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RIP the SIM card – how Apple will change the way enterprises manage their mobile fleets

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Whenever Apple launches a new phone or iOS, focus is always on its new features and functions. Media coverage and user chat concentrates on shiny new cases, bigger screens or talking software. Apple's most recent launch for iPad Air 2 was no different. A few eagle eyed journalists and market watchers, however did notice that one key new design element may have a far reaching impact on the way that enterprises manage their mobile fleets.

At the event, the company announced the launch of Apple SIM - a built in software based SIM card. Preloaded on to the iPad Air 2, and now also on the iPad Mini 3 Apple claims that the Apple SIM allows users "the flexibility to choose from a variety of short-term plans from selected carriers in the US and UK…. So 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."

The flexibility that Apple refers to may just break the mould of the way that we buy and manage phone contracts. As every enterprise device manager knows one of the most time consuming parts of the job is ensuring that you're on the best contract for minutes and data. The idea of a 'soft' SIM that is programmable and allows you to jump from one contract to another without having to purchase a new contract or SIM card represents a freedom that wasn't previously available. Having the ability to move from network to network will help with employees travelling abroad or even in poor reception areas.

At Redcentric, we've long been proponents for this approach. We often advise mobile fleet managers to think less about minutes and data and more about the infrastructure. We call it the inverted triangle approach. It's about thinking first and foremost about how the workforce interacts with the device and what they're trying to achieve with it and less about which carrier is offering the cheapest minutes.

With this flexibility in mind, mobile fleet managers have a real opportunity to look at their contracts much more strategically than before. Understanding usage is key but so is identifying how mobile devices interact with the infrastructure. Armed with this knowledge, enterprises will be in a good position to take advantage of the inevitable change to mobile device contracts.

While the Apple SIM hasn't been adopted by all carriers yet nor is it in all of Apple's mobile devices, we already know that if Apple decides to push a development forward we'll see it adopted as an industry standard soon. Just look at what happened with the micro SIM card. Make sure that you have a strategy in mind of how to take best advantage of the benefits it will bring. Death to the hard SIM, long live the soft SIM.

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