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Cellphones Technology

Smaller SIM Format Standardized 83

New submitter mk1004 writes "ETSI members have approved a new, smaller SIM format. 'The fourth form factor (4FF) card will be 40% smaller than the current smallest SIM card design, at 12.3mm wide by 8.8mm high, and 0.67mm thick. It can be packaged and distributed in a way that is backwards compatible with existing SIM card designs. The new design will offer the same functionality as all current SIM cards.' Nokia is not happy about the decision, as they believe their version was superior, but they say they're prepared to license the patents essential to the standard."
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Smaller SIM Format Standardized

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  • So what was better about Nokia's design?
    • by sconeu ( 64226 ) on Friday June 01, 2012 @03:32PM (#40184029) Homepage Journal

      Nokia would hold the patents.

      • by SuperKendall ( 25149 ) on Friday June 01, 2012 @03:35PM (#40184085)

        The new design, being really similar to the old one, also means that Nokia holds the patents for it already.

        That is what Nokia is saying they are licensing out, that they were threatening not to allow licensing of before... but they will go along to move the mobile industry forward.

        • by h4rr4r ( 612664 )

          And because they really need the money, since they are circling the drain.

          • Again, Nokia would be the ones licensing out the patents either way. They truly only cared about their design being chosen because they thought it was better. Them needing money or not does not enter in as a factor.

            I would not count out Nokia or Windows Mobile yet. Microsoft has too much money and needs WM to succeed too badly to give up without a huge fight. And Microsoft has only just begun, they were waiting really for alignment with Windows 8. Win or lose, the battle will be interesting.

            • by h4rr4r ( 612664 )

              They first said they would not license the needed patents.

              I think MS is willing to spend their war chest to make that happen, but I don't think they will continue to prop up Nokia if times get lean enough.

            • by Anonymous Coward

              I saw this mentioned in another thread about MS, but all MS has to do is just make the next ActiveSync contain a patent, and only allow Apple (who licensed AS and Exchange) and MS to use it. Next version of Exchange, have it as the only valid protocol.

              Boom. Everyone else would be locked out of the Exchange ecosystem and there would be zero Google, RIM, et. al. could do about it. Antitrust? Good luck.

            • by tlhIngan ( 30335 )

              Again, Nokia would be the ones licensing out the patents either way. They truly only cared about their design being chosen because they thought it was better. Them needing money or not does not enter in as a factor.

              Not really.

              The big gorilla is Apple. The company gobbling up the majority of profits in the entire sector.

              Right now, Apple's got NO patents in the ring, so to make an iPhone, they have to license it all. Their nano SIM standard is covered by an Apple patent that Apple has vowed to license for fre

        • by Stellian ( 673475 ) on Friday June 01, 2012 @03:59PM (#40184597)

          The new design, being really similar to the old one, also means that Nokia holds the patents for it already.

          Here's a radical idea: keep the same electrical interface with the old SIM, arrange the contact pads in a way that makes sense, and simply shrink it in size [patent pending].

          Why we are unable to make the most trivial technical advances without the whole thing degenerating in a intellectual property shit throwing contest ? Does anybody still believe this state of affairs promotes the Progress of Science and useful Arts ?

          • Does anybody still believe this state of affairs promotes the Progress of Science and useful Arts ?

            It does if you re define useful arts to mean Lawyers.

      • You joke but this is also the reason they and Apple shat all over the HTML 5 video standard using OGG.

    • by Korin43 ( 881732 )

      Nokia's design does the thing where you push it in once and locks in, and you push it in again and it pops out. The idea is that they're easier to remove.

    • The Nokia format was much worse in one crucial way related to usability: it was not pin-compatible with existing SIM and Micro-SIM cards so it could not be used in a device that used one of the larger formats without an adapter. Which means that the one advantage that SIM has over an serial number-based activation system would have been largely mooted.
      • er, could not be used with an adapter.
      • by SrLnclt ( 870345 )
        Wasn't the whole point of a SIM card to easily move your data and contacts from one phone to the next? What good is this if there is a new standard SIM card format every time (or every other time) you get a new phone?
      • by osu-neko ( 2604 )
        I'm going senile. I read this far down before I realized we're talking about those phone cards (SIMs), not memory modules (SIMMs), and then, upon a moment's reflection, that people don't use SIMMs anymore anyhow, wtf was I thinking?
    • As far as I can tell, it would have been slightly smaller (about 10mm x 8mm instead of 12.3mm x 8.8mm) and would have had a different layout for the contacts. The winning design can also be jammed sideways into a 12mm wide mini-SIM slot and get stuck, which Nokia designed theirs to avoid.

      • by Anonymous Coward

        right but at the cost of it being completely incompatable with older cards, or with older devices since there was no adapter that could fit the newer cards into a older slot.

        Today could could take a micro SIM out of a iPad2 and put it in your old school Nokia phone no problem with a adapter. Nokia wanted to prevent that kind of backward compatibility

        • Sooner or later, we'll have to break compatibility. Apple broke compatibility with OS 9 software, DDR3 broke compatibility with DDR2, SATA broke compatibility with PATA, etc. It's great if you keep supporting older devices, but sooner or later you have to move on. Look at all of the issues Microsoft has supporting legacy apps and devices on the latest versions of Windows. Imagine how much sleeker and less buggy Windows would be if MS just said "Ok, Windows 8 will not work with any programs created for Windo

          • Yes, but for what advantages? You only want to change standards when there are benefits that significantly outweigh the costs of breaking compatibility. So far, I've not heard any compelling advantage to Nokia's proposal, it appears to be changing the standard for the sake of changing the standard (or more cynically, for the purpose of establishing a new patent pool with which the IP owners can extract more money for a longer period).

            • The only time I saw any advantages to SIMs is when they had a flash memory card in a SIM form factor. I thought that if this single device could be used to store both the carrier data (that activates a phone instantly) as well as basic phone data such as contacts (moving that function away from the phone so that more detailed contact lists, such as main#, home#, work#. photo of contact (if applicable) etc could be stored the way it currently is in the phone itself) and a few things one would like to keep c

          • by AuMatar ( 183847 )

            They'd sell a fraction of the copies and lose their monopoly (they might not even end up with a double digit install base). The only reason to use windows is the massive amount of pre-existing software. Take away that, and there's no reason not to use another solution, especially when those have a ton of software already written for it, and are cheap or free.

            Also, your examples on hardware are just moronic. A good analogy would be dropping support for DOS and 16 bit windows apps. The OS doesn't care wha

  • by blahbooboo ( 839709 ) on Friday June 01, 2012 @03:35PM (#40184091)

    Hope all phones that use these come with a tweezer and magnifying glass! This little sucker is gonna be hard to handle! lol

    • Luckily, no one in their right mind handles these things more than once a year.

      • by amorsen ( 7485 ) <> on Friday June 01, 2012 @03:55PM (#40184511)

        Luckily, no one in their right mind handles these things more than once a year.

        I wish. Let me know when you can get reasonable rates world-wide with a single SIM card.

      • Re: (Score:1, Insightful)

        by Anonymous Coward

        You obviously don't travel. I've changed SIM cards a dozen times in a week when switching between the card I use for home, our corporate office, and my parent's house. For example, AT&T charges $19.97 per Mbyte for data(!!!) at my parent's house. Orange changes about as much at my house as compared to where I work. As I did one day accidentally last month, downloading a 10 Mbyte attachmen cost me nearly $200 since I forgot to switch SIM cards .

        On to the real problem with SIM cards, they're horrifica

        • by Anonymous Coward

          How does authorizing a new device work with Verizon? And switching between them? As a mobile software developer I need to switch phones frequently, can I use a different one for each day of the week on the same plan? Would I be able to use a device from a different carrier?

          I would much rather something that I have physical access to and can trivially swap out than have to call Verizon and ask them to activate my device....

        • I have literally never heard of a malfunctioning SIM card. New (few days old), old (approaching 20 years)... SIM cards are pretty much the most reliable part of a phone.

      • For me it's once a week. At least. I travel a lot for work and although you can get multi-SIM phones, most of them are terrible as actual phones (unless your idea of a 'good phone' is similar to a feature phone from circa 2003). I think people prefer to use their regular Android phone or iPhone or whatever.

        Having said that, currently I'm using an iPhone and those damn microSIMs are already way to small to manipulate easily with my fat fingers. Especially since I usually do my SIM swaps while sitting on the

    • by magarity ( 164372 ) on Friday June 01, 2012 @03:42PM (#40184247)

      Exactly - isn't there a point of diminishing returns? Are the current ones really so huge that it's causing a noticeable impact on costs that these even smaller ones will make a difference?

      • by Amouth ( 879122 )

        it's more about shrinking them from the view that they are a component in the phone. the smaller they are the more space in the phone for other items.

      • It's not all about costs of manufacturing. It was also about footprint. Right now, smart phone manufacturers are trying to squeeze in as much as possible. Processor requirements keep going up. Power requirements keep going up. Cameras, GPS radio, compasses, gyroscopes are all starting to take space. They need to get as much internal space as possible and there are only a few ways to do that. Internal sealed battery gets some gains. Thinner screens gets some gains. Different battery technologies get
    • Hope all phones that use these come with a tweezer and magnifying glass! This little sucker is gonna be hard to handle! lol

      The SIM cards are already too small and hard to handle. They should be made 20 percent larger.

  • Christ. JUST as I was getting used to the new MicroSIM format that the iphone4 used. Wasn't that small enough?

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by mlts ( 1038732 )

      If given the choice between an ever shrinking SIM card versus the alternative of getting on my hands and knees and begging the CDMA provider to allow my handset on their network, I'll take the SIM card.

      Say I find a cool phone from overseas. GSM, I can use it here in the US, although I likely will get stuck with EDGE speeds. Overseas, CDMA providers use R/UIM cards (functionally identical to SIM cards). A CDMA provider here in the US would laugh and tell me where to stuff the phone, since they likely woul

  • Ie, some kind of cryptographically signed "key" plus a personal passcode that you could enter into a phone that would serve the same identifying purpose as a SIM?

    The signing would ensure that the key was actually issued by a carrier and the personal passcode would make sure someone wasn't hijacking your SIM key.

    Of course, you'd have to set the system up so that any 'new' device automatically deactivated any other devices.

    Is there any reason the SIM card would have to be physical?

    • That way the operator has a somewhat more limited involvement in handset choice.

    • by Nkwe ( 604125 ) on Friday June 01, 2012 @05:06PM (#40186119)

      Is there any reason the SIM card would have to be physical?

      Yes. The SIM is a physical container that protects the computer and data inside it. Note that the SIM is actually a complete computer, not just a hunk of flash memory. When you access the SIM, the security sensitive stuff never actually leaves the SIM card. You don't have any actual access to the security sensitive stuff - the little computer inside the SIM accesses it on your behalf. If it were a software solution (virtual), you would have direct access (via a debugger or similar) to the security sensitive stuff (private keys). Since it is a very physically small hardware solution, you would have to physically disassemble it and hook up microscopic probes to the computer inside, which is very difficult.

      • Not quite complete computers, but microcontrollers, and there are development kits that will allow you to read them without disassembling the entire card. The hardware and software are rather open standards that are publicly available. Just as your phone can read the contents so can said development kits, if they were unreable and unwrittable they'd be rather useless.
  • Companies selling SIM card converters make millions!
  • "Prepared to license the patents?"

    Why is any patent licensing required to build to a standard? The standard group should say, "If you want it considered, you will give up royalties for any related patents."

    Also, how is "smaller but more of the same" even patentable?

  • by ceoyoyo ( 59147 ) on Friday June 01, 2012 @06:43PM (#40187851)

    With all the arguing you'd think there was more at stake than just how much plastic to cut off the old design.

  • The Virtual SIM is the future, why waste our time on this tiny step. The virtual SIM will have
    1) phone company lock in option (I agree , booooo), but it will be required for adoption
    1a) just like phones now, companies can remove that lock after a certain period or the phone can be sold unlocked from the beginning
    2) the SIM will be loaded by dongle (USB or proprietary) that has adaptable SIM tray (that handles all 4 standards)
    2a) it may seem like a waste, but will allow versatility and 8 out of 10 norma

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