back to article iPad forces operators to shave their SIMs

O2, Orange and DoCoMo are all apparently stocking up on micro SIMs suitable for Apple's iPad, though taking a sharp knife to an existing SIM is always an option. Quite why Apple decided to use the third form factor for the iPad's 3G module isn't clear, but anyone planning to stuff an existing SIM into an iPad will need to be …


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  1. John Gray

    The explanation

    "None of which explains why Apple would choose an unexploited standard for the iPad. "

    It's Apple - so it MUST be right...

  2. Marky W


    Nice alt-text on the piccy. Matryoshka-tastic!

  3. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward


    Because if you cut down your SIM to put it into the ipad you are discouraged from moving because it will rattle around in just about every other device.

  4. Phillip Webster
    Thumb Up

    Makes sense

    No phone features, so what's the use in a name/number pair?

    name/e-mail with optional number on the other hand DOES make sense on the iPad.

    Nothing wrong with a standard address book, but having a sim that can only store phone numbers in a device that can't ring people would be odd when there's alternatives available.

    1. Anonymous Coward

      Did you read the article?

      Especially the part where it says the application that allows you to store name/e-mail and numbers together runs on either micro or mini-SIM.

      A mini SIM is already too easy to lose. The micro-SIM is going to be ridiculous. Don't understand the design choice at all - unless Apple want the slot to be so small you can't see it?

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      in which world?

      I imagine there are much easier ways of sharing email addresses. iTunes does it just fine for example. That and I can't see a reason for wanting to transfer anything. For any "smart" device, using a SIM card to transfer numbers is completely superfluous.

      I'm only slightly amazed that Apple still allow a removable SIM...

  5. Anonymous Coward
    Jobs Horns

    good on them

    sometimes its usefull for somebody just to say fuck it lets do it !!

    wd apple

    Plleeeeeaaasssee dont publish my mail address cant let anybody know i made a positive mac comment !!!!! :D

  6. Anonymous Coward
    Jobs Horns

    Prevent SIM sharing?

    Surely this is just to prevent users from swapping SIM with unlimited data plan back and forth between phone and iPad when required.

    It forces the user to have additional SIM and plan, which helps the network operator revenues.

    1. Michael C


      What you;re basically saying is that a carrier can't tell the difference between a phone and a tablet if you swap a SIM. That is WRONG. In fact, they can actually tell the difference between your smartphone and the machine tethered to it using that same connection...

      Basically, any access to the web included in the packet header information about the device making the request. Somewhere in there, the carrier will EASILY be able to discern between iPad and some random other device, if nothing more than to look at the MAC address of the device making IP requests.

      1. Anonymous Coward


        Aren't mac addresses part of an Ethernet frame which is stripped from the packet at whatever routing level when the packet leaves the local subnet? and are specific to the NIC if it is being used at all? Does blueetooth use mac addresses? or a USB interface?

      2. Lionel Baden


        missed by a mile

        he is saying you cant swap them round because of the size difference.

        it would be like trying to swap a standard sim now with a old credit card sized one

      3. Gangsta
        Jobs Horns


        This would make it appear "ok" in the eyes of a consumer. If they straight up denied access based on the IMEI connecting to the network then the customer would see that as "greedy". However if there was a different SIM size then they would actually be forced to buy an additional data plan- but they wouldn't think that it was unjustified as having to have seperate plans.

        Also they network could know what device you have by checking the IMEI number when the device conncects to the network basestation.

        On a side note; we can't have these phones with NOSIM in the UK- that would be horrible (but I think thats CDMA?)

        Apple - Just another example of consumer milking

  7. John Robson Silver badge

    It's size

    The iPad is so small it nee....

    Hold on that's not right is it. The iPad is HUGE cf+ modern phones, so it could easily take the cc sized model, although they're basically obsolete nowadays.

    The "normal" SIM size doesn't seem excessive, but I can't recall if they found space for an SD card either?

  8. Lockwood
    Jobs Horns


    "None of which explains why Apple would choose an unexploited standard for the iPad."

    Because they can.

    Because they'll then be able to patent small sims.

    Because they've defined it as the new standard.

    Take your pick.

  9. Anonymous Coward

    Makes it impossible to swap SIMs


    If the iPad used a normal SIM, you could take the SIM out of your phone and use it for a bit of iPad web surfing. For very occasional 3G usage, that saves the cost of two subscriptions or the hassle of a second PAYG SIM.

    But no... once you cut down your SIM to fit the iPad you won't be able to get it back in your phone.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward


      Piece of cake, just keep the snapped off bit, put a length of sticky tape over the back of the hole and you have a handy dandy Apple defeating SIM carrier that you can use by just sticking your micro sim in.

    2. rpjs


      Wait (approx 5 seconds) for Taiwan, China and their dogs to start selling microSIM adapters, like the ones you can get for SD cards?

    3. Sarev
      Paris Hilton


      You could just use a microSD -> miniSD adapter, which costs all of 60p.

    4. TimeMaster T

      Any bets?

      How soon do you think it will be before someone starts selling some sort of adapter sleeve thingy that will allow a microSIM to fit properly in a full sized SIM slot?

      This is MY idea and if used I must be credited to me, so there! Though a check would be nice too ...

      Tux just because I hate MS

    5. SilverWave

      There will be a convert kit out in about 60 days :)

      Apple £69.90

      No-name £5

  10. I didn't do IT.

    Best of both worlds?

    "Perhaps Apple is offering operators an opportunity to differentiate between computers and phones on their networks - computers, and dongles, could use Micro SIMs (sold with broadband data-only tariffs) while phones will use existing SIMs with unlimited data, and those of us in possession of a sharp knife can enjoy the best of both worlds."

    Probably not, unless Micro => Mini adapters become a wide spread option. They might already be, but I haven't heard of them (no demand?).

    Personally, I would think there would be more sense to having the computers using the credit card format - especially if the GSM module is integrated into the computer. While it may be a non-starter for USB dongles, it could work out well to have the USB allow the card to have just the edge slipped in, and the rest of the card integrating a GSM antenna... But if everyone could connect, the network would have to upgraded to support all that traffic at once, wouldn't it?

    And THAT won't happen anytime soon... Now, off to patent the idea of the credit card format integrating its own GSM antenna... :)

  11. Anonymous Coward
    Jobs Horns

    Isnt it obvious?

    You cant take your sim out of your iphone and stick it in your ipad, if you want 3g on your ipad and you already have an iphone then you need a second contract.

    The problem with drinking the Apple Kool-aid is not only do they charge you for it, they also charge you for the cup and someone to pour it for you

    1. Mark 65


      but then releasing the iphone first kind of makes the ipad obsolete in the main - why would you carry around a huge tablet that has no more capability than your Jesus phone.

      I reckon people with an iphone are more likely to by a full fledged netbook with keyboard than this device.

  12. Steve Evans

    Sounds like a cunning lock in...

    Once you have your iPad with its micro SIMM you won't be able to use another mobile device, even if your iPad goes wrong, your SIMM won't fit any of your other phones!

    Quick, someone invent an adapter! Although it's my idea and you'll need to licence it.

  13. Yet Another Anonymous coward Silver badge

    @Makes sense

    And storing them on the sim of a device that already has Gb of storage makes sense why?

    So you can quickly transfer contact details to your other iPad by swapping the sims out?

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Of course

      For transferring contacts when your iTurkey has to go in for repair.

  14. Jeff 10

    Tiny SIM because...

    Why waste a bigger SIM when you only need a data plan? :)

  15. Giles Jones Gold badge

    Dual sim holders

    There are plenty of dual SIM holders which already accept micro SIMs. These require you to cut the plastic of your existing SIM to make it a micro.

  16. Ebaneezer Wanktrollop
    Thumb Up

    Make an adapter then!

    You know, like an SD sized adapter that MicroSD cards fit into - just with SIM cards? So you can swap it from your phone to your iPad and back with ease.

    Royalties to me please.

  17. Lars Silver badge

    Use a gigsaw

    and you can fit it all together again.

  18. macdan82

    could it be a glimpse of the future?

    Maybe - just maybe - this will be the size format of the SIM required for the next generation of iPhone - setting a president with this device enables providers to get stocks in and then a smaller sim could equal a smaller 4th Gen iPhone or, its to make more room for - i dont know, say, a longer life battery?

    1. Capt John Yossarian


      "setting a president with this device enables.."

      Nose bubble moment...

  19. Andy Nugent

    re: Makes sense

    "No phone features, so what's the use in a name/number pair? name/e-mail with optional number on the other hand DOES make sense on the iPad."


    "In fact, both of these capabilities are part of the USIM application, which can be installed on a SIM of any size or shape as part of the 3G standard."


    Did you even read the article before commenting?

  20. dave 93

    There are SIM adaptors available

    ...that let you use micro SIM cards in normal and mini SIM devices, and they are cheap bits of plastic usually as part of a dual SIM solution. Sounds like a 3rd party opportunity rather than a real 'problem'.

    Still, it would be remiss to pass on a chance to whinge about Apple's new creation ;-)

  21. kedwards

    But was it Apple's decision?

    One possibility is that the choice of a micro-SIM wasn't Apple's decision as such, but a condition imposed by AT&T - who will be offering cheap unlimited data plans for iPad users.

    Presumably Apple's reluctance to allow tethering and VoIP applications is driven by the need not to annoy the network operators ...

  22. Neil Kay
    Thumb Up

    And coming...

    In 1.2.3 "Micro-to-mini SIM adaptors on eBay..."

  23. Michael C

    Way to go Apple.

    "Apple has been saying the Micro SIM will also support a more-comprehensive phone book as well as greater security."

    In other words, the tech is there and compatible with the SIM today, but NO ONE uses it, so Apple, in their ability to F* with the market as they do, are essentially mandating support for these better security standards and better phone book model and enforcing operators to move to more secure and more user customizable systems if they want to make millions hocking Apple's to-die-for products.


    1. TeeCee Gold badge

      Yeah, I thought that looked suspicious.

      All that extra functionality just from cutting the plastic edges off? Thanks for the explanation, the world got rather surreal there for a moment and I was wondering which things that I own would benefit from having a fews bits filed off.

      The answer's got to be, as others have suggested, to prevent data plan "sharing" between devices. I can't think of any other reason why a larger device would need a smaller SIM apart from sheer bloody-mindedness on the part of its makers.

    2. Rob Crawford

      Still not managed to actually read the article?


      Just because the feature is there doesn't mean it's used, whats so hard about that?

      Using the features is not mandatory

      FFS learn to read th whole thing

  24. Jason Bloomberg Silver badge
    Paris Hilton

    Re-using a micro-SIM in a phone

    Easy. Well, easyish.

    Take a look at the illustration in the article. Many PAYG SIMs come as a 'credit card' and you snap the SIM out. Take that 'credit card' and cut a normal SIM sized piece out of it. Cut a hole the size of a micro-SIM in that.

    Tada! A convenient micro to normal size wrapper / adapter. It's even easier if cutting a standard SIM down to size - the bit cut off is the wrapper / adapter. Not something you want to use if regularly swapping from one thing to another but it works.

    Paris : Who knows about filling holes.

  25. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward


    "But no... once you cut down your SIM to fit the iPad you won't be able to get it back in your phone."

    Yes you will- just need a plastic bit the size of the larger SIM with a mini-SIM-sized hole in it. Same principle as the plastic bit to play mini CDs in a normal CD player. Simples.

  26. Version 1.0 Silver badge

    You're not Apple engineers are you?

    There are lot's of reasons for this sort of thing ...

    "I had one on my desk when we mocked it up"

    "I designed for the larger SIM but needed some extra space"

    "We did the drawings in imperial units but the fab house used metric"

    "I lost the spec sheet for the other ones but had a spec sheet for this one"

    "Steve told me to do it"

    "We had samples of both types but lost the larger ones - oh wait, there they are"

    etc etc - trust me on this, I've seen them all over the years.

  27. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Paves the way for micro SIM in next iPhone

    To prevent people from swapping in SIMs with unlimited data plans? Seems like a very unlikely explanation to me - if a full-size SIM can be cut down to a micro SIM, then presumably some enterprising company will quickly make a little 'bracket' that will hold a micro SIM and make it fit a full-size SIM socket again.

    I think it's because Apple wants to use a micro SIM in the next iPhone, where the extra space made available will be a real advantage. Putting a micro SIM slot in the iPad now ensures there's a ready supply on the market before they introduce the next iPhone.

  28. InITForTheMoney

    Apple has a history of adopting tech...

    People said the same thing when Apple introduced USB (developed by intel) on the original iMac's, which were PPC machines. Apple adopt things because they are a good idea, before the iMac used USB and demanded that all peripherals use USB connections there were no USB peripherals. As soon as the iMac was launched with the only method of giving it additional functionality being USB, there was suddenly a flood of peripherals. About 6 months later the PC world suddenly decided it might be good to actually use these things and build some kind of driver in windows to support these plug and play devices. The same thing happened with Firewire (IEEE1394), which was actually a Sony technology to start with (they branded it i.Link), Macs originally used firewire for storage and DV Camera connections, on PC's you had to buy a card to get the connectivity.

    Apple as a technology company likes things to be neat and elegant, if they can make something smaller they will, expect the next iPhone to also use the MicroSIM, as it will provide more space for the battery or other components in that form factor.

    1. Anonymous Coward

      Firewire was from Apple...

      Apple started working on the basic technology in 1986 (yes - 1986). However, both Sony and Texas Instruments contributed to the final standard.

  29. Renato
    Jobs Horns

    Oh mighty Apple, why MicroSIM?

    That's easy to answer: one can unlock a mobile phone using a TurboSIM card, which is the size of a MiniSIM card. And there's no TurboSIM for MicroSIMs as far as I know.

    So baseband processor is locked tighter, no TurboSIM exists for MicroSIMs and there's a win for the operator.

    1. TeeCee Gold badge

      Good idea!

      But I'm sure I recall reading elsewhere that the i<pending legal action> is sold unlocked anyway?

  30. the spectacularly refined chap

    Adapters are hardly rocket science

    We were playing around with these at work a couple of months ago. It took us literally seconds to figure out that a SIM card sized frame made of solid core equipment wire was all you need to hold the SIM in the right place on a normal phone.

  31. sleepy


    What's wrong with tethering your iPad to your phone (maybe even to your iPhone). If you're out of range of WiFi, you're out, so you must have your phone with you anyway. Don't need a 3G iPad.

  32. JB

    Different standard.... that bloody annoying little blob of plastic on Apple USB connectors tat stops you using it on everything else. I suppose if you're rich enough to afford this rubbish, you're rich enough to buy bespoke USB leads and tiddly SIM cards. I dunno.

  33. retroneo
    Thumb Up

    iPhone 2010 will have this too

    The SIM card slot is by far the biggest component on the logic board all iPhones.

    It's MASSIVE. Here's a pic:

    Expect the iPhone 2010 to have a micro-SIM slot too.

  34. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    It's becoming the new standard

    just like Bluetooth is going 3.0, just like miniUSB is becoming microUSB, just like miniSD card is reduced to microSD cards, microSIM is becoming the new standard.

    Think about it: the SIM card has not changed over... a decade or so! And as handset vendor are struggling to make their ware thinner and smaller, SIM card size is becoming an issue.

    It looks like Apple is taking the lead and will push for the transition... expect plenty of phone, notebooks, smartbooks, tablets... to come with micro SIM in the near future.

    1. RegisterThis

      sounds like grasping at reasons ...

      What ... hasn't changed in a decade so it needs to? Apple need to save space in a device 4 times the size of the iPhone so they need a smaller SIM? Really ... grasping at straws!. I'd go with lock-in and 'becasue they can' ... and also once the operators have splashed out on something that is probably more expensive per unit, they become tied to Apple's fate i.e. forces them to invest to sell the device.

  35. ShaggyDoggy


    Another reason, were one needed, not to buy an iPad

  36. Anonymous Coward


    The reason is more likely to be something quite prosaic. I design Printed Circuit Boards and assemblies for a living. In my view the small SIM card holder may well have been a cheaper part, and take up less space on the PCB. So for the hardware engineer a win win situation. For the end consumer a slightly cheaper product and a minor inconvenience.

  37. Sean Timarco Baggaley
    Thumb Down

    Because it's smaller.

    And it comes *as standard* with improved features over mini-SIM.

    The iPad may be a very chunky iPod Touch / iPhone (depending on which model you buy), but it's still got a lot of stuff inside the case. Given the battery life it's boasting with its 9.7" screen, it's probably fair to assume Apple's engineers felt squeezing as much room for the battery as possible into the design was more important than whether the bloody SIM card was the same size as the one in a Nokia 97 Mini.

    MicroSIM is the smallest size currently available. It supports additional address book features, better security and a few other API enhancements *out of the box*. Apple have a track record of popularising new interfaces and technologies. They did it with USB, with Firewire, with multitouch... and they were (in)famously the first computer manufacturer to drop the 3.5" floppy drive.

    Why is this even news?

    1. Annihilator

      Apple popularises USB??

      Well, in a way I guess they did. Apple started charging extorionate licence fees for Firewire which PC manufacturers (and Intel) didn't have the appetite for, which brought USB into play. Intel provided them royalty-free (still do), which ultimately saw Firewire being dropped by Apple very very gradually.

      I've got no doubt the iPodPadTouch would still support charging and syncing over Firewire if it weren't for that faux-pas. But please don't think that just because a connector exists on an Apple product, that they "popularised" it.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Apple did popularise USB

        Apple popularised USB by being the first PC manufacturer to fit USB sockets and nothing else on the first iMac. Without a row of legacy sockets along the back peripheral manufacturers had to create USB mice and printers if they wanted to work with them, until then they didn't bother as every PC had serial and parallel sockets on them. It was also the first computer to drop the floppy drive, thus leading to the first USB external floppy drives so we could copy anything onto them.

        As for the Firewire licence fee, I suppose it depends on whether you consider 25 cents per appliance extortionate. I'm not so sure that extra 25 cents is why a firewire external hard drive costs considerably more than a USB one though.

    2. Rasczak

      Another who cannot read


      MicroSIM is the smallest size currently available.




      It supports additional address book features, better security and a few other API enhancements *out of the box*.


      Wrong. The article explicitly states that these are part of the USIM standard that is not restricted to microSIM.


      Apple has been saying the Micro SIM will also support a more-comprehensive phone book as well as greater security. In fact, both of these capabilities are part of the USIM application, which can be installed on a SIM of any size or shape as part of the 3G standard.


      1. Sean Timarco Baggaley

        Which part of...

        ..."out of the box" did you not understand?

        Yes, mini-SIMs *can* support the added features, but this isn't a *requirement* for them.

        MicroSIM cards, on the other hand, *are* required to have these features included *as standard*. It's part of their specification. Along with the added security stuff—which, given all the criticism Apple gets whenever a bug is found in their software, is probably reason enough for going with it.

        That the new features are implemented entirely in software is utterly f*cking irrelevant: the point is that they are *required* if you're using a micro-SIM for it to be considered compatible with the specs.

        Seriously, check out and get your data from a primary, rather than a secondary (or maybe even tertiary) source. Journalists are fallible human beings too, y'know.

        1. Rasczak

          Out of the box ?

          So if the USIM standard is required of microSIM, but is only optional on miniSIM, and this is stated on the site, why does the term microSIM not return any results on that site's general or standards searches ?

          Now I may just not be putting in the right search term to get the info, but if you want to claim this is a requirement, provide a direct link on the info site to show this is the case.

          And even if USIM standards are only optional for miniSIM then it still doesn't mean a microSIM is required for a device to require USIM, it just needs to reject any SIM that isn't USIM compatible. As USIM is needed for 3G, the miniSIMs used for 3G will be USIM compatible, microSIM therefore is not essential.

        2. Snert Lee

          function and form

          The seems to prefer a space between the mini or micro and sim.

          Is the U in USIM supposed to stand for micro, a la greek lettering conventions?

          Aside from that, it appears that features are not a function of form factor.

          The three different sizes seem to mean nothing more than how much plastic is wrapped around the working bits and contacts.

    3. Daniel B.

      You didn't read the article?

      "MicroSIM is the smallest size currently available. It supports additional address book features, better security and a few other API enhancements *out of the box*"

      So, you didn't read the part about the "new features" being available on USIM chips, micro or not? IIRC, the only difference between "mini" and "micro" is the excess plastic surrounding the actual chip, hence the ability to "hack" a normal USIM card into a "microSIM" slot. You're just cutting the useless plastic.

      "Apple have a track record of popularising new interfaces and technologies. They did it with USB, with Firewire, with multitouch... and they were (in)famously the first computer manufacturer to drop the 3.5" floppy drive."

      ... and they were also the first ones in using SCSI as a HDD standard, first to jump into RISC/PowerPC, first in using 3.5" floppies instead of the 5.25" with the Macintosh ... all of these improvements were lost in favor of cheap crap by switching to IDE and x86.

      I doubt USB was made popular by Mac, Firewire was better but it didn't quite take off, and dropping the 3.5" floppy *when they did it* was kind of stupid, as pendrives weren't that popular back then.

  38. Apocalypse Later

    Another reason not to buy

    I didn't need one, but added to the pile.

  39. Andy Davies

    @Giles Jones

    yes - I was looking at dual-sim adapters* a couple of days ago - most of them also come with two adapters so you can use your cut-down sims in normal phones.

    *Didn't get one tho' - a dual sim phone (with both full size sims active) was about the same price as the adapter (Chinese natch!)

    AndyD 8-)#

  40. George 24

    The question is...

    Why would anyone buy an iPad?????

  41. Anonymous Coward

    Re: TurboSIM

    You can use a hole-puncher-style device to reduce the SIM size even further (by cutting bits of the contacts on the sim); making TurboSIM for microSIM is perfectly feasible.

    But that convinces me as the reason behind the choice :).

  42. Alan Edwards

    Anyone tried it?

    Has anyone tried using a cut-down mini-SIM in the micro-SIM slot in an iPad? I wouldn't put it past Apple to put something in there to detect that and disable the 3G.

    Like the reverse of what Three did to stop their SIMs being used in 2G phones - they put an application on the SIM that detects the lack of a 3G radio and turns the SIM off. The iPad could detect the lack of (something) on the SIM and disable cellular data.


    1. Daniel B.

      The difference is just a bunch of plastic.

      If you have a miniSIM that conforms to the USIM standard, the only difference is the plastic around the SIM. It is the chip itself the one that would be detected by the iPad. :)

  43. Anonymous Coward

    Surfed to the IpAd website

    ...using a Netbook with a 3G dongle.


    The End

  44. Jerome 0

    iPhone SIM

    So now the biggest iPhone ever has a smaller SIM than it's little brother. It's a crazy world.

  45. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    "Quite why Apple decided to use the third form factor for the iPad's 3G module isn't clear"

    because they're bastards.

    Hope that clears things up for you.

  46. Jay Hawk
    Big Brother

    microSIM pleases network operators

    The reason is simple. It's smaller/different because at&t and others want to charge for each device you connect to the network. Why else would they frown so heavily on a Jesus phone tethering app. Apple can accommodate this by requiring a different SIM in the iPad and iPhone. I don't see most appletards using a sharp knife or a hole punch to alter their existing SIMs. That would defile the purity of the Jesus phone, now wouldn't it? No better to pay a separate fee to connect the Jesus netbook and Jesus phone simultaneously, even though that makes at&t's you can't surf and talk without two devices on Verizon ads moot. Oh well, I'll abandon this simple reason for the smaller SIM if apple incorporates microSIM into the very next Jesus phone release.

    It's all about the network revenue.

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