updated 10:15 am EST, Tue November 23, 2010
Apple may pass on embedded SIMs only on iPhone 5
Apple's rumored decision to avoid embedded SIMs may have only been for the 2011 refresh, sources argued Tuesday. The company has purportedly reassured European carriers that the iPhone 5 will still depend on removable micro SIM cards but has given signs that it would shift over later on. Tips to the Financial Times didn't reveal whether that meant 2012 or still-longer plans.
The decision to skip embedded SIMs was ostensibly a reaction to O2, Orange and Vodafone threats that they would stop subsidizing the iPhone if it went through with the plan in the next generation. Earlier rumors had suggested they were concerned about losing most contact with the customer during the sale and seeing their roles reduced to being pure data pipes.
However, the lack of a short term change may be more due to plans to embrace a wider standard than any carrier intents. A coalition in the GSM Association has proposed an embedded SIM standard that would potentially let all GSM and LTE phones, not just Apple's, scrap removable SIMs in favor of a chipset that would allow remote activation. American carriers like AT&T and Verizon, as well as international carriers such as T-Mobile, have identified themselves as part of the group and could make the change a reality in 2012.
Apple had used home activation for the iPhone in 2007 but dropped it due to gray market importing. It also hasn't offered a similar feature for customers buying unlocked iPhones in Canada, France and other countries, leaving many to buy a SIM from the carrier before they can start making calls. An embedded SIM could let unlocked models jump carriers on demand.