back to article Nokia v Apple nanoSIM format war: Victor will be named next month

Telecoms standards overlord ETSI has postponed its vote on the official tiny SIM design until the end of May - while carefully considers who it can afford to upset the least. There are two proposals for the fourth form-factor (4FF) SIM chip, one from Nokia and one from Apple, and the European Telecommunications Standards …


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  1. JDX Gold badge

    Only 2

    designs? And is ETSI bound to pick one or the other, or can it demand changes to the one it likes best?

  2. Frederic Bloggs

    Is it just me

    or do other people wonder why the "European Telecommunications Standards Institute" feels it reasonable to have a meeting in Japan?

  3. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Maybe the proposals should have been submitted to Etsy?

    Upside - a quicker decision

    Downside - all SIMs to be hand-knitted in future

  4. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward


    Not called European Touring and Sightseeing Institute for nothing!

  5. maccy

    And the choice is between ...

    One teeny tiny sim from Nokia, and one teeny tiny sim from Apple. Shit, just toss a coin.

    (Prediction: if Apple's isn't accepted, they'll implement it in their own phones anyway)

    1. Paul Shirley

      Re: And the choice is between ...

      If ETSI does not adopt Apples version then it won't be covered by FRAND terms and the patent hammer will fall. Unlike their current disputes, where FRAND guarantees they'll get a licence however long they drag out compliance, without FRAND they'll have no possibility of shipping at all if patent holders don't feel like licensing.

      Annoying so many patent holders with dubious and sometimes frivolous and abusive patent threats leaves a lot of people willing to shut them down.

      So it can't happen with any pretence of compatibility with existing SIM tech and without compatibility the carriers won't sign up.

  6. Philippe

    Japan ? that's nothing

    My local council has decided to "learn and exchange best practices" through some kind of "study trip" in Tanzania. About 5 people and spouses for 2 weeks.

    They said it was great value for the taxpayers.

  7. Morg

    Apple can't win the tech war ...

    And thus tries to derail everyone --

    I can't believe those morons think they have something to say about basic technology, something Apple never ever touched because it has nothing to do with their clothing and fad business.

    Seriously, how can anyone listen to such a company when they never even made one phone that had good signal ?

    OTOH nokia fails pretty hard too so ... my conclusion is that none of these two should decide the standard for anything, as standards should be decided by people with a brain, and not people with an eye on my wallet.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Apple can't win the tech war ...

      They're not trying to. They don't have to. Those phones that can't get a good signal? People love 'em.

    2. JDX Gold badge

      Re: Apple can't win the tech war ...

      Yes those morons with their $500bn. They never got that money by being smart.

      You petulant little child.

      1. Morg

        Re: Apple can't win the tech war ...

        No reason for ad hominem ... but I understand I didn't detail my point of view.

        Apple are tech ignorants, they now nothing of technology, only of marketing and sales.

        It's all very good and makes them tons of cash, we all agree and stuff but that still doesn't mean they should have anything to say in a technical matter.

        Now if you are happy to see the people with the money to make more absurd tech decisions so humanity's evolution is delayed yet another century, well go ahead - I just hope you actually make billions out of people's ignorance too.

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: Apple are tech ignorants

          Interesting point of view. Got any facts to back it up?

      2. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: They never got that money by being smart.

        No, they got it from people who aren't

  8. Slim

    Waste of time, money and effort

    Why do we even need smaller SIM cards anyway?

    1. turnip handler

      Re: Waste of time, money and effort

      For something revolutionary.

    2. Morg

      Re: Waste of time, money and effort

      Why should SIM be that big anyway ?

      The good reason to make SIM smaller is to have them take less place in devices (them and their reader that is) for thinner and less bulky stuff.

  9. lotus49

    4FF - will we need tweezers?

    The first SIM FF was patently stupid in that it was clearly much too large for no purpose whatever.

    However, since then, they have gone from small to tiny. If they get any smaller they will be hard to use and I cannot imagine that two cubic millimetres difference will matter to anyone.

    At this rate, by the time we get to 5FF we'll have to be careful not to breathe the thing in by accident.

    1. Kristian Walsh Silver badge

      Re: 4FF - will we need tweezers?

      The first SIM formfactor was designed at a time when most "mobile" phones were like every other "mobile {noun}" in the English language: something housed in a vehicle. The credit-card sized SIM was no hardship then -- in fact it made it easier to insert the thing while pulling out of a garage.

      Making it an ISO 7816 smart card also allowed SIMs to be cheaply sourced from multiple vendors, many of whom were already supplying smart car phone cards to the telephone operators (in the UK, BT was rather late to adopt chip cards for payphones, but these were widely used elsewhere from the early 1990s).

      I seem to remember that my very first phone, a Nokia 1631, used a 1FF SIM, as did the first Motorola StarTAC GSM phones, but they were already in the minority: by the time I changed to a Nokia 6110 in late 1998, 2FF SIMs were ubiquitous.

      MicroSIM is something I don't see the point of. It's not sufficiently smaller than 2FF to warrant all the messing around.

  10. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    "Apple has offered to chuck its patents in for free".

    Not exactly "free as in beer", Apple's price is that everyone else also give all their stuff for free too.

    Apple is playing the media and public perceptions... and playing them quite well.

  11. JDX Gold badge


    How is this going to play with those guys that figured out how to get NFC built into a SIM? Or did that turn out to be a bust in the end anyway?

    1. Morg

      Re: NFC

      There's nothing to figure out to fit NFC stuff into a SIM.

      i.e. it's small enough to be put in there if you feel like it (barring possible antenna) - but as you suggested, it's totally useless, nobody wants their nfc / bluetooth / any form of communication to be dependant on a carrier-related SIM card.

      The truth about SIM is that it needs to disappear, its a physical item that has no reason to exist, it could be replaced by software and should've been long ago.

      1. Anna Logg

        Re: NFC

        Software SIM? No thanks, I rather like being able to swap my phone number between phones in seconds.

        1. Morg

          Re: NFC

          Without a SIM it would be instantaneous and would require nothing but another login.

          1. Kristian Walsh Silver badge

            Re: Software SIM - good on paper, but would hinder competition

            If you didn't look beyond technology, then software SIM makes sense. In the real world, it's a bad idea, because it allows operators to convince customers into thinking that their new "Vodafone" phone is somehow incompatible with a Telefonica, Orange, or even "No-frills Mobile Service X" service plan in future.

            That removable SIM, the one they had to insert into the new phone, and the only part of the package that bore any operator branding, makes it very clear which bit of the experience is being provided by the operator, and it's something that's clear even to people who have so little use for computers that "another login" would be one login too many to manage.

            Apple have long been a proponent of software SIM, but they brought us that abomination of an activation process using iTunes (Go to operator store, sign contracts, get new iPhone and SIM, be unable to use said phone until you get to your own PC and install and run iTunes and give it your credit card details - WTF?) - is that what we'll have to put up with in future?

            1. Anonymous Coward
              Anonymous Coward

              Software SIM - a bad idea telco's to salivate over

              Untethered can also come to mean a user being able to "transfer" his/her paid-for service to another device (battery went dead, device fell in the toilet, screen got cracked, that sort of thing). It also means you can take your favourite smartphone with its apps abroad, swap a local sim and not get shafted with exorbitant roaming charges.

              That brings to yet another SIM form factor. The regular mini-sim is small enough to fit into almost anything manufactured in the recent 15 years, barring the iphone and some newer handsets. So I would no longer put my SIM into my venerable veteran Nokia 6310i if I had HTC One or an iphone 4. This could be an inconvenience. But I get the microSIM thing, takes less space so we can have "thinner". But the nano-SIM? the micro-sized one is small enough already.

    2. Kristian Walsh Silver badge

      Re: NFC

      It was the Secure Element part of the NFC spec that was to be housed in the SIM, not the entire antenna, so that isn't derailed by these new standards. With current processes, there's plenty of room on even Nokia's tiny design for a very complex piece of circuitry.

      There are two problems with putting an antenna in a mini SIM. The first is pure physics, the second is more to do with how phones are constructed.

      First, the size of coil needed for accurate NFC is only just small enough to fit on a mini SIM, and isn't really great once you take into account the distance between SIM and casework, or any additional protective cases on both the phone and the terminal. (As a guide, the coil radius should be around 1.414 times the read distance - as it deviates from this, sensitivity decreases).

      However, the second problem is bigger: Even if you could get by with a smaller coil, you have to overcome the problem that many phone designs deliberately place the SIM behind RF shielding along with the rest of the baseband and general computing circuitry. This shielding, as well as the large battery that invariably lies between the SIM and the rear casing of the device, will further reduce the sensitivity of your antenna - quite possibly to the point of it not working at all.

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