Apple could be planning on giving its next iPhone an embedded SIM. If rumours are correct, this would mean you could buy an iPhone without any involvement from a network – but also that unlocking would be made more difficult, or even impossible.
The integrated SIM will apparently feature a pre-written ROM alongside an upgradeable flash chip. This chip can be fed carrier info via a local connection, so in theory you could choose your preferred network when you activate a new iPhone through iTunes.
This means Apple could effectively cut the mobile networks out of the process of buying an iPhone. That, presumably, is an upside for consumers, as it could drive the cost down. It will also make international roaming easier, as iPhone users will be able to switch networks when they cross the border.
The problem with unlocking is that Apple could set up a list of pre-approved networks on the embedded SIM. And of course, you won’t physically be able to stick your old SIM inside. So if this rumour proves accurate, there could be both bad news ahead for unlocks…