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Apple SIM (apple.com)
329 points by skuzins on Mar 27, 2018 | hide | past | web | favorite | 181 comments

I'm surprised Apple has created a proper Fi competitor yet. It would fit so well into their premium brand of "your iPhone works the moment you step off the plane wherever your amazing life takes you".

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.

> It would fit so well into their premium brand of "your iPhone works the moment you step off the plane wherever your amazing life takes you".

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.

I'm kinda of amazed of the Internet and mobile situation in the US. I was in the Silicon Valley recently. Internet was terrible everywhere I went. Phone plans were incredibly expensive.

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.

That’s how awful cell carrier oligopoly is here. Wired internet is even worse, even in Silicon Valley. I have the choice of Comcast 100mbit Internet (used to be ~20mbit a few years ago) for ~$80 USD per month or nothing. Literally my only real high-speed choice is Comcast in every apartment I’ve rented in the Bay Area in the past 6 years. Many friends are in the same situation.

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.

Eh, it's not THAT bad. Back when I had T-mobile I had > 100 mbit/s LTE and worldwide (albeit slow outside of Canada or Mexico) data roaming for $50

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.

Just to add insult to injury: Don't forget your French sim works without roaming across all EU member states

On the other hand there are countries like Luxembourg, where cellular data service in the middle of the capital is horrible. The guy in Orange shop who sold me a sim card said I might need to manually switch from 4G to 3G in some areas, because the reception is so bad. And it was bad pretty much everywhere, even on 3G.

I have T-Mobile's Simple Choice plan, and while I haven't flown too much internationally, the few times I have, my service has worked seamlessly.

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 [1] it appears the current plans may not offer this for free anymore, but it's still available.

[1] https://www.t-mobile.com/travel-abroad-with-simple-global

I believe the above commenter talks about the ease/pricing of Fi as much as the experience. I'm using Fi on my iPhone (and have for a while) - and it works worldwide for $10 / 1Gb. It's actually downright magical compared to other offers (even the Apple SIM powered ones).

The ease with T Mobile is there too. I pay $50/month for my plan, and calls, text, and data effectively works seamlessly in ~160 countries. If I want faster data in some of those countries, I can pay $10 extra.

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).

Also note TMobile supports Apple Watch LTE while Fi doesn’t and probably won’t.

Is 6GB seriously the best Google has to offer? I'm on a 7GB monthly plan and I find that limiting...

I guess we have different standards here in Europe.

As Larrysalibra said, 6GB is basically just the threshold for where you go from paying per GB to it being unlimited. If you use 3GB, you'll be charged $30 for saga. If you use 6GB, you'll be charged $60 for data, and if you use 9GB or 18GB or 30 GB you'll still only be charged $60 for data.

It doesn't stop at 6 gb, they stop charging you for data at 6 gb. It's "free" after that.

$10 buys you unlimited LTE in like half europe.

If you can actually get these plans using Apple SIM - it’d be order of magnitude cheaper.

I've used Travel SIMs in the past simply because although they're more expensive, at least they work and I know I'll probably have coverage.

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.

Finland has unlimited (without the quotation marks) data on prepaid SIMs from all carriers. Usually for about 1€ per day or 20€ per month. Depending on the plan it will also include unlimited texts and talk.

I ended up using a reseller in Australia to get an "EE" SIM for an upcoming trip - feeling like I've been ripped off here as I paid significantly more than $10

Most of the prepaid SIMs I saw had heavy restrictions on tethering - can you point me in the right direction?

Are you travelling to the UK? There are loads of SIM cards for sale in arrivals, including EE.

While T-Mobile has 2G coverage for no additional charge outside of US/Mexico, in practice it's not very usable due to the extremely slow speeds. After trying to painfully use maps with that data plan, I had to switch to a regular 3G data plan so I could get on with being a tourist.

The “One Plus” plan has unlimited international 256 kbps LTE and is juuuuust fast enough to get by. The low latency of LTE is helpful to make it feel a lot faster than a 2G connection of similar speed.

Came here to say this.

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.

I used to use T-Mobile, but the reason I switched to Fi was because outside of North America, the speed just isn’t there. Even when you pay for the upgraded “3G” speed, it has a low cap for max speed, something like .25 mbps.

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.

I've used TMobile One in Turkey, India, Armenia, Canada, and UK. And it auto connects to Mexico when I'm nearby too, all for free. Best I could ever ask from a carrier. I'm pretty anxious they're going to get bought out and cut this immediately.

That said, getting a local sim in foreign countries is nice but sometimes takes an annoying amount of work and passport scans.

The problem is that then you have to use T-Mobile in the US. I have it too, but only because I'm too stingy and lazy to switch. There are areas of San Francisco where it just has no signal, and forget about the Muni tunnels. It's kind of pathetic.

In my travels in the EU, I've never had to even lift a finger. It all worked smoothly and reliable. When I stepped off the plane on the other side I got a text letting me know I was in roaming mode and could talk/use data from my current plan. When I returned I got a text saying "welcome back, I hope you had a good trip".

Oh, and this is not a premium plan or anything. I pay 7.9EUR for unlimited calls and texts, and 1GB of data.

Within the EU, yea. The amazing thing about Fi is that it operates the same in pretty much any country with a stable government.

Three in the UK do the same thing and operate in 71 countries so far, however I get 13 GB of data instead of the unlimited. EE and O2 apparently offer similar deals.

The more i learn about US telecom, the more i wonder how the hell they managed to invent both the landline and mobile phone. Their infrastructure sounds like a balkanized mess...

First telephone was invented by an Italian (Antonio Meucci).

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.

> First telephone was invented by an Italian (Antonio Meucci).

Living in New York and granted a US patent...

> In 1834 Meucci constructed a type of acoustic telephone to communicate between the stage and control room at the Teatro of Pergola


You wrote "how they managed" and by "they" I assume you meant US-americans. Which is not the case for Meucci.

What do you mean by "calling was almost instant"?

You dial a number. The other party will start ringing.

And not just calling. There was no need for a lengthy handshake after the connection was setup for ISDN modems.

Not really a fair assessment. The 4 larger mobile providers are spilt between GSM and CDMA in the past CDMA phones wouldn’t work abroad, except maybe China. You would even have to buy a CDMA version of the iPhone. The big 4 just buy up all competitors and usually one tries to buy one of the others.

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.

Regulation was the key difference. The EU mandated a common wireless standard (GSM) to be in use across all countries. The US let the market decide and ended up building 4-5 largely incompatible semi-nationwide networks.

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.

CDMA is winding up in the US also as all providers move off to LTE leaving their legacy infrastructure to die off at scheduled EoL.

"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."

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 ?

I know it sounds like a first world problem but I don't like having to take care of my sim card situation when I travel.

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.

There are T-Mobile plans that work this way.

The T-Mobile plan is limited to high speed in North America, and 2G elsewhere. Even when you pay to upgrade to 3G, it’s capped at something like 1/4 MBps. It’s borderline unusable internationally.

> It’s borderline unusable internationally.

The T-Mobile plan has worked fine for me in both Australia and the UK, even for navigation.

... available to american customers.

Wake me up when it's the other way around :/

If you're in the UK, Three offer plans that are comparable (if I'm understanding correctly). "Feel at Home": http://www.three.co.uk/feel-at-home

If you're in the Netherlands, KPN offers a 100GB EU+US plan, and T-Mobile offers a Unlimited NL + 10GB EU+US plan (although you should boycott T-Mobile [1]).

It's not quite the entire world, but it might be useful if you travel to the US often.

[1] https://www.bof.nl/press/t-mobile-allowed-to-keep-violating-...

Is there any way I could get a decent KPN SIM prepaid while travelling (I'm not a resident)?

Probably because they’re making plenty of money from their existing relationships with carriers. There’s no reason for Apple to vertically integrate when they’re already the dominant player in their carrier relationships.

Google relies heavily on advertising revenue so needs to interject any time there's a threat to that. Doesn't matter if it's a web browser that defaults to bing or an ISP that interjects their own ads.

On the other hand, Apple relies heavily on hardware sales for revenue.

In the EU, you don't even need that. Roaming is included in all of EU's countries. My operator (Free) also includes the USA.

> Roaming is included in all of EU's countries

Kind of - if you buy monthly plan that’s 2X more expensive (at least in Eastern Europe).

In the EU roaming charges were abolished last year.

> However, if you have a very cheap mobile data unit price (less than €3.85 / GB in 2017), your operator may apply a "fair use" limit for data that is lower than your domestic allowance when you are roaming.

Source: https://europa.eu/youreurope/citizens/consumers/internet-tel...

Fair use still means more than nil. AFAIK, this was included to avoid that people buy cheap plans in countries they don't live. For all plans I've seen so far, the allowance was sufficient to cover frequent travel, just not enough if you're only abroad.

The "fair use limit" is to prevent expats using a SIM card from a country with cheaper tariffs in a country where higher rates apply

Yes and in turn operators just created new “European” plans.

In France they didn't, what do these "European" plans do? Since you are legally allowed to use any local plan when you are abroad (except if your plan is less than 3,85€/GB indeed, then your operator can decide to give you less data or charge you more within this limit).

I'm just using my regular 10€/40GB plan whenever I am abroad and it works fine.

> In France they didn't The reason being it was already more expensive.

Nothing stops you getting cheap plan from Eastern Europe and use it in west (where cost of operations are higher).

Hmm, law does stop you from doing that, as you need to actually live in the place you subscribe to your plan.

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.

EU, not eastern Europe. But wouldn't surprise me if the roaming charges were abolished there as well

If you go into any of the major retailers in the US, the iPhone is already the first-class device. Why would they want to be in the messy business of running a carrier, likely dependent on the partners they'd then be screwing over, while they built their own network from the ground up. On the other hand, maybe they'd just purchase Sprint or Verizon.

> Why would they want to be in the messy business of running a carrier

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 "included" roaming sounds great, until you realize how pathetically expensive even their domestic prices are.

Fi's base price[0] is $20/mo + tax. Hallon (my current provider) will sell you 8GB/mo of data for $18/mo, tax included.[1] 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[2], 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%[3], 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.

[0]: https://fi.google.com/about/plan/

[1]: https://www.hallon.se/vara-produkter/mobiltelefoni/mobilabon...

[2]: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_countries_and_dependen...

[3]: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_countries_by_GDP_(PPP)...

As a digital nomad with Fi, its roaming and service is amazing.

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).

Same here! If I'm only in a country for a couple of weeks, I'll just stick with Fi. If I'm there longer I'll pick up a local sim as it's usually way cheaper.

Do you find you need to use Speedify and tether often?

I wonder if speedify is detected by the carriers - most SIMs outside my country appear to have heavy tethering restrictions.

Google Fi has no problem with you tethering on your main SIM, but doesn't support in on the free, data only sim cards it provides.

> I'd love if someone could explain how this price difference is somehow reasonable, because this just boggles my mind completely.

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.

Same argument in Asia.

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.

If I land in Thailand, how fast is the Hallon service? What about Brazil, South Africa, Russia or Australia?

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

The speed will be fine, but it'll be pretty expensive outside the EU.

But that's hardly a problem anyway since getting a local SIM pays off quickly, Fi or not.

When you get off the plane in Thailand, you’ll get an SMS if you are roaming on a foreign carrier to use a local prepay service without needing a custom SIM. Not sure how they do it.

This isn't new, the Apple SIM has been around since 2014:


And it still doesn't work properly with every carrier. I bought a new, unlocked iPad Mini 4 that came with the Apple SIM, and no carrier would activate it. I finally got it working on Ting after getting one of Ting's SIM cards and lots of back-and-forth between Ting and Apple Support.

I think it is only intended to work with Apple’s partner carriers. I wanted to add my iPad to my AT&T data service and I could not use the built in SIM. Instead AT&T sent one for free. The iPad has a separate SIM slot and I imagine it will have to until the built in SIM is truly universal.

> I think it is only intended to work with Apple’s partner carriers.

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.

It is advertised like that... you just have to read the page.

"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."


> The iPad has a separate SIM slot and I imagine it will have to until the built in SIM is truly universal.

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?

Not disagreeing with you. It would suck if Apple ever removed the slot, but it would be par for the course for them.

Because SIM cards are stupid and Apple is trying to encourage carriers to stop requiring them. You should be able to switch providers virtually, so for example you could have several active contracts.

A new iPad revision got released. So maybe someone just noticed Apple SIM.

And you have been able to purchase a data plan straight from your iPad even before Apple SIM was officially a thing.

Even then, this isn't new. The SIM toolkit has had this capability since the early noughties at least ... credit to Apple for actually getting the operators on board though!

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?

I've always wished that apple would offer this in the macbook pros. A laptop that doesn't have to tether, but just carries its own internet connection with it would be really nice.

I think this will make more sense once 5G is adopted. But even then carriers will either charge a lot for these data plans and/or severely underdeliver.

LTE is already faster in theory and in practice than most people's home connection. My parents just got a brand new internet connection thanks to the Australian Government, that costs about 2500$ per premises, that maxes out at 25mbps and will never go faster due to being DSL. 4G however can hit 100mbps easily. Mine tests at 130mbps.

The limiting factor for 4G on a laptop is data caps, not speed.

I've had 130Mbps on my 4g line. I work frequently on mobile hotspot, it already works nice if you are on a non-congested tower.

I'm currently looking at the Surface Pro LTE for this very reason.

I know many thinkpads have an empty bay with a minipci connector that you can put modems in which do just that.

I don't know why things like that aren't popular, I guess it looks "ugly?"

I have an X270 with an LTE card.

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.

Many Thinkpads have LTE modems from the factory, with a SIM tray on the side. It is not even just a Thinkpad thing, many manufacturers of enterprise laptops ship plenty of devices with SIM card slots. I've had HPs and Dells come with GSM modems since 3G was a shiny new thing. It is not that its ugly, it is probably not something most consumers have demanded, so they haven't bothered including. Or, the OEMs use it as a differentiator from their consumer tier devices to their enterprise devices.

Because a tiny portion of people would use it. Who wants to pay an extra monthly cost on their machine? The only people who would really do this are ones where it is covered by work.

> Who wants to pay an extra monthly cost on their machine?

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.

Do you mean the monthly cost of the data? I would totally do this, it's a few dollars to add on to my verizon plan, and something I already pay for for my hotspot.

This isn’t new and it’s fairly expensive compared to Google Fi or T-Mobile. Might be worth it for customers in some countries but US users have much better choices for roaming internationally.

Where did you find pricing information? Google Fi is already outrageously expensive for data at $10/GB

Fi recently announced some changes for large data users: https://www.engadget.com/2018/01/17/google-project-fi-bill-p...

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.

Yeah that definitely kept me around for a few extra months. Even with the limit though, a total bill of $80 stung pretty bad when $40 unlimited options were available from other carriers that include international (north american) coverage.

I guess when I signed up for Fi I imagined myself travelling more outside of North America.

It's unlimited after $60 (6GB) now, and even before then my bills were lower on Fi than they ever were even on family plans before that.

That sounds like a dream for me! As a Canadian who spends a lot of time on the road it’s not uncommon to see $200-400 phone bills at the end of the month. Getting a local SIM isn’t really an option because having my normal phone number is important. If there was something like Fi I could have some consistency and a lot of savings!

Just FYI: There are phones which accept two SIM cards so you can keep your number and insert a local card in the second slot.

Fi plans are only "outrageously expensive" if you are comparing them against other countries.

I was pretty regularly hitting the $80 cap until I switched to Cricket for their $40 unlimited deal.

If they're literally charging double compared to the domestic competition, it's pretty outrageous.

Except that you need to compare against the Cricket $60 unlimited deal that offers tethering and throttles it at 6GB. Even then they aren't quite on par since you don't have the 10 free data sim cards, free international data, and ability to make and receive calls from any device that has hangouts installed.

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.

Where is there pricing information?

too bad this doesn't work in iPhones.

I have 15+ international SIM cards. Slightly inconvenient to have to buy one for each country I visit to avoid surprise roaming charges.

Google's Project Fi does work in iPhones (if they're unlocked) when you travel internationally. It's not quite as effective as using a Nexus (now Pixel) device (they switch between carriers more effectively, they're designed to), but it does work. Can get you down to one SIM if you don't mind not having a local-to-the-country phone number.

EDIT: To qualify this, it's more useful if your primary country is the US.

> if you don't mind not having a local-to-the-country phone number

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.

"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."

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.

My slightly expensive hack-around is to have a second travel iPhone, and tether my primary phone to that when I travel.

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 wonder if anyone on HN can recommend a cheap-ish tethering device? That had occurred to me before - some little hotspot thing I can throw a SIM card into. Maybe annoying to keep charged, though.

Assuming you’re talking “phone with hotspot”, I use an iPhone 5S on Tmo for this purpose. They are cheap and tethering works decently from them.

I also have a mobile hotspot, but the 5S works better. Our use case is a food truck type of setup.

I was thinking "hotspot without phone", if only for a possible battery benefit. But realistically, Android phones are already so cheap that they're probably the best option.

Yeah, these are extremely common in the military. You get a "puck" (hotspot box), install a SIM for Kuwait or Iraq or wherever, and then you've got Wi-Fi Calling, iMessage, etc. on your U.S. phone and U.S. number.

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: https://m.imgur.com/a/4FD9h

Do you mean something like this?


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.

I have a Huawei E5573 (a lot of carriers give them out free with data contracts), however I'd just recommend using an old phone. The battery lasts for around 2 hours when tethered, and the signal is no better than a phone (although you can connect an external antenna).

I wonder if simply a cheap Android phone would suffice?

I considered both the Android option and the mobile hotspot option, neither effectively solved the problem of using the local SIM for voice calls and providing access to my full contact database (which is currently stored in iCloud).

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!

Do you find a lot of carriers blocking / limiting tethering?

I use an iPad w/ LTE that I tether my phone to.

What kind of case or holder do you use for your SIM cards? While I'm not at 15+, I have a couple.

I roll them up in a sticky note and store it in my passport holder.

I use an metal MicroSD card holder, Nano-SIMs fit pretty snugly:


A piece of tape works fine.

Do you keep SIM cards after each trip? Seems like a hassle having 15 phone numbers to track, unless you're fully committed to being on Google Voice or something similar. Why not just pick up a new SIM each time you travel? Or just pay for an international plan if you travel frequently?

Same, but at a smaller scale. I have 3.

For some reason I instantly noticed the map is showing a park in Lyon. Does that have any significance?

(Of course, they should have used openstreetmap https://www.openstreetmap.org/#map=16/45.7790/4.8529)

yeah, its steve jobs sending clues from his grave. Go there and dig under the first thing that looks like an apple for the next hint for the steve-treasure

Unfortunately, when I go on road trips (mostly western US), there are a LOT of areas that only Verizon seems to have coverage. I've used most of the other carriers at one time or another, but I've been with Verizon for about 2 years now as I just got tired of not having connectivity when traveling inside the country.

why its working only on iPad and not on iPhone?

iPhones are generally sold through carriers with the phone locked to that specific carrier. The main point of the Apple SIM - the ability to switch between short-term mobile internet contracts across multiple carriers - would be pretty moot in this scenario.

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.

> iPhones are generally sold through carriers

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 [1]. I would love an Apple SIM for travel to Canada, etc.

[1] https://www.apple.com/shop/buy-iphone/iphone-x#00

For the last 3-4 years I’ve found it far cheaper to walk into a Virgin Mobile store in Canada to grab a pre-paid SIM than using the Apple SIM in my iPad. I worry more about Apple removing the SIM slot leaving me with less choices.

Can you pay for an unlocked iPhone in installments? I'm not prepared to throw down the price upfront honestly.

Yes, you can buy an unlocked Phone from Apple and use the financing available on their website.

Not sure about the US, but here in Canada, all phones come unlocked by law [1]. iPhones sold through carriers still come with 2-year contracts and installments, similar to how they were before the unlocking regulation went into effect.

[1] https://crtc.gc.ca/eng/phone/mobile/code.htm

technically yes, because verizon got sued into being required to sell unlocked phones.

Device locking was prohibited by the FCC for Block C (700 MHz):

> (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.


> iPhones are generally sold through carriers with the phone locked to that specific carrier.

Maybe in the U.S. Much less so over here.

Could a virtual SIM not replace physical SIMs, reducing the friction of switching providers?

It seems we’re just waiting on carriers to catch up to the idea at the moment.


The standard is called eSIM, and it is in at least one phone.


Yes, this will be the future. I believe the latest iPad Pro models have a virtual Apple SIM embedded. The Apple Watch Series 3 also has a virtual SIM. They will eventually appear in phones as well.

Google already does it with Project Fi + Pixel.


I came here to say this. I bought a Pixel 2 XL for my wife last year and there was an option to use SIM-less with Project Fi. I was confused at first and went with it, and it worked. Then I just stored the old SIM. To be honest I don't quite remember how was the process but I remember it was pretty easy to setup.

How is this better than simply having... A SIM-card in your phone or tablet?

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?

How is having a sim card better than simply having... free access to any carrier?

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.

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?

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.

> 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.

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.

Depending on where you are in the world, you need to be able to go online to activate the SIM cards you buy at the supermarket/corner-store.

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).

I doubt Apple SIM will solve that issue, they will likely comply with the local legislation and ask you to register as well.

Obviously Apple would have to comply with local legislations, just like any other company has to comply with local legislations. So no, Apple SIM would not provide anonymous mobile access.

The SIM card solves the key distribution problem.

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 ...

Because it works. Worse is better.

When you get off the plane in a new country, not having an immediate SIM card at the airport often means the exchange rate will be 10% above, the SIMs sold at the airport will be $10 above their normal price, and the taxi will cheat you by $10 more. Just the feeling of not being cheated is worth a fee. Plus you can check the route that the taxi driver uses, even you can share your location if a fake taxi tries to kidnap you (ever traveled in Mexico?).

it might be helpful if you go abroad and your roaming options suck. otherwise agree. in new iPad it's not builtin, that's good.

I wonder how the rates compare to Google Fi? (Which is also compatible with iPad, even if it isn't advertized).

Seems you select a carrier so it's whatever their rates are. The Apple SIM just allows you to use the same SIM rather than swapping out SIM cards for each carrier you might want to use (more useful when traveling internationally, I imagine, than when staying in one country).

In case anyone is curious, there's a list of compatible devices on this page: https://support.google.com/fi/answer/6330195?hl=en

I didn't know this was a thing. Is it new?

FYI on Fi there are many devices that seem to work well, even if they aren't on the official list of supported devices.

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.

There's no extra charge for a data-only SIM but you are required to have a primary device which costs $20 (plus $10/GB). Would be great to offer this to customers on other carriers.

When I realized this I ordered one right away.

It's pretty cool. Google does not charge for the SIM so I ordered one. I think I'll pick up a cheap device sometime to keep on the boat for reading and use as a backup GPS!

I've been using Fi for a while but I didn't realize they had these data-only sims available.

Is it possible to purchase a dongle for ipad which will let you pop in a sim and support this function?

Well you can use the Wi-Fi based modems/dongles/routers/whatever they call it that basically connect to the cellular network and create a Wi-Fi network you can connect your iPad to (or anything else really).

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.

A 'cellular dongle' would be a dream come true.

Not really sure, but isn't it what 4g usp modems are for?

Nice to see SoftBank on that page, probably means SoC makers can simply get the IP from them when getting other parts like an ARM core etc. Makes it a whole lot easier to just get a virtual SIM in your device.

Probably means

> 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.

Ah, so SoftBank Group is not just the ARM guys. Makes a different kind of sense now.

Nice to see no version on that list but that stuffs been out forever

The fact that there are two T-Mobile logos on that page side-by-side bugs me. Irrationally so.

I think one is just T for Deutsche Telekom, whose corporate relationship to T-Mobile depends on the month and phase of moon.

Huh. Thanks for explaining; I genuinely had no idea Deutsche Telekom existed.

Its the old West German PTT as was also know a Dustch Buders Pest to other telecoms :-)

One is Telekom which looks like a distinct entity from T-Mobile.

Whatever you do, do not purchase any device from AT&T. You will be locked in to GSM only networks.

Huh? LTE on AT&T has been a thing for a very long time, and it's not GSM.

I bought an iPhone 7 from AT&T, and the device is not compatible across the major carriers.

You're not using the term 'GSM' correctly. You mean to say that your device is locked to AT&T, not that it is 'GSM'-only.

Actually, you’re wrong. Att sells an iPhone that is not compatible with CDMA networks. Trust me bud, I’ve done all the research. Apple sells their devices with the ability to use any of the 4 carriers.

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