back to article Apple's new iPADS have begun the WAR that will OVERTURN the NETWORK WORLD

Well, Tim Cook has cried "havoc" and let slip the SIM dogs of war. For several years Apple has sought to replace the hardware SIM card, and hand itself ultimate control over which mobile network the consumer can choose. With the latest iPads, it has finally implemented the strategy. Coming soon to a device near you It’s a …

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Very worrying!

1) Security of a "soft SIM"

2) Device Seller control

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Re: Very worrying!

Exactly, I buy my hardware, then I buy a SIM card and I put the two together and they just work.

The other problem I have, is I do a lot of trouble shooting, which means swapping SIMs in and out - and I have multiple SIMs with data, so if one gets full, I can nab one from another account, or swap in a PAYG SIM. Often that is 3 or 4 SIMs on one provider, so the soft SIM is going to be working overtime.

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Re: Very worrying!

Read up on WiMAX forum standards, as this was a core component. You buy a device from anywhere then select a plan ON THE DEVICE

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Megaphone

Re: Very worrying!

Mobile operators desperately need the Picard speech at this point. "I will not sacrifice our SIM cards. We've made too many compromises already, too many retreats. They took our app revenue, and we fall back. They cannibalise entire network services and we fall back. The line must be drawn here. THIS FAR, NO FURTHER."

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Re: Very worrying!

Very worrying. Bye bye consumer choice. You can choose a network so long as it's one Apple will let you use. You cannot "change SIM" unless Apple let you do it. Rubbish idea.

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Re: Very worrying!

Very hard to tell at this stage whether the soft sim is the answer to your prayers or your worst nightmare.

I suppose worst case is you'll have to carry around 5 handsets - rather good news for *somebodys business model - but surely this is precisely the scenario the soft sim was intended to prevent?

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Re: Very worrying!

Soft sims are, IMO, the most consumer friendly consumer beneficial development to arise in telecoms in the last 15 years. Commenters read one misguided and ambiguous article, alight on the "Apple in control" angle and lose all powers of reason.

The thing that makes your handset a money syphon when roaming overseas is the sim card. If before departure, you can simply purchase a PAYG soft sim over the web from a provider local to your arrival destination, you, the consumer, get what you should always have been offered.

If Apple or anyone else, doesn't offer a soft sim, they won't get promoted through the network's stores. Their competitors will be though. That's still 50% of Apple's business. They aren't going to turn their back on ensuring the customer has a variety of network channels.

When Apple had their greatest leverage over the networks - shortly after the launch of the iPhone - the networks had little choice in new style touch based smartphone manufacturer. Steve Jobs insisted AT&T provide unlimited data. That was good for consumers and data options have gone downhill since Apple lost their leverage. Where the competition with Android was great for smartphone hardware choice, it was bad for the cost of networking a device. The networks re-asserted their oligopoly tendencies and all at the same time re-introduced metered pricing (what are the chances, but no, I'm sure there wasn't any illegal collusion going on there !).

The point is, when it comes to network access, the concerns of the hardware manufacturers and the consumer will be more closely aligned with soft sims in the mix. Look at the evidence; in this hard-sim world, loyal customers are treated worse than new customers. When shopping around is less convenient and fulfilment takes 40 mins in a phone shop, the result is bad for consumer.

But yes, one point on which I do agree with Andrew, is when Google are in competition with the networks they might be tempted to restrict supply in a way that benefits them at the expense of both the consumer and the network.

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Re: Very worrying!

As I understand it, the slab ships with an Apple SIM, and you can swap it for a different one. In the UK, only EE are signed up to the Apple SIM, so if you want to use a different network, you still have to get a SIM from your network in the traditional manner.

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Re: Very worrying!

It's not an "Apple" SIM, it's a soft SIM. There's a standard for a software based SIMs and Apple will be using it. The networks are resisting switching over to using them and Apple doesn't want to alienate the networks. Their tactic is clever however. If they introduced software SIMs with the iPhone, the networks that don't cater for them are likely to be pissed off enough, they will marginalise the presentation of the iPhone within their stores. The iPad however is not used directly for telephony services. By introducing a soft sim in the iPad the networks will get used to the fact they exist and any that don't supply soft SIMs they will end up losing out to the networks who do. Obviously users are more likely to select a network where the service can be provided out the box and without requiring a trip to the store. Once the networks have got used to providing service via soft SIM to the iPad, they are more likely to accept the same on iPhone.

People really aren't thinking sufficiently about what this means. One thing it can mean (dependent on negotiation with the networks) is that Apple will be in a position to synchronise SIM's across a single user's devices. Which means if you don't have your telephone with you, they will be able to ensure you can place a call using effectively the same SIM card, but from the device you do have on you. It's crazy you can't do this already and the only reason is because the networks have been dragging their feet so they can gouge money from consumers by ensuring they have to have two different accounts for their phone and tablet. With this capability, for many trips I would take only my iPad. If you have a case to carry it in and are going to have it with you, and use headphones with a mic (or bluetooth headset), there's little point in taking a phone as well.

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Re: Very worrying!

> you can simply purchase a PAYG soft sim over the web from a provider local to your

> arrival destination

No, you can't. That's the whole point - the 'soft SIM' is built in to the hardware and operating system of the tablet, you have no control over what providers are available. Apple (or whoever made the tablet) are the ones that decide what you get to choose from.

The current iPads have a removable (hardware) SIM. My speculation is that the next generation won't - it'll be Apple SIM or nothing, either through software or by gluing in a nano SIM. You will get to choose from a pre-approved list of carriers and plans.

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Re: Very worrying!

Yes, you can but just not now. And it's the network operators, not Apple that request those restrictions on the use of soft SIMs, so you complaint is the right one directed at exactly the wrong party. Apple has to, to some extent, please the network operators as partners and though they are slowly getting the upper hand, they have to move the operators slowly towards the inevitable. This is just the same as how when they introduced tethering the network operators were upset unless they had control over the feature. They resisted, some charged if it was switched on, but the writing was on the wall and now, in the UK at least, nearly all of the networks allow tethering for no charge (though primarily because they now have either metered pricing or packaged pricing). It was the same pattern with music too, where the labels (their partners) wanted DRM but Apple (and most specifically Steve Jobs) didn't and slowly over-time they got their way.

There is simply no value in Apple restricting their customer's choice of network. All you have to do is look at the incentives to understand who is doing what. Incumbent telco's fear young upstarts getting in on the act. The networks have probably already started to wake-up and realise this is all a play for who controls the user's preferred addressable ID and that may end up being WhatsApp. They will cling on with every means at their disposal though, fearing being forced into what they are, little more than utility service providers like heating, lighting and refuse collection. Nobody want's their WiFi login screens. They just want a device that one way or another allows them to talk to their contacts and allows them access to the Internet.

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Re: Very worrying!

I disagree with the author's sentiments.

"The key difference in a soft-SIM world is that you select, via a “ballot screen” which network operator you'll use. Who gets to choose who goes in this list? Apple does, from a pre-approved list chosen by Apple. "

The EU would not allow a device manufacturer to restrict the network on which the device can be used. It simply will not happen without massive fines.

Second, Google and Apple will not be the gatekeepers as if they try to restrict choice for the consumer the consumer will not purchase said device and someone else will step in to fill the void. The void being a tablet you can use on your network of choice. Hell, the someone else could even be disgruntled networks funding an incredibly similar tablet produced on the same Chinese production lines using the same OS (Android). With this much money at stake industry will route around the problem.

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What Apple doesn't say

No SIM, no possibility of switching phones...more sales for Apple.

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Re: What Apple doesn't say

Not really, what is important is the contract that you have with the operator not with Apple, your Telco can they can provide you with a new sim card ( probably at cost).

The fact that SIM cards are not being issued will probably be a gift in the end for the operators as it is one less thing to go wrong, is a reduction in production costs and finally doesn't change the fact that the client will stay have to pay his monthly bills.

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Re: What Apple doesn't say

Yes, because its not as if we live in a world where SIMs can be changed, once you get a SIM you're stuck with it for life.

Oh, wait.

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Re: What Apple doesn't say

You're certainly stuck with it for between 12 and 24 months, during which codec quality, available bandwidth, and available connectivity can all be varied at the cellcos whim, and you have no legal come-back against ever-degrading service because contract.

Instead of touting the usual cellco 'I'm an important opinion former, me' propaganda, Orlowski might try taking the consumer POV and asking what effect open and free carrier hopping could have on service quality.

If I'm with [cellco 1] and can switch to [cellco 2] with a preferences tweak, there's at least a slim chance [cellcos 1..n] are going to have to start offering me the call quality, bandwidth and other service elements I actually want, instead of the ones they might condescend to give me on an extended contract, which sets the bar for PAYG users too.

Will Apple and Google abuse this? Possibly. But the cellcos have already been abusing their oligopoly for years, and no one is going to argue that service in the UK is anywhere near good enough. (You don't know what fury is until you try making a 999 call and the operator has to keep saying 'I'm sorry you're breaking up'.)

The real problem is abusive monopolistic business culture that basically sells crap if it can. Having a rant at Apple and Google about something that's a much bigger problem doesn't exactly demonstrate world-class analytical skills.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: What Apple doesn't say

Isn't this a spooks wet dream?

A device with a built in SIM where you can't take the battery out. No thanks.

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Vic
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Re: What Apple doesn't say

You're certainly stuck with it for between 12 and 24 months

No you're not. You can change the SIM at pretty much any time, as long as the phone accepts the new one.

What you're stuck with is the *contract* - and moving to a soft-SIM doesn't change that one bit.

Vic.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: What Apple doesn't say

It'd be OK if the 'phone and SIM were open source. Then you could take Apple IOS source code and cut out any bits that looked iffy, or add an ad blocker at the OS level, or use any network operator --- or use software to make network operator free calls - if you're near a phone that's near a phone... that's near the person you want to call, you could connect through that network with no need for a carrier...

or, more simply, you could have your call, as has been said, connect to whichever carrier/technology is giving the best service/cost ratio for you - wi-fi, 3G, 4G, anything else.

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I think when Google or Apple will become an MVNO in various countries in such a way that they can use multiple carriers or switch carrier easily and thus truly render the carriers into being just pipes.

VoLTE will play a part of that because then everything is just data, and you won't even need the PSTN interconnects that the mobile/cellular operators provide and make money on, since G or A can do that themselves.

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Query

Can you set up an MVNO on each network, and then effectively merge them?

Would that take too much smarts on the devices themselves?

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Re: Query

Here in Germany there are MVNOs that allow you to select which master network you want to run on...

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Re: Query

AAISP have a solution where their sims are "Home" on the O2 network, but can change their "home" to an European network to allow them to roam onto other UK networks.

So yes, such a thing is possible, at billing time.

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Apple always control networks anyway, approved carriers download a file to the phone to enable features like tethering, visual voice, logos etc. Apple phones will work on any network but some features are crippled if the carrier is not approved and can't send you this file.

Giffgaff went for years, only recently became an iPhone retailer to enable this.

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Black Helicopters

I, for one, welcome our new confectionary-based overlord....

Actually, no, I don't.

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Anonymous Coward

This was doing so well until I got halfway down page 2 and hit "Apple good, Google bad". Weird view, I thought. Must be Orlowski writing this.

Yep.

Truth is, whoever does this, it's a Bad Idea. Whether or not you trust their current business model is 10000% irrelevant.

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Unhappy

Re: "This was doing so well until............"

Indeed. The reaction of the competition authorities will be very interesting. Not because the situation in the US market with telcos in control has been exactly edifying but because we would be looking at a degree of stranglehold over a communications/computing market that means something very different in terms of the future (scale-wise and qualitatively) than when Redmond ended up in control of the pc-market. Just think about the implications of this - this is not remotely amusing.

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Oh how our memories fail us, Apple playing off one network against another to see who would cut them the sweetest deal. In the UK, O2 hastily rolled out an upgrade to EDGE and they were late to 3G, but they got it as they paid Apple the most.

So will this mean the networks you can choose from change every two or three years as the networks prostitute themselves to get into the dialog box?

I imagine Google would actually be slightly less evil as they do everything OTT and make their money with ads anyway - anything that is a cost is a barrier to that. They might even not follow Apple down that road... we can but hope.

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Anonymous Coward

I fear Apple more than Google.

Apple have shown they take large payments in exchange for exclusivity. AT&T, U2 Album for example. They also use technology like this to give them a competitive advantage (iPhone browser for example, where everything has to be the enforced "slow Safari", no 3rd party rendering or JS engines, but their browser has the works)

Google tend to be far more open and level playing field. The fact that Apple are first to market with this, is very worrying for anyone that likes fruity things. I would personally be surprised if 3 years from now, it's not still Apple being the only people playing this anti-consumer game.

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Almost a good idea

Software SIMs would be great. I currently have an issue with my Tesco micro-SIM in a Moto G. The G keeps losing it - but not other SIMs. And the Tesco SIM works OK is my Nexus 4. And who hasn't had to indulge in an orgy of gold contact cleaning - if only to please the call centre droid?

This is a bit of unreliable hardware we don't need. The problems when we lose a phone and want to use another - the problem, cost and time of carriers despatching a new SIM.

So be able to configure WITH YOUR FAVOURED CARRIER what IMEI to attach to your number (with a personal PIN in case anyone clones your IMEI) would be great. Online and independent of the device.

So yes software SIMs please. But they belong to either the carrier or me. Not the device. And certainly not Apple or Google.

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And who hasn't had to indulge in an orgy of gold contact cleaning

Me, never. Not once.

Do you spit on your SIM before you install it?

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Re: Almost a good idea

was it a cheap Chinese SIM? (you can tell by the pattern on the chip)

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Re: And who hasn't had to indulge in an orgy of gold contact cleaning

>Do you spit on your SIM before you install it?

Are you implying he is remiss for not doing so? ...or that this could be the underlying cause?

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"Super-profits generate super investment"

*snigger* Poor naive fool.

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Not naive more accurate to say super size profits will generate some investment. Losses dont generate any investment.

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Anonymous Coward

Losses dont generate any investment.

Tell that to Silicon Valley!

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Stop

Only half of the conditions

In order to have investments, you need profits, but also competition. Take TWC and Comcast: they make profits, but are not competing against each other. They are even proclaiming it: one of the arguments they are advancing for their merger is that anyway, they are already not competing against each other, so nothing would change. No competition means no need to fight for customers means no investments. QED.

On the other hand, I don't think there is anybody who would claim that Apple and Google are not competing against each other. The fight for market share is real, constant, and there is even Microsoft trying to make a viable third horse. For them, banning a network means losing users. They are unlikely to play that game.

Oh, and about Google Fiber: considering it exists in about half a percent of the US, I doubt Google can leverage anything on that front.

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Big Brother

No More Burners

Unless someone works out how to hack the phone, thats the end of anonymous sims.

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Re: No More Burners

I'd go with "until" rather than unless, but your point is well made.

And I'm sure the Powers That Be will wholeheartedly support such an arrangement.

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The simple way to avoid this..

If Google or apple try to restrict which networks their mobiles can connect to , they are immediately banned from selling them in that country. Why? They would immediately fall afoul of competition law.

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Re: The simple way to avoid this..

So you forsee GiffGaff being in the list of software SIMs that you can connect your new iPad to? Along with several dozen others? On day one?

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Unhappy

Re: The simple way to avoid this..

"They would immediately fall afoul of competition law."

Well, in Belgium it is all ready illegal to sell a locked phone!

That doesn't mean Apple & Google wouldn't get a special dispensation though.

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Big Brother

Re: The simple way to avoid this..

Sleep easy. TTIP is taking care of this kind of liberal nonsense.

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Re: The simple way to avoid this..

IMHO, it will be the Carriers/Networks that would be against this. If Apple and whoever is next to implement this asks the Carriers to let them use this in country X and the carriers say no then how much bad publicity would that be for that Carrier.

I see this as making the gouging from roaming largely a thing of the past except in places like India where you have to hand over the soul of your firstborn to ger a SIM.

I am just surprised that it has taken until now for it to happen.

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Re: The simple way to avoid this..

"Why? They would immediately fall afoul of competition law."

Thankfully you will have Almunia to enforce that law.

In fact I'm sure they are texting his replacement as I type.

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Re: The simple way to avoid this.. @Beau

"Well, in Belgium it is all ready illegal to sell a locked phone!............."

I thought that. My bro lives there. But was corrected when I asserted it on this forum some months ago.

Be interesting to know whether Belgium still stands up to the telco bullies -- I gather its other consumer protection laws are pretty feeble.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: The simple way to avoid this..

Yes and no, both have shown to be adroit at bypassing data and competition law by through strong political support in the USA and fragmentation in the Europe.

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Re: The simple way to avoid this.. @Beau

Definitely! I used to live in Brussels until recently.

In a way they lose out both ways, the mobiles are expensive and the contracts aren't as cheap as they should be.

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I guess modded ROMs will become a lot more popular then?

Besides, there is already regulation for unlocking a phone tied to a particular network, so presumably that legislation would be extended to this method.

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