Technologist - The FindLaw Legal Technology Blog

DOJ Investigates Verizon, AT&T Plot to Make Carrier Switching Harder

Apple watches are the coolest, not to mention the most popular watch in the world.

The iWatch is so popular Apple is now the world's biggest watchmaker. According to reports, the smartwatch has outsold the entire Swiss watch industry.

So why oh why did Apple complain about AT&T and Verizon, the biggest cellular networks in the United States? After all, the Apple Watch doesn't work very well without a cellular network.

Locked eSIMs

One sort-of word: eSIMs. It's a technology that replaces SIM cards in cellular-capable iWatches and similar devices.

The technology allows customers to switch cellular carriers without replacing a physical SIM card. In other words, it's easier to change carriers. At least, it's supposed to work that way.

About five months ago, Apple complained that it wasn't working. That prompted the Department of Justice to investigate whether AT&T and Verizon were "colluding to thwart" eSIMS, the New York Times reported.

Ars Technica said GSMA, a mobile industry standards group, is working on a new "universal standard" that could address the issue.

Lock Option

"This standard contains a wide range of features, including the option for the eSIM to be locked," the GSMA said in a statement.

Consumers would have the option, but they would need to give consent to their mobile operator. The GSMA said it would wait to act until after the DOJ investigation.

In the meantime, AT&T and Verizon say they are cooperating with the investigation. Verizon described it as "much ado about nothing."

For Apple, that would be nothing but iWatches that don't work right.

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