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Did Apple just drop a hint about a major future iPhone feature?

Apple MVNO iPhone Roaming Charges

More than one rumor has claimed in the past that Apple is preparing to launch its own mobile virtual network (MVNO) of the kind that Google is already toying with in the USA. Apple denied those reports, but there’s circumstantial evidence proving that company’s interest in this particular area. In fact, Apple’s senior vice-president Eddy Cue seems to have dropped another clue pointing to such an initiative.

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In an interview with The Evening Standard, Cue casually mentioned that roaming charges are a problem that Apple wants to fix, though it’s proving to be an uphill battle so far.

“He taps his phone and makes an offhand comment about ‘trying not to get roaming charges’ while in London which, I note, proves how insanely expensive phone calls and data can be abroad.” Standard reporter Jim Famurewa writes about Cue’s Apple Music demos. ”’It’s sad, it’s another problem,’ says Cue. ‘We’re trying to fix it, and we’re making a little bit of progress, but you’ve got to convince a lot of people.’ It sounds like an impossible task. But that, you would imagine, is where the famous flair will come in.”

This seems like an innocent comment any phone user would make abroad, especially when demoing a feature that includes streaming data from the Internet. However, Famurewa met Cue at Apple’s Hanover Street HQ in a “penthouse-style room” featuring “Boogie Nights shag-pile, tastefully adorned bookshelves.” Or, you know, the kind of Apple location where you’d bet your paycheck there’s great Wi-Fi, or at least the infrastructure to deliver great Wi-Fi even if for some reason a regular Internet connection is absent.

So you’d think Cue would be able to demo any Internet-related content without worrying too much about roaming charges — and yet he mentioned them anyway. Coincidence?

Of course, this doesn’t mean Apple is going to launch an MVNO business anytime soon. It just hints that Apple might be working on a major feature for the iPhone, and that’s reducing or eliminating roaming fees. Independent of Apple’s wishes, that’s something that will happen in the European Union in the near future.

Speaking of “proof” that might suggest Apple is indeed interested in competing with carriers, we’ll point out that Apple already made its own SIM, a mysterious product it quietly included in an iPad announcement last fall. Furthermore, the iPhone Upgrade Program might prove to be a great feature for an MVNO operation, allowing Apple to sell affordable iPhones and carrier plans to customers.

As Business Insider reminds us, Apple is supposedly trialing MVNO services both in America and Europe, at least privately. But that’s exactly the kind of rumor Apple denied not long ago.

Chris Smith has been covering consumer electronics ever since the iPhone revolutionized the industry in 2008. When he’s not writing about the most recent tech news for BGR, he closely follows the events in Marvel’s Cinematic Universe and other blockbuster franchises. Outside of work, you’ll catch him streaming almost every new movie and TV show release as soon as it's available.