the US AMPS having telephones which change their identity was an easy way to defraud your carrier... I wonder if that law is just a late copy of the same law in the US.

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Re: This _is_ designed to make carrier switching harder

The reason reprogramming an IMEI number was made illegal was so that stolen phones that were reported as such could not be used. When a phone is reported as stolen its IMEI is added to the CEIR (Central Equipment Identity Register). When a phone connects to a mobile network its IMEI is checked against this database, and if it is stolen the network will provide no service to the device.

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Anonymous Coward

Apple already doing it.

...it's a big deal because Apple will have found a way to take a cut of carrier subscription fees.

According to my corporate account manager, Apple already take a cut of iPhone/iPad subscriptions. It's why our price list has one data plan for Apple devices and another data plan for all other devices. (In fact, at one time, the Apple tariff was more expensive than the non-Apple tariff for exactly the same service)

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Silver badge

And when you are out of battery

you simply swap the SIM into.. oh wait.

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Re: And when you are out of battery

Not sure if Apple will be doing it but if you associate the v-SIM with some cloud based identity, then logging into another device will automatically allow you to reconfigure it. Additionally will probably mean that the same v-SIM can be used in multiple devices (just like registering sip endpoints)... My guess.

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Silver badge
Devil

With the AppleSIM I have more choice!

With those ordinary SIMs I could choose any carrier in the UK or abroad. Now, with the AppleSIM, I can choose... EE.

No lock-in there, not at all.

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Re: With the AppleSIM I have more choice!

Look, don't be silly, once you've drunk the Kool-Aid you won't want (well, or be able) to walk away.

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Silver badge

Re: With the AppleSIM I have more choice!

If the advent of this helps the user move carriers easily then what is wrong with that?

You have bought into the apple Eco System already because you bought the thing in the first place. Surely making it east to change networks is a good thing?

IMHO, this results in less lock in when it comes to the mobile networks.

Then when travelling it can make it easier to sign up for a temp data plan where to are at.

The proof of how valuable this actually is, will be shown over time.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: With the AppleSIM I have more choice!

Yes, I remember when the UK opened the energy market, absolutely no one got swapped suppliers without their permission, by mistake etc and paid lots of money to get themselves out of the hole the unscrupulous salesmen had put them in.

I can see this ending not too well.

"OOPS, we forgot to move you to the local carrier last time you went to the US, you owe us £3,000.00 for the data plan you are on, Apple will direct debit this amount in 2 days"

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Silver badge

Re: With the AppleSIM I have more choice!

How much easier does it have to be than taking the old SIM out and putting the new one in?

If I were to pop off two France for two weeks...

- Could I jump ship, albeit temporarily, before my current minimum term is up or am I forced to roam?

- All operators or a subset? At the moment it's a very definite subset. Will we ever see the likes of GiffGaff?

- Am I limited to contract? If so, there's still the question of if they'll have me.

- If I am allowed prepay, I need to go somewhere top it up anyway and get the shortcode to activate the Internet bundle.

- What tariffs will be made available? All of them?

- Will I have to go along to the shop to show ID to activate the connection? In France, certainly. (Congratulations, your operator has been successfully changed to Orange FR. Connection lost.)

I'm not seeing less lock in. I'm seeing Apple making sure that iDevices are used with an iDevice data bundle. Back to how it was during the first few years with an iPhone.

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Vendor lock in

I guess Apple ran out of room to make the sim any smaller so that it would only work in Apple devices, now they seem to have solved the problem by making a sim that literaly cannot be used in any other device.

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Re: Vendor lock in

A very good point.

In past if phone broke or battery failed, you could swap the SIM into your old phone and you'd be back in business instantly. Apple have systematically sabotaged that option by (in my view otherwise pointlessly) changing the SIM's format.

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Anonymous Coward

Apple MVNO?

Is this the first step to Apple becoming a global MVNO? Pay your subscription to Apple and use your device anywhere in the world? It's not enough just to sell the device, and take a cut of the media you put on it, they also want a cut of the network tariff too.

Apple appear to be following the Mafias business model.

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Silver badge

Re: Apple MVNO?

>Apple becoming a global MVNO

My thoughts exactly. Given the way they have negotiated with MNO's in the past over the supply of Apple devices, it would not surprise me that Apple makes support of the Apple MVNO one of the conditions of supply. From there it becomes a small step to invert the relationship whereby the customer is contracted to Apple and Apple then pays the networks - just like Amazon do today with Whispernet.

So effectively whilst Apple won't be the first global MVNO operator they will have taken what is currently a boutique service and made it mainstream.

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patented?

I had this on my Samsung 10 years ago, Now Apple will patent this idea and claim Samsung are infringing their patent! Apple is such a non-innovative company. etc etc.

OK all fibs. But I thought's I'd get it in before the Samsung fandroids did.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: patented?

My NEC Roamer circa 1992 had this built in SIM feature

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Silver badge

Do iPhones/iPads allow SIM swap without a restart

If so, it is not that difficult to swap data plans. Obviously a dual SIM is better for the people that need two SIMS and no more.

My phone lets me just pop one out and pop a new one in, about 20s - as I did previously when leaving EE for Three. The hardest part would be making sure the loose SIM was not lost.

No restart, little hassle.

But what these tablets really need is a system that automatically connects to a Bluetooth-paired phone, switches on the internet sharing feature and uses the phone data plan over Wi-Fi. If other tablets are like Surface/Win8, they have a switch that says the connection is metered and to only use it (in the background at least) for smaller data transfers, getting mail, IMs etc. but not mega-downloads unless specifically requested.

If they did this then a) A Wi-Fi-only tablet would always up-to-date email etc. and b) Be more usable, more quickly on the road.

It barely affects me but occasionally I would like to have used a tablet somewhere but used the phone because it was easier than setting the sharing on - which is pretty easy. The biggest problem is waiting for the Wi-Fi to actually detect and connect. If that latter mechanism were super-fast (because the tablet was requesting it rather than idling and detecting it) then the whole mechanism would be smoother.

I am not a road-warrior type that needs a SIM-based tablet/laptop setup so a Wi-Fi only unit is always gonna be OK for me.

Everyone that buys one of these Apple things has an phone and a data plan already so the only real use is for regular international travel to multiple destinations which require data on the road - a very small demographic indeed.

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Re: Do iPhones/iPads allow SIM swap without a restart

Not sure if you know this but the Surface RT (and I assume other Win8lets) can do just that with bluetooth switching on the internet sharing and the wireless auto-connecting. Means a 3/4G enabled tablet is pointless when your phone has tethering and unlimited 3/4G data. Just a shame the unlimited data abroad didn't include tethering.

Not sure if Apple/Google have identified that functionality as a desired feature - it wouldn't be hard to implement in a future patch.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: Do iPhones/iPads allow SIM swap without a restart

Physically swapping a SIM is an arse on many phones - often needing the back to be removed - at least on iPhones it's on a pop out tray but this software SIM is far better still. The idea of frequently swapping SIMs does not appeal - likely to put excessive wear on the connectors or snap off the battery cover etc. and storing a SIM safely where it would not get damaged / dirty / lost.

Like the idea of being able to swap networks more easily - even perhaps if one had poor coverage it could switch to another and getting a new SIM is an extra faff that puts people off moving due to poor quality / service. Solved.

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Re: Do iPhones/iPads allow SIM swap without a restart

I have to disagree - swapping SIMs on an iPhone is a royal pain - can I ever find that s*dding SIM unlocking tool?

I've reached the point of having ordered 100 of them so i can keep a stock to lose as I'm not about to start using bent paperclips on delicate electronics.

Any system that's "fingers only required" seems far better to me.

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Silver badge
Big Brother

Presumably the devices still have a normal SIM slot so you can pick a carrier not on Apples partner list?

As long as that continues then I don't see a problem. Once Apple remove the physical SIM the we're into a whole new world of cartels and anti-competitive practices ...

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Anonymous Coward

yes, they still have a nano sim port, and the "article" could've actually mentioned that,

But I guess not mentioning it wouldn't have brought out the pitchforks from the usual anti-apple hordes.

from my pov this'll be ace once they roll it into the phones, use my std sim at home, and switch on-the-fly when on my hols. And yes, I'm perfectly aware there's not much choice NOW - give it time. How many carriers are NOT going to want to partner up for fear of missing out

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I read the article, and thought "what a good idea!"

Then I read the comments, and realised that it is a terrible idea.

Still, would be nice to do away with SIMs, entirely.

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Re: I read the article, and thought "what a good idea!"

I wonder if that this is Apples longer term aim. Once there is no actual SIM, they have yet another rope to hobble the iGullible.

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Anonymous Coward

Maybe it would make dual / multiple SIM operation possible as well - i.e. for travelling to other countries or perhaps if no coverage with A swap to B etc. Well done Apple - neat feature - now it's just for the other networks to catch up with EE in the UK.

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Alert

Apple to ransom networks...

This shouldn't be any surprise at all - Apple have wanted to dump sim cards for years to make more room in devices for useful stuff. However, you can absolutely guarantee that Apple will want a very handsome payment for including each and every network on the AppleSIM, so the smaller (more innovative) MVNOs may not be willing or able to pay what Apple wants.

Remember, this is a company who demands a 7-figure listing fee from networks to just allow iPads to be shown in a price list, even before the network actually purchases devices...

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Silver badge

Incoming Hacker/security snafu/corruption/duplication issue in 5..4..3..

Well it's probably likely isn't it...?

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Silver badge

Re: Incoming Hacker/security snafu/corruption/duplication issue in 5..4..3..

Mr. Paranoid is screaming in my ear, that if carriers can be switched on the fly, how likely is it that to be abused by certain authorities?

After all, why wiretap or (HA!) get a warrant, when they can just slip them quietly over to their private little network whenever they want, for a full data buffet?

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Can't quite see how it will make things cheaper if Apple takes a cut of the carriers cash. Also, it will be quite some time before it's useful in the UK if ever. It's not in carriers interests to promote churn. So a sim which does exactly that and apple takes a cut as well sounds like bad news for the operators. For the users, changing a plan is not something you do very much.

If on the other hand, you could roam in the UK for instance without extra costs, that would be a good thing. One day, mobile comms will be like electricity. The grid is run by one company and the suppliers do billing etc.

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Anonymous Coward

Apple get to store Ki

where Ki is the network secret at the heart of your current SIM. Presuming that the new iPad Air 2 has a working hardware security module/SoftSIM, then Ki should still remain a secret.

(The Telecom Network Operators might be less happy that Apple has the Ki, as that means that Apple would also need to know the sometimes haphazard proprietry network crypto associated with the Ki)

I *do* plan to get my hands on iPA2 and verify this

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Silver badge

A hacker's delight

If I have got this right; I can put my iThing data usage on someone else's contract if I can find the right details to enable that.

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