Apple creating integrated SIM cards, cutting carriers out?

A rumor is stirring that alleges Apple and Gemalto – the lawsuit-happy company we heard about recently – are working together to design SIM cards that can be integrated in the iPhone. This means that iPhones will come with a SIM card built in and consumers can pick and choose their carriers.

GigaOm is reporting:

It’s rumored that Apple and Gemalto have created a SIM card, which is typically a chip that carries subscriber identification information for the carriers, that will be integrated into the iPhone itself. Then customers will then be able to choose their carrier at time of purchase at the Apple web site or retail store, or buy the phone and get their handset up and running through a download at the App Store as opposed to visiting a carrier store or calling the carrier. Either way, it reduces the role of the carrier in the iPhone purchase. Gemalto and Apple have not responded to requests for comment.

The first problem that comes to mind is the same one Google with its Nexus One: price. Without carrier subsidies, the iPhone tends to run between $600-700 alone. I’d venture to say that most folks would rather commit to a carrier if it means shaving off several hundred dollars on the up-front cost of the phone.

It’s a novel idea, but it’s not the first time something like this has been considered and it hasn’t worked out very well in the past. However, if there is anyone that can make something like this work, it’s Apple.

Gemalto is just as much in this as Apple, according to the rumor:

The Gemalto SIM, according to my sources, is embedded in a chip that has an upgradeable flash component and a ROM area. The ROM area contains data provided by Gemalto with everything related to IT and network security, except for the carrier-related information. The flash component will receive the carrier related data via a local connection which could be the PC or a dedicated device, so it can be activated on the network. Gemalto will provide the back-end infrastructure that allows service and number provisioning on the carrier network.

If it’s true, this would be perfect for world travelers who don’t want to be committed to a carrier. You just buy your iPhone from Apple and roam around freely to use it as you please, with whom you please.

[Via: GigaOM]

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