iPad Uses Micro-SIM for 3G. What is it and Will the 4th Gen iPhone Get It?


The 3G version of the iPad is unlocked, so if your carrier supports micro-SIM, it should "just work". Wait... what? Steve Jobs dropped the micro-SIM comment so matter-of-factly during the iPad introduction that it took us a moment to process -- Micro-SIM, aka 3FF or 3rd generation SIM card. Yeah, don't have one of those, and neither does any iPhone. Awkward...!

PCMag's Sacha Seagan fills us in:

3FF SIMs were developed by the European Telecommunications Standards Institute to fit into devices too small for a regular SIM. Where a regular SIM measures 15 millimeters x 25 mm, a 3FF SIM card measures 12mm x 15mm.

Today's "regular" or mini-SIM is the 2FF, much smaller than the credit card-sized SIM that was generation one, and the 3FF is teensy-tinier still. Sure, no one in North America uses them yet, but T-Mobile is getting them, AT&T is obviously getting them since they're supporting the iPad with data plans, and we're guessing over the next 3-6 months, more carriers will get on board too. (Engadget is saying the pipeline is set for Orange and O2).

And the reason why Apple went with the Micro-SIM in the iPad? Could be they needed to save space in a device already twice the size of an iPhone. Could be it's just Apple being kill-the-floppy-drop-firewire-Apple. If that's the case, it's quite possible the 4th gen iPhone will get it next, and then what would Apple do with all that extra space?

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Rene Ritchie

EiC of iMore, EP of Mobile Nations, Apple analyst, co-host of Debug, Iterate, Vector, Review, and MacBreak Weekly podcasts. Cook, grappler, photon wrangler. Follow him on Twitter and Google+.

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Reader comments

iPad Uses Micro-SIM for 3G. What is it and Will the 4th Gen iPhone Get It?


Looks to me like the micro sim is pin compatible with the normal sim.
Just a smaller card. So, scissors, nail file, done! ??

Can we just trim down our iPhone SIM cards to fit in the iPad? Then use some sort of adapter to put it back in the iPhone?

Probably this was chosen so your iPad sim won't fit in the iphone, not so much the other way around. Wouldn't want a quick way to get at that 14.99 data plan when you decide to use your iphone as a Touch.
I expect it will take a whole three months for someone to come up with an iphone sim carrier to fit it.

Oh wow, a whole centimeter smaller on something 1 or 2 millimeter's thick so save space, how impressive /sarcasm.
I agree with icebike, but does anyone actually use less the 250megs of data on their iPhone?

That 15 buck data plan is a joke. I would burn that amount of data in a day or two, and I don't do that much on my iPhone compared to some.

Nothing on Apple's website seems to indicate that it uses a micro-SIM. Maybe Steve just make a mistake? Are there any photos that show that it uses a micro-SIM?
Why would they make it incompatible with 99.9% of existing SIM card out there?

I don't see Steve making that big of mistake. I agree with icebike. The micro-SIM will not allow SIM switching which is what ATT would be concerned about.

My billing cycle is over and I used 486.21 MB. Some of my web browsing is done at home where I have wireless. But the majority of my browsing is done at work where there unfortunately is no wireless. For those that have wireless at home and work, they could probably get away with the $14.99 plan. Or no 3g at all. What about you?

Not sure I'm a big fan of this, NOBODY is using micro-SIM, except for the odd special enterprise situation.
Floppy drives were on there way out, Apple just pushed it along. SIM cards is a somewhat different matter.
It's a 'no cotract' lock in, that's all I can come up with!

I used over 7,500 MB this month...... ( ya, you read that # right ) .... I get my $$ outta ATT on my unlimited data plan... I download a SHlT tone of movies.....

Dan-O, has AT&T given you any grief about all that data? I keep hearing that the iPhone's "unlimited" data is really 5GB/month.
I've been using 2000-2500MB/month since getting rid of my home Internet. When I had wifi at home and work, It took over a year to get that much.

Since we have wifi at work, and all of the company has wifi at home, our little 4 iPhone company just barely broke 250meg last month.

Why would Apple care if you move the SIM card from your phone to the iPad? AT&T aren't subsidising the device (unlike the iPhone) and should have had NO say in its design.
This will be a pain for mobile operators around the world who will have to introduce a micro-SIM just to support the iPad.

If you use this primarily for web/email/games/using media loaded from iTunes, 250MB should be plenty. If you download movies or download/stream music to the iPad on a regular basis, it won't be.
I can see myself doing just fine with 250MB, especially considering most of my use would be at home where I have wifi. In fact, other than road trips, I could probably get by with the wifi-only model. I think the two contract-free data plans are a great idea.

iPad is a data only device. Who knows what happens when a phone call shows up on that device.
Micro Sim actual contacts are exactly the same size and location as the regular sims. I'm betting the sim burners all handle these already.

There are a lot of regular SIM cards in data only devices (such as 3G modems). If you try to call a SIM in a data-only device, you won't be able to get through. Pretty simple.
Why would Apple care if you switched from AT&T? There is nothing stopping T-Mobile from introducing a micro-SIM for the iPad (assuming consumers are willing to live with EDGE).

How do you know what happens when you put a voice+Data sim into a Data Only device? Been there? Tried that?
Sure you can't call a data only device, it has no phone number. But pop a voice sim in and it does.
In any event, it seems rather presumptuous of Apple to usurp an industry standard sim format (albeit one not commonly used) for their temporary convenience.

The real reason why they switch over to the smaller SIM is so you'll have to pay for service instead of just popping in your iPhone SIM card and be able to get 3G it. Apple is damn smart making another deal with ATT $$.

I was planning on getting the WiFi only version when it's out over here in the UK. Then couple it with one of these. O2's 3G coverage sucks where I am. This means I can share my PAYG data bundle from another provider (Three mobile) with my O2 locked iPhone.http://threestore.three.co.uk/broadband/?mifi=1
You got any similar options in the ooh-ess-aay?

Haha, no verizon afterall!
It's obvious Apple was going with AT&T. Watch the 2007 macworld keynote, part 11.

The smaller SIM Cards make sense for smaller form factors, etc. But this also seems to prevent iPhone users from popping their SIM in the iPad to use the data temporarily. There should be tethering from iPhone to iPad at no extra charge!

I've definitely tried that! I've been using GSM data-only devices since my first 16-bit PCMCIA GPRS (no EDGE) card almost a decade ago. My first GSM phone was the Nokia 5110 brick.
I'm pretty sure all active GSM/UMTS SIM cards have a number associated with it. All the SIM cards I've purchased with data-only devices have had numbers (from multiple carriers in Australia and the UK).
The software that comes with most 3GSM data cards also allow you to send and receive SMSs from your computer (if your carrier allows it).
If AT&T did make a deal with Apple, how would it work? Is Apple paying AT&T or the other way round?
@Nath: Look up the Sprint and/or Verizon MiFi

Just tether your Iphone...Oh, Iphones don't support tethering, right? We'll just tether your Android phone to the Ipad wifi version to save money. 3G is 3G doesn't make sense to pay for two connections from the same provider.

If i wanted to use the micro sim in my iphone and use Skype and jailbreak it my att bill would be $30.00. someone will have to make a new sim tray

A week ago bought micro sim adapter from www.gomicrosim.com. Costs only 4.5 EUR. Really worth it. Now use my simcard in both Ipad and Iphone. Should save me 1440$ since there is no need to sign for the 2 year AT&T plan. Highly recommend this seller, his price and delivery options are the best so far.

I have searched the web and have found that no all microSIM adapters are the same. Only one shop www.microsim2sim.com offers the lowest price adapter with a special adhesive layer that keeps the sim card well in place. They also offer a cliche sticker that comes along with the adapter. Thats the best deal on the market right now.

Thanks for the hint Steven, but i have discovered this www.microsim2sim.com shop about a week ago and just got my microSIM adapter delivered today. The microSIM does really stay in place at any angle which makes it almost like a normal SIM card. Great deal, by far the best on the market.

Guys, from now on there is no need to sign up for two Ipad microsim plans! A week ago I bought the micro sim adapter from www.gomicrosim.com, and now I can use one micro sim card for all apple stuff and other mobile phones. Costs only 4.5 EUR. Really worth it. Should save me 1440$, since now i have no need to sign for another 2 years plan with AT&T. Highly recommend this seller, his price and delivery options are the best so far.

I have got my microsim adapter from http://microsim2sim.com . As far as i know, they are the only ones that offer microsim adapters as well as a microsim cutter sticker. They currently have the best offer and a free shipping. The sticker is extremelly useful since i have preordered a new iPhone 4 and i would be able to use the sim card from my old phone.

I found these great guys - www.ihandystore.com
They are the only one seller of micro sim adapters in UK and I just get mine. I must say I didn't thought it would be so cool, it's just what I was needed, it does the trick and I think I saved a lot of money with that thing. They also offer these cool looking skins called iDecal case, I think I'm gona try it out, it should give my iPhone 4 a great individual look.
Be sure to check them out these guys can be trusted.

Great reviews. I have seen the Pro Case for iPad reviewed here on YouTube (sells in the UK for $36). It goes by the name of SUPREME PRO iPAD BLACK LEATHER STAND CASE POUCH HOLDER on eBay. It has more viewing angles and looks really solid. Maybe you can check this one out and make a comparison for us versus the Marware and Yoobao cases.

Thanks for posting the videos on how to replace an iPhone screen. Have just ordered up a new screen so am about to try it out on my first phone.

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