One of the many cool things about the iPad Air 2 (as well as the iPad mini 3) is the inclusion of an Apple-branded SIM card. Rather than having to choose a carrier first, then go and seek out a matching SIM, the Apple SIM gives users the ability to decide on a network and plan at their leisure, with the hardware ready to support T-Mobile, AT&T, or Sprint. And if you’re not willing to commit to a long-term agreement, you could always switch things up and try shorter-term plans from various carriers as the mood struck you. At least, that’s how it was supposed to work, but as users are activating their new iPads on carriers for the first time, one pretty glaring restriction is coming to light: AT&T is locking Apple SIMs to its network upon activation.
T-Mobile’s John Legere took to Twitter this week to publicize the situation, but even Apple itself admits what AT&T is doing, explaining that “when you choose AT&T on iPad Air 2 and iPad mini 3, AT&T dedicates Apple SIM to their network only.”
What if you go with AT&T initially, but want to switch to a T-Mobile plan later? Apple says that you’ll have to hoof it to an Apple Store and purchase – not “have unlocked” or “trade in your old one” – a new Apple SIM.
That sounds needlessly wasteful and a bit petty of AT&T, especially with neither T-Mobile nor Sprint feeling compelled to engage in such behavior of their own. Shouldn’t a carrier’s network service be strong enough to stand on its own, without taking artificial steps to limit consumer choice?