It’s not as flashy as a gold patina and not as thrilling as a Retina iMac, but the capabilities of the SIM card in the new iPad Air 2 are every bit as major as Apple’s other announcements on Thursday.
When you buy an iPad Air 2 with Wi-Fi and cellular connectivity, you won’t have to confine yourself to one carrier for your data plan. The new Apple SIM lets you choose a carrier and a plan on your iPad, and you can switch service at any time. If you’re in the States, you can choose from the majors—AT&T, Sprint, or T-Mobile—and you can switch to a different one if you’re traveling. Unlike traditional smartphone data plans, iPad cell service is pay-as-you-go, but before Apple introduced its new SIM card, you had to pick a carrier and stick with it.
You may have noticed Verizon missing from the list of compatible carriers. According to Re/code, you can use the iPad Air 2 to choose a Verizon plan, but you have to buy a different SIM card from Verizon.
The new SIM card wasn’t even mentioned at Apple’s Thursday media event but was first noticed on the just-launched iPad Air 2 page by 9to5Mac. It might not seem major, but freedom to choose, and switch back and forth between carriers is a major selling point, especially for road warriors.
Apple starts taking orders for the iPad Air 2 on Friday, Oct. 17. The new tablets will begin shipping next week.