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The biggest news from Apple’s iPad event didn’t even get a mention

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iPad Air 2
Apple iPad Air 2

Mark it down in the tech history books, folks: this was the Apple launch when a post-event titbit about SIM cards stole the show from the finest iPads yet.

Following the unveiling of the iPad Air 2 and the iPad mini 3 on Thursday, Apple chose to quietly reveal the biggest news of the night in a footnote next to the tablets on its website.

In case you didn’t hear, the Wi-Fi/cellular versions of the slates will come pre-installed with an Apple SIM, a software-based, network-agnostic solution that gives consumers power to sign up to short-term mobile data deals and switch between networks at home and abroad, without messing about with those tiny pieces of plastic.

In an awesome turn of events, iPad owners will be able to simply choose data plans and change them on the fly within the connection settings. No longer will they be handcuffed to a network at the point of purchase (as they are in the United States); they’ll get to pick and choose what suits them.

Travelers between the US and the UK, many of whom rely on their iPads for navigation, will no more have to research communications when abroad, faff around ordering and picking up a local SIM card, nor pay expensive roaming charges. They’ll simply be able to get connected as soon as that plane hits the tarmac.

Pretty cool, huh? In my view this already makes the new iPads tough to beat as the best travel gadgets out there.

SEE ALSO: iPad Air 2 vs iPad mini 3

Mini 3 and Air 2

Now, my first thought when stumbling upon the news on Thursday night was: “I want this on my iPhone right now!”

As someone who splits his time somewhat evenly between the UK and the United States, I would love the freedom to switch over to a one-month plan when I come back to Blighty. Instead I’m messing about with two phones, paying for both of them concurrently.

As it stands, as an iPad-only solution, it’s comfortably the most compelling reason to upgrade my haggard but still perfectly serviceable iPad 2. Until now, I’d thought I'd be sticking with the old boy until it conked out.

But the Apple SIM is a big deal to more than just the frequent flyers. Aside from the extra freedom and flexibility it offers consumers, it also has the potential to democratise communications, forcing the providers to up their games.

If users, untethered from two-year contracts, can switch almost at will for a better deal or improved services, the networks are going to have to do more to keep users in their corner. That means more attractive and flexible tariffs and hopefully cheaper prices.

Therein lies the reason why Apple didn't shout too loudly – they practically whispered – about the Apple SIM. It has the power to seriously shake up the wireless industry and leaves Apple’s network partners looking a little vulnerable. When you think about it, it’s remarkable the networks are agreeing to go along with such a proposal, but that’s Apple’s great power isn’t it?

Can you imagine what EE or AT&T would say if HTC, Samsung or Sony suggested something like this? I don’t think I need to tell you the first word, but the second word would be 'off.'

SEE ALSO: iPad Air 2 vs Samsung Galaxy Tab S 10.5

iPad Air 2

All in all, Apple left perhaps the most important announcement out of a somewhat pedestrian and laborious event (which was so loaded with lame Dad jokes, it felt like a Chevy Chase film), in order to somewhat appease those network partners.

However, make no mistake, no matter how much Apple is playing it down, the Apple SIM is a much bigger deal than the addition of Touch ID and a gold paint job.

Read more: iPad Air 2 vs iPad Air: Should you upgrade?

GaryMG

October 18, 2014, 5:19 pm

But is it supported in the UK or for that matter in the USA. It still has a nano sim hole. Sounds like a gimmick, if it is software based, maybe any device with a mobile chip can work sim free?

itsallgonepearshaped

October 19, 2014, 12:58 pm

They've been talking about this for a couple of years now. I am keen to see what providers will make of it. It's all very well talking about portability, but it isn't the physical sim that holds people back, it's the 2 year contracts written on an archaic thing such as paper. If it opens up the market and allows more competition for providers that will deal with the software only sim, then that's the only way things will get better. The hegemony of the small numbers of but significantly large network operators needs to be broken up, maybe this is a small step.

Prem Desai

October 19, 2014, 3:15 pm

Sounds like a genuinely useful thing.

A bit frustrated with Apple for doing these things solo rather than combine forces and genuinely change the industry.

When they announced the nano sim, most network providers were caught with their pants down as they just didn't have these available.

For Apple to truly become a great company, it needs to learn to play with others every now and then ....

NotOverlyConvinced

October 20, 2014, 9:29 am

makes me thing straight away about Sim card theft and fraud. If there is no Sim to remove (and the phone is locked) then it would essentially kill off this market.
this alone would make it uselful

Dwnlder

October 21, 2014, 2:16 pm

What do you mean? How wouldn't they have nano-sims available? You know they are just regular sims with less plastic surrounding them?

Also I think they play rather well with others. None of their ideas nor hardware is theirs and sourced from others. I'd call that playing with others...

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