SIM cards have gotten smaller over the years, from Micro to Nano but now they may not even be available as a separate package from the phone.
Apple had announced the creation of the Apple SIM, a built-in SIM card that allows you to access your mobile network operator, and others too! How does it work? You have to go to the ‘Settings’ menu on the recently launched iPad Air 2 and Mini 3 tablets as long as you buy it from the Apple Store itself, and then you will have access to the Apple SIM that currently allows you to switch to whatever network is available in your country or even another if you travel.
The Apple SIM detects the available mobile network operators and lets you choose which one you want to use. This makes it convenient if you want to, for example, make cheap calls on Zamtel, use free minutes on MTN but also prefer Airtel’s data bundles. You can keep switching for whatever you need to do on any network. When you travel, it also detects the carriers there and allows you to choose the best, without you having to roam.
Why we fear for mobile operators
Apart from losing out on revenue from the sale and replacement of SIM cards, they will be faced with the issue of attracting and retaining subscribers on their network. It will become harder to assess who really is on what network when there are constant switches. Rather than 3 sets with an intersection for customers who may have 2 SIM cards, we may have just one big universal set of people using whatever network they want on one gadget.
The Possible End Result?
Competition beyond what we see now. There would be likely slashes in rates by mobile network operators (MNOs) to try and get customers to jump on board and stay on a particular network e.g. MTN may reduce its rates across the board on data, calls, SMSes, just to attract people to stick to them as their host MNO.
Apple has given the condition that these phones have to be bought strictly from the Apple Store so MNOs will now have to struggle with selling smartphones from their service centres as customers may opt to buy directly from Apple to get the benefits of the Apple SIM.
You may think only Apple will have this creation going for them, but looking at past technological trends, what one brand does, the other eventually follows. Soon, every smartphone may come with an embedded SIM card.
Then there’s the possibility of the increasing number on non-removable batteries. what happens when it wears out? Buy a new phone? The questions are endless but usually when Apple sticks to something, they’re on it like flies on food gone bad.
So far only the MNOs in the USA and UK are being slowly initiated into this SIM-less pit but AT&T has made a very strong stand that a gadget bought from Apple which has AT&T picked as its first carrier by a subscriber will not switch to other carriers like T-Mobile and Sprint, a smart move if you ask me. They don’t have much to lose and don’t have to downgrade their levels to try and keep subscribers. If you want to switch networks, you will have to buy a new SIM card, register with another carrier first, then you can switch to AT&T. We’re expecting a lot of resistance to this Apple SIM from carriers globally as well.
This is just happening on iPads for now; when it rolls out to iPhones and other phone brands, it may be the end of the SIM, it seems.
Image Credit: GenkNews, PhoneCruncher