John Legere’s #tweetstorm on Apple SIM, in case you missed it

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With the two new iPads Apple announced recently, Apple introduced its new SIM for cellular versions of the tablets. The idea being that you have the freedom and flexibility to choose which carrier and plan you want. Last week, we revealed that the iPad Air 2 and iPad mini 3 SIMs sold through T-Mobile won’t give you that freedom. The devices on sale through T-Mobile will only let you select T-Mo as the carrier.

Since then, other sites have added to the discussion, and confirmed our initial leak. But it’s not that simple. Each carrier has a different policy on Apple SIM, making that promised “freedom”, a little less liberating, and more confusing. John Legere took to Twitter in a “Tweetstorm” to clear the confusion, offering insight on how it works for each carrier.

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If bought from Apple store

Firstly: Verizon hasn’t even signed up to be part of the program. So, if you buy a cellular iPad from Apple, you won’t be able to choose Verizon as a service provider using the installed Apple SIM.

Second: iPads purchased from Apple will have the Apple SIM installed and you can choose from three carriers using the Apple SIM: AT&T, Sprint and T-Mobile.

Third: If you select AT&T, the SIM locks itself to Big Blue and won’t let you change back to one of the other two providers. So much for freedom, right?

Fourth: If you select T-Mobile or Sprint, you get the freedom to switch whenever you like. BUT, AT&T won’t be an option in this case either. So, you can only switch between Sprint and T-Mobile on that SIM card.

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If bought from carrier store

iPads shipped to carriers are “kitted differently” according to Legere.

Firstly: iPads sent to Verizon and Sprint don’t include the Apple SIM, they’re kitted with the carrier’s own SIM.

Second: AT&T and T-Mobile are sent devices with Apple SIM installed, but, they’re pre-configured to the respective carrier. So, our leak was correct in that iPads shipped to T-Mobile will have Apple SIMs that only work on T-Mobile.

Third: If you want to use your carrier-bought iPad on another carrier, you have to replace the SIM with the desired carrier’s SIM.

Fourth: Apple’s unlocked SIM isn’t available to carriers to sell in their stores yet. But they could be.

Fifth: Sprint’s extra steps. Old Yeller apparently needs the device IMEI associated with the Apple SIM to be in their registry to activate. So, if you buy an iPad from another carrier, you won’t be able to activate it on Sprint, even if you use Apple’s carrier-free SIM. Unless the customer “makes the effort with these carriers to include their IMEI in the registry.”

I have to say, as a sort-of wrap-up, it’s disappointing to see so many caveats and restrictions in place. Some put in place by carriers, others by Apple. A product which has the potential to be revolutionary and break down old-school carrier control has been tied down to such a point where it is of no real value to anyone.

Thanks for clearing up the confusion, John.

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  • MadJoe

    It will take an act of Congress to get the carriers to respect the property of their customers (and to get some customers to realize they deserve to be respected (ahem, Verizon customers…cough cough)). If I buy a device from T-Mobile, and it’s paid off, they have no right, nor should they have any expectation to have any right to what happens to that device afterwards. They should be forced, by law if necessary, to unlock any device that is paid off. Period.

    • Juggalizzle

      Tmobile will unlock any device as long as its paid for and has been used on an account.

      • MadJoe

        True, but it took them a long time to figure it out. AT&T and Verizon are the worst offenders, obviously, but it is still a part of the industry as a whole. And this business with the Apple SIM just makes it more obvious (although, as the article points out in a roundabout way, T-Mobile is the least offensive of the 4).
        Mike, Sprint not unlocking devices doesn’t surprise me at all, their network is so atrocious it’s a waste of time anyway since their devices barely work on their network, nevermind someone elses.

        • Mike Palomba

          There seems to be a lot of confusion regarding sprint devices. They have GSM capabilities and can work on other carriers networks but Sprint will not domestically unlock them.

        • chardog

          In reality, its not GSM that allows them to work on other carriers… LTE is what is cross-functional.. Sprint is CDMA below that, hence not compatible..

        • dosha

          Actually, recent CDMA phones now do include GSM functionality.

        • Mike Palomba

          They don’t get LTE but they also have UMTS so they get HSPA and hspa+

        • KingOfThePhones

          True, however, nearly all Sprint devices which support LTE also support GSM, at least on some frequencies.

    • Mike Palomba

      Sprint is the only Carrier who doesn’t unlock devices

      • kev2684

        i think most of their phones only work on sprint network anyway. only apple and google branded devices which are already unlocked work cross network so it doesn’t really matter.

        • Mike Palomba

          Nope, majority of there phones actually work on any GSM carrier they just refuse to unlock them

        • Paul

          Sprint uses the CDMA network and not the GSM. I’m just clarifying that Sprint doesn’t use GSM, or at least they haven’t as far as I know.
          I can confirm that a majority of GSM phones can be used on other networks. In the last few years phone makers have made it easier by building phones to cooperate with provides, AT&T – T-Mobile for example, with little to no hiccup. My dad has switched from AT&T to T-Mobile with no issues. Of course, that doesn’t mean that AT&T made it easy for him to unlock the device.

        • Mike Palomba

          It’s not that sprint makes it hard to unlock devices, they reuse. The claim that they don’t have the technology to unlock them. I followed a guide to manually sim unlock a sprint galaxy s4 and it worked fine on T-Mobile. So they do work on other carriers but sprint won’t unlock them

        • kev2684

          i meant that there are very limited LTE enabled sprint devices that work on AT&T & T-Mobile.

          only AT&T & T-Mobile seems to work on each other’s networks with majority of devices carrying band 4 & 17 or the future 4 & 12 plus VZW XLTE devices being able to fully work on T-Mobile’s band 4 LTE and on some AT&T markets. unlocking on those 3 networks would be more beneficial. majority of Sprint devices are locked to Sprint, LTE-wise.

      • KingOfThePhones

        That Sprint policy will be changing soon as part of Sprint’s commitment to support the CTIA unlocking initiative (which the carriers only agreed to implement right before congress was about to make them do so). So, Sprint will unlock devices released after February 11, 2015 under certain cirumstances similar to the other carriers’ unlocking rules. Of course, not all Sprint devices have bands that support all the other US carriers’ LTE frequencies. However, as part of Sprint’s effort to support its rural carrier alliance, it is anticipated that most of the devices Sprint will sell starting in Spring 2015 and beyond should support most other carriers’ LTE bands. This includes LTE band 12 support

    • superg05

      tmobile does unlock a fully paid off after a period you people think you can just walk into a tmobile store cause its abit cheaper than online or unlocked and walk away scott free you where dreaming

      • shadlom

        As long as the phone is completely paid off full price why does it matter?

        • superg05

          because its slightly discounted at there expense usually

        • TylerCameron

          $660 isn’t a big discount for my Galaxy S5.

    • T-Mobile Cares

      For the record, we will unlock any device that is paid in full or had been used in our network for 40 days and has had two EIP payments made. We are not in the business of preventing our customers from using and enjoying their devices. In some cases you will have to wait until the 18th month of your EIP. I hours this clarifies our unlock policies.

    • duscrom

      Also, the iPads are unlocked. the SIM isn’t. ie. Go buy another SIM, problem solved!

      • MadJoe

        Nope. The new, universal SIM is the only thing about the iPad I find interesting. Apple’s policies are almost as un-customer-friendly as the carrier’s, if not worse. But I will admit their customer service, which is not one of the policies I speak of, is pretty good. But so is a lot of other manufacturers CS who, in my opinion, make better products at a better price.

  • Adrayven

    Cam, I doubt the Apple SIM availability in Carrier stores is Apple’s fault. Not sure why you squarely place the blame on Apple for that..

    As far as I’m aware, no carrier has ever sold a SIM that could be used on another carrier.. it’s just as likely this is on the carriers heads and I doubt Apple could force them to sell a universal sim card..

    • Cam Bunton

      As far as I’m aware, I don’t think I did blame Apple exclusively: “Some put in place by carriers, others by Apple.”

      • VG

        Cam, I think that’s Adrayven’s point. I don’t believe Apple “chose” to kit the iPads being sent to the carriers differently … why would Apple choose to do that? Rather, it sounds like all this carrier intervention is messing up Apple’s master plan to have any and all new iPads kitted with this “flexible” Apple SIM feature.

        Actually, I’m surprised Apple is allowing this at all. I’m guessing Apple had to make these concessions in order to get the concept of a “flexible” Apple SIM out to the market. Then again, perhaps Apple is getting a commission each time a customer decides to switch the iPad data plan on this new Apple SIM?

  • I have done a lot of carrier deals in the past. The key is to look at how many apple devices are being sold by apple shops and by carriers. Carriers do lots of bundles and subsidize the price of phones. Until these bundles and subsidies make sense to customers apple can’t dictate a connectivity neutral offering. Broadly the direction is right but the carriers know the apple play book well, and will fight to keep it hard to switch.

  • superg05

    buy it from apple its not a carriers job to give you keys to a car you likely haven’t paid off yet so you can skip off into the wind with it if you have the money to buy it in full do it elsewhere and have that freedom

    • duscrom

      Well, considering the device itself is still unlocked… I really don’t care, lol.

  • 21stNow

    Way too confusing, especially for tablets. Many customers prefer Wi-Fi only tablets anyway. If you add this level of confusion to the cellular versions of tablets, the customers will continue to use Wi-Fi only tablets.

  • skittle

    I agree with just getting WiFi tablets. I set my phone as a hot spot if I don’t have any WiFi nearby anyway.

  • Nick Gonzalez

    ‘Murica!!

  • Danny

    Even without the restrictions on the “freedom” of an Apple SIM, I don’t really understand the point. Are people too lazy to just get a SIM-free tablet and then stick a carrier’s SIM into it? Is it that hard to just swap SIMs?

    • Guest

      A) SIM cards cost money. $10 at T-Mobile.
      B) Not everyone lives near a store, or wants to deal with the hassle of going to a store every time they want or need to change SIM cards.

      • me

        Never been charged for a Sim since 2001. Even when they tried last year, I called customer service and they told the representative in store to give me one free.

        Happened over 10 times since 2001.

        Just sayin.

        • linda

          Weeellll i dont know were u live but here in LOS ANGELES every single tmobile store i been too the one in east la by atlantic the one in the montebello mall the one by garfield etc they ALL CHARGE 10 to 15 bucks a sim yes they. Charge . I just suck it up and pay i dont like arguing so i just pay the godam 15 bucks. Wish it was like att they didnt charge me twice for a nano sim..

        • T-Mobile Cares

          I am so sorry you were charged for a SIM Card through any of our retail locations. If you require a replacement, for any reason, please call our Customer Care line and we will be more than happy to arrange that card be given to you at no cost. I hope this clears up any confusion for you in the future.

        • Rep

          Hope you realize in a retail store, despite what customer care may say, there is a charge for SIM, where in certain cases it can be waived. Showing remorse is great and all, but please don’t the expectation that the store should not be charging for SIM cards.

        • Prod1702

          I agree 100%. I see this every day. In the T-Mo store I work in we charge for them because it is T-Mobile Policy to charge for them. However when Customer Care tells people to come in and they won’t be charged. It is a problem we have to deal with not the rep that told them that. I know my DM has told us that if that happens to let him know the name of the Care rep and he will be contacting that reps manger about the problem.

        • Manny

          Except I’ve never been charged for a SIM in a store. So it could be the area or even come down to management in that area/district. Idk, South Jersey here and never paid everrrr.

        • harprit singh

          Queens NY also, never paid for SIM. But wait! There is a difference. If you go to direct tmobile store or a local tmobile store that is not a corporate store you will get charged. If you go to corporate store you will not get charged. I think therr is this confusion.

        • Prod1702

          corp or not has nothing to do with it. I work in a corp store and we charge because it is policy to charge. The policy even states that employee’s get charged as well. Do i agree with the policy no but does that matter no because it is a policy that T-Mobile has.

        • KSTMOrep

          Okay, for reference, we do charge for SIM cards for swapping phones. Even if customer care directs us to give the SIM card for free, we will charge you. End of story. Stop sending customers in for a free SIM, because we can’t waive that fee.

        • Chris

          I haven’t been charged for a sim since I joined in 2005. lol Technically they should charge you $10. But the reps that I see are always nice at stores lol. They told me let’s just say you’re sim card is now “old” and needs to be replaced so that the fees can be waived.

  • Logan S

    Frankly, there is more to this than meets the eyes. At the heart of this is the BYOD issue. Verizon and Sprint are traditionally CDMA, SIM-less service (LTE has forced to embrace SIM). As such, their devices are traditionally ESN-based. In fact, most of them are still are. They maintain various databases of ESN. In case of Sprint, I think the master database is the one tied to the billing system (it’s been a while since I left). Traditionally, only devices whose ESN are whitelisted in the database can be activated. This is a common practice with CDMA-based providers. It doesn’t have to be this way, but it will take them a few more years to patch or migrate their system to allow more BYOD. As with AT&T and T-Mobile, well, I think theirs might be more of a business decision than technical, or probably not enough time to sync things up with Apple.