The ritual of swapping SIM cards may soon be a relic of the past, as the new 9.7-inch iPad Pro ships with an important innovation: an Apple SIM embedded directly into the logic board.
The Apple SIM was introduced in 2014, and its premise is simple. Using a single SIM card, iPad buyers can pick and choose data service — with no contracts — from any participating wireless carrier around the world.
It launched with AT&T, Sprint, and T-Mobile in the U.S. along with EE in the UK. That list has gradually expanded and now counts 8 carriers or MVNOs that offer service in more than 90 countries around the world.
Each of Apple's current iPad models can be purchased with the Apple SIM preinstalled, but only in a handful of locales. That will change with the newly launched 9.7-inch iPad Pro — the embedded SIM means that every one of those tablets produced has the Apple SIM built in from the beginning.
While Apple does caution that the embedded Apple SIM may be disabled or locked if you purchase your 9.7-inch iPad Pro from a carrier, buying it directly from Apple will enable quick connectivity almost anywhere.
Apple has been laying the groundwork for embedded SIMs for years. The smoke turned into fire last July, with reports that the iPhone maker had teamed up with Samsung to push the "e-SIM" standard forward.
That collaboration, which also included many of the world's major wireless carriers, has borne its first fruit in the 9.7-inch iPad Pro. While there's no word yet on whether the new embedded Apple SIM might move down the company's product range — perhaps into the "iPhone 7" — it could happen sooner, rather than later.
Embedded SIMs could also go a long way in saving space in smaller devices, which would be a particularly significant benefit if and when Apple plans to add cellular data connectivity to its wearable Apple Watch.