Apple wants smaller SIM cards for its future phones

Anything that can be done to save space on smartphones is a good thing, according to Gartner

Apple has proposed a standard for new, smaller SIM (Subscriber Identity Module) cards, in an effort to free up more space on future smartphones.

The Apple proposal was filed last week, when ETSI's (European Telecommunications Standards Institute) Smart Card Platform technical committee met, according to a spokesman. So far, no decision has been made on whether accept the proposal.

If ETSI agrees to accept Apple's proposal for a new miniaturized SIM card as an industry standard, manufacturers could potentially start producing the devices by the end of the year. But for that to happen ETSI members, which include industry and government representatives, have to agree on technical details. If not that is not the case, it will take longer, ETSI said.

There are so many different things that go into today's smartphones, so anything that can be done to save space is a good thing, according to Carolina Milanesi, research vice president at Gartner.

Part of Apple's motivation behind the new SIM card could be to show that the company can take part in standards development in the mobile phone market, and not just do everything on their own, she said.

Shrinking the SIM card will result in compatibility issues. However, operators could solve that using jackets that allow the smaller card to be used in older phones, said Milanesi.

Apple did not reply to requests for a comment.

Apple isn't the only one working on next-generation SIM cards. Operators are, for example, planning to put NFC (Near Field Communication) on the cards. Having NFC on the SIM card instead of integrated into the phone will make it easier for people to keep their mobile wallet when they buy a new phone, according to Orange.

Last year, a group of operators and vendors led by industry organization GSM Association (GSMA) announced a task force that will take a look at how SIM cards embedded in devices other than phones can be remotely programmed and activated.

The goal is to make it easier to bring mobile broadband to products beyond phones and laptops, including cameras, media players, navigation devices, e-readers and smart meters, according to the GSMA. Devices featuring the new SIM activation capability are expected to appear in 2012.

In February, the GSMA said the task force had finalized market requirements and had submitted the results of their analysis to ETSI.

The SIM card is still an untapped resource, and can be made more intelligent, according to Milanesi. But putting more features on the SIM card also gives operators more control, she said.

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Mikael Ricknäs

IDG News Service
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