Apple’s new cellular iPad Air 2 comes with carrier-free SIM

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Until T-Mobile announces that it’s going to a stock the new iPads announced by Apple today, I’ll save a general post about them. But, one thing I thought was very, very interesting was a quick blurb on the iPad Air 2’s cellular model overview.

If you buy a Wi-Fi + Cellular model of the iPad Air 2 from Apple, it comes with a “new Apple SIM”. The Apple SIM is carrier free, and lets you choose short-term plans from select carriers in the U.S. including AT&T, Sprint and T-Mobile. As it stands, this feature is really only useful in the States, but it is a truly Un-carrier move.

“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.”

As more carriers from across the globe get involved, you’ll be able to take your iPad Air abroad with you and switch to a local data plan when you get there. Then switch back when you’re home. Or, even more locally, if you move or travel to an area where T-Mobile’s LTE isn’t so hot, you could switch to one of the carriers with better signal/data speeds.

What this means for the future of telecommunications is potentially ground-breaking. If Apple can prove that this works, and is in the best interest of the consumer, and carriers don’t suffer, it could pave the way for built-in, non-removable and carrier-free SIMs.

As a side note, this is something Apple’s been working on for some time. And with the iPad Air, it’s just the beginning of something new. Back in 2010 it was rumored that Apple was working on a SIM solution that would cut-out the carrier. By starting with a blank slate, and a device capable of using multiple bandwidths and carriers, users would have the freedom to switch between network operators without being tied down. GigaOM reported on it back in the October of four years ago.

It’s rumored that Apple and Gemalto have created a SIM card, which is typically a chip that carries subscriber identification information for the carriers, that will be integrated into the iPhone itself. Then customers will then be able to choose their carrier at time of purchase at the Apple web site or retail store, or buy the phone and get their handset up and running through a download at the App Store as opposed to visiting a carrier store or calling the carrier. Either way, it reduces the role of the carrier in the iPhone purchase. Gemalto and Apple have not responded to requests for comment. I’m also waiting to hear back from other sources to get more details.”

In a short-term perspective, this could be great for T-Mobile. Customer who previously haven’t tested the company’s network could do so without commitment, and without needing to return their chosen device like they would with a Test Drive.

The question is: What does this mean for next year’s iPhone? Will Apple start selling iPhones with the Apple SIM?

Would love to hear your thoughts on this. Is this the future of telecommunications, or just an interesting move/tester by Apple?


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  • skittle

    Very cool Apple.

  • peharri

    I do not want a non-removable SIM. Switching carriers is only half the reason to use SIM cards, the other reason is to switch devices.

    When an electronics company can come up with the perfect device, which somehow fits in your pocket, has a huge touchscreen, has a battery life measured in years, has more storage than the warehouse from Indiana Jones, and which has a screen that can be seen in daylight and darkness alike, oh and that’s indestructable, we’ll talk.

    Until then: SIM card stays seperate. Will not buy anything with a built in permanently installed card. Sorry. No.

    • Cam Bunton

      Hahaha. Nice perspective. And yeah, EU didn’t approve of the non-removable thing, so that’s in the distant future. If in the future at all.

      • KingCobra

        Other websites are reporting that the UK is also on board with the Apple Sim.

        • Cam Bunton

          It is. But only one carrier supports it so far. And, this is TmoNews. So, I left it out.

    • bisayan

      Totally agreed! Switching devices with sim card is real easy…Device with non removable sim tray is defferent..If apple going to do this on future iphones then im done with it!! Just dont do it!

    • Guest

      I have not found anything that says the sim is not removable or at least another sim can not be added. From Apple’s site:

      The Wi-Fi + Cellular model comes with an Apple SIM card preinstalled. The Apple SIM lets you choose from a selection of short-term cellular data plans — from carriers like AT&T, Sprint, and T-Mobile* — that can be turned on for a day, week, or month. If you’re a Verizon customer, you’ll need to visit a Verizon store to get your SIM.

      That implies that there is way to add a sim since verizon customers have to get the sim separately.

      • Veronica Moser

        Isn’t this youtube video addressing that??

        “How to get T-Mobile on any cellular iPad Air or Mini”

    • bob90210

      I have not found anything that says the sim is not removable or at least another sim can not be added. From Apple’s site:

      The Wi-Fi + Cellular model comes with an Apple SIM card preinstalled. The Apple SIM lets you choose from a selection of short-term cellular data plans — from carriers like AT&T, Sprint, and T-Mobile* — that can be turned on for a day, week, or month. If you’re a Verizon customer, you’ll need to visit a Verizon store to get your SIM.

      That implies that there is way to add a sim since verizon customers have to get the sim separately.

  • your name

    No more owning multiple phones and only one number.
    No instant backup phone when your main one breaks.
    No porting your number into a friend’s phone to try it out.
    No old phone you take traveling to pick up a local SIM.
    GSM becomes just like CDMA.
    How would this “cut-out the carrier”? There’s no open internet of mobile towers. You still need an account on someone’s network. All the cool stuff you cite can be done today by swapping the SIM card.

    Is there ANY advantage to a non-removable SIM?
    Why would anyone think this is a good thing?

    Think about this – It’s just one more way Apple is trying to maintain control of what you can do with your device after you buy it.

    • bob90210

      Swapping the sim is a lot of work if you don’t already have the sim card. Setting up a new account is easy since the carrier only really needs your name and credit card info. It can be done online with the cellular connection you are about to buy!

      • Rob

        And what about those of us who keep a spare phone around in case we break our current phone?

        This is a really bad idea… Anybody who can’t see that is blind.

        This is just Apple’s way of making sure that you’re tied to their iPad with the SIM only which means that you’ll have to have a separate account for each mobile device you have rather than being able to swap them as you can now. This idea of a non-swappable SIM brings us back to the old days of carriers running our lives. If I ever decide to get mobile data on a tablet, I fully expect to be able to use the SIM across any other mobile devices that I have.

        • bob90210

          What makes you think that the sim can not be changed? The 4 year old rumor about the iPhone?

        • Rob

          When has Apple ever gone into something with the idea to keep it open? This is to test the waters before they have an unremovable SIM within the next generation or two. They probably would have it now for the US if it wasn’t for Verizon.

        • bob90210

          I see. We should be angry at Apple for something Apple has not done yet.

        • Rob

          Lets see what happens… I’ll wait for all of the “Why can’t I use my iPad SIM in my other tablets/phones?” posts to roll in. There is always a catch with Apple.

    • skittle

      It’s Apples dollar so to speak. I am just going to see what, if anything, the competition does.

    • john

      Exactly this. The awesome thing about normal SIM cards is that they separate the phone from the service in two ways: you can use any service with the phone you have (which non-removable carrier-free SIMs can allow, as long as the carrier you want supports carrier-free SIMs), and you can use any phone with the service you have (which non-removable carrier-free SIMs do not allow, because transferring service to a new device would require setting up the new SIM in the new device, instead of just moving over the old SIM). A carrier free SIM is fine, but not if it means that the SIM becomes non-removable. Non-removable SIMs hurt consumer choice.

    • Jon

      Think of this asite a test if the public likes it then they will most likely implement this into all future devices.

  • Alex Zapata

    Well this could be fun. Let’s see where this goes.

  • bob90210

    Carrier free sims will be great for consumers because they can buy cellular connection from different providers instantly. You can easily and instantly buy wifi connections at hotels, airports, and airplanes; no need to buy any additional hardware. Carrier free sims will do the same for cellular connections.

    I think regional carriers will benefit the most since customers will buy their regular service from their local carrier at a low price but will be able buy temporary access when they travel. No need to buy nationwide coverage since the phone only needs a connection in one place; that’s where ever the phone is.

  • James

    I really hope this catches on, the one sim/phone for all carriers. Then there won’t be so many phones on diffrent networks and android updates will be available so much faster! Not to mention that every phone works on every carrier, how amazing is that! You can have a motorola droid on tmobile or a nokia 1520. Also this move is pro-customer because you are not tied to a carrier or a phone that won’t work anywhere else. You can switch easily. Ofcourse, the non-removable sim is a diffrent story and it’s just a concept.

  • Rob

    No band 12? Fail.

    I don’t see any compelling reason to actually upgrade from my iPad Air 16G with WiFi right now so I’ll take a pass.

    This Apple SIM stuff is a nice idea… until they make it unable to be removed. I have a feeling it likely doesn’t work in any other devices either which would be a big step backwards as well.

    • skittle

      Its Apples SIM and it goes WITH that particular iPad. It is most likely a design thing and possibly wont work in another device. Just saying. I for one am going to do some research on this to find out whats next. They kinda slipped this hard SIM by everyone :)

  • CrzyP

    No band 12 LTE support just like the iPhone 6/6+.

  • skittle

    So, just where is all of this band 12 you are just dying to use? Sure its being tested now but when will it be common? This has become the big stonewall in many conversations here. I think maybe millions of new iPhone and iPad purchasers are oblivious to all of this as are other brand users. They didn’t “fail” to sell well.

  • Why all the people forget that in this Apple move is not included Verizon, so the network that cover all USA, so I think that meantime Verizon is not on the deal is not a good deal.

    AT&T the most expensive
    T-Mobile the most cheap
    Sprint the less reliable and slow


    How soon after the launch last year did T-Mobile get the iPad Air? I got it in March of this year, but I want to get the iPad Air 2 as soon as T-Mobile gets it!

  • Dan Hesse

    Apple Please TAKE MY MONIES!!!

  • trife

    Where does it say that this SIM is unremovable? Aware me brahs, because I don’t see it.

    • matt

      i read it was removable also, but i have not seen pictures of the sim tray

      • Veronica Moser

        “How to get T-Mobile on any cellular iPad Air or Mini” He demonstrates that for you.
        And you’re welcome:)!

    • Veronica Moser

      I just watched this video today on that subject.
      “How to get T-Mobile on any cellular iPad Air or Mini” He demonstrates that for you.
      And you’re welcome:)!!

  • Lani

    Does this mean if the iPad is reported stolen, then who will block it? Would be harder to resell world wide if it is blocked and new carrier needs enter the IMEI number to connect to the device.

    Would thefts of new iPads go down if deemed useless after being blocked?

    I guess those who would only use a new stolen iPad with WiFi will have no problem, unless Apple found a way to block WiFi use on a stolen new iPad and email pics from the camera front and back with GPS location to help locate who might be attempting to use the stolen iPad.

    This is where a non-removable sim may be a better choice in the end for every iPad owner. So think different on this one, cause Apple will never advertise it as its main focus of reducing stolen iPads.

    • matt

      when an iPad is reported stolen, it is bricked. and theres not a whole lot you can do with a bricked iPad unless you know the iCloud password to the device, so the whole blocking wifi is moot.

      the sad thing is that when you want to find out where your locked wifi iPad is when it is stolen, and you have a wifi only tablet, you are out of luck. a locked iPad can only connect to wifi networks that it has connected to before. it cannot click on “i agree” if someone brings it to a mcdonalds. if you want to be sure your iPad is recovered, then get a cellular iPad. and get the free 200 mb tmobile data plan.

  • jeffy

    If anyone who just ported over to t-mobile wants unlimited data free for one year, email me huzaifaimran(at)outlook(dot)com

    its a t-mobile promotion. if you refer a friend, you both get unlimited data free for a year. Why wouldn’t you avail this offer?

  • atown7475

    So its a unlocked pre paid sim?