NEW DELHI: Apple devoted a lot of time during its October 16 presentation to iPads, iMac, OS X Yosemite and even Safari browser, but it didn't mention — even once — one of the features that may have significant repercussions in the global telecom industry.
On its website, the company says that it has introduced a new sim card, called Apple SIM, with iPad Air 2. "The Apple SIM gives you the flexibility to choose from a variety of short-term plans from select carriers in the US and UK right on your iPad," the company says on its website.
Basically, it means that customers in the US and UK, which have carrier subsidies, will be able to change their telecom operator by simply tapping the screen a few times. For example, AT&T, Sprint and T-Mobile in the US will provide a list of plans on the screen and buyers would be able to simply select the plan on the screen. This is revolutionary for these markets, since most consumers don't switch carriers as the change is a lengthy process.
It's true that the Indian market is a little different from the US and European markets. Unlike these countries, India does not have carrier subsidies and, thus, Apple does not deal with telecom operators the same way here as it does in the US.
But that does not mean that the Apple SIM programme cannot become successful in India.
Nano sim was exclusive to iPhone 5 two years ago, but it is now used by Android phone makers like Samsung, Motorola, Sony, Nokia, HTC, Asus etc too, along with Apple. If such big OEMs also start using a proprietary sim card like Apple SIM, telecom operators across the world, including in India, will eventually accept this technology. Of course this will require some changes in the government regulations as well, but with manufacturers and telecom service providers on one side, such change can be expected — in a few years, if not any time soon.
In fact, Apple may not even be the one to bring about this change in the country. Considering that Android phone makers have a far larger share than Apple in India, it may be possible that these companies would be the ones to introduce this technology in the country and not Apple.
Nevertheless, such a situation would be beneficial to the end user. Consumers will be able to switch carriers at the tap of the button. They may even be able to switch operators for a short trip, both nationally and internationally (Apple's website says, "You can choose the plan that works best for you — with no long-term commitments. And when you travel, you may also be able to choose a data plan from a local carrier for the duration of your trip).
It is easy to write off such a change since changing phone numbers is not too difficult in a country like India as phones are not tied to a network. However, many people still go for Mobile Number Portability (MNP) even though buying a new sim card is a far easier process. In fact, Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (Trai)'s data for May 2014 says over 100 million people have opted for MNP since it was rolled out in January 2011.
So who's to say they won't go a more convenient Apple SIM-like technology that allows them to change operators quickly, without filling forms and waiting for several days?