Standards Body Approves Tinier SIM Card Form Factor, Probably Means Nothing

In technology, stuff gets smaller. Mobile phones are no exception--just look at the evolution from the Zach Morris brick to Will Ferrell’s tiny cell phone--but today, mobile phone technology took another tiny step forward with the approval of a new, smaller form factor SIM card.

French standards body ETSI approved the fourth form factor (4FF) SIM card, which is 40% smaller than the SIM card currently in your phone, measuring just 12.3 x 8.8mm, with a thickness of 0.62mm. The new form factor will be backwards compatible with older SIM cards with a little creative packaging, and the functionality won’t actually change.

Image credit: The Verge

In a press release, the company stated: “Today's SIM card designs take up a significant amount of space inside a mobile device. This space is more and more valuable in today's handsets which deliver an ever increasing number of features.”

Granted, real estate is at a premium inside of mobile devices, but it’s hard to imagine that a few millimeters here or there will make much of a difference. Further, assuming that a smaller SIM card will translate to smaller phones is questionable. For one thing, the SIM card doesn’t dictate a phone’s size so much as, say, the screen does; for another, who wants a smaller cell phone these days? As you may have noticed, today’s smartphones are getting larger, if anything, to allow for a better user experience with a big, bright screen.

Perhaps the extra space afforded by the smaller SIM card will make it possible for handset makers to pack it some extra technology. In any case, as the Verge pointed out, the new form factor is precisely what Apple proposed, as opposed to the form factors put forth by RIM and Nokia. If indeed space was the primary concern, it’s a little odd that Apple’s 12.3mm x 8.8mm design was the choice over RIM’s (11mm x 9mm) or Nokia’s (10mm x 8mm).