Apple’s quietly revealed plan to include a SIM card in its new iPad Air 2 and iPad mini 3 was perhaps the biggest draw of an otherwise underwhelming launch event last week.
The company’s decision to let users choose data plans directly from their device without having to swap out a SIM or go through the rigmarole of contacting a network is nothing short of inspired.
Such an idea has been floated before, with concerns usually centred around users not being able to change devices easily.
But when it comes to tablets, that’s not as much of a worry. As Apple has found with struggling iPad sales, punters buy and stick with a slate for much longer than a smartphone.
But data deals change constantly and it’s easy to get stuck with one and lose the will to switch, what with having to either make endless calls or go into a shop and risk being up sold a new contract.
The chance to simply pick a new deal on your device and change to it right away is hugely powerful and puts consumers back in charge.
If you’ve paid outright for a tablet, you want to get the most out of it without having to hand over a fortune every month.
Then there’s the travel aspect.
As more networks come on board, the chances to pick a deal when you’re on the road and not pay exorbitant roaming fees is hugely enticing.
No need to search out a local SIM or rely on finding shaky free Wi–Fi, just a case of picking an offering and choosing it from the iPad’s Settings app.
But really, this is about more than the new iPad range. No other manufacturer would dare fire a warning shot like this to the networks, it’d be too risky.
But Apple’s strong sales and loyal user base, coupled with its history of pushing carriers hard for a better deal (it took huge cuts of monthly fees with early iPhone models), means it can and will get away with it.
And you can be sure this is just the start. There has been a lot of chat about the iPhone getting such a SIM and it would be no surprise if Apple offered the same package as part of its 2015 iPhone range.
The idea of picking up a phone and then choosing your deal depending on who has the best offer at any given moment could revolutionise the mobile industry and put manufacturers on the front foot.
Networks would have to offer increasingly better deals and consumers would have better, instant choice.
Buying phones outright is becoming a popular way to snare the latest devices, with expensive, long term deals looking less and less attractive.
With a built in SIM, Apple can cut down on who users have to deal with and let them get on with getting to grips with their new devices.
If the iPad move is a success, don’t be surprised to see rival mobile makers follow suit.