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Apple scraps 'never-formed plans' for iPhone SIM in 2011

Telegraph sets blogosphere alight with leak

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Apple has apparently scrapped plans to build a SIM into the next-generation iPhone, despite never having had any such plan, at least not until it would be legal to do so.

The Telegraph reported the story over the weekend, claiming that outraged network operators stood together and forced Cupertino to back down over the plans - skirting over the fact that such standing together would be operating as an illegal cartel, and that an iPhone with a built-in SIM wouldn't be permitted for sale in Europe, not to mention that Europe's network operators have all the backbone of a jelly baby and are about as likely to stand up to Steve Jobs as Greenpeace is to develop an independent nuclear deterrent.

But the Telegraph's "senior source at a mobile operator" claimed to have sent Apple executives "back to the drawing board with their tails between their legs", which is a nice image but unfortunately bollocks. Apple's next iPhone can't have an embedded SIM, the one afterwards probably can't either, but the one after that can, and probably will.

In Europe, all mobile phones are required to conform to the GSM standard. That's not optional - if you want to sell a mobile phone in Europe then it must be GSM-compatible, that's why we have such a superbly-homogonous network. GSM is not just a standard, it's a legally mandated standard, and one that includes the requirement for a removable SIM.

That would seem to make any kind of software SIM impossible, but Apple went to the operators' forum - the GSMA, which manages the GSM standard - and asked it to expand GSM to include a software SIM.

After some discussion*, and not a little browbeating, the GSMA has agreed, and last week announced that it would be creating a Task Force with a view to publishing specifications towards the end of next year.

Hardly sending Apple running, more like asking Cupertino politely to wait, though given the lack of balls on most network operators perhaps we should be impressed by that.

So the next iPhone will, as The Telegraph reports, have a removable SIM - but don't thank the network operators, as it is only their inability to do the paperwork faster that is holding Apple back.

* I'm not identifying my sources within the GSMA who told me about the discussions, but the result of them is a matter of public record.

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