back to article Apple applies to patent a SIM you can't remove

Apple has been filed a US patent application on an embedded SIM capable of switching between mobile network operators under command from Cupertino, assuming the operators comply. The patent places an embedded SIM within the secure element which one would expect to see managing electronic payments, which is why it was spotted …

COMMENTS

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FAIL

Please get the facts straight before bashing patents AGAIN - bored now!

This is only a patent application and has not been granted by the US patent office yet. And for gods sake, why are patents seen as this almighty evil? A company should be rewarded for its innovation. If it isn't then they will just stop innovating because someone can simply copy there idea and won't have the cost of the R&D to pay for, and so can charge less; result = no new shiny things!

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Gold badge

Possibly the upset is people just looking at the surface of this and seeing it as a SIM just without the connector (read the post above!).

Then people think that it is a bit cheeky to apply to patent that.

Then people think that the US patent office will just grant the patent (and would even allow you to patent "the removal of waste from the body by shitting", and allow some patent troll to sue the crap out of everybody)

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WTF?

Really, Pollyanna?

"A company should be rewarded for its innovation. If it isn't then they will just stop innovating because someone can simply copy there idea and won't have the cost of the R&D to pay for, and so can charge less [...]"

Show me the "innovation" in "a rectangular case with rounded corners". I'll hang up and wait for my answer....

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Trollface

RE: "Please get the facts straight before bashing patents AGAIN - bored now!"

You don't come here often, do you old chap?

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Facepalm

Self defeating idea that

If they patent the process of removing bodily waste via the anus (slighhtly more politely put) then surely if they "sued the crap out of us" instead of allowing the normal method, they'd immediately have to stop sueing us as we'd not be doing it the "patented way" . . . . .. . . . . .

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Thumb Down

"A company should be rewarded for its innovation. If it isn't then they will just stop innovating"

fuckingretarded.jpg

It's amazing that people made it out of caves with state and patent office.

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Meh

Benefit?

I wonder where the benefit lies.

It's true that operators are an annoying man in the middle between Apple and the customer. Let's face it, they are just plain annoying.

If it takes us one step towards the telcos becoming the dumb pipes they really are then I would imagine that's all well and good.

But just to shave a couple of mm off a device and open up all kinds of potential security headaches just isn't in the consumers best interest.

I'm quite undecided about this but I'm leaning towards a negative view. While I can see a benefit for Apple. I don't see a benefit for me.

Someone enlighten me please

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Anonymous Coward

Re: cui bono?

It was hilarious in the story when the patent rationale was quoted as being "in case a customer can't easily get a sim card" or so. I mean, OMFG, I have about 30 sim cards, spilling out all over the place. They are as common and ubiquitous as dogshit. There should be an extra refuse collection on Tuesdays for these damn things.

The benefit for the consumer seems zilch - negative in fact given the reduction in security possible. The benefit seems for das Apfelkomputer inc. Two words: anti-competitive.

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FRAND

If they want to have the law changed they'll need to have it covered by a FRAND arrangement.

The only form of FRAND that Apple will accept it that is reasonable for us to use your patents for free and reasonable for us to sue everyone else.

They'll never agree to the FRAND condition.

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Facepalm

That explains why Apple patents are part of several FRAND pools, oh wait. I see what you did there, reality made you Dazed and Confused.

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Mixed feelings...

It's nice to see a network operator being kicked into the "dumb pipe" gutter where they belong. One of Nokia's failings was that it continually bowed to the operators causing enormous delays to firmware updates for anyone who was stupid enough to buy a phone through a network, or even a country variant as we have in the UK, which even though it ran standard firmware, would still be subject to a random delay thanks to some unknown issuing agency.

Apple never went with that model, they pushed out their firmware updates to everyone, at the same time. Although this did tend to crash their servers, it did mean everyone could be updated within a few days of each other (if they so wished).

However, I don't know if I trust Apple enough to agree to be locked into them... Actually, I do know the answer, and no I don't like it.

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How was this patent granted?

"We discussed that idea almost exactly a year ago, coincidentally on the very date the patent was filed. "

Then why was the patent granted? Surely a case of prior art based on pre-publication? And if not, then surely on the grounds of obviousness!

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Precedents

The Apple patent must be quite restricted in its claims. Non-removable SIMs (small chips soldered to the main board) are currently in use for things like remotely-readable gas meters. They exist in some consumer devices, particularly the Kindle. These seem to be cases where the user is not the customer for the 3G service: as a Kindle user, for instance, I don't know or care which network I am on because I'm not paying for it.

I suspect that Apple is just patenting the use of a discrete secure element to store the operator secrets (Ki, K) rather than using a single physical UICC.

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i agree, but to let you know if you open up your kindle you will find a sim card in there that can be removed,. i suspect though that the card is married to the device so no point in removing it for free network on another device.

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Call Access?

Does having the "secret" mean Apple will have access to all your calls or call history? If so, that is just as bad if not worse than letting governments have backdoors for monitoring your calls. Big Brother thy name is Apple.

Marginally related:

In the US. Serta Mattress is now selling a rip-off, I mean "clone" of the Tempur-Pedic memory-foam mattress. They call it "icomfort." I wonder how long it will take Apple to sue?

Thank somebody the family owns no Apple kit and we are all on a CDMA network instead of GSM.

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Go

Where's your problem?

What's the difference in having a SIM as part of the main board & one in a socket? Generally anyone who wants to use a smartphone has signed an x month contract anyway so they're tied to the SIM.

End of contract, decide to keep phone but move provider: Apply for PAC code, Apple by then have added "New Operator" feature into iTunes, insert PAC code into dialog box, job done.

"Apple will also need to get the network operators to hand over the secrets for embedding into iPhones. Our first thought is that this could never happen,"

Yeah, they said something like that about getting music companies to sell tracks for $.99 each

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Silver badge

Isn't it obvious ?

>> What's the difference in having a SIM as part of the main board & one in a socket?

Apart from the fact that it instantly means Apple both control which networks you can connect to (even retrospectively changing this **after** you have bought the device) and knows which network you are using ? If Apple have a disagreement with a network, they can simply not put that network's keys into future devices - that means the network will effectively be forced to play to Apple's tune in everything it does which I cannot see as anything but a bad thing.

But wait, there's more. This doesn't just apply to new devices, since you will have to get Apple's blessing to switch networks, Apple can disable the ability to switch to any network it doesn't like for devices it's sold in the past.

And as others have already pointed out, it stops you swapping SIMs at will - whether that's swapping SIMs in your iWotsit (such as when travelling), or swapping one SIM between your iWotsit and something else. On the latter, I have a 3G dongle which I occasionally use with my laptop - I don't have a separate SIM for it, I just borrow the one from my mobile.

Lastly, ever looked at mobile options ? Look at most operators an they have iPhone and normal options for SIM only tariffs. So you can pay more for a contract or PAYG SIM for an iPhone, or less for a generic SIM only deal. Once you can't put "any old SIM" into your iWotsit, then the operators can also ensure that you can't buy a cheap contract instead fo the more expensive one.

No, I see nothing good about this - not for users at least.

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Gimp

I would have to agree

But at the same time, customers aren't complete idiots as the market share steadily disappearing to anti-Iphones will attest. I have an Iphone (dont hit me, I like the interface) but if I could not slip in my favorite SIM or operator, I would dump it pronto for a less restrictive device. If Apples business plan is to lock in operators and users even further, I can not really see that working for long. Poor Steve.... I can not believe this was his last big idea

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Bod

" Apple by then have added "New Operator" feature into iTunes, insert PAC code into dialog box, job done."

And because it's through iTunes - they take a cut, which is passed on to the customer who pays more for their contracts.

As said, travel abroad (as us people outside the US tend to do) and the contract we have will cost an insane amount for use, so the cheap option is to get a local SIM... but you can't do that. Apple are unlikely to offer the option to get a local SIM update and would they let you swap to an operator and then swap to another, then back again, without signing new contracts each time. i.e. swap around based on the best deal for you location? No, didn't think so.

Contract ends, you decide PAYG is a far better deal for your use. Oh, can't just pick up a PAYG SIM.

You have business and home use and swap SIMs... oh, can't do that.

You buy SIM free rather than contract and just use your existing SIM from the last phone (as I do as my contract is far cheaper than any new contracts), will Apple let you import your contract? Seriously doubt that (and nor will the operators allow it, they'd insist on a new contract).

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Anonymous Coward

Its just Apple freakery wanting to control everything

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FAIL

You drop you phone, it breaks! Not to worry, send it off for repair and put your sim into your old phone sat in the drawer, no problem, people will still be able to contact you... oh... wait...

OK, you make it to the end of your contract, you get your PAC code and move over to another network, but (I know, this is very unlikely) not an iPhone. Normally you'd throw your old sim away, sell the phone or, pass it on to a relative, who can just pop in a new sim and they're away. But, it the iPhone now has no sim to replace, how do you transfer a new phone number onto it? How helpful will Apple be to someone who has bought the phone second-hand, from who they have received no money?

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FRAND

As it has to go into the GSM standard, the patent would have to be covered by a "fair,reasonable and none discriminatory" license so as much as Apple might want to keep it to itself it cannot, otherwise it would get locked out of making mobile phones rather quickly as all the FRAND covered patent licenses it needs would be revoked.

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Anonymous Coward

Benefits? More vendor lock-in anyone?

I fail to see any benefit of this for me (or any customer).

I don't think there is any love lost for the telcos - just some are more tolerable than others. At least there is competition between them (and watchdogs for price fixing), so I can switch if I want (which is why I don't do contracts however profitable they might seem).

Therefore, an integrated sim'ed device looks even more like a vendor lock-in. I can't find any other explanation.

A sim is a nice thing to have. It's not often it sees the light of day, but I do remember more than one time I've had to swap it into a temp handset which still had battery juice (or one time, wasn't submerged).

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Anonymous Coward

micro-sim

We already have the micro-sim. Which kind of makes sense, as the push for cramming more hardware and battery into slimmer packages continues.

But if your micro-sim device goes kaput, you can't just pop it into that old faithful Nokia waiting in the drawer. Tough break, hope you kept the mini-sim bracket.

This is even worse.

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Bod

Micro SIM = SIM

Yes you can put your micro SIM in your old faithful Nokia. You just need a plastic adapter. Costs a couple of quid. You could even make one yourself by cutting up an old spare bit of plastic, like old credit card perhaps.

The SIM is just the little chip and the rest is just a holder.

In fact the regular SIM as we know it is a mini SIM as the original was a credit card size, and indeed many SIMs are shipped in the full credit card sized package that you snap out to the mini or micro size.

Likewise you can take a regular SIM and cut it down to a Micro SIM with a pair of scissors.

That said micro SIMs have additional features on chip, but they are backwards compatible chips, and likewise an older SIM chip is forward compatible, just without the new features.

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Gold badge

SIM cards

I thought that really the SIM is just your private key to sign authentication packets to send to the network. The SIM holds that key and also does the signing so that the phone never needs to know the key and thus makes it more secure.

Now from a GSM standpoint, I don't see anything magic about the phone doing the signing itself, and the phone being told the key. The network sends the phone a request to authenticate itself, and receives a packet which it decodes as correct; job done.

Of course this means that the user can't just stick their SIM in another phone, and it also means that they can't just stick different SIM in this phone. It is probably for this flexibility that the GSM spec demands removable SIMs (although it doesn't work, becuase lots of phones refuse any SIM except 1 network).

If I could trust Apple, this would be great. In theory, I could have a number of contracts all loaded into my phone; UK, Spanish, Japanese, work, personal, etc. The phone could register on all the networks and receive calls from all of them, and I could tell it which one to use for outgoing calls/data.

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It gets better

You could have a local phone contract in a matter of seconds when you enter another country.

THAT ! is service.

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Contracts...

I can see *some* benefits to this albeit with *lots* of reservations.

I don't really care which telco hosts my number, just how much I have to pay per month. Frankly if Apple wanted to switch me between Vodafone and Orange each day I wouldn't care as long as the phone still worked. They'd be able to negotiate far better rates than I can, that's for sure. My contract would be for the phone, not the network, so I'd get quicker updates and probably simpler payments.

But if this catches on across the board it'll be awful. As someone who likes to switch SIMs from phone to phone it'll be a pain. No more borrowing a SIM for your phone when you're overseas, no more configuring a BlackBerry for a user and then saying 'Just stick your SIM in and it's done'. And passing on phones to my kids will have to stop too. On balance it's just too many negatives.

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Open your eyes

With such a solution .. there would only be virtual SIM's and you could connect to any contract provided you had the correct login/pw . WHy else ?

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Re: Contracts

No doubt Apple *will* be able to negotiate far better rates - for Apple. You'll likely still pay the regular rates, plus a "convenience fee" to Apple.

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@Matthew3

This might work for city central types, but not for the rest of us.

Would you care which telco hosts your number if there was only one that could provide a connection where you live or work? Would you be happy to be moved to Orange if only Vodafone or O2 provided a service in your area?

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FAIL

Patents stifle competition. If this patent is granted, no other company use an embedded sim and provide a better service than Apple.

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Silver badge
Alien

bah darn martians

Now the Martians are not even letting our probes get of low Earth orbit before sabotaging them.

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Unhappy

Modularity

I like the modular approach of having a SIM distinct from the phone. If my phone should fail, I can simply put the SIM in another. What should I do with an iPhone with an embedded SIM if said phone should fail?

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Can't see this working

Currently telcos are pipes, mobile phone manufacturers sell phones. It works well this way. You pick up a SIM for free, pick up a phone in your price range, sorted. Everything works with everything else. Or maybe you get a package deal and pay less up front for a loss of freedom (your choice.. free market. Personally I haven't bothered with such lockin deals for years).

Apple want to be a middle man that controls access to telcos. They want to limit what packages I can use (unless they're really going to give equal access to the many thousands of potential packages including VNOs, and every single worldwide carrier.. which would be quite an undertaking). They can f.. off, personally. It's my phone, not apple's.

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several SIM cards

There is no reason that they can not make smaller SIM cards and then have a multiplicity of sockets in the phone. When you wish to can use one or the other SIM card. This is a lot like the olr radios that had crystals.

Of course, crystals were made obsolete by synthesizers that could have any frequency. Similarly, a phone can be made like a chameleon - you add the SIM data as needed, with the security you wish, with the agreement of the operator's network

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Anonymous Coward

Benefits? If Apple doesn't control!!!!

Apple have applied for the patent, but it's practical application could be covered by governing bodies. Would this be more acceptable if Apple were required to make all networks available at no charge, to user and network.

Itunes could be used to control the details on a iPhones internal SIM. But There could be a requirement that a user could switch the phone number to a different handset through the operators website. Switching to a different network could be done similarly with the use of a PAC code.

There could also be the ability to transfer the details to a blank sim if needed - if this was in place I could see a benefit to this.

Also if a phone is stolen, it could be locked down by the user so no other sim could be entered on to it!

Basically, there are benefits to the user of being able to control the deployment of the sim - but it will need to be mandated that there are no restrictions placed on the operators or users.

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Pint

Just - No, ok?

Apple wanting to put everyone elses 'apples' in their basket - not good. There is a workaround of course - don't get an iPhone!

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Black Helicopters

Paranoid much?

Wow, anything to do with Apple and patents and some people freak out. As pointed out, this would need to be part of the GSM standard and thus be licensed on FRAND terms. Apple would end up maybe getting a fraction of a penny out of the GSM patent pool for handsets that use this. They aren't patenting it to be the only ones doing it, or to make money, they want to do it themselves because they think it can streamline the iPhone purchase process just a bit more.

It is also one less thing to go wrong. True, SIMs rarely go bad, but it can happen, and the slot on the phone can be physically damaged, etc. Plus Apple hates putting openings in the phone, and would love to someday have a completely sealed (and thereby waterproof) phone if they eliminated the SIM slot, used a magsafe or wireless charger, and made the dock connecter and earphone jack wireless.

In today's world you patent everything patentable you can for defensive purposes. Sometimes you might use those patents offensively to sue others into submission, or to try to make money, but every company takes out patents on things they come up with as a matter of course even if they are as non-evil as Google originally was.

Why would Apple want to use this to restrict the carriers you can use? There are supposedly over a million iPhones in use on T-mobiles network in the US, despite that carrier not being officially supported, and despite the fact that its 3G bands are different from what the iPhone supports so Edge is the fastest cellular data speed! Add in all the phones being used in China and elsewhere in the world and that's a lot of money Apple would stand to lose if they prevented you from using a different carrier. Apple has no incentive to prevent you from using PAYG SIMs when you travel, that's in your carrier's interest only. If Apple had the carrier's best interests at heart, there would be no Skype or other VOIP apps allowed and iOS 5.0 would not have added iMessage.

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MVNO

I view it that Apple will become an MVNO and they will move customers around based upon who is offering the best price at the moment. Then the carrier doesn't need to hand the keys to the customer over as Apple is technically the carrier.

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Silver badge
Joke

So if my SIM gets stuck in my phone

...I'd now have to pay Apple for it because they "invented" this mess ? ;-)

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Thumb Down

backward step by apple

This is a backward step to when cellphones did not use slim cards. This will not go well with people in the US. Think of it this way, carriers dont care what the slim is in , just want to make money by you using their network. LIke the apple store for apple mobile product, Apple has began to move to restricting their products only to them and this will give Androd device a greater edge on the market

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Anonymous Coward

It's called a SIM card mate

It stands for 'Subscriber Identity Module'

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FINALLY IT WILL BE THE END OF APPLE......

that's why they will never implement it, it is to stop others trying to come up with it and locking THEM out!

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WTF?

Double WTF

1 . This idea is dumb. of course the presets for every network should be available on every phone ... we do have a lot of presets for every ISP on our pcs ...

2. It got patented!

WTF .. patent my shorts apple . this is getting so ridiculous i'm going to join the patent business and patent every other idea I get .

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FAIL

I'm really beginning to hate Apple..

Apply seem to be in the news every week lately, with court battles over patents. Some of these are stupid, like patenting gestures, or the 'i' prefix before a product name. Or the likeness of a touchscreen phone that uses ICONS. They suck, i hate them, they are stifling creativity and fair competition. And this latest move is another attempt for them to gain more power over their customers.

Its a shame really, as they do make some really nice gadgets. Its just that if i bought an iphone, i wouldn't really feel that i own that iphone. I read a few years back about apple releasing an update that 'bricked' peoples jailbroken iphones. They want to control everything we do, and i really don't agree with this. If i buy a gadget, that is now MINE to do what i want with.

I like having a seperate sim. If my battery is dead, i can borrow a friends phone, and use my sim. When i change my phone i just copy all numbers to the sim, then switch it. The sim is not bulky, there isn't a problem with weight that i can see. I also like having a removable battery, as i can always buy another one if it dies. Apple can go to hell, i won't be buying an iphone in the next few decades. Theres plenty of competition out there with andriod phones, which i think is a much better os(considering its free).

I can only pray that Apple start to hemorrhage money in the next few years. I want to see them and their draconian policies fail. Sadly it probably won't happen, as spending 5 times as much on a product with an apple logo on it seems to be considered 'cool'.

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Bulky it Is

The sim in itself is bulky . it's already at least 1mm thick.

Add to that the Sim connection pad and you're over 2mm.

In a fight of the slimmest phone it's a big disadvantage.

Replacing all SIM cards by a login/password system, having your data saved and replicated on the network instead of on your card ready to be erased ... is better in my opinion.

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Mushroom

Apple, just fuck off... take your shiny bauble gadgets, idiotic patents and army of legislators and fuck right off !

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I don't understand how these patents are granted. A patent has to be an original idea and not obvious. Having a phone with a built in sim or identifying code is not original.

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Yet another reason for me to resist smart phones.

I carry a dirt cheap prepaid phone that's only good for making calls and a 4th gen iPod touch for entertaining myself and free texts when wifi is available. Its not just about saving money, when my iPod's battery is low, my dumb phone is still good for a couple more days.

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