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Apple introduces us to the Virtual SIM Card

1 - Apple Introduces us to the Virtual SIM Card
On November 3, 2011, the US Patent & Trademark Office published a patent application from Apple that reveals that they're working on a possible future iPhone that will operate using a Virtual SIM Card. Apple states that it would be desirable to be able to provide improved ways in which to provide users with the ability to purchase and use wireless network services without the need of a SIM Card. According to Apple, a secondary benefit of switching to a Virtual SIM Card is that'll improve security while allowing Jony Ive and his team to do what they do best: Design an ever thinner, astoundingly beautiful, next generation iPhone. Report Updated at 2:40 MST 

  

Basic Overview of Apple's Patent & Background

 

Wireless systems are used to provide, inter alia, voice and data services to user equipment such as cellular telephones and computers. Conventionally, user equipment is provided with a Subscriber Identity Module (SIM) card. The SIM card includes security information such as private key information that could be used in authenticating user equipment to a cellular network.

 

It may not always be desirable to require the use of SIM cards. For example, the need to include a SIM card slot in user devices tends to make the devices bulky and add cost. It also necessitates management of SIM card inventories and distribution by the manufacturer or service provider. A user might also want to purchase wireless services even when the user is not able to easily obtain a SIM card. It would therefore be desirable to be able to provide improved ways in which to provide users with the ability to purchase and use wireless network services.

 

Apple's solution is very complex and unless you're grounded in this particular field you're going to get lost. However, while the patent discusses the use of Universal Subscriber Identity Module (USIM)) cards, the real discovery here is that Apple is considering a model of iPhone that may use a next generation Virtual SIM card that includes an NFC Router and tamper-proof security. It's only in this mode that Apple's background description of creating a thinner device makes any sense.

 

Apple introduces the use of a Virtual SIM

 

In Apple's patent FIGS. 5a and 5b shown below we see two exemplary embodiments of a hardware architecture (502, 504) for a "virtual" Subscriber Identity Modules (SIMs) according to the invention. Unlike prior art solutions, the exemplary embodiments of FIGS. 5a and 5b store a USIM (506) within an embedded Secure Element (SE) (508), which isn't a removable card. The first illustrated embodiment (502) of the present invention (FIG. 5a) additionally includes a Near Field Communication (NFC) router (510).

 

2 - Apple Introduces us to the Virtual SIM
 

Legacy Architecture for Carriers Resistant to Upgrading their Existing Networks

 

Alternatively Apple's patent FIG. 6 shown below illustrates the first embodiment 502 of FIG. 5a, in conjunction with a SIM accessory device.

 

3 - twist to legacy sim architecture
 

As shown above, the SIM accessory device enables inter alia, transitional embodiments, and support for legacy architectures. Legacy embodiments may find particular value when adopted by frequent SIM-card "swappers", and/or carriers that are slow, or resistant to upgrading their existing networks. As shown in patent FIG. 6, the Bluetooth SIM Access Profile (SAP) provides the required functions (e.g., AKA protocol) normally executed by a physical SIM card inserted within the modem.

 

Apple's patent application was originally filed in Q4 2010 by Sr. Director Engineering iPhone/iPod Ruben Caballero along with fellow engineers Stephan Schell and Mohit Narang.

 

Updated 2:40PM MST: It should be noted that back in late 2010 The Financial Times reported that "some of Europe‚Äôs leading mobile operators are warning that they could take punitive action against Apple if it introduces a technological innovation on its iPhone. Of course the patent covers more than just smartphones and that has to be pointed out.

 

Under Apple's Patent Ponit # 59 covering "Exexmplary Embodiments," Apple lists the following devices that may use the virtual SIM Card in the future: "The user equipment may be, for example, a cellular telephone or smartphone, a table-top computer, laptop computer, or other suitable computing equipment. If properly authorized, the user equipment may communicate with the network service provider over the wireless link."

 

It's inteteresting to note Apple's choice of words for "Table-top" computer in Patent Point # 59 instead of the traditional "desktop." Could it be that Apple is thinking about a pure iCloud Network Computer? Hmm, I wonder. Suffice to say that the iPad could be another prime target for the virtual SIM as well. Time will tell. 

 

Two Other Noteworthy Patent Application Published Today

 

While we're on the topic of telecommunications, it should be noted that a published patent application from Apple titled "Methods and Apparatus for Preserving Battery Resources in a Mobile Communications Device," surfaced this morning. Like all smartphone OEMs, Apple is always trying to improve battery life. It's not revolutionary, but it's a way to squeeze out a little more juice for your iOS devices.   

 

If this topic interests you, then check out patent application 20110269463. In a nutshell, Apple's invention generally relates to radio resource control between User Equipment (UE) or other wireless or mobile device and a wireless network, and in particular to transitioning between states and modes of operation in a UE in communication with a wireless network such as for example, a Universal Mobile Telecommunication System.

 

Extra - improving battery resources patent, Apple

 

For more details, here's a temporary link to Apple's patent application, which is good for about 48 hours.

 

The last patent application of the day that may be of interest to some is one titled "Systems and Methods for Hot Plug GPU Power Control." See patent 20110267359 for details. Here's a temporary link that's only good for about 48 hours.

 

Notice: Patently Apple presents a detailed summary of patent applications with associated graphics for journalistic news purposes as each such patent application is revealed by the U.S. Patent & Trade Office. Readers are cautioned that the full text of any patent application should be read in its entirety for full and accurate details. Revelations found in patent applications shouldn't be interpreted as rumor or fast-tracked according to rumor timetables. Apple's patent applications have provided the Mac community with a clear heads-up on some of Apple's greatest product trends including the iPod, iPhone, iPad, iOS cameras, LED displays, iCloud services for iTunes and more. About Comments: Patently Apple reserves the right to post, dismiss or edit comments.

 

TZ - STEVE JOBS - Think Different Forevermore

 

Here are a Few Great Community Sites covering our Original Report

 

MacSurfer, AllThingsD - RT John Paczkowski, Roam Mobility, NFC Data.com, Simple Solutions Computing, AppleWeblog Spain, Stadt-Bremerhaven Germany, iPhoneGen France, Reddit, Apple World, Twitter, Facebook, , Apple Investor News, Google Reader, UpgradeOSX, TechWatching, Macnews, iPhone World Canada, CBS MarketWatch and IT Bende - Podcast Netherlands. 

 

iClarified, MacDailyNews, Techmeme, Hightech-Analogy, TheTechJournal, Mac Life Germany, 9 to 5 Mac, AppleTalk TV Korea, iPhoneHellas Greece, Melablog Italy, MacFreak Netherlands, TodoiPhone Spanish,Globalnewstech Italy, ComputerBase Germany, IntoMobile, CyberStyle Russia, Guomii China, Xataka movil Brazil, TechGen France, PC News Russia, Aberto ate de Madrugada Portugal, t3n Germany, Netbooknews Germany, TechPedias, iPhoneMania Slovak Republic, Apple HD Blog Italy, Le iPhone Chinese, iPodTouchisapro French, Say People, Noticias2D Spanish, Moole Russia, Apple Unity Germany, The Inquirer Spain, Rumor Oficial Spanish, and more.

 

Note: The sites that are linked to above offer Apple community members with an avenue to make comments about this report in many original languages. Additionally, many of these sites provide our guests with different takes on any given patent, concept or lawsuit that is presented in our reports to make it more fun, interesting and/or personal. If you have the time, join in!

 

 

Comments

Some have said that the SIM card doesn't take up that much space. True, but the tray does, and removing it would help get the design slimmer.


It's also a point of control for Apple which Jobs was a big fan of.

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