Conflict is brewing in the mobile world over the adoption of a new, smaller standard for the SIM card — the chip in each GSM phone that dictates which network you connect to and your cellphone number. On one side is Apple, which introduced the incumbent Micro SIM in its iPhone 4 and is pushing its own design for the new nano-SIM. Opposing Apple are Motorola, Nokia, and RIM, who believe that their design is technologically superior and less likely to cause damage to a handset since it's harder to improperly insert it. Apple has said that, should its design be adopted, it will license any related patents to its competitors royalty-free on condition that they reciprocate in kind. However, industry body the European Telecommunications Standards Institute (or ETSI) still has to decide which standard to adopt — follow the whole story right here.
Sep 11, 2012
We've seen plenty of evidence suggesting the iPhone 5 will ditch Micro-SIM cards in favor of the Apple-designed nano-SIM standard, and now Vodafone UK has made that switch a near certainty. Just one day before the latest iOS handset is expected to make its debut, the carrier mistakenly posted a blog article titled "First photos of Vodafone nano-SIM cards." In the post — which was quickly deleted but preserved thanks to Google Cache — Vodafone reveals it presently has a huge stockpile of 500,000 nano-SIMs in stock and says "the first devices have now been announced." We find it hard to read that as anything other than a thinly-veiled reference to the iPhone. Why? The nano-SIM standard was approved back in June, leaving little time for any other manufacturer to have already incorporated the miniature card in their hardware designs.Read Article >
On the other hand, Apple seems to have brazenly designed the iPhone 5 with its own nano-SIM from the very beginning, despite no clear assurances that it would win out against Nokia's competing proposal. Yet that's just what happened, leaving the company in prime position to be first out the door with the new standard, which offers a footprint 40 percent smaller than Micro-SIMs. The freed up internal real estate likely enabled Apple to shrink its latest iPhone's dimensions even further, something we should see confirmed firsthand tomorrow.
Jul 16, 2012
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.Read Article >
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.
Jun 5, 2012Read Article >
The long and contentious battle for the exact shape of the nano-SIM / Fourth Form Factor (4FF) technically came to a close on June 1st. However, the standards body behind the decision, the ETSI, didn't actually announce which of the competing designs had actually won out, preferring to put forth a message of unity after a process that was anything but unified. Whatever the ETSI's intentions, the design firm Giesecke & Devrient came out and told MacWorld that Apple's design is the one that was chosen by the ETSI. Giesecke & Devrient actually gave us a firsthand look at Apple's design at CTIA last month, and as you can see above the tiny SIM card lacks the notch that Nokia, Motorola, and RIM were all pushing for. Nokia, at least, has capitulated and said it would license its essential patents to companies that use the nano-SIM. We're sure that the rest of the companies involved will fall in line — but somehow we doubt they're happy about it.
Jun 1, 2012
Nokia had been waging the loudest opposition in recent months to Apple's nano-SIM proposal, a mild evolution of the micro-SIM currently found in the iPhone 4 and 4S (among others). Nokia, jointly with Motorola and RIM, had been proposing a more radical thinking of the SIM card that would be smaller, allow for easy removal with a fingernail, and allegedly met an ETSI guideline that the nano-SIM not be able to get irrecoverably jammed in a micro-SIM slot. Rhetoric became so heated, in fact, that Nokia warned that it wouldn't license essential patents if ETSI selected Apple's design.Read Article >
That language has changed today, though: Nokia now says that it will license any essential patents to the standardized 4FF under FRAND terms, meaning any OEM will be able to use or make nano-SIM cards without fear that Nokia will deny licensing and threaten an injunction. That's not to say Nokia's happy — it still calls Apple's card "technically inferior and not suitable for a number of applications."
Jun 1, 2012
The European Telecommunications Standards Institute (ETSI) has announced a new nano-SIM format today. Agreed at a meeting held this week in Japan, the new form factor will be 40 percent smaller than the current micro-SIM format — measuring 12.3mm wide by 8.8mm high, and 0.67mm thick. Nano-SIMs will also be packaged in a way that allows them to be backwards compatible with existing SIM card designs.Read Article >
A number of proposals had been discussed, resulting in conflict between the major mobile manufacturers. Motorola, Nokia, and RIM, all opposed a design put forward by Apple — arguing their design is technically superior and less likely to cause handset damage when inserted. We spoke to the ETSI this morning to question which format was successful and the company said the following:
May 22, 2012
The long, winding road to selection of a nano-SIM standard took another turn today: Samsung has filed a letter with the European Telecommunications Standards Institute (ETSI) of "concerns expressed and actions taken by Samsung in relation to the recent vote by correspondence for the selection" of a final design.Read Article >
The phrase "recent vote by correspondence" is of particular interest: just last week, Motorola and RIM had filed a compromise design meant to appease Apple while still allowing trayless "push-push" mechanisms in phones, suggesting that debate was still raging internally and that a final vote might not take place until the next meeting of the SIM working group at the end of this month in Japan. Previously, though, SIM maker Giesecke & Devrient had told us that just such a "vote by correspondence" was already underway and was expected to wrap by mid-May, leaving the status of the updated Motorola / RIM proposal in limbo.
May 18, 2012
Just hours ago, RIM and Motorola submitted an updated proposal for the design of the so-called 4FF nano-SIM, a smaller replacement for the 3FF micro-SIM used in many phones today (most notably the iPhone 4 and 4S). Debate between competing nano-SIM designs — one from Apple, another from a joint group of RIM, Motorola, and Nokia — has grown intense over the past several months within the European Telecommunications Standards Institute (ETSI), the body ultimately responsible for SIM standardization worldwide. The latest proposal from RIM and Motorola is pictured above.Read Article >
Understanding the genesis of this new design (and what exactly it means) requires looking back at the ETSI's last nano-SIM meeting in late March, where members had expected to vote between the two competing proposals. Nokia had publicly complained that Apple's design made it too easy to inadvertently jam into an older micro-SIM slot, and in response, we were told by SIM maker Giesecke & Devrient at CTIA last week that the design had been tweaked to prevent such a jam from occurring.
May 8, 2012
We just spoke with SIM card maker (and pioneer) Giesecke & Devrient here at CTIA about progress on the creation of the 4FF standard — the so-called nano-SIM — over which Apple and Nokia have been warring in recent months. The company is showcasing Apple's design here at the show, an evolution of the 3FF micro-SIM that iPhone and iPad users have become well acquainted with over the years, though there aren't any prototypes of Nokia's competing design at the booth. When asked if that meant they were siding with Apple on this one, we were told "we work with everybody."Read Article >
The company tells us that the ETSI vote on the 4FF standard that had been delayed back in March is actually now underway. Voting began for ETSI members in mid-April and wraps up in mid-May, mere days away. G&D is a voting member, though it wouldn't tell us which way it's leaning — needless to say, the presence of Apple's design here signals that they'll almost certainly put their votes in that direction and away from Nokia's more radical design that limits backward compatibility with micro-SIM and mini-SIM slots on older phones.
Mar 30, 2012Read Article >
The European Telecommunications Standards Institute is becoming a well-known name these days, following all the back and forth between two camps vying for its approval of a new nano-SIM standard. Alas, like most industry bodies of its size, ETSI has managed to reach an impasse in its decision making today, as reported by French daily Les Echos. The meeting taking place this week won't culminate in a vote, as originally planned, due to fundamental disagreements among the parties involved. Nokia has openly refused to license its SIM-related patents should Apple's nano-SIM proposal be taken up, whereas SanDisk has threatened legal action with respect to Nokia's proposed standard, which looks like a microSD card and may be infringing on the intellectual property rights of a consortium that SanDisk is part of. Les Echos adds that this postponement will be for a minimum of 30 days, as stipulated by ETSI regulations, meaning we now get another month to chew over who's right, who's wrong, and who's even more wrong.
Mar 29, 2012Read Article >
The battle over the future of the SIM card heated up yesterday when Nokia threatened to withhold 'essential' patents if Apple got its way, and RIM is now lashing out at the Cupertino company as well. RIM claims in a letter that it's observed Apple representatives changing their company affiliation, allegedly in order to deviously cast proxy votes at an upcoming ETSI meeting. RIM claims that three supposed Apple employees have registered for Bell Mobility, KT Corp., and SK Telekom, and that they shouldn't be permitted to vote since ETSI rules prohibit voting by proxy. If it's true, it's the latest example of the companies using extreme rhetoric and actions to influence the ETSI and the nano-SIM standard. RIM has asked that the ETSI disqualify the representatives in question, and we'll let you know if anything comes of its accusations.
Mar 28, 2012
The saber rattling continues today ahead of the ETSI's vote on the future of the nano-SIM standard later this week, a vote that has significantly different proposals from Apple and a consortium of Nokia, Motorola, and RIM in the mix. So far, we've heard that Apple would license patents relevant to its proposal royalty-free — a claim which Nokia swiftly bashed, claiming Apple has no relevant patents to license.Read Article >
Now, Nokia is threatening the ETSI that it will refuse to license patents it holds that it believes to be essential to Apple's proposal should that design be selected over its own, once again saying that the design simply "does not meet ETSI's technical requirements and which would be inferior for consumers and the mobile industry, unnecessarily increasing the cost of mobile devices." We've taken a look at the competing designs, and it does appear that Apple's proposal — essentially a micro-SIM trimmed down to the chip alone — would be trickier to hold into place.
Mar 27, 2012
Nokia has already sounded off on the technical advantages of the nano-SIM standard it's pushing, but now the Finnish phone manufacturer is attacking Apple's competing effort from an intellectual property stance as well. In comments made to IDG, a Nokia spokesman questioned the worth of Apple's proposal due to its lack of reliance on any patents held by the company:Read Article >
However, as we reported yesterday, Apple's nano-SIM proposal is essentially "a micro-SIM stripped of virtually all its plastic," which wouldn't necessarily be much grounds for a patent application in itself. Nokia is claiming that Apple's plan to license its nano-SIM patents royalty-free is simply designed to undermine the rival proposal (also backed by RIM and Motorola), but if Cupertino feels that building off existing technology is the way to go, it's difficult to see what other course it could take in good faith. The European Telecommunications Standards Institute (ETSI) will be voting on the matter later this week, so we don't have long to find out which company will win the argument.
Mar 26, 2012
We've now had a chance to see the original proposals for the nano-SIM standard from Apple, Nokia, and RIM, and we have a better idea on what the ETSI will be voting on later this week.Read Article >
Perhaps somewhat surprisingly, Apple appears to have the most conventional proposal:
Mar 26, 2012
Apple has reportedly sent a letter to the other members of ETSI (the European Telecommunications Standards Institute) assuring them that, should they ratify its proposed nano-SIM standard, it'll license all necessary Apple patents out to them without asking for royalties. All Apple would want is reciprocity: any patents essential to nano-SIMs held by other companies would have to be licensed in kind.Read Article >
The document, dated March 19th and apparently authored by a senior Apple lawyer, comes from a source described as "perfectly reliable" by Florian Mueller. Its sentiment of assurance makes a lot of sense to us in light of Apple's position: the company's alone against a cabal of Nokia, Motorola, and RIM, all of whom are, to put it mildly, wary of giving Cupertino too much influence. Nokia has expressed a number of technical reservations about Apple's standard, but those are arguably secondary to the issue of Apple holding all the intellectual property cards with respect to its nano-SIM proposal. Tim Cook and his team stand a much better chance of convincing ETSI that theirs is the right path to follow if they clear it of any patent-related obstacles, and that seems to be exactly what the company is trying to do.
Mar 22, 2012
Nokia takes Apple to task over nano-SIM proposal: 'does not meet all of the pre-agreed requirements'
You might recall Financial Times' report that Apple is seeking to get its nano-SIM proposal approved by the European Telecommunications Standards Institute (ETSI) over a competing proposal from Nokia, Motorola, and RIM — a battle for the very future of the SIM card. For its part, Nokia isn't taking the effort sitting down, and we've gotten a lengthy statement from a company spokesman this morning.Read Article >
Nokia also says that Apple's proposed card wouldn't meet the ETSI's requirement that there be no chance of accidentally getting a nano-SIM stuck in a micro-SIM slot, whereas its own card design passes that test. The 4FF ("fourth form factor," the technical term for the nano-SIM) is set to be voted on as early as next week, so we'll see how many last-minute power plays both sides are able to make ahead of the meeting.
Mar 20, 2012
Perhaps to SIM card inventor Giesecke & Devrient's surprise, its nano-SIM proposal introduced late last year didn't fly through standardization unopposed: instead, the process for crafting a next-gen SIM standard has devolved into an all-out war pitting Apple against many of the other major players in the phone industry, FT reports. The European Telecommunications Standards Institute (ETSI) is on track to vote on the nano-SIM next week, but there are concerns that Apple's version will require a drawer for the card — a design element it already employs on both the iPhone and iPad — whereas the competing design led by Nokia (and seemingly backed by Motorola and RIM) is said to have "significant technical advantages." Though the SIM design would be licensed to any organization that wants to use it, there's also concern about Apple's seemingly unilateral effort leading to a concentration of patents around the nano-SIM falling under its direct control. It's understood that "most" European carriers have sided with Apple, however.Read Article >
And the soap opera gets even juicier — ahead of next week's vote, the FT is reporting that Apple is attempting to significantly increase its number of votes in the ETSI's chambers by registering six different European subsidiaries as voting bodies, each of which can have as many as 45 votes. Nokia is currently in control with 92 votes, but it seems that could change very quickly if Cupertino gets its way.
Nov 11, 2011
Just when we thought all would be made right again, though, Giesecke & Devrient — the German firm that made the world's first commercial SIMs back in 1991 — has debuted a new "nano-SIM" that trims about 30 percent of the size off the already tiny micro-SIM. Though it's thinner than both the standard SIM and the micro-SIM, G&D promises that reverse compatibility with older devices will still be ensured with an adapter — not a great solution, of course, but it's better than producing an entirely incompatible component.Read Article >
And don't expect this one to go quietly into the night: the European Telecommunications Standards Institute (ETSI) has taken up the nano-SIM, and official recognition of the specification is expected by the end of the year. G&D has already provided samples to operators, too. And you thought micro-SIMs were easy to lose?