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Apple vs. Nokia, RIM and Motorola On Nano-SIM Standard 144

Posted by timothy
from the wish-they'd-fight-more-to-improve-interfaces dept.
angry tapir writes "Next week, two proposals for a new, smaller SIM card, dubbed nano-SIM — one backed by Apple and the other by Nokia, Research In Motion and Motorola Mobility — will go head-to-head as ETSI (the European Telecommunications Standards Institute) decides which card future smartphones and tablets will use. Measuring approximately 12 millimeters by 9 millimeters, the new SIM will be about 30 percent smaller than the micro-SIM. The thickness of the cards has been reduced by about 15 percent, according to Giesecke & Devrient. The nano-SIM is also approximately 60 percent smaller than traditional-size SIM cards."
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Apple vs. Nokia, RIM and Motorola On Nano-SIM Standard

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  • Too small (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Baron_Yam (643147) on Thursday March 22, 2012 @09:19AM (#39440179)

    After a certain point, you may as well forget the SIM and just build it into the device.

    Items that are meant to be removeable and transferable need to be large enough for a consumer to manipulate with their fingers.

    • Re:Too small (Score:4, Interesting)

      by Anonymous Coward on Thursday March 22, 2012 @09:27AM (#39440277)

      How about a /sim/-folder on the microSD?

      Your phone provider could just email the file to you, you copy the file to the card and turn on the phone.

      • by Merk42 (1906718)
        iPhones have never have microSD cards and even the Galaxy Nexus is also just on-device storage.
        • by Greger47 (516305)

          But if they remove the SIM there is plenty of room for a microSD slot in it's place.

          A "software SIM" on the SD card would be a win for consumers. It'll never happen though, since not having a SD and price gouging additional models with more internal flash is all the vogue right now.

          /greger

      • by Anonymous Coward

        You obviosly don't get what the SIM does, it's there that you can't get to the credentials and copy them - giving them to you is the last thing a provider is gonna do. There was a bug in all GSM SIM's up to 2002 that allowed to extract the Ki, about a month after it became publicly known, allmost all providers stoped giving this type of SIM to customers and replaced them with newer versions. A month is nothing in an industry where they where used to plan in decades!

      • Re:Too small (Score:5, Informative)

        by tlhIngan (30335) <.slashdot. .at. .worf.net.> on Thursday March 22, 2012 @11:59AM (#39442251)

        How about a /sim/-folder on the microSD?

        Your phone provider could just email the file to you, you copy the file to the card and turn on the phone.

        A SIM is not just a storage device. It's a full blown microcomputer with its own encryption engine and other stuff.

        Sure you interact with it in a simple command-and-response fashion (usually to get at contacts and such), but the processor can do a LOT more. If you've seen "SIM Applications" on your phone, they are little programs that run on the SIM CPU, interacting with the host phone through a well-defined interface called SIM Toolkit.

        Anyhow, if you know how ETSI works, or how most standards bodies work, it's really just a bunch of politics. There's a lot of backscratching and money that changes hands (because being part of the standard means patent licensing revenue). This is especially in cases where there's no patent pool entitiy (like MPEG-LA) that let you mass-license a bunch of patents at once so everyone has to go license the FRAND patents from everyone else.

        And that's the problem. Apple, despite probably selling maybe 10% of the phones, makes more profit off the iPhone and the other 90% combined. So everyone else is rightly worried that should this proposal go through they'd have to pay licensing fees to Apple (under FRAND terms).

        That's what it really boils down to - it's far more profitable to sue Apple over everything and hope to get forced licensing over Apple's much-desired non-FRAND patents than to let them in and then lose the leverage.

        Heck, even in 3G there's a pile of standards that you will not need for a regular phone (TD-CDMA for example). They're used in niche areas with narrow customer base. For stuff like this, it's more about being able to bid on contracts that demand "3G Wireless Technology" with a proprietary technology that no one else uses. It's only standard because it's in the spec that no reasonable person would use.

      • How about a /sim/-folder on the microSD?

        Your phone provider could just email the file to you, you copy the file to the card and turn on the phone.

        Impossible under 3GPP standards. The SIM shall contain certain encryption keys (K_i, K_c) and shall not divulge them directly but only perform the GSM authentication algorithm against a given input data (i.e. you tell the SIM to sign request R, it returns GSM(K_c, R) but you never get to ask for K_c directly). If the keys were stored on a plain storage device like a microSD card, then any rogue application with access to storage could copy them and send them across the network allowing the adversary to crea

    • Re:Too small (Score:4, Interesting)

      by QuasiSteve (2042606) on Thursday March 22, 2012 @09:28AM (#39440285)

      Actually, that is the step that should have been taken; software SIM

      Why they're still going for a card is beyond me - but perhaps it has something to do with licensing.

      The Giesecke & Devrient company mentioned in the article actually announced their nano SIM card last year:
      http://www.gi-de.com/en/about_g_d/press/press_releases/G%26D-Presents-World%E2%80%99s-First-Nano-SIM-Card-g17024.jsp [gi-de.com]

      Now unfortunately it has become a battle between companies that want to give their own little twist to it. Why? So they can charge license fees, of course. FRAND - yes, but $5 per device surely is completely fair? Especially if you're the company that gets that $5 per competitor's device.

      For now it looks like Apple is likely to be that company, as it already has several large European providers on board and is also trying to get a larger vote within ETSI. (Financial Times).

      • Re: (Score:2, Informative)

        by Anonymous Coward

        With a software sim, it's too easy to disable the feature that you can remove the sim and replace it with another one. No-one wants more lock-in.
        Also, a hardware sim acts as a piece of trusted hardware, and can provide e.g. customized encryption (such as the Israelis use), serve as a secure storage for cryptographic material (e.g. eWallet applications), intercept call requests and reroute them to callback services, and many more uses (also see SIM toolkit).

        • Re:Too small (Score:5, Insightful)

          by beelsebob (529313) on Thursday March 22, 2012 @09:47AM (#39440449)

          Actually, exactly the reverse was the issue. When apple proposed this, the telcos baulked at the idea that users would be able to switch to a contract with another company at the tap of a button on their phone.

          • by guruevi (827432)

            Also, if a cell phone manufacturer wanted, it could push in any number of antenna's and chip types and the consumer could choose between CDMA, GSM, LTE or a combination of providers. The horror!

          • by chrb (1083577)
            The carriers might be against it, but they don't control the GSM specifications, that is down to the GSMA, and they have already formed a Task Force to look at the issue. [theregister.co.uk] The carriers are probably also against replaceable hardware SIM cards and unlocked phones - the only real reason such things are commonplace now was the fact that GSM was legislated as a single protocol within the E.U., and the GSM standard included the replaceable SIM card. I suspect that if the protocol hadn't have been legislated, the E
          • by nurb432 (527695)

            Yup, its all about vendor lock in, not consumer choice. And as long as the FTC allows it, things will continue as they are.

          • by yacc143 (975862)

            Guys, devices that are not switchable to a different telco are such an Americanism/Anachronism. And cutting down on the size of the SIM sounds like a stupid thing to do too, the only devices where these couple of cubic-mm might be relevant would have to so tiny that their value as a "smartphone" (where battery, memory, and so on is relevant) would be strictly limited. And on devices of the size of the iPhone or bigger, this somehow trades of tinyiest % of volume for mechanical stability and user friendlynes

            • Mod parent up! The current "micro-SIM" thing is just Apple trying to make it hard to switch from iPhones to Android. Easily defeated by a $2 plastic part from ebay. I see nothing that this "nano-SIM" brings to the table that would benefit the consumer.
        • by jandrese (485)
          Carriers already disable their phones so you can only use that particular Carrier's SIM card in the phone. I don't see how the software one would be any different.
      • by necro81 (917438)

        Why they're still going for a card is beyond me - but perhaps it has something to do with licensing

        Having a card you pop in and out makes it relatively easy to migrate across carriers without a) letting them physically access your phone or b) opening the possibility of a software sim man-in-the-middle attack.

      • by sitkill (893183)
        You'll also have to understand that G&D LIFEBLOOD is the sim market. They get a cut of every sim card they make (also with the visa/mc cards you get). In essence, G&D is a company that is on life support with the new waves of technology (software sims, electronic payments, etc) unless they start to innovate on how they generate their revenue.

        Why they haven't gone Software sims? Pretty simple, Carriers are fighting tooth and nail to not go that road. The carriers last piece of the phone that they
        • An AC above made the same argument with regard to swapping SIM cards - but if I buy a subsidized Vodafone phone here in NL, I can't just stick a T-Mobile SIM card in and use that instead.

          I'll first have to get that Vodafone phone unlocked. I have that right after 1 year, or after the contract is up, whichever comes first. Or I can get it done at one of the more shady shops (which appear on most street corners down from the official provider shops in big cities).

          Even then the phone itself might have a coun

      • Now unfortunately it has become a battle between companies that want to give their own little twist to it. Why? So they can charge license fees, of course. FRAND - yes, but $5 per device surely is completely fair? Especially if you're the company that gets that $5 per competitor's device.

        Pretty sure industry standards associations wouldn't consider $5 for one patent fair or reasonable, which coincidentally are the first two words in FRAND.

      • Actually, that is the step that should have been taken; software SIM

        Why they're still going for a card is beyond me - but perhaps it has something to do with licensing.

        It has to do with network operator control. It's not so obvious if you're in the US where phones are operator locked and the operator control the phone software, but in the rest of the world you can buy unsubsidized unlocked phones. Then there's no operator software on the phone and the operator has no control on what is running on the phone. But the operator still control what is running on the SIM card, which has its small CPU.

        Using the SIM Toolkit (also called USAT, see TS 31.111 on www.3gpp.org) the o

        • by awyeah (70462) *

          You can purchase phones that are unlocked and unsubsidized in the US. Just very few people do it.

    • by Bocaj (84920)
      Not a problem. You can just pop down to your local mobile shop and they can move the card for you for a small fee and.... wait.
    • by firex726 (1188453)

      Yea, I would say something the size of a micro-SD card is the smallest you should go and still retain "portability".

      Reminds me of that time on Futurama where Amy's cell phone is so small she swallows it on accident.

    • Re:Too small (Score:4, Insightful)

      by beelsebob (529313) on Thursday March 22, 2012 @09:46AM (#39440437)

      Apple tried to do this, unfortunately, all the telcos baulked at the idea that any phone would be trivially reprogrammable to join another network –all you would need to do was tap a button on the phone and be instantly on a new contract.

      • As opposed to the current method, that involves removing a lid and placing a different SIM card into the phone?

    • Re:Too small (Score:4, Insightful)

      by Z00L00K (682162) on Thursday March 22, 2012 @10:25AM (#39440929) Homepage

      The point behind the SIM card is that it shall be easy to change phone without any fuzz. And if the SIM cards has different sizes depending on device it's counteracting that.

      Don't underestimate the advantage you can get by having different phones for different situations. A cheap simple rugged phone for outdoor and a flashy smartphone when doing business.

    • I rather like being able to trivially switch the device I'm using without any help from my network - I wouldn't have been able to start this contract period off with a Nokia N900, end it with an iPhone 4S, and have also used an iPhone 3G and a HTC Desire in between. All without my network provider knowing any different.

      • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

        by AvitarX (172628)

        They know different.

        At least T-Mobile USA does. When I log into my account there is a picture of my phone, it changes when I move my sim.

        • To be specific, they know your IMEI. I don't think they know anything else about your phone unless you purchased it from them - I use a Galaxy Nexus with them, and the picture is "not available" when I log into my account.

    • by dalias (1978986)
      Indeed, my first thought was WHY?! It's already way too easy to drop/lose/damage your SIM cards switching them in and out. The last thing we need is to make them smaller. I'd rather seem them bigger if anything.
      • If you're constantly switching them in and out, why not just get a dual-SIM phone?

        • by yacc143 (975862)

          Because DUAL-SIM phones are at best not very good.

          Most of the Multi-SIM phones come out of China and are designed for the internal Chinese market, hence offer no UMTS (as China is going it's own 3G path). Operating systems, display sizes, display quality, ... => Everything not comparable to Single-SIM devices.

          Furthermore it also depends on what you want to achieve => if you want to avoid passive roaming charges, you do not want your home SIM card enabled abroad, don't you?

    • Anybody remember the memory cards that were offered by some vendors - mainly Sandisk - some years ago? It was a memory card that could be inserted into a GSM phone in place of its SIM. Whatever happened to that - one would think that if that was there, then it could substitute the need for the phone to have its own memory (aside from the baseband/apps flash needed for the OS) and include things like contacts, and other external apps that are downloaded to the phone. Phone manufacturers could then choose

  • I travel quite a bit. The old ones were easier to see in case you put in on a flat surface while changing it out and you could put it in your wallet in a credit card slot while being reasonably sure it wouldn't fall out.

  • by jbernardo (1014507) on Thursday March 22, 2012 @09:24AM (#39440241)
    And drop the micro-SIM at the same time? It isn't like the SIM is too big, and having more than one standard means one can't interchange SIMs between phones (or tablets) without adapters. The "extra" size of the normal SIM in comparison with the micro (and now the nano) SIM isn't enough to make an impact on phone size, and the micro-SIMs are easier to lose. Also, the adapters don't work on all phones.
    • The mini-SIM is too big. You can get several components in the space occupied by the useless plastic surrounding the active part of the mini-SIM. Given everyone wants maximum functionality out of a very small device, that matters.

  • Is there *really* a need for a *slightly* smaller SIM??? Or is this just yet another planned obsolescence strategy by the handset manufacturers... Seems like micro-SIM is small enough and nano-SIM isn't all that smaller... just getting us to buy new handsets or make obsolete our old SIMs... with little additional point...
    • Well its about removing the excess padding. Old SIM standard had a lot of excess area around the contact points to fit the memory hardware. Newest nano-sim simply has no excess area besides the contact points. You can still slide a nano-sim card into an holder and it meets the micro-sim or full sim standards.

  • Beyond a report in the FT and this from Computer world, there is this from The Register

    "Despite repeated enquiries, Nokia has failed to provide any confirmation or denial of the Financial Times's report (behind paywall) that Nokia – concerned that Apple is poised to grab the lion's share of patent revenue – has proposed an alternative design to the proposed nano-SIM technology to standards body ETSI.

    It's an interesting idea, though hard to credit as there's no trace of such a filing at ETSI"

    http [theregister.co.uk]

  • What was the compelling reason for developing this? An overwhelming consumer need? Not really. It's not like folks are/were clamoring for something that's even smaller and easier to lose. Perhaps the reason was to claim a certain coolness factor in that it could be accomplished. Like making a teeny, tiny credit card that people could lose on a frequent basis.

    Perhaps the smaller form factor lowers manufacturing, production, and distribution costs by 60% as well? Or having a different SIM card receptacle in d

    • Re:Coolness Factor? (Score:5, Interesting)

      by Ixokai (443555) on Thursday March 22, 2012 @09:51AM (#39440491)

      I doubt its a cost issue; people keep saying on here "Oh, the regular one is small enough to not impact the phone size" and "Oh, the micro-SIM is small enough...." But, that's just missing the point. Its not the phone size Apple wants to change: its that they very much want the iPhone to turn into the Doctor's Blue Box and cram more into it without the size changing.

      If you look at the teardown of modern iPhones, you should notice just how densely packed they are-- and /any/ space savings means either more battery (likely), or some place to fit another chip in to provide some sensor or feature. Every little bit counts these days. Look at the teardown: the micro-SIM is to your fingers but it and its supporting space is significant on the scale of the device and its packed electronics.

      If they want to add more (more chips, more battery, more anything) they can only a) increase the device's size, b) take something out, or c) shrink something already in. They're trying to do c) and everything is on the table for shrinkage.

      • Good point that I neglected to take into account! As a person who has tried to replace my iPhone battery these devices are indeed densely packed (to put it mildly). A few millimeters here and there saved means more horsepower and features for sure...

        • by UnknowingFool (672806) on Thursday March 22, 2012 @10:34AM (#39441065)
          This is also the reason Apple proposed a shorter headphone jack: To save space. Most Slashdot geeks were not impressed with the 4S as it didn't seem to be all that different externally. Internally Apple was able to make a GSM/CDMA phone the same size as their older, separate models. There is a lot of engineering these days to cram in as much in as possible like the new Motorola Droid that is missed if someone is looking at the tech specs only.
      • by pablo_max (626328) on Thursday March 22, 2012 @10:37AM (#39441123)

        Apple, like all other GSM/UMTS manufactures pay a licensing fee to companies like ORGA and Nokia to use the SIM cards. I will also point out that from the beginning, Apple did not want to use a SIM card. However, the SIM is a core requirement to using the GSM and UMTS standards. It is additionally required for both PTCRB and GCF certification schemes.
        One of the main benefits of the SIM / USIM is portability. The core spec was designed such that you could insert your SIM into any phone and be billed accordingly. It was actually against the rules to have a SIM locked phone back in the old days.

        No, Apple doesn't care how big it is, because lets face it, the SIM is not big. Apple is more interested in controlling the standard. Then, suddenly, ORGA, Nokia and even the carriers will need to pay Apple to use the new SIM format.

        Keep in mind though, it is not only carriers and phone makers who are effected. There are many smaller companies who have invested millions into the development of test equipment and software to test the current format of SIM.

        • How will Apple control a standard when they are not the standards body? ETSI controls the standard. ETSI can change/reject Apple's proposal as they see fit especially if the fees are too much. Most likely the issues of fees will be addressed ahead of acceptance. At most, Apple's main benefit would be they pay no fees while everyone else pays a small fee to them. Or ETSI can combine elements of both proposals so that no one has an advantage. This is somewhat the same argument against Apple using Displa
          • It's not about controlling the standard; it's about who holds the patents. Apple would prefer to hold the patents instead of paying ORGA and Nokia every time they use a SIM.

            • First of all the parent said "Apple is more interested in controlling the standard.". Second, any royalty issues should be dealt with before the standard is approved. If Nokia and Motorola (or Samsung, LG, HTC, or any other member of ETSI) feel that they do not wish to pay Apple for fees, they can object. Or vice versa.
  • Remember when the iPad shipped with a Micro-SIM, the main reason was because they didn't want people swapping SIM cards from their iPhones (remembering that Personal Hotspot is disabled with a lot of carriers). What's the point in bringing out lots of standards when they aren't being adopted. I hope the ETSI tells them all to go away until Micro-SIM is actually being widely used first.
    • That would be a perfectly valid conspiracy if not for the fact that you can get adapters to fit micro-SIM to mini-SIM. Micro-SIM was adopted in 2003 but it has taken 8 years before the first devices (iPhone and iPad) used them. I believe that more and more devices have started to use them as the push for smaller and smaller means that everyone is trying to trim on any component.
      • I think it is valid - the iPad took a micro-SIM, the carriers didn't want people taking the mini-SIM from their iPhone with it's generous data allowance and shoving it in the iPad. They wanted to sell yet another data plan to that customer.

        • There are many websites that show you how to make a micro-SIM from a mini-SIM with the high tech tool called scissors. I didn't see it as some conspiracy to limit devices as Apple being the first to use a standard and then conspiracies growing around that choice.
        • by cmdrbuzz (681767)

          Its not valid. You do know that the carrier can identify the device type that the SIM is plugged into (via the IMEI) and could easily not enable service if you plugged a non valid (in their eyes anyhow) SIM in.

          Not to mention they can use the existing SIM-lock functionality to lock you to /THAT/ specific SIM with your phone. So all the bad things you are thinking of, they can already do them _all_ without needed micro vs mini SIM.

  • Why do we still need a physical simcard ? it seems to me its essentially a private key stored on a chip (possibly in a non-extractable form). Why not just email digital certificate style keys to customers, and have them 'insert' them into phones using established file transfer techniques (protected by a password as well, which is required when installing the key). This would also make james bond style dual+ simcard phones very easy to implement (or maybe not if you need 2 radios...).

    Even better, let any pho

    • by robmv (855035)

      What is more secure? a Smartcard of a file certificate for user authentication? a SIM card contains keys [wikipedia.org] that are in theory only available inside the hardware and the operator servers. Changing to a pure software solution is like replacing your corporate authentication infraestructure from a Smartcard to a USB drive with your keys

    • by Ixokai (443555)

      I'm sure Apple would love nothing more then to go SIMless: the idea of completely eliminating a component would thrill them. Think of what they could put in its place!

      But, the carriers rejected that idea hard, years ago. So Apple is doing the next best thing: trying to make the damn things as small as possible so they can recover the space for other things.

      The manufacturers only have so much power-- even Apple, whose influence over carriers is unparalleled and unprecedented, has limits to what it can twist

  • by Anonymous Coward

    Since the other 3 companies are/soon will be bankrupt, I think that means Apple wins by default. Asking RIM's opinion about future standards is like asking a 105-year old terminal cancer patient what he wants for his 120th birthday party.

    • Since the other 3 companies are/soon will be bankrupt, I think that means Apple wins by default

      The other 3 companies in question being RIM, Nokia, and Motorola Mobility.

      I can see why you might say that two of those three might go bankrupt, but you do know who owns Motorola Mobility, right?

      Did you seriously intend to say you think Google is going to go bankrupt soon?

  • What do we need a smaller SIM for, I can side with the microsim as it does save what appears to be wasted space, but who needs a smaller SIM? If this is a push towards making devices smaller and more compact then I think were going to far. Why not just get rid of the SIM and go SIM-L:ESS? It would be be a better solution to the issue.
  • by Anonymous Coward

    These guys all have it wrong. The Subscriber Identity Module should be embedded in the subscriber, not the phone.

  • ..... Oh shit!

  • Two competing and incompatible standards of the same form factor? We've seen this act before...
    • by MrMickS (568778)

      Which is why it goes to ESTI and only one gets approved. That one is then adopted as the standard.

    • These are not competing standards. These are competing proposals for the same standard. Small but significant difference.
  • "the new SIM will be about 30 percent smaller than the micro-SIM

    "The nano-SIM is also approximately 60 percent smaller than traditional-size SIM cards."

    Is it a SIM or nano-SIM? A new standard to replace all, or a new standard to replace smaller-than-SIM SIMS?

    Anyways, I love the idea of burning the SIM into the device. Someone just got wooshed by the whole SIM concept....

    • by Amouth (879122)

      you have

      SIM
      micro-SIM
      and the new nano-SIM

      the new can replace either of the two before it..

  • by aglider (2435074) on Thursday March 22, 2012 @10:42AM (#39441219) Homepage

    Why on earth?

    • by jovius (974690)

      I think it's the convenience and fitting it to the present form factor. For example on Jupiter the card would be 133 mm wide; the card would measure 1296 millimeters on the Sun. On the other hand if the card would be introduced on Mercury and Venus it would definitely open new possibilities and interesting challenges for the handset design. Some say that the we should go all the way and introduce the standard on Pluto, but the fact that Pluto is not a planet anymore rules it out. Ships may have already been

      • by jovius (974690)

        Venus would of course be a great easy market for current devices while Mars would provide to be a challenge.

  • So they can obsolete all the existing phones.

    • So they can obsolete all the existing phones.

      Existing cards would not fit into new phones, but wouldn't existing phones be able to use a smaller card if they can be wrapped in some kind of physical adapter (as with SD cards)?

  • Really. That's the major problem right now in mobile and computing devices, especially when you're talking about tech from companies like RIM, Nokia, Apple, and even Motorla (regardless of whether Google owns them or not).

  • I'm waiting for the pico-SIM myself. By that time, the iPhone 7 will be as big as an Osborne 1 and SIM cards will look like coffee grounds.

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