My Two Cents on the Apple SIM

Apple SIM

I don’t own an iPad, but I know a thing or two about SIM cards. I’ve 39 of them tucked away in an envelope in my closet (I just dug them out and counted). So when it comes to the Apple-branded nano SIM that’s shipping with the new iPad Air 2 and iPad mini 3, I’m… well, perplexed is what I am.

As someone who’s used SIM cards in unlocked devices since 2001 I’m not sure I’m buying what Apple is peddling here.

From what I’ve read the consensus seems to be that there are two things about the Apple SIM that make it a “game changer” (quotes are deliberate): Convenience and choice. Let’s break this down, shall we?

1. Convenience

I had a good laugh reading this bit on Trusted Reviews:

Changing to a new operator or a second mobile account won’t require messing around with fiddly SIMs, wiry SIM tools and easy-to-loose [sic] SIM trays. Assuming this technology eventually trickles down to non-Apple devices, there will also be no more removing the rear cover and battery.

Yah, because user-replaceable batteries are totally stoopid, amirite? But wait, there’s more:

Ever tried moving a nano-SIM into a micro-SIM slot? Finding an adaptor, assembling said hybrid, and inserting it into a slender modern phone can be frustrating to say the least.

Wow, you’re bad at this… Most modern-day SIMs I come across are actually convertible—that is, a mini-sized SIM with a micro cut-out if you need it. I’m speaking about Android devices here, of course; if you’re an Apple user you need a nano SIM. End of story.

As for the “fiddly-ness” of changing SIMs, it’s never taken me more than five minutes to do this with a pair of phones. And most times when I’m travelling somebody at the local carrier’s shop will do it for me.

Sure, not having to swap your SIM is obviously more convenient, but ceding control of your network connection to Apple is a shaky proposition at best.

2. Choice

Those deep within Apple’s reality distortion field are already imagining a future where carriers race each other to the bottom for the express privilege of providing a data connection to your Apple device. Well, I hate to break it to you, but this just isn’t going to happen, at least not anytime soon.

Here’s new iPad owner Dave Zatz to elaborate:

The Apple SIM theoretically saves Apple some packaging expenses and provides us, the end users, with amazing flexibility – buy the iPad and choose whichever carrier we want at any point after we get it home. And, down the road, we’d be free to flip carriers as coverage or pricing changes. It’s a grand, consumer-friendly vision. However, the future hasn’t quite arrived. Due, once again, to short-sighted carrier protectionism.

If you hadn’t heard, the AT&T network will recognize an Apple SIM but won’t let you change providers once you’ve selected AT&T. And Verizon, the largest carrier by subscriber numbers in the United States, has chosen not to play with the Apple SIM at all. The disconnect between Apple and the carriers is so great that T-Mobile CEO John Legere took to Twitter to explain. I found this tweet especially interesting:

I wonder if Apple users won’t ultimately be swapping out a carrier lock for an Apple one.