Gemalto to develop a SIM card built into the iPhone, making it easy for phone owners to use a carrier of their choice. Gemalto is the company that sued Google, Motorola, HTC and Samsung on Monday over alleged patent infringement in Android.Apple is believed to be working with SIM-card manufacturer
GigaOm's Stacey Higginbotham reports today that sources tell her the device is being built for European markets, where carriers are more competitive and the iPhone has largely lost its exclusivity already. Imagine, though, if such technology were to come to US markets. Built-in choice of carriers could increase competition, drive down data prices and potentially impact limitations on what kinds of apps are allowed on the iPhone, in as much as carriers object to things like VOIP and tethering.
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.
How realistic is this? Leading wireless industry analyst Chetan Sharma tells us it's really a business problem more than anything. "Technology for this is easy," he said. "[The] business execution is hard. Carriers won't give away the control that easily. The chances of this working first are higher in the prepaid markets vs. the postpaid markets like North America. This will happen eventually though."
Does an Apple-built SIM card become non-removable and thus hinder consumer choice on that level? That may be yet another matter to consider. "Riiight," teased Tom Lee of Washington D.C. on Twitter today, "Making the SIM nonremovable will make switching carriers *easier*. As usual, the consumer can't lose!"