Questions about the iPhone 5 nano-SIM

Questions about the iPhone 5 nano-SIM

Summary: Ready for your new iPhone 5? You may have to wait a bit longer. These handsets need compatible nano-SIM cards before they can be used. Can you cut down an existing SIM card? Here's your answer.


It seems that there's been quite a rush to pre-order the newest shiny thing to come out of Apple, the iPhone 5, with 2 million snapped up in 24 hours. Judging from my mailbox, an awful lot of you are expecting your new handsets to land on September 21.

But it seems that some of you are already anticipating a speed bump in your enjoyment of your new iPhone -- the petite nano-SIM that Apple has chosen to adopt. If you're picking up an iPhone 5 and planning on having it replace your current handset, whether that be an iPhone or not, you're going to have to wait until you get your hands on a compatible nano-SIM from your carrier, and then wait for the carrier to transfer your account from the old SIM card to the new one.

Note: Contract handsets will be supplied with SIM cards. However, Apple also sells contract free handsets in a number of territories. 

Some of you are already wondering if you can bypass this potentially tedious process and slash your existing SIM card down to size. Here's a question from today's Hardware 2.0 mailbox:

What's to stop me cutting down my existing SIM to fit into my new iPhone 5? I chopped a full-size SIM to fit into my iPhone 4 when that was released so I don't see why I can't just do the same.

Technically, yes, you can. The chip part of the SIM card is unchanged. All that's different is the plastic housing that it is embedded into. And that's the problem.

With the micro-SIM, all that was different was the height and width of the card, so you could just chop off excess plastic until it would fit. It wasn't really that tricky to do, and it wasn't long until SIM cutters hit the market that allowed you to do the job in one go.

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However, things are different with the nano-SIM. Not only is it smaller, it's also thinner. 12 percent thinner, in fact, down from 0.76 mm to 0.67 mm. It doesn't sound like a lot, but if Apple has engineered the tolerance tight on the new SIM card tray, it could be enough to jam the SIM in the handset, or even damage the SIM or the handset.

The tolerances might be loose enough to make this a moot point -- after all, I had a dual-SIM adapter installed in my iPhone 4 that fitted under the existing SIM and had a ribbon cable that squeezed between the SIM tray and slot that worked perfectly -- but at this stage we just don't know.

Some have suggested not just chopping down an existing SIM, but then sanding it down slightly to fit. Over on sister site CNET Asia, John Chan has a comprehensive how-to guide which seems easy enough to follow. If you're feeling adventurous then it's worth a go, but do bear in mind a few things.

First, if you wreak your SIM, your new handset as well as your old handset will be out of action until you get a replacement SIM. Cutting and sanding the SIM exposes it to stresses -- particularly bending -- that it's not designed to handle. Also, if you sand it too much, it's dead.

Secondly, there's also scope for cutting it wrong. Again, do that and it's not going to work.

Also, thirdly, if you're going to attempt this, make sure the SIM card is clean and free from plastic debris before inserting it into your new iPhone 5. You don't want your new handset contaminated with plastic dust.

Personally, as much as I hate waiting, I'd either wait until I get a nano-SIM, or see what result other -- more daring types -- have in cutting down SIMs. If it turns out that the sanding is unnecessary then the whole endeavor becomes a lot easier.

Another question I've being asked a lot is this one:

Do you think that there will be a shortage of nano-SIMs come September 21?

This is a tough question to answer.

I'm not aware of any carrier that has started to send nano-SIMs out to customers who have pre-ordered iPhone 5's, which means that there will be a rush for them once the handsets are out. If carriers started trickling out the new SIMs now would at least alleviate some of the rush come shipping day.

In spite of Apple's figures, we still don't know how new iPhone 5s will actually land on launch day. What we do know though is that carriers all around the world are going to need to make sure they have plenty of nano-SIMs to hand to accommodate for these new handsets, but it's quite possible that there will be shortages in some areas.

I think that it is quite possible that some people picking up an iPhone 5 on launch day won't be able to use it for a few days until they get their hands on a compatible SIM. I know it's tough having to wait, but that's how it is at times.

Topics: iPhone, Apple, Hardware, iOS, Smartphones

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  • Isn't the SIM included?

    Doesn't the iPhone come with a SIM card already pre-installed?

    I ordered the iPhone 4 from apple's website 2 years ago, a few weeks after it was released and I did not have to get a SIM from AT&T, it came with one inside already. I was upgrading from the 3G which used a standard SIM, to the 4 with a micro SIM.
    • Not if you buy it unlocked

      ...and consequently out of contract. In the US, that will come later however your neighbors to the North have the choice of getting it with a 3 year contract at $179 and with nano SIM pre- installed or they could buy it directly from Apple, starting at $699, completely unlocked and no SIM.
      • Oh Canada!

        And you can buy antibiotics, codene, and Cuban cigars! I love that country!
  • You Expect Apple Customers To Be Able To Figure Out How To Do This?

    What kind of technical competence level do you think the typical Apple customer is at?
    • Typical

      With literally hundreds of iOS devices in use I think I can safely estimate we would see a standard IQ bell curve. That would mean the 'average' Apple customer has an IQ of 100. Which answers your question in the affirmative, but without resorting to any pejorative implication about Apple customers. In fairness your post didn't. However, it did leave the floodgate open for the usual commentary about mindless Apple 'fanboys'.
      • "technical competence" vs "IQ"

        Two VERY different attributes. Just watch an episode of "The Big Bang Theory"
        • Agreed

          My favorite show! You are correct, however, there are no technical competency tests as widely recognized as the admittedly flawed IQ tests. My point was that given the ginormous number of Apple customers it is a given that the average user wouldn't be all that adventurous.
    • Wow...

      This has to be one of the dumber posts I've seen from you. Obviously they figured out how to trim an original SIM card down to fit in the iPhone 4/4S... Oh wait, didn't consider THAT in your rush to troll did you? Oops.

      To answer your question I suspect - based on the previous self hacks - that it will not take long before they figure out how to mod a SIM card to fit... even less time if the new tray allows for the thickness of the modified SIM card.
    • Probably higher than the typical customer from other platforms

      The Typical Windows user is from my experience not that smart.

      The typical andorid user is probably just the usual bell curve.

      The typical iOS user in my country is the typical phone user.

      The typical Apple customer is somewhat skewed by the existing base of Mac users who are those that operate in higher than average industries, more likely to be thinkers than clerks or factory workers.

      From my experience those that do new stuff are Mac users. Those that need help with their computers are windows users and the nearest Mac user is the ideal person to be able to help them with their PC.

      So from both an intelligence and a technical skill point of view I suspect Mac users more likely to be able to figure out new stuff, due to the existing skewed user base.

      But when more than 20% of mobile users (not smartphone, but all mobile) are iPhone users it's most likely any bigotry you wish to apply is somewhat incorrect.
      • HaHaHa Sarcasm at its best...

        I support both... Trust me; most Apple users I meet are Sheep. Following the leader, skipping with glee, sticking their little Apple logo on anything they can. They feel superior because of folk saying exactly like you just have. They could use an ipad or an android to browse the web but, hey, the cool cats do it froma MAC. Wow.. talk about too much dosh and too little sense.

        The recent Apple hardware is great but then so is much of the Windows gear. Me; I stick with Windows cos it's what I know best and my video conversion and audio stuff is bought for it and works well. My scanners and printers work well and I'm happy with it. My WHS, Network Media Tank, NAS drives all link effortlessly and the kids connect from their own PCs when they like. I dont consider myself dumb or low IQ and do know some in that category who do well for themselves because they're nice people, and folk people trust and do business with. Dumb or low IQ doesn't neccessarily equate to lower life status, and shouldn't.

        Your average user doesn't need a MAC but may well feel superior if they do. It's their choice but I dont think anyone can say one breed is more clever than another. Some folk reading your article might think you're being serious. .. I hope you're not but you never know.
    • Same comments from the same contributors (????)

      Everyone knows PC, Windows, Android users are of superior intelligence, just ask them. No, never mind you don't need to ask they'll tell you ,,,,, every friggin day.
    • Of course not.....

      We would have to ask an Android user, we're not allowed to operate scissors.
    • Android Users

      Given that Android has 52% market share, they can't possibly all be above average.

      Since iPhones, and Apple products in general are more expensive, they tend to appeal to an audience with higher education (since they are more likely to have higher incomes).
  • "wreak"?

    C'mon Adrian you're better than that.
    To the topic, I've bought 7 iPhones, all of which were on contract and came with a pre-installed sim card. Adding that this is only an issue for anyone buying an unlocked iPhone would have been clearer. But then all of the Apple detractors wouldn't be able to gleefully rant on about how Apple products do not "just work" thus elevating and justifying their own geekiness.
    On the other hand your note appeals to my own inner geek, but not enough to pull the sim card from my 4 and try it when my 5 arrives Friday. My wife would shoot me.
    • Yeah LOL

      Yeah - an iPhone without a SIM doesn't just work.

      Proving Apple users are stupid. pokes tongue out.


      There it's been said to keep the logically deprived and desperate Apple haters happy.
      • We could all argue all day..

        It's a smartphone and will work on wifi. It wont be a phone but nobody pays over $500 just for a phone suurely? ANd not for one that needs charged every night? No way !!!

        True it might need activated on 3g like the past models but, hey, maybe not.

        I don't hate Apple users and I dont hate Apple products. I've got an ipad, iphone, ipod in the house but I do hate the way APple get away with locking their kit to themselves. There's no way anyone else would get away with launching software that only accepts one manufacturers hardware, and many would bitch and whine if they tried it. Can you imagine Samsung innovating an app that allowed full user control of any device, and kept a central hub of AV for network access for instance BUT excluded Apple products. You'd all be up in arms.

        I do hate Apple users telling me what I need and it's an Apple. Most of them haven't got a clue about what I want but somehow tell me what I need. Must be a greater intelligence right enough, and fantastic psychic powers.
        • You need to look again.

          There's a Nokia specific version of WP 7, and soon a Nokia specific version of WP 8. They contain Nokia only core services, Maps, Music, Etc. thus it's not only Apple. Or doesn't that count, because it's only bad when Apple does it? Microsoft has a long and well documented history, of pulling these tactics. Like when they tried to wrest control of Java away from Sun, making it a windows only exclusive. This was done by forking Java with Microsoft proprietary extensions, then claiming it to be pure Java. Insisting the web developers use Microsoft's tools to generate Java content. Knowing full well it was not compatible with Sun's Java.
          Troll Hunter J
  • Questions about the iPhone 5 nano-SIM

    Apple just made your iPhone 4 device obsolete.
    Loverock Davidson-
    • Why is it obsolete?

      I heard, it too, will be getting iOS6 as soon as available, unlike Windows phone 7 users who won't be upgrading to Windows phone 8 unless they buy a new device.
    • Nope...

      still working.