Skip to Content

A Nano Smackdown

Rival proposals do battle, and a vote is postponed.
March 30, 2012

The European Telecommunications Standards Institute, or ETSI, decided to postpone a contentious vote today over the future of mobile nano-SIM cards, report GigaOm et des autres.

What’s a nano-SIM card? It’s the smaller, next-gen version of the chip that already lives in your phone. Defining the future of the nano-SIM card is a big deal, since whatever design is approved is likely to become industry standard, as ubiquitous as current SIMs are now. The delay is a loss for consumers, as it means we’ll have to wait that much longer for the innovations that an approved nano-SIM could bring to mobile: thinner handsets, for instance, or better batteries. The nano-SIM measures about 12 mm x 9 mm, 30% smaller than the micro-SIM, according to TechWorld, and fully 60% smaller than tradition SIM cards (which still occupy the bulk of mobile phones today).

Why’d the ETSI, which includes both vendors and operators as its members, choke? It was caught in the middle of a battle between juggernauts. Apple reportedly backed one proposal, while Nokia, RIM, and Motorola Mobility backed another. The whole thing got ugly, with RIM accusing Apple of a kind of vote-rigging, at one point (the full text of that complaint here).

The lobbying in the run-up to the (now-postponed) vote took an interesting turn when Apple offered its design for nano-SIM cards to other device makers for free. As GigaOm wryly puts it, “There’s probably more to it than a sudden spirit of generosity.” If Apple could have greater control over its SIM-card, it would inch towards a goal of “controlling every aspect of its mobile devices.” Some observers believe that if Apple could gain greater control of SIM cards, it could cut out carriers entirely (something many people would love). Nokia, feeling that Apple was unfairly throwing its weight around, responded to Apple’s move by saying Nokia would refuse to license essential patents if Apple’s preferred SIM was chosen. As the Verge put it: “Nokia’s saying, “pick our standard or no one gets a nano-SIM.”

With passions (and threats) running so high, the ETSI decided not to rush into a vote. It’s unclear exactly when the vote will be held–though we’ll have to wait another 30 days at least, according to ETSI voting rules, before we have a sense of what the future holds for SIM cards.

Keep Reading

Most Popular

still from Embodied Intelligence video
still from Embodied Intelligence video

These weird virtual creatures evolve their bodies to solve problems

They show how intelligence and body plans are closely linked—and could unlock AI for robots.

pig kidney transplant surgery
pig kidney transplant surgery

Surgeons have successfully tested a pig’s kidney in a human patient

The test, in a brain-dead patient, was very short but represents a milestone in the long quest to use animal organs in human transplants.

panpsychism concept
panpsychism concept

Is everything in the world a little bit conscious?

The idea that consciousness is widespread is attractive to many for intellectual and, perhaps, also emotional
reasons. But can it be tested? Surprisingly, perhaps it can.

We reviewed three at-home covid tests. The results were mixed.

Over-the-counter coronavirus tests are finally available in the US. Some are more accurate and easier to use than others.

Stay connected

Illustration by Rose WongIllustration by Rose Wong

Get the latest updates from
MIT Technology Review

Discover special offers, top stories, upcoming events, and more.

Thank you for submitting your email!

Explore more newsletters

It looks like something went wrong.

We’re having trouble saving your preferences. Try refreshing this page and updating them one more time. If you continue to get this message, reach out to us at customer-service@technologyreview.com with a list of newsletters you’d like to receive.