Apple making custom, built-in SIM for future iPhone?

Is Apple about to take carrier disintermediation to the next level by contracting their own, built-in SIM card for future iPhones? GigaOm thinks so:

Sources inside European carriers have reported that Apple has been working with SIM-card manufacturer Gemalto to create a special SIM card that would allow consumers in Europe to buy a phone via the web or at the Apple Store and get the phones working using Apple’s App Store.

Right now, even with unlocked iPhones and iPads, you still need to get a carrier-specific SIM card. If the SIM were embedded, however, that's one less carrier interaction to worry about. The entire process could be shifted to the device, much as plan management is already done on the iPad.

The Gemalto SIM, according to my sources, is embedded in a chip that has an upgradeable flash component and a ROM area. The ROM area contains data provided by Gemalto with everything related to IT and network security, except for the carrier-related information. The flash component will receive the carrier related data via a local connection which could be the PC or a dedicated device, so it can be activated on the network. Gemalto will provide the back-end infrastructure that allows service and number provisioning on the carrier network.

Would it present a problem for multi-device power users accustomed to swapping SIMs between iPhone, Android, webOS, and other handsets? Hopefully not. They'd still have to get a SIM from their carrier, same as now.


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Rene Ritchie

EiC of iMore, EP of Mobile Nations, Apple analyst, co-host of Debug, Iterate, Vector, Review, and MacBreak Weekly podcasts. Cook, grappler, photon wrangler. Follow him on Twitter and Google+.

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Reader comments

Apple making custom, built-in SIM for future iPhone?


I want to continue to have the option to, as I did months, go, replace my iPad with a new one and keep my sim card so I can keep my same AT&T account...without, say, losing access to my unlimited plan.
AT&T gave me the hardest time when I tried to change my service to a different SIM. Luckily, I was able to get my old SIM back and avoid AT&T's useless csr's ajd their "help."

What am i going to do when i need to send my iPhone in for service? Am i going to have to run to my Carrier to get a sim, just to switch phones, and send my phone in?
This option seams like it would work better for the iPad... idk.. just my opinion.

I'm not sure a phone without a user accessible SIM meets the GSM criteria, and would cause issues being okay'd by the authorities on Europe/Asia/Aus, pretty much everywhere except perhaps the US.

Maybe it's something Verizon actually had a hand in so they could bypass the interchangable SIM requirement for when they start rolling out their LTE network... >.>

This is dumb. I think it would create much more of a hassle if you travel and want to use a SIM of the country you're in... also, as someone said, what would happen if you need to send the device in for service? You lose your number and then they got to program into the refurb device they send back to you?
Here's another important question... what happens when you want to sell the device?! I see this creating more headaches if anything... what the hell is Apple's problem? They just love less control for the user....

Yet another example of Apple taking ALL the benefits of GSM an chucking them right out the window at the alter of the all mighty Steve Jobs.

What the he'll do Apple think their doing.
I don't think option would work for iPad either as same scenario, what happens if it needs to go in for service and you want to use your sim in another devise while you wait for iPad cause Apple ain't going to loan you an iPad while yours is in being fixed.
Secondly, it was bad enough of Apple to change the current simcard to a microsim card for the iPhone 4 so swapping between devises is impossible unless you buy yourself a sim adaptor.
Apple is bad enough you control us to a point now, don't try and control our simcard usage as well. I love my iPhone 4 and iPad 3G but it is getting annoying having someone control my devise without me having to go to further fustrationcontacting carriers to flick my number between devises cause I can't remove my simcard. Think of the fees the carriers will slug you with. Apple are willing to pay see fees for us?
Your not the king and your not running the Titanic, so Apple you need to slow down with your control before you cause yourself a big disaster.

this would make me drop the iPhone like a hot potato. I'm already peeved with this whole micro sim business.

I think Apple is going to become a virtual carrier. For the consumer, Apple will be the carrier. In the background, Apple will buy lines and plans in bulk from real carriers, and make them invisible to the consumer.

I do not think that they can have a GSM phone without a SIm card user access able so it could be a CMDA phone.

I think this would be a terrible idea. It would be like being on a CDMA network all over again, with all the challenges of switching between devices. I swap out my devices every 6-12 months and flip between networks, so this would make sure that I never bought another iPhone. It make it harder to lock an iPhone to a carrier, but it also means that I couldn't change the SIM card when I travel internationally, nor could I easily swap devices and carriers. Not going to work for me.

This can go both ways.
GOOD: It may allow users to switch carriers easily when they move from one Geo to another with minimal fuss.
BAD: If it is used to lock users to a carrier they already despise AND forces them to pay the higher rates when they travel overseas.
Good will unlikely happen, since the Carriers will fight it tooth and nail. They want user lock-in, and if Apple won't give it, then they'll simply drop the iPhone for Android.
Bad will be the most likely scenario given the facts:
1) Apple's preferred history of carrier exclusivity
2) Claims of carrier restrictions are "Vital" for a "Consistent" phone experience
3) The same way nobody builds weapons unless they plan to use them, nobody will go through the hassel of building such an elaborate infrastructure just to grant people the freedom to move to their carriers of THEIR choice.

Just another way for Steve Jobs to further control you and limit your choices. No thanks Meglaman, I'll stick with my Android device.

That's bad news. They'd certainly lose my custom. I regularly travel and currently have a China SIM, Hong Kong SIM and UK SIM. If I upgrade to an iphone 4 I'll have to buy a SIM cutter kit which is a bit annoying but totally doable. Having the SIM hardwired into the phone would make this impossible. I'm not going to start paying huge roaming fees just so Apple can satisfy a whim. This sounds more like something a carrier would do. Why do Apple need to do this? I gladly paid full price (not subsidized) for a factory unlocked iphone - I didn't buy it through a carrier. I should be able to switch SIM cards as and when I like. Perhaps they're only going to impliment this for carrier locked (subsidized) models although that would mean an extra production line which seems unlikely.
Some people are suggesting this isn't a problem and it will be exactly the same as before but you'd have to change carriers through the AppStore instead. Well that will only work for carriers who are signed up for this. If I take a trip to a country where there isn't a network that has signed up for Apple's proprietary carrier switching method I'm unable to use a local service and am forced to roam.

GSM technology is about freedom to roam, freedom of choice. This new development makes iPhone like a CDMA device, which is not cool. Once again Apple is forcing their ideas on consumers. NOT GOING TO WORK!!! If it happens, bye bye iPhone!

This will probably mean that I will not be able to go to the carrier I want, but only to a carrier that Apple think is good. If so, then I'll probably end up in the Android landscape (or WP7 if feedback is good). Which carrier I'm on defines my service and the cost of said service. I want absolute freedom in that area.

All texans don't act like that. Ignore the extra stuff regarding this sim business. Treat it like you would the Verizon iPhone when released in 2012 after AT&T and Apple iPhone five year exclusivity in the USA contract is over.

The day they do that, it is goodbye iphone and hello android. Enough of apple's facism! I travel overseas a lot and I swap my sim to a local sim when overseas. I am not about to carry 2 phones with me or pay AT&T $2.00/minute for roaming.
Every other normal cell phone mfg doesn't do this whey does apple have to bend over backwards for the cell phone companies?

That is for CDMA networks ppl!!! They don't use sim cards. Gsm networks have sim cards. This news tells us iPhone will be available in Bell CDMA or sprint in usa and other CDMA networks in usa. This means AT&T is not going to be the only carrier carying the iphone

@CJ In Canada the iphone has been available for over a new for for Rogers bell and telus because of their new hspa network using sim cards. Basically for over a year almost anyone that wanted an iphone could have one if they paid the big $$$ to own one.

edit previous comment . sorry iphone has been available for all of the 3 major carriers for over a year now

I needed to switch back to a Blackberry for work, and sold my iPhone 3G. I forgot how a NORMAL company operates. I opened my BB box, and inside was an extremely loooonnng wall charger. "Wow, now I can talk and charge at the SAME time?!!?". What a nice thoughtful idea, I wish every company did that. But wait, most do! In addition to a longer than 2 foot OEM cable which will only sync my iPhone, which breaks down at the joints, and costs 35 dollars to replace, I got... get this... a separate sync cable. "Wow Amazing". Yea it took a while to get use to using BB OS, and the physical keyboard, but it was well worth it. But at the same time I don't blame people who own an iPhone to love it. It's easy to do. Yet, at the same time, Apple's control over their products, like this built-in SIM, puts their freak control on to the max. It's almost paranoid.
Apple has their freak on.
When I had an iPhone I jailbroke, which solved most of my problems. But when I went back to a "phone", I forgot how a sane company which is not so anal about the control over their products. This is just absurd. Someone's living in their own world. Thankfully, I got out. I hope more people wake up, and shout blasphemy.