Skip to main content

Nano-SIM war: here's what Apple and Nokia want to put in your next phone

Nano-SIM war: here's what Apple and Nokia want to put in your next phone

/

The Verge has obtained detailed information on the so-called "nano-SIM" proposals from Apple, Nokia, and RIM.

Share this story

Verizon 4G LTE sim card (1020)
Verizon 4G LTE sim card (1020)

Last week, Apple and Nokia got into a very public dust-up over the future of the SIM card — a staple in phones all around the world — thanks to a Financial Times article pointing out that the two had filed competing proposals with the European Telecommunications Standards Institute (ETSI) for the so-called "fourth form factor (4FF) UICC," more commonly known as the "nano-SIM." The nano-SIM proposals seek to standardize a new SIM card that would be even smaller than the current micro-SIM popularized by the iPhone, freeing precious extra millimeters inside the phone's chassis for more circuitry, more battery capacity, and slimmer profiles.

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.

Perhaps somewhat surprisingly, Apple appears to have the most conventional proposal:

4ff-apple

Apple suggests that the nano-SIM should effectively be a micro-SIM stripped of virtually all its plastic. This is the card that the::unwired had a chance to see back at Mobile World Congress from Giesecke & Devrient, the firm that debuted the first commercial SIM two decades prior. Another SIM provider, Oberthur Technologies, is prototyping examples of Apple's card as we speak (pictured below, set inside the outline of a standard 2FF SIM for comparison).

Oberthur-4ff

In soliciting proposals for the nano-SIM standard, the ETSI has said that the new card must support eight electrical contacts — as current SIMs do — but it doesn't specify the layout or configuration of those contacts. Apple maintains the old configuration; in other words, with an adapter, you could theoretically use their nano-SIM in a micro-SIM or mini-SIM phone sold today. Nokia and RIM take a very different approach:

4ff-nokia-rim

The 4FF proposals from Apple's competitors look more like microSD cards than present-day SIMs, which would presumably make it difficult or impossible to use an adapter to get them working with older phones. Nokia points out that its proposal wouldn't require a tray or other SIM carrier — in all likelihood, that means that the Nokia design has notches that would allow it to be held in place in a slot. The Apple proposal, being stripped of all plastic surrounding the contacts, requires some external holder to keep it in place.

Another ETSI requirement for the 4FF standard reads:

The design of the fourth UICC form factor shall prevent the 4FF from becoming jammed in a Mini-UICC reader. An example is that if the 4FF is turned 90 degrees and it fits perfectly into the Mini-UICC reader (4FF length = Mini-UICC width).

Nokia contends that Apple's design violates that requirement, and it's easy to see why: its nano-SIM is roughly 12mm long while the existing micro-SIM is 12mm wide, giving users the opportunity to jam a nano-SIM sideways into a micro-SIM slot and get it hopelessly stuck. It's a scenario that the ETSI's documentation specifically calls out.

Apple's design is in many ways the least controversial

Notably, recent verbiage both from the Financial Times report and from Nokia itself group Nokia and RIM into the same camp, so it seems that the two giants (along with Motorola) have put aside their differences in an effort to fight Apple here — it's unclear whether the consortium is proposing Nokia's or RIM's original design, though it's a safe bet that Nokia threw its weight around in this relationship. Either way, it's a little surprising that Apple's design is in many ways the least controversial — it rocks the micro-SIM boat as little as possible, whereas Nokia is looking for a more thorough reboot of the now 20-year-old Subscriber Identity Module.

Which design will come out on top? The ETSI meets to decide later this week, and we'll be paying close attention.

Today’s Storystream

Feed refreshed Sep 25 Not just you

E
Twitter
Emma RothSep 25
Rihanna’s headlining the Super Bowl Halftime Show.

Apple Music’s set to sponsor the Halftime Show next February, and it’s starting out strong with a performance from Rihanna. I honestly can’t remember which company sponsored the Halftime Show before Pepsi, so it’ll be nice to see how Apple handles the show for Super Bowl LVII.


E
Twitter
Emma RothSep 25
Starlink is growing.

The Elon Musk-owned satellite internet service, which covers all seven continents including Antarctica, has now made over 1 million user terminals. Musk has big plans for the service, which he hopes to expand to cruise ships, planes, and even school buses.

Musk recently said he’ll sidestep sanctions to activate the service in Iran, where the government put restrictions on communications due to mass protests. He followed through on his promise to bring Starlink to Ukraine at the start of Russia’s invasion, so we’ll have to wait and see if he manages to bring the service to Iran as well.


E
External Link
Emma RothSep 25
We might not get another Apple event this year.

While Apple was initially expected to hold an event to launch its rumored M2-equipped Macs and iPads in October, Bloomberg’s Mark Gurman predicts Apple will announce its new devices in a series of press releases, website updates, and media briefings instead.

I know that it probably takes a lot of work to put these polished events together, but if Apple does pass on it this year, I will kind of miss vibing to the livestream’s music and seeing all the new products get presented.


E
External Link
Emma RothSep 24
California Governor Gavin Newsom vetoes the state’s “BitLicense” law.

The bill, called the Digital Financial Assets Law, would establish a regulatory framework for companies that transact with cryptocurrency in the state, similar to New York’s BitLicense system. In a statement, Newsom says it’s “premature to lock a licensing structure” and that implementing such a program is a “costly undertaking:”

A more flexible approach is needed to ensure regulatory oversight can keep up with rapidly evolving technology and use cases, and is tailored with the proper tools to address trends and mitigate consumer harm.


Welcome to the new Verge

Revolutionizing the media with blog posts

Nilay PatelSep 13
A
The Verge
Andrew WebsterSep 24
Get ready for some Netflix news.

At 1PM ET today Netflix is streaming its second annual Tudum event, where you can expect to hear news about and see trailers from its biggest franchises, including The Witcher and Bridgerton. I’ll be covering the event live alongside my colleague Charles Pulliam-Moore, and you can also watch along at the link below. There will be lots of expected names during the stream, but I have my fingers crossed for a new season of Hemlock Grove.


A
Andrew WebsterSep 24
Looking for something to do this weekend?

Why not hang out on the couch playing video games and watching TV. It’s a good time for it, with intriguing recent releases like Return to Monkey Island, Session: Skate Sim, and the Star Wars spinoff Andor. Or you could check out some of the new anime on Netflix, including Thermae Romae Novae (pictured below), which is my personal favorite time-traveling story about bathing.


A screenshot from the Netflix anime Thermae Romae Novae.
Thermae Romae Novae.
Image: Netflix
J
Twitter
Jay PetersSep 23
Twitch’s creators SVP is leaving the company.

Constance Knight, Twitch’s senior vice president of global creators, is leaving for a new opportunity, according to Bloomberg’s Cecilia D’Anastasio. Knight shared her departure with staff on the same day Twitch announced impending cuts to how much its biggest streamers will earn from subscriptions.


T
Twitter
Tom WarrenSep 23
Has the Windows 11 2022 Update made your gaming PC stutter?

Nvidia GPU owners have been complaining of stuttering and poor frame rates with the latest Windows 11 update, but thankfully there’s a fix. Nvidia has identified an issue with its GeForce Experience overlay and the Windows 11 2022 Update (22H2). A fix is available in beta from Nvidia’s website.