iPad Air 2, the Apple SIM, and Network Speeds

Anyone who knows me knows that I love Apple products, but they also know that I love the wireless industry. With Apple's launch of iPad Air 2, they also launched the Apple SIM. It's my time to shine!

Subscriber Identity Module (SIM) cards have been in use for years by carriers in the US like AT&T (Cingular), T-Mobile (VoiceStream), and more recently by Verizon and Sprint with the launch of LTE. Overseas SIM cards have been used even longer. Previous to Apple's launch of the Apple SIM, a SIM card was provided by the carrier for each line of service. Your identity to the network/carrier was the SIM card. You could move your SIM from device to device and your service (phone number) followed the SIM. This process won't change for many, but those buying Apple's new iPad Air 2 and iPad mini 3 will be able to take advantage of the new setup.

Apple has taken an AWESOME step and launched dynamic SIM cards. Right now in my iPad Air 2 I have an Apple SIM that has service from both Sprint and T-Mobile active at the same time. I can't be connected to both networks simultaneously, but I can easily switch between each provider with the tap of a menu item. I can also manage my account with each service provider including adding, changing, and canceling service.

There are a few things you should know about the Apple SIM & service: 

  • Only AT&T, T-Mobile, and Sprint are supported at this time in the US
  • Outside the US support is limited to the UK provider EE
  • Once you setup service on T-Mobile or Sprint, you can't setup AT&T service
  • Setting up AT&T service on the Apple SIM will lock that SIM to use on AT&T's network, and will not allow you to switch to other networks without obtaining a new SIM



VoLTE/HD Voice on AT&T Live in Dallas

Apparently with no fanfare, AT&T has launched VoLTE (Voice-over-LTE) in Dallas, along with what they're calling HD voice. This service allows for fast data speeds while on a call, and as long as you're connected to someone also using HD voice on AT&T, you'll have a very clear connection. I happened to discover this when doing further reading from today's joint announcement this by AT&T and Verizon that they will support VoLTE interoperability between the two carriers in 2015.

Both of the photos were taken from my home office just a couple miles from the AT&T world headquarters in Downtown Dallas, TX.

More info from AT&T on HD Voice:

More on the joint announcement from MacRumors: 

VoLTE in action on AT&T's LTE network in Dallas

UPDATE: 11:09 PM I placed my first VoLTE to VoLTE call with HD Voice on AT&T's network (The other calls were VoLTE to 4G or POTS.) and the quality is noticeably better. Definitely more along the lines of Skype or FaceTime Audio calls. 

I Really Want to Love T-Mobile... But Can't

I've tried. Many times. I really want to love T-Mobile. But I can't. Their customer service is above-average for the industry. Their data speeds are good. Their unlimited plans are really nice to have. Their pricing is amazing. Their international plans are out-of-this-world. But their overall coverage sucks.

I used both voice and data on iPhone 5 two different times - both times in Dallas/Ft. Worth, once in LA, once in Santa Barbara, once in Detroit, and once in Ontario, Canada.

Dallas/Ft. Worth has awesome coverage - I found that I could generally get a strong signal with good data speeds everywhere I went, but that changed quickly as I left the DFW Metroplex. 

Service was hardly useable in California - I either couldn't get a signal, or got super slow data speeds, if anything, when I could get a signal, both on 3G and LTE. When I tried a call in Santa Barbara, the voice quality was lacking.

Detroit didn't have signal issues, but didn't have impressive speeds either. I was getting around 1 Mbps on 3G most of the time, and only saw an LTE signal for a split second.

I did enjoy the unlimited roaming in Canada, even at a max of 128 kbps (think airplane wifi). It was nice to iMessage and check email, but it wasn't enough for me to keep service.

AT&T is definitely more expensive, but as momma always said: "You pay for what you get."