So much for the magical, mystical Apple SIM card that comes in the new iPads with cellular service.
The idea was that iPad owners could switch their LTE service between AT&T, Sprint and T-Mobile, at least for a short time, which signaled the potential easing of carrier control over your devices. I assume Verizon opted out of the arrangement, although we don’t know for sure, and we’re now finding out that AT&T isn’t playing either: If you activate an [company]Apple[/company] SIM card on AT&T’s network, you’re effectively locking that SIM to the carrier.
Using Apple SIM, you can choose from different cellular carriers and their various programs. The data plans vary by carrier. For instance, in the United States, you can choose a domestic plan from either Sprint or T-Mobile and also pick an alternate plan from the other carrier as needed. When you choose AT&T on iPad Air 2 and iPad mini 3, AT&T dedicates Apple SIM to their network only.
Obviously, the last sentence says it all in no uncertain terms: If you choose AT&T’s network, you’re stuck with that choice. The support documentation has “last modified” date of October 24, which is today; I suspect the AT&T bit is the modified part but I didn’t see the support page prior to today.
Even as an AT&T customer, I’m disappointed to see this policy reversal. There’s simply no need for it; if AT&T stand behinds its network quality and service, it should be able to earn iPad LTE customers through a trial period.
Unfortunately, that’s not an option now. Instead of some potential pro-consumer innovation, iPad owners are stuck in the same carrier dark ages of heavy-handed policy and will need to get a second SIM if they lock their new iPad to AT&T’s network and later want to change carriers.
This post was updated on October 25 to reflect Verizon’s lack of involvement with the Apple SIM program.