They wouldn't have their UX tied to cell providers, who are some of the most unpleasant entities to interact with. They would probably be able to lean further into their personal security stance, by fully obfuscating the user from the provider.
They have the brand leverage to do it, I'm hoping this is a stepping stone.
If there's anything that would make me buy an iPhone, this is it. I travel a lot between the US and Europe; I'm using Fi at the moment even though I shouldn't actually have access to it. It's mind boggling to me the crazy things we can do with tech today, and not make it all work smoothly and reliably when you step a few meters off the border of whichever country you're in.
While my French phone plan, that I pay $25 a month, gave me unlimited calls and text messages, even in the US, and from France to the US or vice versa. On top of unlimited 4G in my country, I had 25Go of free 3G in the US for my trip. And it was faster than any Wifi I connected to: hotel, work, restaurant...
How is that possible that I was next to Cupertino and Mountain View, yet witnessed this ? This is supposed to be the super tech region of the world, yet it felt nothing like that.
Think about that: ISPs in the US are so firmly entrenched, so highly organized and with such strong lobbies that even in the Bay Area it’s awful.
I want to believe that this will change, but I’ll bwlieve it when I see it. Google tried, and it looks like they’re scaling down their expectations for G Fiber rollouts. Wireless likely can’t work without some quantum leap in the tech, and the infra costs for a buildout are MASSIVE (on the order of tens-hundreds of billions for a nation wide network) plus you need permits for every eyesore tower that every city will individually fight you on. These are just some of the reasons that all the people and all the money in the valley can’t fix US ISPs.
I also still have 250 mbit/s internet with Comcast for $50 (slow upload though)
Keep in mind that the salary in silicon valley tends to be a lot higher, so those $50 are equivalent to $25 of what I had back in Germany.
That being said: It's true that the competition really doesn't seem to work all that great.
It's not completely horrible though. I'm happier than with what I had in Germany.
My plan includes 4G coverage in Mexico and Canada, and 2G coverage in 100+ other markets (with the option to upgrade for 3G and 4G rates in those markets). Looking at  it appears the current plans may not offer this for free anymore, but it's still available.
Google Fi is $20/month for voice and text, plus a variable $10/month per GB up to 6GB where it caps out at $80/month.
Note that I'm not arguing against you, just wanted to clarify that the t mobile experience is just as seamless as Fi, in case I overcomplicated it.
T-Mobile even supports WiFi calling in the same way as Fi, if you want to enable it (handy for me at work, where I'm in a building built like a bunker that gets close to no reception on any network).
I guess we have different standards here in Europe.
If you can actually get these plans using Apple SIM - it’d be order of magnitude cheaper.
Trying to figure out how to get a prepaid plan with a good amount of data that'll work everywhere in Europe isn't easy. Then there's issues about recharging the plan, and many of them don't accept foreign CCs, so you need to be in the country you purchased it in to buy a voucher from the carrier's store.
I also hadn't found any 'unlimited' data options on a prepaid SIM - they only appear to be on the more expensive contract plans. At least, based on my searches in France, Netherlands, Denmark and Norway.
Most of the prepaid SIMs I saw had heavy restrictions on tethering - can you point me in the right direction?
Their service is amazing + it's completely spoiled me when I end up in Vietnam or another country they don't have coverage and I actually have to get a SIM card.
Such a killer service and I'm surprised more people don't talk about it.
You can buy packages for 4g, but they are ludicrously expensive. As in, so expensive they won’t even show you the prices until you are a customer. If I remember, it was in the order of something like $10 for 100mb
There is definitely a data usage threshold where Fi pricing is worse, but if you spend significant time abroad it is hard to beat.
I've only been to Mexico and Brazil since getting T-Mobile, but in both those cases I didn't have any speed issues with whatever they capped me at.
That said, I just looked and I can buy a 1GB international high speed "Data Pass" for $20, valid for 10 days. I didn't need one for any of my trips, but if that experience is atypical, I could see where Fi would be more attractive.
That said, getting a local sim in foreign countries is nice but sometimes takes an annoying amount of work and passport scans.
Oh, and this is not a premium plan or anything. I pay 7.9EUR for unlimited calls and texts, and 1GB of data.
Probably the best landline system was/is in Germany. The ISDN was a complete digital system beginning from the 80s, having features that are not present in current mobile technologies. Calling was almost instant, probably only matched with VoLTE or SIP in local networks.
Deutsche Telekom tried very hard to adapt most of the ISDN features to SIP.
Living in New York and granted a US patent...
Geographically the US is much more expansive than the EU and more robust.
I would not compare infrastructure I would compare the regulations. The telcos created the tech and most likely the laws.
Thankfully time, technology, and consolidation has now reduced that down to 2 (CDMA/LTE - Verizon, Sprint, GSM/LTE, AT&T, T-Mobile). LTE will eventually consolidate that down to 1.
Would you elaborate ?
I am currently traveling in Europe and used the "Orange Holiday Europe" travel SIM which appears to do everything I need it to (tethering, calls to anywhere, etc.) and it "just worked" when I landed.
What alternatives to this would be worth looking into ?
When I fly I have enough on my mind already and I don't want to have to sorry about getting a new sim, changing plans, enabling something, changing numbers, ...
I just want my phone number, data, calls and texts. No fuss. Fi is expensive but gives me peace of mind, I never have to worry about my phone, I know it will work just as well as back home.
The T-Mobile plan has worked fine for me in both Australia and the UK, even for navigation.
Wake me up when it's the other way around :/
It's not quite the entire world, but it might be useful if you travel to the US often.
On the other hand, Apple relies heavily on hardware sales for revenue.
Kind of - if you buy monthly plan that’s 2X more expensive (at least in Eastern Europe).
I'm just using my regular 10€/40GB plan whenever I am abroad and it works fine.
Nothing stops you getting cheap plan from Eastern Europe and use it in west (where cost of operations are higher).
Also, I'm not sure it's that cheaper in the East, I can't really find plans that are significantly cheaper than 40 GB per month for 10 euros.
50 GB in Poland is 100 zloty with Orange for example, so 23 euros.
Does Fi run the carrier? I thought it used existing carriers and just supported seamless transition between them (and wifi). Regardless, the motivation would be to get that market they're missing that doesn't use one of the big 4. Granted Apple has never catered to that market, so not sure why they would now (it'd actually be detrimental to them IMO).
EDIT: Oh, and to the GP's point, seamless international use of your phone is a premium feature that might be valuable to customers. You could easily say "why do ____, they are already considered first class" for any new feature.
Fi's base price is $20/mo + tax. Hallon (my current provider) will sell you 8GB/mo of data for $18/mo, tax included. With Fi that would cost you.. $80/mo + tax. Hallon doesn't actually have anything comparable to that, price-wise; their most expensive plan is 100GB/mo at ~$40.
And no, population density is not an excuse either. According to Wikipedia, the US' population density is 33 ppl/km², where Sweden has 23 ppl/km².
Doesn't seem to be the economy either, the GDP per capita seems to within ~20%, and that's before taking into account the massive difference in income equality.
I'd love if someone could explain how this price difference is somehow reasonable, because this just boggles my mind completely.
What you are complaining about is the US Cell market, which is awful and has horrible prices compared to the rest of the world.
I usually buy a local sim card for data because it's usually cheaper than Fi per GB. However, I pick a different carrier than what I can access through Fi so I have more reliable access for work (and can use both using Speedify).
Having immediate data on arrival, a backup cell network, up to 10 data sim cards for free and access to my US phone number and it's incoming/outgoing calls via data on Hangouts is a godsend when traveling and working remotely.
And while you can end up paying $80/mo if you use >6GB, you won't pay any more than that even if you use more (though they will start throttling you at 15GB).
Do you find you need to use Speedify and tether often?
On regional differences, I see price differences as usually a combination of charging what they can, who they have to or want to compete against, cost of doing business, and how seriously they take the market. Or put more simply: either they have optimized for most money or they don't care enough.
1gb in Philippines is not even 50 peso. it's $10 USD with fi. 50 peso is $1. Prepaid.
in Japan 6GB pocket wifi is about 1500JPY, prepaid. With Fi, 1gb is $10.
In Malaysia, unlimited unthrottled LTE is $14 USD.
They're profiting like bandits.
I just run up the support and get what I want usually.
Fi created their own arbitrage opportunity out of convenience and brand image.
Their are cheaper plans within the USA for domestic data usage, if that is all you want. That’s not the point of Fi though
But that's hardly a problem anyway since getting a local SIM pays off quickly, Fi or not.
Unfortunately it's not advertised like that. Based on Apple's literature one should be able to activate the Apple SIM (in the US) on Verizon, AT&T, Sprint, T-Mobile, or virtually any MVNO. None of the above major carriers wanted anything to do with my iPad while the Apple SIM was installed; none recognized it as a valid SIM. AT&T insisted on selling me their SIM and a weird plan that included voice and SMS even though it's a data-only device. The rest said the Apple SIM was not able to work on their service unless I bought the iPad with a plan from them at their store and the Apple SIM came locked to that plan (I bought it new but unlocked directly from Apple).
Ting was the only carrier willing to send me a free SIM, work with Apple on my behalf to get the device provisioned, and sell me data-only service.
"Apple SIM allows you to choose cellular data plans from select carriers in the U.S. and in more than 180 countries and regions around the world."
Or you know... In the rest of the world, people actually ask for SIM cards, physical cards, because they are portable, and 100% certifiably decouples your device from your cellular provider.
Why on earth would I have something hidden inside... Which may or may not be interoperable... Which I cannot take and use with other devices if I need to? Which I cannot easily replace with a new one, from any carrier in the world?
Just to be clear, this isn't so much to do with any intelligence "in the SIM" - it's more to do with the operators allowing a SIM like this to be used.
I wonder what the kickback is for them in this instance ... telcos typically guard their subscribers jealously. Here you're opening up to allowing your subscribers use your competitors networks. Are they getting higher tariffs or is there some kind of a special service charge for this?
The limiting factor for 4G on a laptop is data caps, not speed.
I don't know why things like that aren't popular, I guess it looks "ugly?"
I've also helped set up a 3rd and 4th-gen X1 Carbon with an LTE card for a friend.
I know Dell also offers LTE antennas in some of their higher-end Latitude laptops.
It's not an extra cost when you get a twin-SIM for your regular subscription. You obviously have to pay extra to have the modem though.
Source: Owner of Thinkpad Carbon X1 with built in 4G-moden and twin-SIM from my cellular provider.
Basically it caps off at $60 after 6GB, is free up to 15GB, and then throttles.
That's pretty great pricing especially considering it works anywhere in the world.
Disclaimer: I am a Google employee, Fi customer outside of work, don't work on Fi.
I guess when I signed up for Fi I imagined myself travelling more outside of North America.
If they're literally charging double compared to the domestic competition, it's pretty outrageous.
Google Fi is also flexible in that you don't have to spend $80 a month if you are using less. When I don't have to do a bunch of tethering for work, I usually spend $30 - $40 a month total.
Thus Google Fi cheaper for a variety of use cases. Different plans/carriers are cheaper for different use cases. Just because a carrier other than Google Fi is cheaper for your use case doesn't make Google Fi outrageously expensive.
I have 15+ international SIM cards. Slightly inconvenient to have to buy one for each country I visit to avoid surprise roaming charges.
EDIT: To qualify this, it's more useful if your primary country is the US.
This is actually one of my big pain points with SIM-juggling while travelling. iMessage would work great, except for the fact that Apple unregisters your US number and registers your new SIM number in its place. Which makes total sense on a technical level, but is irritating in practise.
I use twilio for this. I picked a nice, easy to remember twilio number in my preferred area code and I inserted a very simple "twiml bin" that will forward that number to a number of my choosing.
So now, I can use any old SIM I like (at home or while traveling) and I just need to edit the call forward rule.
I am also able to do nice things like not have voicemail. With US carriers, you can either have voicemail, or have a confusing message about "customer has not yet set up voicemail" ... instead, my number simply rings forever...
One tip: If you want to call people with the caller-ID of your twilio number, regardless of your SIM number, you need to use a VOIP dialer (there are excellent ones) and set up a SIP endpoint at twilio (five minutes). Your outbound calls will go through the SIP endpoint and a line of code or two sets your caller ID to your twilio number.
I used to swap SIM cards around so that my primary SIM ended up in my travel phone, and my region-specific SIM ended up in my primary phone, but ultimately that became more hassle than it was worth, and tethering was a less painful solution with the prevalence of wifi everywhere in most places I visit.
I also have a mobile hotspot, but the 5S works better. Our use case is a food truck type of setup.
I have a TP-Link M7350 from my last deployment. Don't think it works on Verizon bands in the U.S. though.
Here's the one I had in Iraq:
You just plug a sim card to it and it creates a wifi network that you can connect your devices. It also has a usb cable so that you can plug it to a computer to charge it, even though the battery lasts long enough.
If you have no need for voice calls, or your address book, or have your address book stored on a more cross platform friendly service, then either of these solutions will work for you!
(Of course, they should have used openstreetmap https://www.openstreetmap.org/#map=16/45.7790/4.8529)
Note that the Apple SIM isn't new, nor tied to the release of the new iPad model today. It's been around since at least 2014. I remember going to an Apple Store back then to pick one up. The associate at first didn't know what I was talking about but eventually found them somewhere stashed in the back-office.
This used to be true but it doesn't save you money now to buy an iPhone attached to a carrier plan. Apple will even sell you a carrier-free iPhone . I would love an Apple SIM for travel to Canada, etc.
> (e)Handset locking prohibited. No licensee may disable features on handsets it provides to customers, to the extent such features are compliant with the licensee's standards pursuant to paragraph (b)of this section, nor configure handsets it provides to prohibit use of such handsets on other providers' networks.
Maybe in the U.S. Much less so over here.
It seems we’re just waiting on carriers to catch up to the idea at the moment.
A SIM-card is something you can swap and replace in less than 30 seconds, and 100% decouples your device from your cellular provider. The way things should be. It's hardware so it's portable. It's standardized so it's interoperable and works with all equipment, from all vendors.
Why does Apple need to re-invent this?
Why would I want to replace something 1. which works, 2. is industry standard and 3. has proven itself for more than two decades... With something which is 1. not industry-standard but Apple-only and 2. not proven?
What on earth would compel anyone to make such a stupid trade-off? How stupid would you have to be to think this is a good thing?
A SIM-card is something you need to wait to arrive in snail mail. When going abroad you need to order one ahead of time to get a good price. Switching requires weeks of waiting for new cards to arrive, or going to a store. If you lose your device you need to wait for a replacement.
Why would anyone want to use such an antediluvian method?
Why would I want to use something which 1. needs me to remember/write down weird codes 2. doesn't work internationally without exorbitant fees and workarounds 3. is as old as VGA connectors.
PS. Just making a point here, it's not all bad like you're making it out to be, and the dismissive tone muddles the problem. It surprises me that the resistance to new technical solutions to problems is so endorsed here on Hacker News of all places.
What do you mean? You just pay a small amount of money at any store/cigarette shop and you get a SIM card in 10 seconds.
Here in Denmark you can't buy an anonymous SIM card anymore, at least I haven't found any in years. They all require you to register on their website with name, address, CPR (Danish SSN).
Operators can store, activate, distribute, cancel at will. Each one has a unique signature that is factored in to all cryptographic exchanges with the network.
It's not tied to the phone. If you get a phone you get a new SIM. If your phone gets stolen you can zap the SIM card and the phone still works. If you buy a phone you can transfer your identity to it through a short, simple, reassuring tactile procedure.
Want to go to another network? get a new SIM.. operator can't hold you unless they actually bought the phone for you and you still owe them money for it ...
I didn't know this was a thing. Is it new?
Fi also supports additional devices using a data-only SIM, which doesn't cost any extra except for the per-GB data rates. No $15 surcharge just for the ability to use other devices, etc. Same thing with tethering.
edit: also, this isn't exactly new, Google Fi was introduced in October 2016. I've been using it since then with no problems. In fact, I once received a reimbursement for a short outage that I hadn't even realized happened.
I've been using Fi for a while but I didn't realize they had these data-only sims available.
A bit annoying given that it's one extra device to carry around and charge but if a "dongle" is what you want then I think it's the best solution.
> On October 1, 2006, Vodafone Japan changed its corporate name, mobile phone brand name, and its mobile phone domain name to SoftBank Mobile, SoftBank, and [mb.softbank.jp], respectively
> SoftBank Mobile was the only official carrier of the iPhone in Japan until the release of iPhone 4S in 2011 when it became available on au by KDDI as well
Oh, and SoftBank also happens to own Sprint, although that probably is unrelated here.