There is a new battlefield in the war for control of our technology, and that is in the design for the next generation of SIM cards that are fitted into all mobile phones to actually connect to the mobile network. The current design for SIM cards (or Subscriber Identity Module) dates back to the 1990s, so we are due an upgrade – but who should design that standard?
Apple made an early play for changing the size and shape of the SIM card when it introduced the Micro SIM in the iPhone 4 – claiming that a traditional SIM card was just too big to fit inside its svelte housing. Now the Cupertino-based tech giant is pushing for the new standard to be built around that size and shape, and the draw loading mechanism that is found on iPhones and iPads today – and it has support of a number of mobile phone operators.
Nokia on the other hand, and supported by Motorola and RIM, is pushing for an even smaller form factor and making it possible to fit into a phone any way the manufacturer desires – a little more like the current SIM card in theory at least. Nokia makes the point that whilst a tray-loading Nano SIM may work for flagship smartphones, it severely limits the design of the phone, especially when looking at cheaper methods of manufacture for budget phones – a market Nokia has the leading market share by a good margin and Apple has no interest in.
The most important thing to remember in this battle, however, is not the actual physical design of the NanoSIM itself, but instead that if the Apple proposal is used then there will be a number of Apple patents built into the defacto way for phones to connect to the network. And we all know Apple does not play well with others, and its legal team takes pleasure in trying to block any competitors from the market at any chance they get. Having Apple with such integral patents would likely be bad for innovation and only good for Apple’s bottom line.
The Nano SIM proposal goes before the ETSI in the next week, where the major phone manufacturers will vote as to which proposal to take forward. Nokia currently holds the most votes at ETSI with 92, but Apple is registering subsidiary companies in order to have double that number. There is a reason Apple is desperate to win this vote – and it isn;t for the the good of general technological progress.