Apple wins battle over nano-SIM standard

Apple has won a battle over the standard for a smaller SIM card, the use of which would leave more room for other components inside future phones and tablets.

The Smart Card Platform Technical Committee of the European Telecommunication Standards Institute (ETSI) agreed Friday on a standard for so-called nano-SIMs. Apple's specification beat a competing proposal from Nokia, Research In Motion (RIM), and Google-owned Motorola Mobility.

Officially known as the fourth form factor (4FF), the approved SIM standard, at 12.3m by 8.8mm by 0.67mm and, will be 40 percent smaller than the current smallest SIM card design, according to ETSI. It can be packaged and distributed in a way that is backwards compatible with existing SIM-card designs. The new design will offer the same functionality as all current SIM cards.

ETSI isn't releasing further details of the vote or the winning specification, saying only that the decision had been made, according to a spokesman at the standards organization. Card maker Giesecke & Devrient, which had a representative on the committee, identified the proposer of the winning specification.

When nano-SIM cards enter production, their smaller size will free up room inside phones for additional memory and larger batteries, helping phone vendors create thinner devices, according to Giesecke & Devrient.

Prior to Friday's meeting in Osaka, ETSI members had failed to agree on the standard. The failure to reach a concensus at another meeting at the end of March wasn't a surprise, as the lead-up to that vote had been contentious. Specifically, both RIM and Nokia have tried their best to derail Apple's proposal. Nokia, for its part, accused Apple of misusing the standardization process and said that it wouldn't license essential patents if Apple's proposal won.

That threat has now been withdrawn by Nokia, as the company believes that ETSI has taken steps to address its original concerns over the standardization process. Nokia says it is now prepared to license on FRAND terms any patents that are essential to implementing the standard.

However, Nokia remains unhappy with the outcome. The company claims the selected nano-SIM proposal is technically inferior and not suitable for a number of applications, and Nokia believes that the existing micro-SIM standard (known as 3FF) will continue to be the preferred option for many manufacturers and devices.

Updated 6/1/12, 10:25am, for clarity.

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