Interesting, potentially disruptive, news for travelers emerged last week when Apple rolled out its latest version of the iPad.
The wi-fi + cellular models of the iPad Air 2 come with the new Apple SIM, an iPad-only feature that allows users to choose among short-term plans from a variety of different carriers for data without having to physically switch out the tiny SIM card. Well, this tiny SIM may have big, long-term implications when it come to the way we stay in touch when on the road.
With the new iPad Air 2, you no longer have to sign up for a long term data plan with a single carrier…you only sign on and pay up when wi-fi is slow or non-existent. And if you travel overseas, you can sign on with a local carrier and avoid stiff roaming fees. You can even use these connections to set up personal wi-fi hotspots for colleagues when there’s no wi-fi (Just like you can now do with most iPhones).
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“Whenever you need it, you can choose the plan that works best for you — with no long-term commitments. And when you travel, you may also be able to choose a data plan from a local carrier for the duration of your trip,” Apple says on its website.
Currently, AT&T, Sprint and T-Mobile offer short term plans for the iPad Air 2 in the US. (Verizon is notably absent.) The SIM also works with EE in the UK and could eventually go global—which would help eliminate the frequent traveler frustration of keeping up with several tiny SIMs for each country visited.
If you have a new iPad here are the simple steps to select the carrier:
- Open Settings.
- Tap on “Cellular.”
- Tap “Set up cellular data.”
- Select from available carriers.
- Complete the necessary information to purchase the temporary plan or connect to a current account.
This is something to watch over time, especially as carriers around the world respond to this new reality – and other tablet manufacturers decide how they want to respond to Apple’s move. Who knows, maybe one day, you’ll enjoy this type of plan portability on your smartphone.
Here’s an interesting discussion of this subject with PC Mag analyst (and former travel reporter) Sascha Segan.
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