updated 04:55 pm EDT, Wed October 27, 2010
Would allow App Store activations
Apple is working with SIM card maker Gemalto in order to produce a custom card for iPhones, sources inside European carriers claim. The technology would allow Europeans to buy an iPhone via the web or an Apple Store, and get it activated using an App Store download rather than a visit to a carrier store, or calling a carrier directly. The card would be integrated into the phone itself, GigaOM hears.
In particular the SIM's design is said to be embedded into a chip, and use a mix of ROM memory and upgradeable flash. The ROM portion contains IT and network security data supplied by Gemalto, while carrier data is relegated to flash, modifiable using connected hardware. Gemalto will allegedly be providing backend infrastructure for service and number provisioning on carrier networks.
The concept is thought to be best suited to Europe due to more consistency between networks, and greater levels of carrier competition. Roaming support is also more critical in the region, due to the frequency with which people can cross borders. Carriers may, however, become upset at the prospect of being cut out of device sales.
No word has emerged on when the technology might reach the public, or if it will carry over to other continents. Executives from French cellphone carriers have allegedly visited Apple's Cupertino offices in recent weeks to discuss allowing the new SIMs on their networks. Because of the nature of the technology, it would presumably require an altered iPhone design.