The Financial Times is reporting today that European mobile carriers are "stockpiling" the recently-approved 4FF nano-SIM card in anticipation of the next iPhone's launch later this year, implying that Apple's next handset will use the updated chip — a piece of plastic that's around 40 percent smaller than the existing 3FF micro-SIM used in the iPhone 4 / 4S and recent models from Nokia, Samsung, HTC, and others. Though it's technically possible for SIM makers to pump out the nano-SIM en masse in time for a late 2012 commercial launch, the most surprising thing is that today's rumor would imply that Apple had designed the latest iPhone around it even before it was approved by the European Telecommunications Standards Institute (ETSI) in recent weeks — a brave move that could've forced it to either partially redesign the device or buck ETSI's orders and "go rogue" with a proprietary SIM design had a competing proposal from Motorola, RIM, and Nokia been approved instead.

If FT's rumor comes to pass, it'll mark a significantly shorter SIM life-cycle: the old 2FF mini-SIM dominated for well over a decade before the micro-SIM came to market with the original iPad in 2010, and the micro-SIM had been approved by ETSI years prior. The nano-SIM, meanwhile, could still be hot off the presses by the time it's in consumers' hands.