Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Mini-SIMs, Micro-SIMs and Apple SIMs?

Another glance behind the scenes at things that will probably affect a large number of people, but that they will probably never have heard of. In this instance SIM cards those network-provided bits of cardboard to use in mobile phones.

At first we had the mini-SIM cards, but as developers wanted to produce smaller hardware in came the micro-SIM cards; and now being pushed by Apple is the nano-SIM. Well so what - it was Apple's push that led to the main usage of micro-SIMs isn't this just more of the same?

Not quite. The outrage from the non-Apple producers seems to be based on two main points. The first is that as part of the standard the new nano-SIM requires a "drawer" to protect it; much like the "drawer" in the iPhone and iPad's or to put it a little more clearly - much like in the Apple patented iPhone and the Apple patented iPad. Now sure if this becomes a standard a particular "drawer" mechanism can't be patented, but with all the legal tussling going on at the moment I think it's possible to forgive the other producers for looking askance at a new standard that appears to be incorporating patents that a competitor owns.

The second point of contention is against the methods being used by Apple to pass this through the standards body. Votes are ascribed to subsidiaries; Apple are apparently looking to register six European subsidiaries making them the body's largest voting block. Nokia (currently the largest vote holder) asks "whether it is right that one group of companies can obtain a high amount of votes by filing multiple membership applications".

From a consumer point of view why should we care? Consider the absolute worst case scenario - Apple use their leverage to push forward this standard. Telecom providers don't want to have to make multiple different SIM types and start shifting production to making nano-SIMs. Apple already produce goods that allow the use of these SIMs and other producers start making goods to do the same... at which point Apple takes them all to court for violating their patents and prevents the sale of their goods within Europe.

[Update - Oh look Apple has patented a particular type of nano-SIM drawer]