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Apple and Orange propose even tinier SIM card

Prepare for the arrival of the diddiest SIM card yet. Apple has submitted a proposal for a new type of SIM card to the European telecoms standards body.

Apple has put forward a proposal for an even smaller SIM card than the micro SIM used in the iPad and iPhone 4. Orange is backing the plan.

Apple recently submitted its proposal to ETSI, the European telecoms standards agency. If the proposal receives support from mobile operators, it could become a standard, in the EU at least, in just a few months. More probably, though, the process could take a year or more.

It seems Apple's primary motivation for messing about with SIM cards again is to make even thinner devices, perhaps leaving more room for components. That said, standard SIMs measure only 15 by 25mm and micro SIMs 12 by 15mm. How much smaller do they really need to go?

One side effect of a change to an even smaller SIM would be to make it harder for people to unlock devices that use the new cards, at least until they become widely available. That was certainly the case with micro SIMs when the iPad 2 arrived in the UK, and they're still not widely used.

It's not immediately clear what the benefit of a smaller SIM would be to Orange, although the operator's head of mobile services, Anne Bouverot, told Reuters: "We were quite happy to see last week that Apple has submitted a new requirement to ETSI for a smaller SIM form factor... with the sponsorship of some major mobile operators, Orange being one of them."

If anything, such a change would further confuse customers looking to buy or upgrade handsets. You might be forgiven for thinking that networks deliberately like to make things complicated, to tie in users.

With most manufacturers looking to build thinner phones and tablets, it wouldn't be a surprise if the new SIM becomes a reality. Expect a new wave of converter gadgets and SIM-slicing tutorials to appear. Consumers beware -- your SIM will be even more likely to get lost down the back of the sofa.