There are various patterns in which mobile phones are being categorized. One of these classifies phones into two types: GSM (Global System for Mobile) and CDMA (Code Division Multiple Access).
GSM phones require SIM cards to function, while CDMA phones work without SIM cards.
SIM cards refer to the small or tiny cards which have chips embedded in them that you need to insert somewhere inside your GSM phones before it works.
In comparison, CDMA phones are tracked by their ESN (electronic serial number), which enables carriers that issued them to the consumer to connect with the phones.
They have a list of all phones that can use their network. Once a CDMA phone is activated, it’s tied to that particular carrier’s network.
A subscriber identification module (SIM) is a smart card that stores data and critical information on your phone.
Simcards give your mobile phone the superpowers it needs to carry out its tasks like messaging, calling another cell phone, and most times, accessing the internet won’t be possible without the help of the SIM card.
While it’s true that all mobile phones require a SIM card to function, SIM cards don’t need to be of uniform size.
Evolution of Simcards
The first generation of sim cards was the size of a credit card, and the form they exist today shows how much SIM cards have evolved as an essential mobile phone component alongside mobile phones.
Over the years, mobile phone technology has evolved tremendously; sim cards of different sizes have also been churned out. The primary model of Simcards was recognized as the Standard cards, following a more compact model called mini-cards.
The Standard-cards came the Micro-cards and then the most recent model, the Nano cards.
The different versions of Simcards available today have been condensed into three simple models, the standard sims, the micro sim cards, and the nano sim cards.
What’s A Standard Sim card
The original full-size SIM that was the size of an ATM card was perfectly fine for the early GSMs that existed during its time. Still, as mobile phone technology improved and the phones themselves started to shrink in size, followed by other components inside it, SIM became too large.
The first solution that existed was the thumbnail-sized Standard SIM. A standard SIM card, forgetting the name standard, is not the most common Simcard. Although, it was the most common when it was launched – Hence the name Standard.
Nevertheless, after the launch of the standard SIM, they were provided as part of the full-size SIMs for compatibility with older mobile phones that still uses the older card-sized SIMs. But as time went by, the standard sim cards became the full-size cards where the subsequent models were cut out.
In the early days, all the phones used the standard sim, including big-name phones like the iPhone 3GS. The standard sim is rarely used now, but you can still find it in some feature phones and basic phones. Smartphones produced in the last seven years will certainly not come with it.
What’s A Micro SIM card
The standard SIM was the only option available for many years until mobile phones started reducing in size again, getting smaller and thinner, space became an issue, and there was a need for components inside phones to become smaller.
The answer was the Micro-SIM, which was created in 2003, but most mobile phone manufacturers kept mute on it for years only to fully adopt the model in 2010.
The Micro-SIM was only one step down in size compared with the Standard-SIM, and the missing size was all useless plastic. The dimension of the Micro-SIM is 12 x 15mm.
What’s A Nano SIM card
The change was inevitable as a few years later after Micro-SIMs became mainstream, Nano-SIMs entered the picture, which made away will all redundant plastic.
Nano-SIM cards were introduced in 2012 with a dimension of 8.8 x 12.3mm, and it was essentially just the tiny chip remaining on the original SIM card.
These SIM cards are borderless; meaning, the plastic around the chip is so tiny, almost non-existing.
These days, Nano-SIM cards are the most widely used. If you are using a smartphone produced sometime around the last 3-4 years, you are probably using a Nano sim card.
Difference between nano Sim and Micro Sim
The only difference between a Micro-SIM and the Nano sim can only be found in their form factors.
- Micro SIM cards have a third form factor at a length and width of 15mm and 12mm, respectively, while Nano-SIM cards have a fourth form factor at a length of 12.33mm, a width of 8.8mm, and thickness of 0.67mm.
- A Micro-SIM card can easily be trimmed or cut out from a Standard SIM card and can be easily converted to a Nano-SIM card. Nano SIM cards can be easily trimmed from Micro-SIM cards as this creates a lot of space in the latest smartphones, but Nano-SIM cards on their own cannot be inserted into a phone that’s its SIM port was built for a Micro-SIM card unless the help of SIM adaptors is employed.
- The difference between a Micro-SIM and Nano-SIM cards can also be seen in the fact that Micro-SIMs have the third-generation cellular chips, which are a more compact version of the standard SIM cards.
Whereas Nano-SIM Cards are the fourth generation, which is smaller than a Micro-SIM, small enough to keep the gold portion, and have merely enough area of insulation around it to avert short-circuits.
SIM cards were condensed because the discarded portions occupy useful space on mobile phones unnecessarily. This extra space can be used up to extend the size of the phone’s battery or expand other components that the increment of their functionality depends on their size.
However, the difference between these SIM card models is just confined to their size. A standard SIM that’s 4G enabled and has the same storage space will function the same way a Nano-SIM of similar specification will function.
In conclusion, the functionality of SIM cards has nothing to do with size or form factors.
Converting Micro Sim to Nano Sim
These days, SIM cards come in one size fits all, such that the Nano-SIM can be taken out from the Micro-SIM, which can also be removed from the Standard SIM.
When a SIM card is not bundled that way, there are specialized tools to convert your Standard SIM to any form factor you want.
After the Nano Sim Gen, What Else should we expect?
It looks like mobile phone technology is unlikely to get a smaller SIM card in the future. But, for a form factor smaller than the Nano SIM Card to show up, there’s the need to redesign the SIM chip itself.
On second thought, maybe the world will see the pronounced adoption of eSIMs. These are digital SIM embedded inside phones, which will enable mobile phone users to activate a cellular plan from their carrier of choice without having to use a physical nano-SIM.
Smartphone manufacturers are already adopting the eSIM technology, but like the Micro-SIM, the statistics show its general adoption is on a slow rise.
Currently, it’s mainly in Apple and Google phones, such as the Google Pixel 4, Pixel 4 XL, Pixel 3, Pixel 3a and Pixel 3a XL, Apple iPhone 11 Pro, iPhone 11 Pro Max, iPhone 11, iPhone SE (2020), iPhone XS, iPhone XS Max, iPhone XR.
The eSIM is used as a second SIM to enable dual SIM capability on these smartphones; they all have a normal SIM card slot.