The iPad Air 2 with Wi-Fi + Cellular models comes with a SIM that “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.”
Wow, this is pretty different. I have two different trains of thought on this.
First, we can change carriers now via different methods. One method is number porting but it’s a pain – you have to go to the store and get your number ported over. I just did this for my parents and it was more of a pain than I thought. I had to go to a store and wait for someone to help me. It took a long time and was a waste of time for me. I almost just said forget it. It also seemed to me like it almost wasn’t worth it for the carrier and if they made it somehow easier it would save them money since they wouldn’t need as many employees and the store size could go down. In many markets, you can also just simply swap SIM cards to get to different carriers and that is what many people do – have different SIM cards with different plans so use the SIM card that fits what you want to do right then. That is also a pain in different ways.
If you could do this online, yourself, that is a potential game changer. Just change when you wish. I would envision being bombarded with special offers, etc. Kind of like going to the supermarket and buying what’s on sale that week. I would think many consumers would have no loyalty at all to a carrier – their loyalty would be to the special offer. This could really change business models if it takes off. For instance, when I got my parents their new phones and locked them into a yearly plan, I’m sure the phone was subsidized in favor of a locked-in plan. That is one thing that would surely change (i.e. go away) and would impact the smartphone market. What Apple writes above is pretty limited in scope with the listed participating carriers on the website as AT&T, T-Mobile, Sprint and Everything Everywhere, and it’s for data only, and it’s not on the iPhone, but this is a start of something different. Forbes has some interesting thoughts on this feature as well and why it wasn’t marketed aggressively.
My second thought pertains to how this might impact frequent travelers. As readers of this blog know, I have been talking about LTE roaming for a while now and I made a prediction that I would be able to roam somewhere this year. This is a different form of roaming. If I go to the UK and select EE for the week I am there, I guess I am roaming. J Again, this is limited in scope to this device and to data. And since I don’t have one of these devices, I will not roam in this manner if I do roam.
It will be interesting to see what comes of this going forward. While there are benefits to consumers for sure, there would also be downsides to many consumers if the business models changed, which they surely would.