The technical standards for the nano-SIM were only signed off a few months ago, in a contentious dispute which almost caused Nokia to withhold vital patents for the SIM card if the design preferred by Apple was approved.
Although Apple has not confirmed even the existence of the next generation iPhone, it is widely rumoured that such a handset would switch to the nano-SIM, which has been heavily promoted by Apple.
The nano-SIM is the first substantial change to the size of the actual connectivity element of the SIM card since it was first developed back in the early 1980s. Although early SIM cards were credit-card sized, that was largely plastic padding, which was swiftly pared back when smaller handsets came on the market.
The smallest version, the so-called mini-SIM was used in the iPhone 4 and iPad, and some operators struggled to keep up with initial demands as they were caught out by the change in design.
Although Apple wont confirm any plans for the next model, the strong pressure the company applied to get its nano-SIM approved has lead operators to suspect that such a SIM card will be used in something shortly. Stockpiling the cards in advance is unlikely to prove to be a waste of effort.
A technology change in the SIM card also however offers operators the chance to migrate customers on older unlimited data download tariffs to newer limited options by refusing to switch SIM cards without tariff migrations.
When the UK network T-Mobile — at the time Mercury One2One — offered unlimited off-peak voice calls to local numbers, customers with older bulky handsets wanting to upgrade to the new slimline Ericsson model had to terminate their protected tariffs. This lead to a grey market in retailers using stamp-presses to cut away the surplus plastic so that the larger SIM card could fit in the smaller handset.
The change to the nano-SIM is unlikely to be solved by cutting away any plastic this time due to the thinner plastic used as backing. Put simply, the older SIM cards will be too fat.
On the web: Financial Times