Micro-SIMs battle continues to rage

Micro-SIMs battle continues to rage

When the iPhone 4 first hit the market in June 2010, it came equipped with a micro-SIM card, the third form factor of SIM cards. Apple quickly claimed that the move to smaller Subscriber Identity Module cards was in order to boost security and allow more contacts to be saved on the phone.

However, the main difference between the two types of SIM card is simply the size, as confirmed by the European Telecommunications Standards Institute (ETSI), which setsthe standard for SIM cards.

The organisation said that except for the size of the plastic around the chip, micro-SIM cards are identical to the SIM cards that are normally found in phones.

Apple's move to the micro version meant that its users' were tied down as their contacts and information could not be moved to another handset, but it seems other providers are now preparing to take the Cupertino giant on at their own game and battle to win over any disgruntled Apple users.

Both Nokia and Sony have adopted the micro-SIM on their Lumia 800 and Xperia S devices respectively, with HTC currently working on introducing the technology across its range.

It seems that micro-SIMs could be the format that the major handset providers choose as their battle ground, as manufacturers can now offer Apple users the option of transferring their data to another micro-SIM and slotting it straight into a shiny new Nokia, Sony or HTC handset.

In the US T-Mobile has been taking advantage of the micro-SIM. Even though it does not sell the iPhone, it currently has over one million unlocked Apple devices on its network, thanks to the micro-SIM.

Therefore Apple's comfortable position of being the only provider to offer micro SIMs is beginning to be challenged.

However, as its competitors have been playing catch up in terms of micro-SIMs, the Cupertino firm has been beavering away on the next generation, or fourth form factor, SIM card.

Both Nokia and Apple have lodged proposals with the ETSI, for the new technology, which could lead to a fierce battle to secure the upper hand. The firms are at loggerheads over whose patent gets approved as the official fourth form factor-SIM.

Known as the nano-SIM, the fourth form card is thinner and about a third smaller than the micro-SIM, and would allow more space for other functions. All handset makers would be able to use the design, but there are concerns that the Apple-led proposal could end up owning the patents for the technology.

While this is obviously awkward for other manufacturers, the rumours that Apple's design would need a protective "drawer" would mean that phones will need to be redesigned with this in mind.

ETSI members will decide on the proposals next week, at a time when the voting process within the body has come under further scrutiny. According to documents seen by the Financial Times, Apple has applied to become the largest voting group in the organisation.

It has attempted to boost its own influence ahead of the poll by registering six European subsidies with the ETSI, each of which carries voting power, in order to compete with Nokia's 92 votes.

With Motorola now in the hands of Google, it seems safe to say that is another manufacturer which won't be backing Apple, so the proposal is very much up in the air, but one thing for certain is that a decision will be made by the end of April.

It is thought that the nano-SIM issues will delay the release of the much-anticipated iPhone 5.