Why Apple, RIM, Nokia and Motorola are arguing over what your next SIM card will look like

Why Apple, RIM, Nokia and Motorola are arguing over what your next SIM card will look like

Summary: Apple's SIM design would result in handsets costing more to manufacture.

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Apple, RIM, Motorola and Nokia are locked in a debate over something that you and I probably think of as rather trivial -- what your next SIM card will look like.

The European Telecommunications Standards Institute (ETSI), the body responsible for worldwide SIM standardization, approached handset manufacturers for designs for the next-generation 4FF (fourth form factor) nano-SIM, a replacement for the 3FF (third form factor) micro-SIM used in handsets such as the iPhone 4/4S and tablets such as the iPad.

This is what Apple wants your next SIM card to look like.

And this is the latest design submitted to the ETSI by RIM, Nokia and Motorola.

You might look at the two designs above and wonder why the handset manufacturers are getting worked up about Apple's design. After all, it looks simpler than the one offered up by Motorola, Nokia and RIM.

The reason comes down to dollars and cents. Apple's SIM design would result in handsets costing more to manufacturer because the SIM card design requires a drawer or tray in order to insert it into the device, while the RIM, Nokia and Motorola design can be popped in and out of a SIM slot without the need for a tray or drawer.

A SIM tray or drawer might only cost a few cents, but the tools needed to machine or mold such a holder costs millions to tool. For Apple, which sells a high-end smartphone pulling in $100+ profit per handset, these costs are minute, but for makers selling a cheap phone with razor-thin margins, every penny counts.

In other words, Apple's offering of a royalty-free SIM card design is a Trojan horse. If the ETSI committee vote for Apple's design, it will end up being a gift that eats into the competition's profit margins.

Another reason why RIM, Nokia and Motorola don't like Apple's design is because they claim that it requires more space on the logic board.

A smaller connector footprint on the logic board offers more scope for miniaturization, and cheaper logic board connectors.

A simpler design is not necessarily better.

Image source: RIM March 2012 nano-SIM slide deck via The Verge.

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Topics: Hardware, Apple, Mobility, Nokia, BlackBerry, Security

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69 comments
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  • Why?

    Why would the ETSI go with Apple when there is a consortium of rival hardware vendors who produce phone in many different form factors and operating systems offering up a viable alternative!? At any given time Apple produces 2 or 3 different phone/tablet form factors, they shouldn't be driving this bus.

    That said, Apple will do what they want regardless of what the ETSI decides.
    clcrockett
    • ETSI is members are made up of the manufactures themselves..

      each manufacture in each country that are members have votes... so each division of Apple, Nokia, RIM in each county in the EU has a vote.. Nokia has the most votes, then Apple.. so it's not some organization that make a vote from up on high.. it's the telecom manufactures themselves that actually agree on it being this way or that way.. Apple must have been able to convince a lot of the manufactures outside of RIM, Nokia and Moto that their design was better because Moto and RIM caved today proposing a new design that is pretty much exactly like the Apple design except with small notch that allows the card to be used in push-to-insert-push-again-to-eject style slot..

      http://www.techradar.com/news/phone-and-communications/mobile-phones/nano-sim-wars-rim-motorola-back-down-apple-relentless-1080936
      theFunkDoctorSpoc
      • Not only that: cell network carriers have vote rights, too

        And almost all of those are behind Apple's proposal.

        This Adrian's article is actually super one-sided (not intentionally), because it does not include today's Verge's findings about [b]actual reasons[/b] why Apple proposed their design the way it did.
        DDERSSS
      • Interesting reading DeRSSS

        A couple facts that were probably missed:
        Apple's proposal violated one of the requirements of the committee which is that the new card should not jam in an older SIM slot. Apple's proposed card, having the same length as the old card slots are wide, would very easily jam in an old slot. This is a clear violation and should be grounds for an immediate dismissal of Apple's proposal.

        Also interesting reading was how Apple basically rammed the micro SIM "standard" through using its market clout to basically punish any carrier in the ETSI if they didn't vote with Apple. [i]Vote for us or no iPhone for you.[/i]

        So yeah, thanks for that reading DeRSSS, it shows exactly why Apple's proposal should be trashed but exactly why it will probably go through. After all, when you are a 1,000lb gorilla, everyone else in the room must cower with fear and do whatever you say.
        toddbottom3
      • @NonZealot..

        If you had bothered to read anything about this, [b]including the link to The Verge provided here[/b], you would have known that the jamming issue was dealt with.

        To make it easy for you, here's the relevant sentence: " Nokia had publicly complained that Apple's design made it too easy to inadvertently jam into an older micro-SIM slot, and in response, we were told by SIM maker Giesecke & Devrient at CTIA last week that the design had been tweaked to prevent such a jam from occurring."

        It's funny how your irrational hatred of Apple undermines your reading comprehension. I guess if you don't read it on Wikipedia, it isn't true.
        msalzberg
      • @toddbottom3

        [b]Apple's proposal violated one of the requirements of the committee which is that the new card should not jam in an older SIM slot. Apple's proposed card, having the same length as the old card slots are wide, would very easily jam in an old slot. This is a clear violation and should be grounds for an immediate dismissal of Apple's proposal.[/b]

        Didn't read the linked Verge article closely did you? Here's a quote from that very article: [i]" Nokia had publicly complained that Apple's design made it too easy to inadvertently jam into an older micro-SIM slot, and in response, we were told by SIM maker Giesecke & Devrient at CTIA last week that the design had been tweaked to prevent such a jam from occurring."[/i]

        So there's the jamming issue already dealt with. Next.[b]

        Also interesting reading was how Apple basically rammed the micro SIM "standard" through using its market clout to basically punish any carrier in the ETSI if they didn't vote with Apple. Vote for us or no iPhone for you.[/b]

        Where did you come up with that? Apple has the majority of the ETSI but was willing to compromise as indicated from the changes from their initial design.[b]

        So yeah, thanks for that reading DeRSSS, it shows exactly why Apple's proposal should be trashed but exactly why it will probably go through. After all, when you are a 1,000lb gorilla, everyone else in the room must cower with fear and do whatever you say.[/b]

        Right, right...
        NonFanboy
      • Immaturity Rules Apparently

        After reading the you said, they said thread here, and the link(s), I still have my doubts.
        I do know that the current iPhone Sim can get very stuck in another GSM phone using the standard size sim chip including a 3GS or earlier ihone model (AT&T).
        So what stops this chip from doing the same? It is backward compatible which means it is slightly slimmer to allow an adapter and shorter.
        Nothing I can see in the design. Will it fit into the existing slot - both standard and current nmicro? Looks like.
        rhonin
    • Hopefully they will punish Apple for the whole micro USB thing

      When all of Europe standardized on micro USB to save consumers having to have multiple cables and dongles for every device they have, Apple snubbed them and instead of adding a micro USB slot to the iPhone, they added a dongle to the package.

      Hopefully Europe will bite back.
      toddbottom3
      • you understand that Apple is a member of ETSI and has votes on this stuff?

        ETSI members are made up of all the telecom manufactures.. each division of each company in each country has a vote.. ETSI is not some separate organization that make decisions on their own.. ETSI is made up of the manufactures themselves.. and they all have votes on what standards they want...
        theFunkDoctorSpoc
      • Why?

        The Micro USB is the biggest pain in the ass to connect... and that move screwed those of us who used the mini USB compatible devices. In order to utilize the many car chargers and wall chargers I had with my new Micro USB devices I had to either buy all new chargers or buy adapters that converted the mini USB to Micro USB. I had to purchase the adapters when I went from my old BB Curve to my new one... The total costs of the adapters was less than 15 bucks from eBay... the costs would have been much higher elsewhere.

        With my iOS devices (formerly an iPhone 3G and now an iPhone 4) I did NOT have to buy any new cables or adapters when I went from iPhone to iPhone...

        So what is your point exactly?
        NonFanboy
      • They are and got there by buying their way in last minute

        too get themselves the votes needed to be considered. A serious case of "since I have the cash I get what I want and f*** you who don't like it!".

        They do have some good design considerations but once again instead of collaborating, they want it their way. So we are back to the company with the most fluid cash can win?

        This is a big failure all around leaving the consumer with the remains.....
        rhonin
  • Apple doesn't want people to have access to the battery compartment

    many of the SIM cards slip into a slot behind the batteries, which requires users to have access to the battery compartment.

    That's the last thing Apple wants (user changeable batteries? imagine the revenue loss), so creating a SIM that could slide into a compartment in the side of the phones would give Apple the ability to keep the design closed.
    William Farrel
    • Slide in compartment

      Apple does not have to give access to the battery compartment. They could easily build the slide out/in compartment for the other sim chip design. Apple wants everyone to do it their way so they can either cut into the profits of other manufacturers or add costs to competitors phones.
      SoToasty1
      • But doing that would also cut Apple's profit margin, while adding another

        failure point, issues that the other manufacturers wouldn't have, so Apple would be the only one at a disadvantage adopting the other's SIM card.
        William Farrel
      • Lets face it...

        Apple will have a reason; whether it's simply to be awkward; but it's certainly not to make the SIM more useful or friendly.

        Lets all remember that you can copy contacts, data on ALL phones EXCEPT an Apple. How come you can suck contacts off a SIM but not add them via an iphone? Just another annoyance to stop you switching devices/SIMs easy. That's reason enough for me to know it will suit them better and stuff everyone else. This from a guy that has an iPad, an iPhone, a BB torch, and an Asus Transformer. You don't have to love everything about a company to value some of their offerings. Sadly some folk can't see past them once they gain the magic kudos of the Apple logo. Saddos !
        pjmckay
      • @pjmckay

        [i]"You don't have to love everything about a company to value some of their offerings. Sadly some folk can't see past them once they gain the magic kudos of the Apple logo."[/i]
        You seem to have forgotten this goes both ways. You don't have to hate everything about a company because you don't like some of their offerings. Sadly some folks can't see past their hatred for the logo.

        BTW, not speaking of you but just pointing out it cuts both ways.
        non-biased
    • Are there not a number of android and even windows

      phones being made now with none replaceable batteries? Isn't this argument based on iPhone sales alone moot? Not too mention competitor phones that have the same feature or do the same thing? In other words Apple does not stand alone on this.

      Pagan jim
      James Quinn
      • Who doesn't have a replaceable battery?

        I can't think of any. A lot of (most?) Windows phones seem to be coming without user upgradeable storage (there may be some Android phones like this too). That was one of the reasons I didn't buy one. But all of them I have seen had user replaceable batteries.

        It's amazing how inexpensive proprietary lithium batteries have gotten. This allows a one or two year old device to continue working well. Who would want a two year old phone with the original battery?
        Schoolboy Bob
      • Really?

        @schoolboy bob
        Just because you can't think of any does not make it so.
        You have an obligation to at least do two seconds of research before you post. Since you can't be bothered:
        http://lmgtfy.com/?q=android+non-replaceable+battery
        .DeusExMachina.
      • Someone needs to look at the cash

        Cost to replace Samsung Captivate battery - $8.00 US.
        Cost to replace iPhone battery $79.00 US.

        Looks like Apple is doing it to get your cash or force an upgrade.

        I can even get and extended capacity battery (1800 vs 1500) for &12.00 US for the Captivate.

        Then I end up with a phone with original full charge time.

        [i]update - I can get an original Samsung OEM battery on Amazon for $4.49 US[/i]
        rhonin