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Apple wins battle over nano-SIM standard

The new SIM card will be 40 percent smaller than the current smallest SIM card design

Apple has won a battle over the standard for a smaller SIM card, use of which would leave more room for other components in future phone designs.

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

The SIM standard -- which is officially known as the fourth form factor (4FF) -- will be 40 percent smaller than the current smallest SIM card design, at 12.3 millimeters by 8.8 mm by 0.67 mm, 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 said.

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

Ahead of Friday's meeting in Osaka, ETSI members had failed to agree on the standard at another meeting at the end of March. The failure to reach a conclusion then wasn't a surprise, as the lead-up to the vote had been contentious.

Both RIM and Nokia have tried their best to cast doubt on Apple's efforts. Nokia, for its part, accused Apple of misusing the standardization process and said that it wouldn't license essential patents related to Apple's proposal if that proposal won.

But that threat has now been withdrawn by Nokia.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, it is now prepared to license any patents that are essential to implement the standard on FRAND terms, according to a statement.

However, Nokia is unsurprisingly not happy with the outcome.

The selected nano-SIM proposal is technically inferior and not suitable for a number of applications, and Nokia believes that the existing micro-SIM (3FF) will continue to be a preferred option for many manufacturers and devices, it said.

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.

Send news tips and comments to mikael_ricknas@idg.com


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