One micro SIM for two Apples

How to share the AT&T iPhone 4  data plan with the new iPad 2 – legally.

After waiting patiently for almost three weeks, yesterday I finally received my shiny new iPad 2 GSM. Quite exciting stuff: stylish, light and easy to use as my iPhone 4 but with a keyboard the size I can actually use. And of course a much larger display that allows for a real web experience – rather than tiny ad hoc apps tweaked for the small screen. You may wonder why I decided to get the unlocked GSM version – improperly marketed as “AT&T” in the U.S. – when I could tether my iPhone over Bluetooth to get 3G connectivity on the go. Well, the reason is quite simple. AT&T charges an additional $240 per year for the privilege of using your iPhone as a broadband modem. Note that the same charge doesn’t apply if you tether any other device – such as a Symbian or an Android smartphone. But in reality this is not quite about the money. I just feel bad to be asked (forced?) to pay twice for the same service. AT&T data plans are capped anyway. The fact that I use one device as the “pipe” to pour data into a different one doesn’t affect in any way AT&T network load or costs. And because the iPad is not subsidized, there is really no other logical explanation for AT&T pricing practice if not their de facto monopoly in the 3G/GSM market in the U.S. – T-mobile, we miss you already.

Anyway, given that both the iPad 2 and the iPhone 4 use the same form factor SIM – a new industry standard called micro SIM – I thought I would simply unplug the SIM from the phone and stick it into the tablet. That’s what would work with any other unlocked GSM device and any other GSM network in the word. Right? But as incredible as it may sound to my European and Asian friends, this is not true for the Apple iPad 2 in the U.S. As it turns out, the “AT&T version” of the unsubsidized GSM product I bought from Apple is incapable of “reading” the AT&T SIM and it doesn’t connect to the AT&T GSM network – technically HSDPA.

As a consumer, I may argue that the Apple GSM product is in fact defective: it is sold as a GSM compatible device while in fact it doesn’t work with the nation’s fastest – and really only – GSM network. Or you could argue the other way round that the GSM data plan AT&T offers for the iPhone is in fact incompatible with the Apple’s new GSM device.

Either way, I decided to go my way and seek the collective wisdom of the masses – a.k.a. google search. Sure enough I immediately found a short clip on YouTube showing how to legally add back the couple of configuration parameters that Apple “forgot” to include in the new iPad 2 screens. Nothing to do with jail-breaking the iOS. On the contrary, pretty basic stuff such as access point name, user id and password – see link and screenshot below. In a nutshell: you use a free Mobile Device Management tool that Apple developed for Enterprise IT Managers to provision target devices without user intervention. You define a profile for the AT&T network – still named after Cingular -, upload the profile to the target device and voila’: in no time your brand new iPad 2 is up and running at blazing speed on the nation’s fastest 3G network.

Best of all legally – though I read stories of people claiming AT&T would detect the change of IMEI and unilaterally downgrade the expensive $80/month iPhone plan to the much cheaper $14/month iPad plan de facto killing the iPhone. Sounds quite silly to me but hey, let’s see what happens … I’ll keep you posted … just make sure you come back to read the end of the story …


About Cesare Garlati
Co-Founder, Hex Five Security, Inc. - Chief Technologist prpl Foundation

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