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Apple won’t force iPhone SE buyers to share carrier info at purchase

Published Mar 18th, 2022 8:49AM EDT
iPhone SE 3 color options.
Image: Apple Inc.

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The launch of the new iPhone SE has given Apple another opportunity to remove carriers from the purchase process. As Bloomberg reports, Apple is testing a new feature it calls on-device authentication. With the new authentication option, those making new iPhone SE purchases in the U.S. won’t have to share carrier details when buying their new device.

U.S. buyers won’t have to share as much data with new iPhone SE purchases at the point of sale

iPhone SE 3 color optionsImage source: Apple Inc.

Traditionally, when you go to buy a new iPhone at an Apple store, or on the tech giant’s website, you’d need to provide Apple with your wireless number and the last four digits of your Social Security number. Then the carrier would take that data and run a credit check before approving the purchase of the phone.

Now, though, with new iPhone SE purchases, Apple is looking to cut out that process entirely. At least, it will at the point of sale. The new on-device authentication system will be available first for AT&T and T-Mobile subscribers. However, Apple plans to offer it to Verizon customers in the future, too.

When the iPhone SE launches on sale on Friday, March 18, 2022, those making iPhone SE purchases from Apple’s website or at an Apple store will be able to complete the order without entering that data. That is if they choose AT&T or T-Mobile as their carrier. Later, when those same users turn their new iPhone SE on, though, they’ll have to enter that information to connect it to their carrier plan.

The new process is already in play for any new iPhone SE preorders made on the Apple website. The company plans to roll out the changes to Apple retail stores starting on March 29, 2022.

Will on-device authentication expand to other iPhones?

iPhone 13 Pro color options.Image source: Apple

That’s the real question. At the moment, Apple has only shared plans to bring on-device authentication to new iPhone SE purchases. As such, we’re unsure exactly how widespread the offering will be. However, it is likely that Apple plans to expand it to the iPhone 14 when it launches later this year.

It’s also unclear if Apple plans to expand to the current lineup of iPhones it offers, like the iPhone 13, or iPhone 13 Pro Max. We’ll have to wait on an official announcement to know for sure.

Gurman believes that the change with new iPhone SE purchases could be a subtle move by Apple to remove carrier influence from the point of purchase. The company already offers “unlocked” iPhones that can be used on any carrier you choose. And newer iPhones make use of eSim technology which lets you connect to cellular networks without a physical SIM card.

So, removing the carrier from the purchase isn’t as big of a deal as it might have once been.

If that’s true, then Apple could indeed be trying to take more control of the customer experience, as Gurman points out. He also noted that some retail employees believe the change could help customer service, too. That’s because activation servers sometimes become overloaded and lead to customers leaving without their phones being activated. Hopefully, with new iPhone SE purchases, that won’t be the case any longer.

More iPhone coverage: For more iPhone news, visit our iPhone 14 guide.

Josh Hawkins has been writing for over a decade, covering science, gaming, and tech culture. He also is a top-rated product reviewer with experience in extensively researched product comparisons, headphones, and gaming devices.

Whenever he isn’t busy writing about tech or gadgets, he can usually be found enjoying a new world in a video game, or tinkering with something on his computer.