Apple to Eliminate the SIM Card?
There's an unconfirmed report out today claiming that Apple is working with a major SIM card maker to build an integrated chip directly into the device that would eliminate the need for carrier SIMs. This would let Apple do an end-around not only on carriers - enabling customers to buy phones directly from Apple and then activate their phones on the App Store with the carrier of their choice - but also on unlockers as well.
GigaOM's Stacey Higginbotham quotes sources inside European carriers
as saying that Apple is working with the Dutch SIM manufacturer Gemalto on a SIM chip with expandable flash and ROM. The ROM would have "data provided by Gemalto with everything related to IT and network security" while the flash storage would "receive the carrier related data via a local connection which could be the PC or a dedicated device." So the chip would work as a sort of soft-SIM, allowing an iPhone user to activate their phone on any network that supports Gemalto technology. The ease of switching, as Higginbotham notes, may turn out to be a "nightmare" for carriers.
The strategy seems not only directed at making iPhones more carrier independent - especially valuable in Europe where no carrier has a monopoly in any country - but also as a way to crack down on unlocking. With Gemalto, and Apple, at the heart of the activation process, iPhones would only be able to operate on carriers that are specifically permitted to carry the device.
Gemalto was also in the news recently after filing a patent infringement lawsuit against Google
last week. Gemalto developed Java Card back in the 90s, and patented technology enabling apps to be executed in resource limited devices like smart cards. Gemalto claims that the Dalvik virtual machine used in Android improperly includes Java Card technology, and names mobile-phone makers HTC, Motorola and Samsung as well as Google in its lawsuit.