An Apple patent filing spotted this week by AppleInsider details how Apple could allow iPhone users to comparison shop for the carrier of their choice and switch between carriers at will all from the iPhone without changing SIMs.
In "Method and Apparatus for Using a Wireless Communication Device with Multiple Service Providers," Apple says that, currently, mobile phone manufacturers must ship customized phones for each service provider. A more efficient means of handset distribution would be to ship one blank slate "world" iPhone with an embedded SIM that works on all carriers. Upon purchasing the phone, the user could then select which mobile carrier and plan he or she wants to use right from the device itself.
Such an implementation would eliminate the need for users to choose beforehand what carrier they want the iPhone to work on. Additionally, Apple envisions a "customized user experience" that allows the user to change carriers at will, or switch to a new, local carrier while traveling internationally. Finally, the patent mentions the ability to display and sort various plans from mobile providers based on the user's needs. For example, a user who texts a lot would be shown plans that have a high text message limit and a user who surfs the web a lot would be shown plans that feature high or unlimited data allowances.
This patent is just another example of Apple looking out for the consumer first. I've got no doubt that, if ever implemented, such a service would be a huge hit. However, I highly doubt such technology will ever see the light of day -- at least anytime soon. Apple apparently approached European carriers about a similar technology last year and they all threatened to end iPhone subsidies if Apple carried through with their plans. Now that iMessages and FaceBook's Messenger app threaten the ridiculously overpriced text message plans offered by carriers, one can only assume that the carriers will hold onto whatever leverage they have to maintain sales.