Apple imposing Nano SIM standard on Motorola, RIM and Nokia

When Apple was designing the iPhone 4, the company had adopted the smaller Micro SIM format for space constraints. Smaller in size compared to the standard Mini SIMs, Micro SIMs do the exact same job while using less space. But with mobile devices getting even slimmer these days, even Micro SIMs waste too much valuable space inside thin mobile gadgets.

Apple thinks smaller is better so last summer the company submitted a new requirement to the European Telecoms Standards Body for the use of even smaller SIM cards in mobile phones (AT&T followed suit). But the battle over the upcoming Nano SIM standard has put Apple once again on a collision course with its rivals in the smartphone space, namely the opposing group led by Android maker Google and joined by the ailing BlackBerry maker Research In Motion and Nokia of Finland, reports the Financial Times (subscription required)…

Roughly a third smaller than the Micro SIM utilized on the iPad/iPhone 4/4S, the new Nano SIM helps mobile devices shrink in size or implement additional functions. According to author Daniel Thomas, Apple is backed by most of the European carriers and both Apple and the opposing camp have tabled proposals to the European Telecommunications Standards Institute (ETSI).

All handset makers would be able to use the design chosen under licence but the Apple-led proposal has caused some concern among its rivals that the US group might eventually own the patents. The Sim is crucial to the design of future handsets, with one person with knowledge of the committee saying that the Apple-backed nano-Sim could require a “drawer” to protect it. “Phones would need to be re-engineered with this in mind,” the person said. Nokia said that its proposal had “significant technical advantages”.

Conveniently enough, Apple filed multiple membership applications in order to become the largest voting group among the ETSI members ahead of the groups decision on the Nano SIM proposal, due next week. According to the publication, ETSI has come under scrutiny following Apple’s move to significantly increase its voting power. With 92 votes, Nokia is the largest ETSI voting body.

Eagle-eyed readers will remember that Apple at one point wanted to drop the SIM card altogether and instead bake its functionality directly into device electronics. This would let customers easily switch carriers and purchase plans on the device, without having to pop in another SIM card.

Unfortunately, the idea didn’t sit well with carriers over fear that Apple will own their customers. Carriers even threatened to cut or drop iPhone subsidies. As a result, the Cupertino, California-based consumer electronics powerhouse eventually relented.