Rumours are circulating that Apple intends to produce a future iPhone with a special SIM card - probably integrated into the handset rather than swappable - which would permit a user to swap at will between cellular networks.
The plans are reported on by GigaOm but not officially confirmed by Apple. According to the website, the plans would be aimed initially at customers in Europe, where most countries have no exclusive network-iPhone tie in as exists in the US.
In effect, the cunning switchable SIM would offer the same option as buying a SIM-free iPhone and then changing SIM cards to select an operator. Of course one can already do so, but this option removes the fiddle of physically swapping cards.
Reportedly the technology itself would come from digital security house Gemalto. European telco bigwigs are said to have visited Cupertino recently for talks to confirm that the device would be permitted to work on their networks.
Various analysts have speculated that the any-network iPhone could "cut the carriers out" of the phone business, and suggest that the new tech could herald a major upheaval.
It's probably worth noting, though, that a current iPhone 4 costs £600 or more without operator subsidy - a steeper price than most would probably be willing to pay upfront, though of course when a network sells a locked phone for less it makes the difference back (and more) through its charges afterwards.
Perhaps Apple has plans to offer the new, doubtless cripplingly pricey any-net iPhone on some kind of delayed hire-purchase scheme, so that users could have the exact same financial experience they do now - but with the margins going to Cupertino rather than the telcos. The famously uncommunicative communications-equipment firm hasn't responded to the Register's request for comment as of publication. ®