AT&T has confirmed in a statement that the new universal Apple SIM card in iPad Air 2 and iPad mini 3 becomes locked to the carrier after being activated on its network.
It appears AT&T might be the only carrier locking the SIM card after activation, as Apple confirms in a support document that “AT&T dedicates Apple SIM to their network only” with no mention of other carriers.
When Apple launched its iPad Air 2 earlier this month, one surprise was the company’s decision to include a new universal SIM in the cellular version of device. The Apple SIM, preinstalled in the iPads ordered through Apple’s online store and elsewhere, supports a number of carriers out of the box making it easier for users to sign up with the carrier of their choice. In the US it supports AT&T, Sprint, and T-Mobile (but not Verizon) and in the UK carrier EE.
Some thought the new Apple SIM, along with improved LTE support for a long list of carriers in a single model, would make it easier to switch between service providers on the fly. Apple even mentions “the flexibility to choose from a variety of short-term plans from select carriers” on its website. That’s not the case for AT&T, however, as users will have to change the SIM if moving the iPad to a new carrier (much the same as you had to do pre-Apple SIM). The device itself, however, is completely unlocked, the carrier told us.
There’s no confirmation yet from other carriers, but rumors that T-Mobile plans to lock the Apple SIM inside iPad Air 2 when purchased direct through its own channels were denied by the company.