Re: Sounds like Vodafone is unhappy (@Dan 55)
In theory, what's good for the consumer is good for the manufacturer. It is in Apple's interest to create a smoother experience for potential customers because then potential customers are more likely to become actual customers.
Apple would argue it has attempted to do that by creating the soft SIM: it's trying to eliminate that bit where you have to obtain a physical thing and put it into a slot. Which is especially helpful if you're on holiday or one of those people that just travels a lot. Also it'd be one less cause of consumer inertia in picking carriers even in their own home, were the idea fully adopted.
I've no idea whether there's a subsidy involved but even if so that doesn't mean Apple hasn't done good for the consumer. In the US you get three options when starting up, one of which locks the SIM forever but the other two of which can be switched between at will depending on the latest pricing. All pricing is the same as obtaining a physical SIM. So the overall experience is better for the consumer.
Of course an even more neutral SIM would be even better, and would probably be even better for Apple too.
Hopefully Google will do something similar and the customer will benefit both from the on-device choice of carriers and from being able to pick their gatekeeper to that list. Or still being able to do the physical thing if they really want.