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New nano-SIM card will result in thinner smartphones

The new form factor is 60 percent smaller than existing SIM cards

A new, smaller SIM card, dubbed nano-SIM, will free up room for additional memory and larger batteries, helping phone vendors create thinner devices, German company Giesecke & Devrient said on Friday.

Measuring approximately 12 millimeters by 9 millimeters, the nano-SIM is about 30 percent smaller than the micro-SIM. The thickness of the cards has been reduced by about 15 percent, according to Giesecke & Devrient. The new nano-SIM is approximately 60 percent smaller than traditional-size SIM cards, which are still used by a majority of phones, the company said.

Giesecke & Devrient expects to first phones to use the nano-SIM will arrive as soon as next year, it said. Using adapters, the card format will be backward-compatible.

The company has shipped initial samples to mobile network operators for testing. The standardization of the nano-SIM is expected to be implemented through ETSI (European Telecommunications Standards Institute) by the end of the year.

Apple, which already uses the micro-SIM, has been involved in developing the new form factor. In May, the company filed a proposal for a smaller card. There are so many different things that go into today's smartphones, so anything that can be done to save space is a good thing, Carolina Milanesi, research vice president at Gartner, said at the time.

Last week, Apple's future plans for the SIM also made the news when a patent application for a virtual card surfaced. A SIM card slot in user devices tends to make devices bulky and add cost, and users may also want to buy wireless services when they can't easily obtain a physical SIM card, according to the application.

It is just a matter of time before virtual SIMs take over, according to Malik Saadi , principal analyst at Informa Telecoms & Media. For operators, it will be a mixed blessing. They will lose some of the control physical SIM card affords them, but at the same time new opportunities in, for example, the machine-to-machine sector will come, he said.

In the meantime, Giesecke & Devrient will be showcasing the new form factor at the Cartes & Identification 2011 trade show, which takes place Tuesday to Thursday in Paris.

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