While the New Apple SIM didn't get any Coverage during Yesterday's Event, CNBC sees it as a Knockout Feature
CNBC reports today that in all the headlines and hype of the launch of the latest iPad models and iMac computer, there was one new member of the Apple ecosystem that analysts are calling "remarkable", wasn't even mentioned. And that's the new Apple SIM.
A preinstalled data-only SIM card has been inserted into the $699 iPad Air 2 Wi-Fi + Cellular model, and allows users to change carriers at the tap of a finger. It's available in the U.S. on AT&T, Sprint and T Mobile, and in the U.K. on EE. Consumers can buy short-term data plans and can switch between the carriers to find the best deal.
The foundation of that technology surfaced in a patent application earlier this year that would allow users to access the SIM though touching a virtual button on the device's screen. The new Apple SIM goes far beyond that to simplify the process, though a form of the easy to open SIM tray may still be a future option for the iPhone. For the record, Apple has also been working on what they call the "Virtual SIM Card" since 2011 that could eventually come into play.
CNBC went on to state that with the new Apple SIM, "Consumers would be able to change the carrier on the iPad Air 2 if the network cut out, but one analyst said the 'knockout' aspect was the potential to kill data roaming charges. And it is this ability to change carriers that could prove to be a game-changer for other Apple products such as the iPhone.
Apple describes the new Apple SIM this way:
"The new Apple SIM is preinstalled on iPad Air 2 with Wi-Fi + Cellular models. The Apple SIM gives you the flexibility to choose from a variety of short-term plans from select carriers in the U.S. and UK right on your iPad. So whenever you need it, you can choose the plan that works best for you — with no long-term commitments. And when you travel, you may also be able to choose a data plan from a local carrier for the duration of your trip."
Ben Wood, chief of research at CCS Insight, told CNBC by phone that "The final knockout is the fact that you can switch networks when roaming in the U.K. and U.S. right now, rather than paying expensive charges. If Apple can secure this with other network operators across the world it becomes massively attractive."
Ian Fogg, head of mobile at HIS noted that the new Apple SIM could "test the business model of operators" if it introduces a similar type of SIM on to iPhones but with data, calls and texts.
While the latest release has been praised by some analysts, not all agree that Apple will be able to transfer the SIM model over to the iPhone because of tough opposition from networks.
One such analyst by the name of James Gautrey, who is the global technology and telecoms sector specialist at Schroders, told CNBC by phone that "monthly contracts offered by carriers allow consumers to afford highly priced devices like the iPhone 6, and Apple wouldn't want to "risk annoying" them by introducing the SIM into their smartphones. I don't think Apple is going to be quite brave enough to offer this as a SIM-only plan on a phone because Apple relies on carriers to sell their iPhones."
That may be true, but many countries like Korea and China, carriers are in the process of dropping subsidies. This is a trend that may eventually extend to other major markets and Apple is likely preparing for that eventuality. (Update: The Indian press thinks that this is a killer idea because in their country, there are no carrier subsidies)
I'm glad that CNBC brought this feature to forefront this morning, as it's a feature I and others didn't catch yesterday when covering Apple's larger product announcements.