Apple uses clout in attempt to push smartphones to use ‘nano-SIM’ cards

“A battle has broken out between Apple and its rival smartphone makers over the standard industry template for miniature Sim cards for the next generation of slimmer handsets,” Daniel Thomas reports for The Financial Times.

“Apple is leading a bid against Motorola Mobility – which Google is in the process of buying – BlackBerry parent Research In Motion and Nokia for its technology to be recognised as the standard for the so-called ‘nano-Sim,’ an important technical step in the miniaturisation of smartphones,” Thomas reports. “Micro-Sims are already common in the latest generation of smart devices, such as Apple’s iPhone 4S and Nokia’s Lumia. The nano-Sim is thinner and about a third smaller than the micro-Sim, and would allow more space for other functions.”

Thomas reports, “Apple is backed by most of the European operators. The two groups have tabled proposals to the European Telecommunications Standards Institute (ETSI)… Apple is backed by most of the European operators. The two groups have tabled proposals to the European Telecommunications Standards Institute (ETSI).”

Read more in the full article here.

The Financial Times “claims to have seen documents showing Apple registering six of its European subsidiaries as full members,” Allan Swann reports for CBR. “Under ETSI rules any subsidiary with revenues of more than €8bn can have up to 45 votes, blowing Apple’s voting power out by 270 votes – this would give it more voting power than Nokia.”

Swann reports, “At one point Apple pushed to get rid of SIM cards altogether – but this caused a huge backlash amongst telcos. As well as providing some revenue, they remain a symbol of control for the telcos over the device, as they become increasingly marginalised as simple infrastructure providers to OTT service providers such as Google and Apple.”

Read more in the full article here.

MacDailyNews Take: The rules provide for qualifying subsidiaries to vote. Apple should maximize their voting power accordingly. The company that completely changed the game is the rightful leader.


    1. SIM cards are actually an advantage for those who need international roaming. Buy a cheap SIM in the country you are in, rather that pay thru the nose roaming charges to the telco at home.

      Also, it makes updating/changing phones easier, while on contract. Back in the late 90s I was working in Hong Kong and had a colleague who had a Motorola Star-Tac flip; it was the latest and lightest back then. And at least in his hands it was fragile. When it broke, he would pop out the SIM and put it in another old phone he had until he could take the broken one in for warranty exchange.

  1. I can’t possibly understand why would a consumer be against a SIM card, and why would it mean so much for a carrier.

    Currently, the system of separation between phones and SIM cards allows us to have a phone number and effortlessly move it from phone to phone. In many EU countries, this seems to be a rather common practice (especially among women). You have a pink phone to carry with your pink outfits, blue with your blue stuff, etc. You use a flip phone when dining out, a candybar when working out… Take that SIM, move it from phone to phone, your number and your contacts are always with you. No digging through some “Settings” menus, activating/deactivating phones, etc.

    In most developing world, SIM cards can be bought at newsstands and from street vendors. You buy a SIM card and stick it in any unlocked phone, you have an active mobile phone number and are good to go (no need to call anyone to activate the phone, number, plan, etc). If you want to keep your phone but switch carriers, just take your old AT&T SIM card out and stick T-Mobile in. Whatever you have saved on that phone (pictures, music, videos, contacts) stays. All you need to do is call the carrier to port the number over (unless you want a new number).

    Can anyone explain to me exactly HOW or WHY SIM cards are bad for consumers?

    1. Sounds good in the EU and “most developing world”, then. But in the US, there are no unlocked iPhones. The carrier uses the SIM card as a way to lock you in to there service. You don’t buy a new SIM card on the corner to switch – you buy a new contract (and may have to pay off the old one) in order to change carriers. So in a system where swapping SIMs isn’t practical, Apple is trying to be helpful by eliminating their necessity. That’s the reason the carriers are opposed, and why it is to their benefit. If Apple can push the issue in the rest of the world, they may can eventually get the status quo changed in the US as well. That would be a giant leap for mankind!

        1. +∞.

          The US has a long history of adopting emerging technology as a standard, and refusing to adopt something better later because of the cost of the change. NTSC standard TV comes to mind too.

    2. I don’t think the are bad at all, when compared to older ways of doing things pre-gsm and I think still the case with CDMA, carriers controlling the handset, no possibility of switching.

      I think Apple wanted to usher in a new age. Fundamentally the sim card is little more than a hardware username (IMEI) … if this is all it really is – then why the need to have this in hardware – a software username and password will do exactly the same thing without taking up space in the phone.

      Imagine walking up to any (future) phone, logging in with your own credentials, and starting to use it on your own account. There’s no reason this couldn’t happen, but the carriers desperately don’t want to allow this to happen… It removes another step of control that they have….

      This future would also be very good for consumers. 🙂

    3. How are they good? If you want to move your number to another carrier you have to get it ported to work on a different SIM card. I don’t need anything to get my email, or IM clients to work on different phones, I just enter my details and they work on those devices. On a simplistic level a SIM card just tells your phone what number it is. Entering in the number and a password would largely do the same thing. You then wouldn’t need to take up space in the phone with the hardware to read the SIM.

      1. I understand your point, but you’re talking about something that does not yet exist (a SIM-less solution that is protable), and even with Apple’s newfound clout, will likely not change anytime soon.

        Currently, in America, we have the GSM concept with SIM, and CDMA, without SIM. If you have a SIM, you just move your card to a different phone and you’re all set. With CDMA, you call your carrier (or go online), read an almost indecipherable 15-digit number from behind the battery compartment of your new phone (needing a microscope for such task, as it is printed in 4pt-size), give them your personal information and, assuming both of you have a decent command of spoken English, you eventually activate the new phone and de-activate the old one.

        Moving a SIM from an old to a new phone can be done by an illiterate person with no command of English (not that this is relevant to much of American population).

        Regrettably, American GSM carriers (AT&T and T-Mobile) make this process needlessly complicated. Rather than letting you move your SIM from your old to your new phone, they still insist on selling you that new phone with a new SIM card, forcing you to call them and have them port your number from one SIM to the other. This is just absurd and makes no sense, but this is how it is generally done (if you’re on two-year contract).

  2. “I can’t possibly understand why would a consumer be against a SIM card, and why would it mean so much for a carrier.”

    I’m no Rube, but I thought US carriers somehow used SIM cards for carrier lock, though the concept of “how” never really made sense to me. If not, how does carrier lock work?

    I thought Apple wanted to eliminate SIM cards to eventually create a true world phone that is a more versatile roaming phone that would be carrier agnostic, capturing signals (and billable minutes) from any nearest tower.

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