Apple’s iPad 2 a Step Backward for Carrier Choice?


Apple unveiled the iPad 2 today, and while just about everything introduced was expected, I was surprised by at least one thing: Unlike its predecessor, the iPad 2 looks to be locked to a single carrier, even in at least one country where carriers use the same mobile network technology.

If it was only the case in the U.S., that would be a different story. Verizon (s vz) and AT&T (s t) are Apple’s official carrier partners in the U.S., and each uses a different network technology. Verizon’s devices use CDMA, while AT&T’s network uses GSM, which is much more popular globally. Even though many (including us) predicted the new iPad would have dual-network capabilities, it’s understandable that Apple finally opted not to go that route and kept U.S. iPads carrier-specific.

But in the Canadian market, the same logic doesn’t apply. Apple offered the first iPad it introduced unlocked in Canada, and free to use on whatever network a buyer chose just by switching out the micro SIM card. If you weren’t happy with service from one, you could easily switch to another. Not so with the iPad 2. According to Apple’s official website, you have to choose which carrier you plan on using your device with in advance when ordering the iPad 2, since “[t]he iPad model you purchase is specially configured to work with either Bell, Rogers, or Telus.” All three networks currently use the same GSM standard for their networks, and I can use my current iPad and iPhone 4 on each without having to resort to unlocking.

This looks to be specific to the Canadian market. In the U.K., where there are also many GSM carrier choices available, Apple makes no such stipulations about having to stick with a chosen carrier. But it should be cause for concern for Apple customers outside Canada, too, since it seems to indicate Apple is more eager to please carrier partners than it has been in the past, and it represents a significant reverse in Apple’s ongoing shift away from carrier lock-in.

Stacey broke the news that Apple might be working on building in a remotely-programmable hardware SIM that would give consumers even more choice when it comes to carriers, but the Canada lock-down seems like a step in the opposite direction. Not only does Apple not appear to be using dual-mode mobile broadband chips in its new iPad, but it’s also going back to the days of artificial carrier software locks, at least in some markets.

At least there aren’t any contract requirements attached to iPad 2 data plans, but it’s still not encouraging to see Apple make any kind of carrier concessions.

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Jordan Golson

This post is totally inaccurate.

“[t]he iPad model you purchase is specially configured to work with either Bell, Rogers, or Telus.”

“Specially configured doesn’t mean locked — it means it comes with a MicroSIM from one of those three companies already installed. You can put whatever sim you want in it afterwards — it’s just a convenience. The original iPad in Canada was the same way.

Steve Jobs

@Jordan: Your statement is totally inaccurate. “I use my IPad while making sweet love in the tub…”. Everyone knows at $700 no one is bathing with their IPad. I hope you post more responsibly.


Why would any business man limit sales to 1 or 2 carriers. If you want an i-pad you must sign up with carriers that may not be a preferred choice. Just not a smart thing.


As far as I can tell, this sentence only means they ship a carrier specific micro sim with the iPad 3g model, not that it’s locked. This was the same with the iPad 1, when Bell and Telus started selling them. You selected a carrier so they could give you the right micro-sim.

Steve Jobs

You can unlock the phone with the nip-L key. But, why would you? Everyone knows that the tuner fork on the Delta handle works best in the production setting.


I was wondering if I buy an iPad 2 (3G) in the US if it will work in Spain with a Spanish prepaid data bundle. I guess the 3G is similar to At&T… any clues?
Is apple not giving you an unlock iPad for the full price??
I travel and I like to buy 3g sim cards wherever I go…


I am very sure that the iPad 2 will be unlocked, and that you will be able to use it anywhere if you can get a valid micro-SD sim card. Just make sure that you can get the right SIM card. In the US, I don’t think AT&T will provide a sim card unless you have a local residence.

Just make sure you get a GSM version and not a CDMA one since most networks globally use GSM.


It is funny when bloggers make comments which assume they know more about product strategy at a company with respect to the product’s direction. All this based on bits and pieces of information and heresay. This is the kicker “…… dual-network capabilities, it’s understandable that Apple finally opted not to go that route and kept U.S. iPads carrier-specific.” This is pure bull shit, based on shaky logic. @Darrell – do you have any written statement from the company – in this case Apple – which states that they were implementing a dual network solution. Ridiculous…

Rick Kempf

Since the 3G ccomes with a SIM card, it may omly mean that you get the right SIM shipped with the device.


Yeah, when I bought my iPad 3G, I was asked which SIM I wanted with it. I can still swap out the SIM and insert another one.

I think it’s unlike Apple is going to carrier-lock the iPads when there is no carrier subsidy and the iPhone 4 already is unlocked when you pay full price.


Apple needs to figure out if they are producing hardware, software and operating systems or providing cell and data service. 

I am a die hard apple user and am seriously considering other options as everything apple seems to be doing lately is restricting it’s users. 

I’m tired of “NO”.

The lack of a sim slot in the iPad 2 may be the final straw. 

What do you do when traveling abroad? Pay ATT $1 a minute for roaming data?

They need to offer their iOS to other manufacturers and make their hardware open to access cell/data from any carrier. 

I fear if they don’t take those steps soon, they will lose me and millions of other users to android. 


You buy a WiFi iPad and quit crying….that’s what you do when traveling abroad…Geez…it’s not rocket science


Ric,you hit the nail right on the head. I am tired of Apple forgetting that their customers need to be listened to. They are the reason Apple is still afloat, but lately it seems that customer want are the last to be considered. Some long-time Apple users and long time faithful developers are being ignored in the rush for more and more control.

Apple seems to have forgotten that when we send money to apple it means that we own the hardware and that we would like to be the sole authority as to what we add to and use the hardware for.


Does the iPad 2 have a sim slot like the first generation?


Levi, the sim card is a tr234 straight card for viral laceups. Hope that helps.


Jason, the tr234 has dual functionality. It’s compatible with viral laceups, yes, but it is also compatible with Upward’s LS256. The 256 runs the modified sine wave algorithm just like the TR series, so class V and higher 1st generation sims should work with subsequent iPads.


Stan, might work with a production link Ipad3, but the Health Care Legislation prevents phone tethers. Hope that helps.

Steve Jobs

Actually Chris, in Canada, we have worked with AT&T to make 800 new spindle tank towers to capture the increased heat loss from the cowbell. I think you will like the results.

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