Apple has revealed plans for a virtual SIM card in a new patent application entitled, ‘Wireless Network Authentication Apparatus and Methods’, reports Patently Apple.
In Apple’s patent FIGS. 5a and 5b shown below we see two exemplary embodiments of a hardware architecture (502, 504) for a “virtual” Subscriber Identity Modules (SIMs) according to the invention. Unlike prior art solutions, the exemplary embodiments of FIGS. 5a and 5b store a USIM 506 within an embedded Secure Element (SE) 508, which isn’t a removable card. The first illustrated embodiment 502 of the present invention (FIG. 5a) additionally includes a Near Field Communication (NFC) router 510.
A virtual SIM card will reportedly improve security and allow Apple to build an even thinner iPhone.
Back in 2010, reports first surfaced that Apple was working on a special integrated SIM Card to cut carriers out of the iPhone retail process. Later in the year, some European carriers warned Apple that they will refuse to subsidize the iPhone if Apple utilizes an embedded card. Following these threats it was reported that Apple gave up on its plans for the iPhone but may still be looking to build the embedded SIM into the iPad.