Apple is about to disrupt the telecoms industry – and it didn’t even mention it today

Buried in Apple's webpages for the iPad Air 2 is news that could fundamentally change the relationship between carriers and their customers.

It feels like Apple buried the lede in its announcements today – at least, from the tech-savvy point of view. The improvements to the iPad are nice – but are very much evolutionary, not revolutionary. And the Retina iMac is an object of desire – and likely to remain as much for most people at that price. Sure, those retina screens will make their way down the line in price eventually, but for most of us, it’s a glimpse of the future, but is not yet the future.

Meanwhile, buried in the webpages for the new iPad Air 2, is this:

Apple SIM


To quote:

One SIM. Many options.

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.

And thus, ever-so-quietly, Apple starts to detach itself from the carriers. SIMs have always been a point of inertia. To swap carrier, you have to get a new SIM – and get your phone unlocked. Now, the vast majority of iPads are sold unlocked to start with, which solves one half of the problem. The Apple SIM solves the other – allowing you to change carrier on the device itself.

There are obvious travel uses here – and that’s how Apple seems to be selling it. I could, in theory, touch down at JFK airport outside New York, and be up and running with a local network in a matter of minutes – no SIM swap needed.

In the long term, though, what this does is encourage much stronger competition amongst the carriers. If switching service provider is just a few, quick clicks on your device, then these very providers are going to have to work that much harder to keep you happy.

Is it conceivable that the iPhone 6s next year might carry Apple SIMs – if you buy them unlocked direct from Apple? If they do, it might start the process of weaning people off the carrier subsidies on their phones, and make the customer service of the carriers a much more critical factor.

That tiny SIM is a little glimpse at the future of telecoms.