back to article Apple applies to patent a SIM you can't remove

Apple has been filed a US patent application on an embedded SIM capable of switching between mobile network operators under command from Cupertino, assuming the operators comply. The patent places an embedded SIM within the secure element which one would expect to see managing electronic payments, which is why it was spotted …


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  1. Refugee from Windows

    Sounds awfully like an accident waiting to happen

    It's back to the 80's folks. Welcome to the world of cloned phones and goodbye to your (electronic) cash.

    Considering the phones will undoubtedly be made in some country where the data protection is somewhat more lax, I would expect there to be a certain leakage.

    Oh dear!

    1. Charlie Clark Silver badge

      Wot he said!

      GSM communications have remained remarkably secure since their introduction when you consider just how many of us are rabbiting on the things and the physical aspect of the security model - the SIM card - has played no small part in this. Giving Apple the secrets is tantamount to giving them to all government agencies and the mafia/triads/yakuza.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Secure?!? You must be joking..

        Since 9/11, phone manufacturers have been blackmailed into leaving out an important feature which is supposed to be part of the GSM standard: the phone reporting that it has switched to unencrypted mode. The result is that it costs less than $1000 to build a fake base station using OpenBTS (the cost is the software radio you need) that will happily record all conversations in the vicinity, provided it has been fitted with enough of a trunk to route the calls it picks up.

        To pick up SMS only is even easier: it takes a couple of hacked Motorolas and you're in business.

        Don't think your mobile calls are in any way, shape or form secure. They almost trivial to intercept unless you take counter measures (various good ones available now - I do this for a living :-) ).

        However, look a bit beyond the one-provider model. Apple would be in a position to offer a dual/triple/n-SIM capable which could nuke your travel phone bill, aka the reason the phone company still makes absolute buckets of money.

        Let me predict what Apple's next move will be: they will provide you with a global phone number.

        You heard it here first.

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Trust me, they can hear pretty much everything if they want

          People should know and realize that Intercepting communications of any format is trivial to people who have the right training, like what they do at Corry Station. Any Army 35S or 35P, Navy CTR or CTI, or Air Force 1N2X1 or 1N4X1 can breach any type of perceived "security" extremely quickly. These people are extremely good at what they do.

          The jobs that actually do interception and the units that do interception can see, hear, and interpret pretty much any signal you emanate, from a 800Mhz "walkie talkie" type radio like the Taliban and Haqqani use (the Police in North America and Europe usually use the same infrastructure, Motorola and Harris make a killing in that market) to a very high end SHF satellite.

          They can also intercept every packet your computer, phone, and router emanate. They usually listen upstream, as was evidenced in what AT&T was doing at 611 Folsom Street in San Francisco in Room 641A.

          My point here is that you are not secure, if they want to listen to you they can and they will.

          They hear SW like the numbers stations and such but thats mostly HUMINT craziness and DIA and CIA are interested in that stuff. Usually they're orders for operatives. Russians do it all over the place, the Chinese do it at all of the National Labs here in the US (the Yosimite Sam signal's transmitted just South of Albuquerque, we do it in the Middle East from Cyprus.

          The point is, don't think they can't listen to you if they want to. Don't make them want to, and you're straight. And if you work with them at any point in your life, assume they're always listening to you.

          1. Fred Flintstone Gold badge

            I sure hope so..

            .. otherwise I'd been saying all these fun things for nothing :-).

            The thing is, I'm on the side of the interceptor if he/she/it is there for a legitimate reason. I hate getting blown up as much as the next man, but the issue is that they're not just limiting themselves to what people have democratically agreed to allow to protect society.

            This creates two problems: distrust of those that should be busy with protection (you know, the job we pay them for) which doesn't help them either, and diversion of resources from where they *should* be.

            I would mind them listening to me because I know they are thus wasting their time.

            1. Anonymous Coward
              Anonymous Coward

              "The thing is, I'm on the side of the interceptor if he/she/it is there for a legitimate reason. "

              The problem is, of course, that the interceptor always thinks they have a legitimate reason. Just as the police only arrest people they think are guilty (wel..., you know what I mean) and think a trial is a waste of time and money.

              Politicians who rail against red-tape and regulations on what the security forces do should remember that we generally started with no rules back in the 19th century and added the rules when it became clear what went wrong without them.

        2. Daniel B.

          Er, my 2007 SonyEriccson W300i handset did report it was in unencrypted mode when I tried to call under such mode. Which handsets axed that reporting?

          We can manage to use PAYG sims on our phones w/o problem. Giving away the GSM SIM smartcard is just plain stupid.

        3. Barry Mahon

          apple pressie to the telcos

          +100 The telcos will be delighted, they'll roll over and have their tummies rubbed by the the pomme. Never mind the bull we'll get about competitive pricing, thus a license to print money. Barry, France

        4. J.G.Harston Silver badge

          I already have a global phone number. +44 114 281 xxxx.

  2. Colin Millar


    No-one in their right mind would buy into such a lock-in?

    Oh - Apple you said - point taken.

    1. Flashy Red

      I'm sorry ...

      The embedded SIM would be preloaded with gateway credentials for all operators. Please could illustrate where the lock-in is? Oh, silly me: it's Apple, I see what you did there.

      1. Jess--

        embedded sim would probably only be loaded with operators for your country, meaning if you move abroad (or travel a lot) you would have to have multiple phones or rely on roaming.

        of course it will wipe out the "unlocked" phone option too (yes you can use your phone on a different network, but I bet you will have to pay apple to switch it over)

      2. Graham Marsden
        Thumb Down

        @Flashy Red

        "All operators"? Or all *Apple Approved* operators? And don't forget that you will need to get the operators to *agree* to let you switch...

  3. Kay Burley ate my hamster
    Thumb Up

    This is good, in a way.

    If only Apple can use the embedded SIM the Telco's will still have to supply SIMs for the rest of us with proper phones. It would have been worse if they had not patented this.

  4. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Can't remove the batteries... the SIM...

    ...what next? Audio from the speakers?

    1. Charlie Clark Silver badge
      Thumb Up

      On-off switch?

      The next version of the Iphone is probably named HAL - "I'm sorry Dave, I'm afraid I can't let you do that".

      1. Chris007

        2001: A Space Odyssey

        Must have been Jobs' favourite film - Looks like he got a few of his ideas from it.


        Walled Garden - ""I'm sorry Dave, I'm afraid I can't let you do that"

        I'm sure others can add more :)

  5. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward


    When I saw the title my first thought was that Apple had somehow patented 'Methods for removing and inserting SIMs from/ into mobile devices'.

  6. Robert E A Harvey


    How can anyone patent "two existing things without the plug and socket between them"?

    1. BristolBachelor Gold badge

      Yes, but at least that is less obvious than making a flat thing with rounded corners :p

    2. Anonymous Coward

      Its a little more than that, though still quite obvious

      The super-SIM is actually simply a collection of other SIMs with a means to switch between them, or more simply implemented, the same crypto hardware with a bank of registers for the multiple secret keys.

      The problem for Apple is that in order to get it into the GSM standard they will have to submit their patent into the GSM pool, and all other manufacturers will be allowed to use it as part of the GSM standard. No opportunity here for extortion, or spankies? Are Apple starting to grow-up, a bit?

  7. technohead95
    Thumb Down

    I really hope this doesn't happen...

    ...I like the fact that I can change my SIMs easily between several UK ones and even use my phone with a PAYG SIM when I'm abroad. Having to attach the phone to a PC with software to do this will make it impractical. No longer can I get a throw away SIM when I'm abroad. I really hope the GSM standard throws this out and it doesn't take off.

    I hardly think a removable SIM card adds bulk and weight to a handset (especially a Micro SIM). If a Micro SIM is still deemed to add bulk then surely designing a new and better removable SIM is the solution. This doesn't necessarily mean make the SIM smaller (there's a certain practical limit with how small a removable SIM could go; something the size of a Micro SD card is about as small as you can go while still being somewhat practical to hold and insert). May be a new design allows the holder and supporting stuff in a phone to be a lot smaller. There are many clever people in this world who are able to solve this problem.

    However, boo to Apple for trying to make this standard.

    1. TeeCee Gold badge

      "However, boo to Apple for trying to make this standard."

      Don't you mean: "Hurrah to Apple for patenting this, ensuring that nobody else can do it and thus ensuring it can never become a standard?"

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward


      Going abroad and changing SIM? What is this weird and slightly suspicious behaviour you speak of?

      Going abroad, I've never heard of anything so daft... That's almost as stupid as wanting to send SMS messages to groups, or picture messages.

      Kind regards,

      Zack Wanker

      CEO Apple xenophobic design division.

      1. Field Marshal Von Krakenfart

        @AC 16:02

        While you may have meant your comment as a snipe at crApple, it's probably closer to the truth than you think. Remember that a significant number of 'merkins do own a passport.

        Most 'merkins don't see a need to visit a foreign country unless they are either 1) invading it, or 2) bombing it.

        icon: 'merkin view of foreign countries.

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          @Field Marshal Von Krakenfart:

          The established sequence is actually 2 (bombing) followed by 1 (invading). And preferably countries with an easy name, although that need seems to have parted along with the last president, hence Afghanistan..

        2. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          "Most 'merkins don't see a need to visit a foreign country unless they are either 1) invading it, or 2) bombing it."

          Well, maybe if we could leave the country without being raped by airport security.

          I've been against the U.S. government's homicidal and criminal behavior in other countries all along, not that it's had much effect.

        3. Field Marshal Von Krakenfart


          Should read: "Remember that a significant number of 'merkins do NOT own a passport."

          Icon - mine

    3. tony

      If sim's end up being a few bytes rather than a physical device containing a few bytes then it'll be even easier to switch sims.

      If the device making designs a utility where you can virtually slide in a different virtual sim...

      ..which they probably wont.

    4. Spearchucker Jones

      Limited market

      I can see an appeal for embedded SIMs for a few people. Mostly to those that never go anywhere.

      I'm much more interested in a dual-SIM smart phone - which will piss the operators off just as much, I suppose. But that's where I see value. Shame that they're mostly only available in Aisa or through dodgy Ebay peddlers. And an even bigger shame that there are no dual-SIM iOS, Android or WP7 phones.

      1. Salim Suleman

        Dual SIm Android

        There is a dual sim android from Viewsonic - V350 - but it seems underpowered for what it has to do!

    5. we all know how irritating it is having to interact with the shopkeeper in any way Silver badge

      Apple will soon be history...

      ... android is making the iPhone (iPad, iEverything-else,,,) less of a must-have device. So they will have to invent something else. And didn't you hear, that dude (jobsworth) who did all the inventing died recently.

      Companies run by personalities don't last forever.

  8. JDX Gold badge

    @Colin Millar

    Ah, calling Apple users idiots is the new "M$", for the fine honed sense of humour.

  9. Velv

    "That's very annoying to Apple, which sees network operators as an irritating speed bump between them and their customers"

    So why don't Apple just buy Vodafone. They've got about half the required money in the bank. Just think of the customer opportunities that would represent.

    1. Chad H.


      Instead of being a brand that tries to represent "only the best" they could run Vodafail...

    2. Fred Flintstone Gold badge

      What, and be subject to regulation?

      Do you have any idea of the amount of regulation telcos are buried under to try and stop them ripping off people (which still happens regardless)? Do you really think that Apple would allow anyone to curtail them?

      Besides, buying Vodafone gives them just a segment, and competition to manage. Staying out of that game means they can take money from all of them..

  10. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Remove choice from your consumers; and funnel those choices through your company = profit

    For myself, I didn't like their opening moves and am definitely not playing now.

    I like the 'it just works' ethos...that's what technology should be aiming towards. But not at that price.

  11. Kevin Johnston


    Not sure how the read this. On one hand you have a possible cost saving for the telecoms bods as they don't need all the production/packaging/shipping of SIM cards but on the other hand you just know that within a short space of time Apple will not only be getting all the customer info but as this goes through iTunes there will be a 'purely administrative' fee to change providers.

    You have to be impressed at how the wonderful Patent Office has once again signed off on something which would struggle to be called progress and at the same time introduces security risks and is illegal in a number of countries. You couldn't make it up (although a surprising number of patent applications seem to).

  12. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    but we didn't expect Apple to patent the idea too.

    Why ever not? Business rule #1 patent everything. If apple knew you were partial to wearing odd socks they'd patent that too..

    Perhaps the cr (of crapple) can now be replaced with a tr (from troll). #ItsATrap(ple)

  13. ElNumbre

    Only one beneificary...

    Customers won't win, because they're locked into whatever contract they agree with Apple and no option to change.

    Cell networks won't win because Apple can hold them to ransom for the chance to be able to sell their shiny wares.

    Apple win because they hold all of the aces.

    Lets hope it takes off like the MicroSIMs. :/

    1. Someone Else Silver badge

      Don't forget the First Rule of 21st Century American Business:

      You are not the customer.

      You are the product.

    2. Chad H.
      Thumb Down

      Customers can benefit

      From near instantaneous network changes.

      Want to move from Orange to o2? Load iTunes; click "Change Network"; choose tariff or PAYG; Wait up to 24hrs; job done.

      1. Marcelo Rodrigues

        You are, surely, jesting!

        No consumer will benefit from this.

        I have a GSM unlocked phone. Want to change operator? Ok.

        1) Go to the nearest newstand.

        2) Buy a SIM card of your choice

        3) Change SIMs

        4) Type in Your CPF (your registering number for taxes in Brazil), to tie the line to you

        5) Done! About... 10 minutes?

        Now, while You wait your 24 hours, excuse me. I have a call to make.

        1. Chad H.

          @ Marcello

          That time frame only applies in the UK if:

          1) You buy an already active PAYG sim card - I know in Australia these tend not to be active.

          2) you have no wish to keep your old number.

          In practice activating a non active sim card usually takes about 10 mins as you suggest, but the official timescale you'll be given if you call one of the major mobile operators is 24hrs.

          So the 24hrs I quoted could like your example be done in 10 mins (assuming no wish to keep same number).

  14. jubtastic1

    I've had lots of SIM's, in all shapes and sizes

    To fit the countless phones I've owned on various networks over the years. The only thing I've kept over the decades is my phone number, and some people dont seem to care about keeping even that.

    Call me an idealist, but I always thought the future would be about signing in to a different phone and my number and stuff would be waiting for me, rather than fucking around with ever smaller bits of plastic.

    1. McWibble

      > Call me an idealist, but I always thought the future would be about signing in to a different phone and my number and stuff would be waiting for me, rather than fucking around with ever smaller bits of plastic

      You mean like a Skype account?

      (or Google Talk, or whatever messaging service floats your boat)

      1. jubtastic1


        Well Skype won't do, mobile data networks are still way to flakey to rely on. I'd love to have google voice here in the UK, but even that is still going to require a SIM that before you know it will be so small youll need tweezers to install it.

        Talk of the devil, this just in:’s-First-Nano-SIM-Card-g17024.jsp

    2. Anonymous Coward

      Did you hear that noise?

      Just as you typed "Call me an idealist, but I always thought the future would be about signing in to a different phone and my number and stuff would be waiting for me, rather than fucking around with ever smaller bits of plastic." there was a pitter patter of tiny feet. I think it was someone from Apple scampering down to the patent office...

    3. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Lovely. Ear infection anyone?

      No thanks, I'll keep my bit of plastic. I know its mine and where its been.

      1. jubtastic1
        Thumb Up


        "Bodies?" said the Captain again.

        Ford licked his lips.

        "Yes," he said, "All those dead telephone sanitizers and account executives, you know, down in the hold."

        The Captain stared at him. Suddenly he threw back his head and laughed.

        "Oh they're not dead," he said, "Good Lord no, no they're frozen. They're going to be revived."

  15. Pshoot

    Please get the facts straight before bashing patents AGAIN - bored now!

    This is only a patent application and has not been granted by the US patent office yet. And for gods sake, why are patents seen as this almighty evil? A company should be rewarded for its innovation. If it isn't then they will just stop innovating because someone can simply copy there idea and won't have the cost of the R&D to pay for, and so can charge less; result = no new shiny things!

    1. BristolBachelor Gold badge

      Possibly the upset is people just looking at the surface of this and seeing it as a SIM just without the connector (read the post above!).

      Then people think that it is a bit cheeky to apply to patent that.

      Then people think that the US patent office will just grant the patent (and would even allow you to patent "the removal of waste from the body by shitting", and allow some patent troll to sue the crap out of everybody)

      1. Stu_The_Jock

        Self defeating idea that

        If they patent the process of removing bodily waste via the anus (slighhtly more politely put) then surely if they "sued the crap out of us" instead of allowing the normal method, they'd immediately have to stop sueing us as we'd not be doing it the "patented way" . . . . .. . . . . .

    2. Someone Else Silver badge

      Really, Pollyanna?

      "A company should be rewarded for its innovation. If it isn't then they will just stop innovating because someone can simply copy there idea and won't have the cost of the R&D to pay for, and so can charge less [...]"

      Show me the "innovation" in "a rectangular case with rounded corners". I'll hang up and wait for my answer....

    3. Arctic fox

      RE: "Please get the facts straight before bashing patents AGAIN - bored now!"

      You don't come here often, do you old chap?

    4. Destroy All Monsters Silver badge
      Thumb Down

      "A company should be rewarded for its innovation. If it isn't then they will just stop innovating"


      It's amazing that people made it out of caves with state and patent office.

  16. Anonymous Coward


    I wonder where the benefit lies.

    It's true that operators are an annoying man in the middle between Apple and the customer. Let's face it, they are just plain annoying.

    If it takes us one step towards the telcos becoming the dumb pipes they really are then I would imagine that's all well and good.

    But just to shave a couple of mm off a device and open up all kinds of potential security headaches just isn't in the consumers best interest.

    I'm quite undecided about this but I'm leaning towards a negative view. While I can see a benefit for Apple. I don't see a benefit for me.

    Someone enlighten me please

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: cui bono?

      It was hilarious in the story when the patent rationale was quoted as being "in case a customer can't easily get a sim card" or so. I mean, OMFG, I have about 30 sim cards, spilling out all over the place. They are as common and ubiquitous as dogshit. There should be an extra refuse collection on Tuesdays for these damn things.

      The benefit for the consumer seems zilch - negative in fact given the reduction in security possible. The benefit seems for das Apfelkomputer inc. Two words: anti-competitive.

  17. Dazed and Confused


    If they want to have the law changed they'll need to have it covered by a FRAND arrangement.

    The only form of FRAND that Apple will accept it that is reasonable for us to use your patents for free and reasonable for us to sue everyone else.

    They'll never agree to the FRAND condition.

    1. a_been

      That explains why Apple patents are part of several FRAND pools, oh wait. I see what you did there, reality made you Dazed and Confused.

  18. Steve Evans

    Mixed feelings...

    It's nice to see a network operator being kicked into the "dumb pipe" gutter where they belong. One of Nokia's failings was that it continually bowed to the operators causing enormous delays to firmware updates for anyone who was stupid enough to buy a phone through a network, or even a country variant as we have in the UK, which even though it ran standard firmware, would still be subject to a random delay thanks to some unknown issuing agency.

    Apple never went with that model, they pushed out their firmware updates to everyone, at the same time. Although this did tend to crash their servers, it did mean everyone could be updated within a few days of each other (if they so wished).

    However, I don't know if I trust Apple enough to agree to be locked into them... Actually, I do know the answer, and no I don't like it.

  19. CABVolunteer

    How was this patent granted?

    "We discussed that idea almost exactly a year ago, coincidentally on the very date the patent was filed. "

    Then why was the patent granted? Surely a case of prior art based on pre-publication? And if not, then surely on the grounds of obviousness!

  20. Scott Wheeler


    The Apple patent must be quite restricted in its claims. Non-removable SIMs (small chips soldered to the main board) are currently in use for things like remotely-readable gas meters. They exist in some consumer devices, particularly the Kindle. These seem to be cases where the user is not the customer for the 3G service: as a Kindle user, for instance, I don't know or care which network I am on because I'm not paying for it.

    I suspect that Apple is just patenting the use of a discrete secure element to store the operator secrets (Ki, K) rather than using a single physical UICC.

    1. roy lovelock

      i agree, but to let you know if you open up your kindle you will find a sim card in there that can be removed,. i suspect though that the card is married to the device so no point in removing it for free network on another device.

  21. Wile E. Veteran

    Call Access?

    Does having the "secret" mean Apple will have access to all your calls or call history? If so, that is just as bad if not worse than letting governments have backdoors for monitoring your calls. Big Brother thy name is Apple.

    Marginally related:

    In the US. Serta Mattress is now selling a rip-off, I mean "clone" of the Tempur-Pedic memory-foam mattress. They call it "icomfort." I wonder how long it will take Apple to sue?

    Thank somebody the family owns no Apple kit and we are all on a CDMA network instead of GSM.

  22. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Its just Apple freakery wanting to control everything

  23. Craig Vaughton

    Where's your problem?

    What's the difference in having a SIM as part of the main board & one in a socket? Generally anyone who wants to use a smartphone has signed an x month contract anyway so they're tied to the SIM.

    End of contract, decide to keep phone but move provider: Apply for PAC code, Apple by then have added "New Operator" feature into iTunes, insert PAC code into dialog box, job done.

    "Apple will also need to get the network operators to hand over the secrets for embedding into iPhones. Our first thought is that this could never happen,"

    Yeah, they said something like that about getting music companies to sell tracks for $.99 each

    1. SImon Hobson Bronze badge

      Isn't it obvious ?

      >> What's the difference in having a SIM as part of the main board & one in a socket?

      Apart from the fact that it instantly means Apple both control which networks you can connect to (even retrospectively changing this **after** you have bought the device) and knows which network you are using ? If Apple have a disagreement with a network, they can simply not put that network's keys into future devices - that means the network will effectively be forced to play to Apple's tune in everything it does which I cannot see as anything but a bad thing.

      But wait, there's more. This doesn't just apply to new devices, since you will have to get Apple's blessing to switch networks, Apple can disable the ability to switch to any network it doesn't like for devices it's sold in the past.

      And as others have already pointed out, it stops you swapping SIMs at will - whether that's swapping SIMs in your iWotsit (such as when travelling), or swapping one SIM between your iWotsit and something else. On the latter, I have a 3G dongle which I occasionally use with my laptop - I don't have a separate SIM for it, I just borrow the one from my mobile.

      Lastly, ever looked at mobile options ? Look at most operators an they have iPhone and normal options for SIM only tariffs. So you can pay more for a contract or PAYG SIM for an iPhone, or less for a generic SIM only deal. Once you can't put "any old SIM" into your iWotsit, then the operators can also ensure that you can't buy a cheap contract instead fo the more expensive one.

      No, I see nothing good about this - not for users at least.

      1. (AMPC) Anonymous and mostly paranoid coward

        I would have to agree

        But at the same time, customers aren't complete idiots as the market share steadily disappearing to anti-Iphones will attest. I have an Iphone (dont hit me, I like the interface) but if I could not slip in my favorite SIM or operator, I would dump it pronto for a less restrictive device. If Apples business plan is to lock in operators and users even further, I can not really see that working for long. Poor Steve.... I can not believe this was his last big idea

    2. Bod

      " Apple by then have added "New Operator" feature into iTunes, insert PAC code into dialog box, job done."

      And because it's through iTunes - they take a cut, which is passed on to the customer who pays more for their contracts.

      As said, travel abroad (as us people outside the US tend to do) and the contract we have will cost an insane amount for use, so the cheap option is to get a local SIM... but you can't do that. Apple are unlikely to offer the option to get a local SIM update and would they let you swap to an operator and then swap to another, then back again, without signing new contracts each time. i.e. swap around based on the best deal for you location? No, didn't think so.

      Contract ends, you decide PAYG is a far better deal for your use. Oh, can't just pick up a PAYG SIM.

      You have business and home use and swap SIMs... oh, can't do that.

      You buy SIM free rather than contract and just use your existing SIM from the last phone (as I do as my contract is far cheaper than any new contracts), will Apple let you import your contract? Seriously doubt that (and nor will the operators allow it, they'd insist on a new contract).

  24. thesykes

    You drop you phone, it breaks! Not to worry, send it off for repair and put your sim into your old phone sat in the drawer, no problem, people will still be able to contact you... oh... wait...

    OK, you make it to the end of your contract, you get your PAC code and move over to another network, but (I know, this is very unlikely) not an iPhone. Normally you'd throw your old sim away, sell the phone or, pass it on to a relative, who can just pop in a new sim and they're away. But, it the iPhone now has no sim to replace, how do you transfer a new phone number onto it? How helpful will Apple be to someone who has bought the phone second-hand, from who they have received no money?

  25. jabuzz


    As it has to go into the GSM standard, the patent would have to be covered by a "fair,reasonable and none discriminatory" license so as much as Apple might want to keep it to itself it cannot, otherwise it would get locked out of making mobile phones rather quickly as all the FRAND covered patent licenses it needs would be revoked.

  26. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Benefits? More vendor lock-in anyone?

    I fail to see any benefit of this for me (or any customer).

    I don't think there is any love lost for the telcos - just some are more tolerable than others. At least there is competition between them (and watchdogs for price fixing), so I can switch if I want (which is why I don't do contracts however profitable they might seem).

    Therefore, an integrated sim'ed device looks even more like a vendor lock-in. I can't find any other explanation.

    A sim is a nice thing to have. It's not often it sees the light of day, but I do remember more than one time I've had to swap it into a temp handset which still had battery juice (or one time, wasn't submerged).

  27. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward


    We already have the micro-sim. Which kind of makes sense, as the push for cramming more hardware and battery into slimmer packages continues.

    But if your micro-sim device goes kaput, you can't just pop it into that old faithful Nokia waiting in the drawer. Tough break, hope you kept the mini-sim bracket.

    This is even worse.

    1. Bod

      Micro SIM = SIM

      Yes you can put your micro SIM in your old faithful Nokia. You just need a plastic adapter. Costs a couple of quid. You could even make one yourself by cutting up an old spare bit of plastic, like old credit card perhaps.

      The SIM is just the little chip and the rest is just a holder.

      In fact the regular SIM as we know it is a mini SIM as the original was a credit card size, and indeed many SIMs are shipped in the full credit card sized package that you snap out to the mini or micro size.

      Likewise you can take a regular SIM and cut it down to a Micro SIM with a pair of scissors.

      That said micro SIMs have additional features on chip, but they are backwards compatible chips, and likewise an older SIM chip is forward compatible, just without the new features.

  28. Matthew 3


    I can see *some* benefits to this albeit with *lots* of reservations.

    I don't really care which telco hosts my number, just how much I have to pay per month. Frankly if Apple wanted to switch me between Vodafone and Orange each day I wouldn't care as long as the phone still worked. They'd be able to negotiate far better rates than I can, that's for sure. My contract would be for the phone, not the network, so I'd get quicker updates and probably simpler payments.

    But if this catches on across the board it'll be awful. As someone who likes to switch SIMs from phone to phone it'll be a pain. No more borrowing a SIM for your phone when you're overseas, no more configuring a BlackBerry for a user and then saying 'Just stick your SIM in and it's done'. And passing on phones to my kids will have to stop too. On balance it's just too many negatives.

    1. Morg

      Open your eyes

      With such a solution .. there would only be virtual SIM's and you could connect to any contract provided you had the correct login/pw . WHy else ?

    2. Shooter

      Re: Contracts

      No doubt Apple *will* be able to negotiate far better rates - for Apple. You'll likely still pay the regular rates, plus a "convenience fee" to Apple.

    3. Steve Gill


      This might work for city central types, but not for the rest of us.

      Would you care which telco hosts your number if there was only one that could provide a connection where you live or work? Would you be happy to be moved to Orange if only Vodafone or O2 provided a service in your area?

  29. BristolBachelor Gold badge

    SIM cards

    I thought that really the SIM is just your private key to sign authentication packets to send to the network. The SIM holds that key and also does the signing so that the phone never needs to know the key and thus makes it more secure.

    Now from a GSM standpoint, I don't see anything magic about the phone doing the signing itself, and the phone being told the key. The network sends the phone a request to authenticate itself, and receives a packet which it decodes as correct; job done.

    Of course this means that the user can't just stick their SIM in another phone, and it also means that they can't just stick different SIM in this phone. It is probably for this flexibility that the GSM spec demands removable SIMs (although it doesn't work, becuase lots of phones refuse any SIM except 1 network).

    If I could trust Apple, this would be great. In theory, I could have a number of contracts all loaded into my phone; UK, Spanish, Japanese, work, personal, etc. The phone could register on all the networks and receive calls from all of them, and I could tell it which one to use for outgoing calls/data.

    1. Morg

      It gets better

      You could have a local phone contract in a matter of seconds when you enter another country.

      THAT ! is service.

  30. andy39

    Patents stifle competition. If this patent is granted, no other company use an embedded sim and provide a better service than Apple.

  31. asdf

    bah darn martians

    Now the Martians are not even letting our probes get of low Earth orbit before sabotaging them.

  32. Trevor Zettler


    I like the modular approach of having a SIM distinct from the phone. If my phone should fail, I can simply put the SIM in another. What should I do with an iPhone with an embedded SIM if said phone should fail?

  33. TonyHoyle

    Can't see this working

    Currently telcos are pipes, mobile phone manufacturers sell phones. It works well this way. You pick up a SIM for free, pick up a phone in your price range, sorted. Everything works with everything else. Or maybe you get a package deal and pay less up front for a loss of freedom (your choice.. free market. Personally I haven't bothered with such lockin deals for years).

    Apple want to be a middle man that controls access to telcos. They want to limit what packages I can use (unless they're really going to give equal access to the many thousands of potential packages including VNOs, and every single worldwide carrier.. which would be quite an undertaking). They can f.. off, personally. It's my phone, not apple's.

  34. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Benefits? If Apple doesn't control!!!!

    Apple have applied for the patent, but it's practical application could be covered by governing bodies. Would this be more acceptable if Apple were required to make all networks available at no charge, to user and network.

    Itunes could be used to control the details on a iPhones internal SIM. But There could be a requirement that a user could switch the phone number to a different handset through the operators website. Switching to a different network could be done similarly with the use of a PAC code.

    There could also be the ability to transfer the details to a blank sim if needed - if this was in place I could see a benefit to this.

    Also if a phone is stolen, it could be locked down by the user so no other sim could be entered on to it!

    Basically, there are benefits to the user of being able to control the deployment of the sim - but it will need to be mandated that there are no restrictions placed on the operators or users.

  35. aurizon

    several SIM cards

    There is no reason that they can not make smaller SIM cards and then have a multiplicity of sockets in the phone. When you wish to can use one or the other SIM card. This is a lot like the olr radios that had crystals.

    Of course, crystals were made obsolete by synthesizers that could have any frequency. Similarly, a phone can be made like a chameleon - you add the SIM data as needed, with the security you wish, with the agreement of the operator's network

  36. Anonymous Coward
    Black Helicopters

    Paranoid much?

    Wow, anything to do with Apple and patents and some people freak out. As pointed out, this would need to be part of the GSM standard and thus be licensed on FRAND terms. Apple would end up maybe getting a fraction of a penny out of the GSM patent pool for handsets that use this. They aren't patenting it to be the only ones doing it, or to make money, they want to do it themselves because they think it can streamline the iPhone purchase process just a bit more.

    It is also one less thing to go wrong. True, SIMs rarely go bad, but it can happen, and the slot on the phone can be physically damaged, etc. Plus Apple hates putting openings in the phone, and would love to someday have a completely sealed (and thereby waterproof) phone if they eliminated the SIM slot, used a magsafe or wireless charger, and made the dock connecter and earphone jack wireless.

    In today's world you patent everything patentable you can for defensive purposes. Sometimes you might use those patents offensively to sue others into submission, or to try to make money, but every company takes out patents on things they come up with as a matter of course even if they are as non-evil as Google originally was.

    Why would Apple want to use this to restrict the carriers you can use? There are supposedly over a million iPhones in use on T-mobiles network in the US, despite that carrier not being officially supported, and despite the fact that its 3G bands are different from what the iPhone supports so Edge is the fastest cellular data speed! Add in all the phones being used in China and elsewhere in the world and that's a lot of money Apple would stand to lose if they prevented you from using a different carrier. Apple has no incentive to prevent you from using PAYG SIMs when you travel, that's in your carrier's interest only. If Apple had the carrier's best interests at heart, there would be no Skype or other VOIP apps allowed and iOS 5.0 would not have added iMessage.

  37. Spud2go

    Just - No, ok?

    Apple wanting to put everyone elses 'apples' in their basket - not good. There is a workaround of course - don't get an iPhone!

  38. Anonymous Coward

    So if my SIM gets stuck in my phone

    ...I'd now have to pay Apple for it because they "invented" this mess ? ;-)

  39. Lance 3


    I view it that Apple will become an MVNO and they will move customers around based upon who is offering the best price at the moment. Then the carrier doesn't need to hand the keys to the customer over as Apple is technically the carrier.

  40. Chulang
    Thumb Down

    backward step by apple

    This is a backward step to when cellphones did not use slim cards. This will not go well with people in the US. Think of it this way, carriers dont care what the slim is in , just want to make money by you using their network. LIke the apple store for apple mobile product, Apple has began to move to restricting their products only to them and this will give Androd device a greater edge on the market

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      It's called a SIM card mate

      It stands for 'Subscriber Identity Module'

  41. LarsG


    that's why they will never implement it, it is to stop others trying to come up with it and locking THEM out!

  42. Morg

    Double WTF

    1 . This idea is dumb. of course the presets for every network should be available on every phone ... we do have a lot of presets for every ISP on our pcs ...

    2. It got patented!

    WTF .. patent my shorts apple . this is getting so ridiculous i'm going to join the patent business and patent every other idea I get .

  43. VirtualMark

    I'm really beginning to hate Apple..

    Apply seem to be in the news every week lately, with court battles over patents. Some of these are stupid, like patenting gestures, or the 'i' prefix before a product name. Or the likeness of a touchscreen phone that uses ICONS. They suck, i hate them, they are stifling creativity and fair competition. And this latest move is another attempt for them to gain more power over their customers.

    Its a shame really, as they do make some really nice gadgets. Its just that if i bought an iphone, i wouldn't really feel that i own that iphone. I read a few years back about apple releasing an update that 'bricked' peoples jailbroken iphones. They want to control everything we do, and i really don't agree with this. If i buy a gadget, that is now MINE to do what i want with.

    I like having a seperate sim. If my battery is dead, i can borrow a friends phone, and use my sim. When i change my phone i just copy all numbers to the sim, then switch it. The sim is not bulky, there isn't a problem with weight that i can see. I also like having a removable battery, as i can always buy another one if it dies. Apple can go to hell, i won't be buying an iphone in the next few decades. Theres plenty of competition out there with andriod phones, which i think is a much better os(considering its free).

    I can only pray that Apple start to hemorrhage money in the next few years. I want to see them and their draconian policies fail. Sadly it probably won't happen, as spending 5 times as much on a product with an apple logo on it seems to be considered 'cool'.

    1. Morg

      Bulky it Is

      The sim in itself is bulky . it's already at least 1mm thick.

      Add to that the Sim connection pad and you're over 2mm.

      In a fight of the slimmest phone it's a big disadvantage.

      Replacing all SIM cards by a login/password system, having your data saved and replicated on the network instead of on your card ready to be erased ... is better in my opinion.

  44. BoxedSet

    Apple, just fuck off... take your shiny bauble gadgets, idiotic patents and army of legislators and fuck right off !

  45. Seven_Spades

    I don't understand how these patents are granted. A patent has to be an original idea and not obvious. Having a phone with a built in sim or identifying code is not original.

  46. ZenCoder

    Yet another reason for me to resist smart phones.

    I carry a dirt cheap prepaid phone that's only good for making calls and a 4th gen iPod touch for entertaining myself and free texts when wifi is available. Its not just about saving money, when my iPod's battery is low, my dumb phone is still good for a couple more days.

  47. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Apple make my p**s boil

    I'm so angry I won't type too much, as I will be incoherent.

    Anti-competitive, arrogant so and sos who are finally scared their products are not the best on the market any more. They treat us like morons who just couldn't fathom anything out for ourselves.

    How anyone with half an ounce of IT intelligence in them can own their products is completely beyond me. Exercise your brain, your choice - do it continually, don't give in to this children's toybox of flashy lights and shiny (rounded) (patented) surfaces.

  48. Stuart Duel
    Thumb Up

    They're applying to make it a STANDARD

    As such, it would need to be transferable and open to every operator/manufacturer to adopt. If it is a standard, how could it possibly be a lock-in?

    It makes sense to me - the SIM only holds data after all, and a pitifully small amount of data at that compared to the capacities of today's phones. Why not have the data sitting on the internal storage and do away with the SIM altogether?

    It would also allow multiple accounts on the one phone without the need to physically change over a SIM, auto-switching between providers as required, and even have multiple user accounts on the one phone with each different user having a different network provider if needed and without any fuss.

    Oh, and also means reducing the weight and complexity of the gizmo. And we all know how compulsive-obsessive Apple is about 'thin'.

    Seems like a win all the way around to me.

  49. Dick Pountain

    It's a War

    We're in the middle of a legal/commercial war about control over communications, and there are at least five antagonists involved. This particular skirmish is between a hardware manufacturer and phone companies (ie. infrastructure owners), but government is involved too (would like to be able to censor), as are ISPs (shot to bits by all sides), and huge web vendors like Google and Amazon (creaming it). I doubt that this move by Apple will prove very important, and I'd guess that such a SIM-less phone would be cracked within days.

  50. LarsG



  51. Grubby
    Thumb Down


    Lock you into a contract, I got my phone with my contract then a new phone came out I wanted so I bought it and swapped the SIM. I assume there would now be a charge for doing this, or some sort of impact.

    Negatively impact the second hand market. Using the example above, to fund some of the cost of my new phone I sold my old one. This would become a much harder thing to do.

    The 2 examples above have 2 key impacts, the first one gives network operators the possibility of applying new and increased charges, because you can no longer simply sign up for the bits you want then use your other SIM to avoid other costs etc. The other is more obvious, if the used phone market is impacted it will create demand for new phones which will increase prices of handsets (you know them things Apple pay £50to have made and £600 to buy).

    The above is just speculation and may not be the reasons behind it, but America and UK have carpet bombed countries because they MAY have had technology that MAY have been able to produce weapons.

  52. Graeme Oliver 1

    I'm sick of hearing how grasping and greedy Apple are becoming, I wish they'd just f*** off...

  53. T J

    Apple Patents Ass You Cant Extract Head From

    Its called iSAnyoneStillThere ?

  54. mhm

    Combine SIM and microSD cards into one

    Combine removable sim and memory cards into one card so there is no wasted space. Memory cards cant shrink too much as long as we want more and more crap on our phones.

  55. Jerry


    I realise I'm a bit late here, but the SIM is not actually the chip ( called the ICC) but an application running in protected space on the ICC with its own microprocessor.

    It has a challenge/authenticate role that takes network challenges and returns an authentication code.

    What the patent seems to have done is move the challenge/authenticate function from the SIM to the phone. Perhaps the SIM is used for secondary identification?

    This is not a new feature and is part of a massive battle to move control of the phone from the SIM to the phone. In simple terms, stopping the Telco getting the money and instead giving it to the handset manufacturer.

    At one stagte *all* of the phone applications were meant to run off the SIM, or at least initegrally with the SIM. This meant the Telcos kept getting revenue as they were the SIM suppliers. This never eventuated as the phone manufacturers simply bypassed the Telcos.

    This new innovation moves the final barrier to network access from the SIM to something under control of the phone manufacturer. All good to the phone manufacturers.

  56. Jean-Paul

    What is it with you lot

    Has the register now got the same demographic as the jeremy kyle show or what?

    For this to become useful it has to become part of the standard, as such Apple won't be able to keep this for themselves just like they have done with many many other patents.

    Further more when it does become part of the standard then surely it will become 'easy' to move your electronic sim to another handset from another manufacturer that also implemented this standard?

    Gosh there is a so much unfounded hatred here, chill and try and be a nice person...

  57. Anonymous Coward


    RE> This new innovation moves the final barrier to network access from the SIM to something under control of the phone manufacturer. All good to the phone manufacturers.

    Well, since only 1 phone manufacturer has the patent, how does this benefit all the other phone manufacturers exactly?

  58. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    There is a REALLY simple solution to this...

    There is a REALLY simple solution to this...

    Do what I and many others do.... abstain from purchasing Apple products as your vote of dissatisfaction with their behaviour.

    Simple and effective.

  59. David Paul Morgan
    Thumb Down

    If a suitable infrastructure is in place....

    I suspect that within 5 years, Microsoft, Google, Apple and maybe Sony will have their own smartphone VoiP-based 'phone systems, able to by-pass the GSM system completely, so bye bye Vodafone, O2/Telefonica, Orange and the rest.

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