AT&T locks Apple SIM in new iPads, thereby defeating its purpose

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Swap SIMs no more. Photo: Apple
Once you go AT&T, you can't go back. Screenshot: Apple

The Apple SIM in the iPad Air 2 and iPad mini 3 is based on an awesome idea—who doesn’t want to switch carriers with a tap of the screen? But the actual utility of the Apple SIM is pretty muddled, as evidenced by AT&T locking the SIM to its network.

“When you choose AT&T on iPad Air 2 and iPad mini 3, AT&T dedicates Apple SIM to their network only,” according to an Apple support document. If you ever decide to leave AT&T for another carrier, you have to buy a new Apple SIM.

The decision on AT&T’s part should come as no surprise given that the carrier has locked smartphones to its network for years. An AT&T spokesperson told Recode that only the Apple SIM is locked, not the iPad itself. So when you want to switch, a new Apple SIM is required. They are currently only available from an Apple retail or participating carrier store for $10.

Not quite as expensive needing to buy an entirely new, unlocked device, but far from the utopian dream we all envision.

T-Mobile and Sprint, the only other two U.S. carriers that support Apple SIM, do not lock the SIM to their networks. Verizon doesn’t support Apple SIM at all, which is another glaring problem for Apple domestically. EE in the U.K. is the only international carrier supporting Apple SIM right now.

Apple clearly created its SIM card with the goal of simplifying the process of choosing carriers for the customer. But unfortunately, the Apple SIM can only be as disruptive as the carriers allow it to be.