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Nano-SIM: The micro micro-SIM

A German firm announces the first nano-SIM card for smartphones, which measures about 60 percent smaller than a regular SIM card.

A regular SIM card and a micro-SIM card for the iPhone 4.
A regular SIM card and a micro-SIM card for the iPhone 4.
Dong Ngo/CNET

Awhile ago, Apple said it wanted SIM cards to be even smaller than the already tiny micro-Sim used in the iPhone 4 and 4S, and now the nano-SIM card is basically here.

Giesecke & Devrient, a German technology company, today announced a SIM card that's just two-thirds the size of the micro-SIM. The company says the new nano-SIM enables manufacturers to produce devices that are even thinner while offering an equivalent, if not better, level of wireless performance.

The new nano-SIM could find its way into mobile devices as early as next year. The relationship between Apple and G&D is unclear, but we're going to make an educated guess that you might find this in the next generation of the iPhone.

Technically, this is first time in 20 years the SIM's circuitry itself has been significantly changed. This is because the micro-SIM shares the same circuit size and thickness as the regular SIM, making it possible for anybody to reduce the regular SIM into a micro-SIM by using a SIM cutter. You won't be able to transform a regular SIM into a nano-SIM this way.

According to G&D, the new nano-SIM measures approximately 12x9mm (less than half an inch around), some 30 percent smaller than the micro-SIM. The thickness of the card has also been reduced by about 15 percent, a huge amount considering how thin existing SIM cars already are.

In total, compared with a regular SIM card, currently still widely used, the nano-SIM is almost 60 percent smaller. This means that with the nano-SIM, device manufacturers will gain more advantage in freeing up extra space for other components, such as additional memory or larger batteries. Or they can just make the mobile device thinner.

G&D says the nano-SIM has been in testing with various mobile network operators and its standardization is expected to be implemented through the European Telecommunications Standards Institute (ETSI) by the end of the year. Back in May, Apple put forth plans for a smaller version of the micro-SIM to ETSI. So maybe the nano-SIM is exactly what Apple has been waiting for.

The new nano-SIM is backward-compatible with older devices via adapter solutions to ensure the nano-SIM can be integrated into all existing GSM-based mobile devices, G&D says. The new SIM card will be showcased in trade shows in Europe starting November 15.