Wednesday, 18 July 2012 23:36

iPhone 5 and the nano-SIM stockpiles: a micro or major PITA?

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After reports earlier this year that Apple, Nokia, Motorola and others had been fighting over the next generation of SIM cards, going from today’s micro SIMS to a smaller new nano-SIM design, the whole thing sounds anything but SIMple.

When Apple launched the microSIM in its iPhone 4 a couple of years ago, barely one other obscure kids phone on the market had bothered to use the format, but since then, microSIMs have slowly caught on faster and faster – with even the Galaxy SIII sporting a microSIM socket.

It has also spawned an industry of microSIM to regular sized SIM adapters, and while this has been great for Chinese manufacturers of bits of plastic, it’s been more of a pain for end-users, especially those who like swapping SIMs between different devices.

Now come reports from various online sources, including the Financial Times, that some European telcos are stockpiling nano-SIMs, given that the iPhone 5 is supposed to support this new format – one that is 40% smaller than current-sized microSIMs.

If true, it means that you’ll need to get a new SIM card if you upgrade to an iPhone 5, and a new nanoSIM to microSIM or full-sized SIM adapter – sure to send Chinese plastic manufacturers into a frenzy of nano and micro sized excitement – if not much larger.

This nano-SIM is called the 4FF standard, which almost sounds like the FFS acronym, as in FFS, yet another SIM standard?

Some suggest that a thinner iPhone 5 will need a smaller SIM, but is today’s microSIM, let alone large-sized SIM really so large that they won’t fit into today’s smartphones?

The same rumourmongers suggest that European telcos, at the very least, are “stockpiling” these nano-SIMs, either suggesting they know something about the iPhone 5 that we don’t, or that they are “taking chances” in stockpiling a SIM size that’s not yet known if it will arrive or not.

Telcos aren’t usually so silly as to stockpile things they don’t need, so if there is any truth to these reports, a nano-SIM seems certain for the iPhone 5.

Unfortunately, the truth is that no-one knows yet, beyond a select few at Apple, Foxconn and nano-SIM makers.

Unless nanoSIMs truly deliver absolutely necessary space savings that would either make or break the iPhone 5, I’d personally rather the current microSIM standard stay in place for at least a year, if not longer, simply because there appears to be no good reason to change as yet.

Indeed, a nano-SIM that is 40% smaller than the current micro SIM is actually going to make life more difficult for some iPhone users, especially older users, those with bad eyesight, big fingers and other challenges.

Sure, they’d probably have issues with the current SIM too, but at least they're larger than a 40% size reduction obviously implies.

Either way, change is inevitable, with change the only constant in the universe, so if it happens, it happens – I’ll learn to deal with it, and so will you.

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Alex Zaharov-Reutt

One of Australia’s best-known technology journalists and consumer tech experts, Alex has appeared in his capacity as technology expert on all of Australia’s free-to-air and pay TV networks on all the major news and current affairs programs, on commercial and public radio, and technology, lifestyle and reality TV shows. Visit Alex at Twitter here.

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