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Apple Reportedly Developing A “Special SIM Card” for iPhone

Interesting rumor posted on GigaOM: according to “sources inside European carriers”, Apple has been working with SIM-manufacturer Gemalto to create a “special SIM card” to integrate into every iPhone in order to cut carriers out of the iPhone retail game.

The SIM would still require the device to operate on a carrier’s network, but users wouldn’t be required to go to a carrier retail store to buy and activate an iPhone. Users would be able to buy the iPhone via web or local Apple Store and activate it with the App Store system. It would be a major shift in the mobile eco-system.

Customers will then be able to choose their carrier at purchase at the Apple web site or retail store, or buy the phone and get their handset up and running through a download at the App Store as opposed to visiting a carrier store or calling the carrier. Either way it reduces the role of the carrier in the iPhone purchase. Gemalto and Apple have not responded to requests for comment.

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.

This could mean two things: Apple wants to reduce the carrier’s role in the iPhone purchasing process and they want to make roaming easier. Unlike Google’s Android platform where carriers are able to install additional software and marketplaces, it seems like Apple wants to cut their role down to “network provider” and that’s it. With a SIM-card developed in-house, there may also be new features and technologies coming soon to the iPhone.

Is this the first iPhone 5 feature we’re hearing about?

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