Apple reportedly offers other handset makers a royalty-free license for nano-SIM

Apple is trying to take a little of the sting out of it's proposal for a nano-SIM standard by offering the rest of the industry a royalty-free license for the technology. Apple was among the first to ditch the popular mini-SIM found in the iPhone 3GS for the much smaller micro-SIM found in the iPad and iPhone 4/iPhone 4S, but with component space increasingly at a premium, the nano-SIM aims to make the total package even smaller still by essentially removing everything but the chip. While carriers seem to be on board, Motorola, RIM, Nokia and other vendors have pushed back, partly because they didn't want to be constrained by Apple's inclusion of a SIM card tray in the standard offering.

Now FOSS Patents' Florian Mueller brings word on Apple's latest attempts to win them over.

A perfectly reliable source that I can't disclose has shown me a letter dated March 19, 2012 that a senior Apple lawyer sent to [the European Telecommunications Standards Institute]. The letter addresses the primary concern of critics of the proposal. The FT said that "the Apple-led proposal has caused some concern among its rivals that the US group might eventually own the patents". But Apple's letter has removed this roadblock, if it ever was any, through an unequivocal commitment to grant royalty-free licenses to any Apple patents essential to nano-SIM, provided that Apple's proposal is adopted as a standard and that all other patent holders accept the same terms in accordance with the principle of reciprocity.

Mueller thinks that a) this shows how serious Apple is and how hard they'll be pushing the nano-SIM standard, and b) it will make it harder for other vendors to push back, especially the soon-to-be-Google-owned Motorola due to Google's vocal support for open standards.

iMore previously heard that Apple is also looking into reducing the size of the traditional 30-pin dock connector in iPhones, iPads, and iPods, to save on space inside. As power-hungry parts like Retina displays, LTE radios, and quad-core chipsets become more common, battery capacity needs to grow to support them, and every micro-militer that can be saved inside a device becomes incredibly important. This is especially true for Apple since they've shown no interest in simply making the iPhone larger the way other manufacturers have done with, for example, the Samsung Galaxy Nexus to the Nokia Lumia 900.

Carriers reportedly previously shot down an Apple initiative to completely replace the SIM card with a built-in, programmable alternative, since they didn't want to be eliminated from the customer relationship. If all the players agree, this could be the next best alternative.

Source: FOSS Patents

Rene Ritchie

Rene Ritchie is one of the most respected Apple analysts in the business, reaching a combined audience of over 40 million readers a month. His YouTube channel, Vector, has over 90 thousand subscribers and 14 million views and his podcasts, including Debug, have been downloaded over 20 million times. He also regularly co-hosts MacBreak Weekly for the TWiT network and co-hosted CES Live! and Talk Mobile. Based in Montreal, Rene is a former director of product marketing, web developer, and graphic designer. He's authored several books and appeared on numerous television and radio segments to discuss Apple and the technology industry. When not working, he likes to cook, grapple, and spend time with his friends and family.

  • Free to use or not, this sucks for companies who have to go back to the drawing board for upcoming devices and adapt to fit a new standard that at this point can't really be that beneficial. If it has a tray isn't it still going to take up almost as much space as microsims right now?
  • Why would they "have to"? The micro-SIM is already a standard and very few have chosen to support that.
  • Rene, my understanding of this issue was that Apple is trying to gain more power in voting for the ETSI so that this becomes something companies must adhere to. Maybe I misread it but that is what I got out of it.
    Its admirable to not charge for the use of this and all but it really boils down to..does it help the technology world progress? Based on reports, Nokia has a design that will not require a tray. Wouldn't that be better and open up more space in devices?
    Also I wouldn't call the microSIM a standard but maybe we're looking at the word "Standard" differently. To me, if nobody else is really supporting it I couldn't call it a standard.
  • Then why does apple want a standard they only design one phone ?
  • Because if they decide to have their own type of SIM that isn't compatible with other phones, it's illegal in Europe. I don't think Apple want to loose a huge market, where they sell a lot of phones unsubsidised.
  • Well, you need to remember that Apple sold more than 93 million iPhones last year. That's 93 million phone that include the iPhone 4 and 4S. In the smartphone market, they were only beat by Samsung, who had 94 million smartphones shipped last year, and though I don't have any data in front of me, those 94 million smartphones were likely made up of several, possibly dozen, of different phone designs, which may or may not use any combination of SIM or Micro SIM cards. Since Apple only makes one individual design per year, (which does include different models by color or memory storage) it makes sense for them to want to create a standard which wil immediately benefit them, but would also have the side effect of benefitting other companies as well. When you know that Apple is going to sell at very least 93 million phones this year, and likely more, and even more and more in the future, it seems logical that they would want technologies that would give them the best options for future phone designs.
  • premium, the nano-SIM aims to make the total package even smaller still by essentially removing everything but the chip.
    Apple's proposal does not, because it mandates a drawer/tray, which negates either most or all of the size advantages, depending on whom you believe -- that is most of the objection to their proposal.
  • Every iPhone has a tray. Even the iPhone 4S. So even though the nano-SIM would have a tray, it would still be smaller than the current tray for the micro sim, and would allow other components to be smaller as well. Seems logical enough to me.
  • Every iPhone has a tray, as do most HTC phones, for that matter. However, there are other phones in the world besides iPhones, and not all of them use trays.
    Even a smaller-than-current-tray design could be equal to or larger than the overall space allotted for the SIM in a non-phone design, and Apple's standard would require that change for those phones if they wanted to participate in the standard.
  • Whoops...should read
    "Even a smaller-than-current-tray design could be equal to or larger than the overall space allotted for the SIM in a non-tray phone design"
  • Built in alternative sound the best. What is the pitfalls with this setup another that customer relations.
  • If the SIM is permanently built-in, then the downside is that it cannot be removed or replaced, for example if you were to travel overseas with an unlocked iPhone, you wouldn't be able to swap to another SIM card at your destination country. Having a removable SIM card would increase the desirability and flexibility of the phone. So having this new SIM designed to be removable is definitely win-win for Apple.
  • Ok. I was thinking it would be able to be reprogrammed when needed.
  • Perhaps I missed it, but you forgot to mention that Apple offered to make this standard royalty-free IF all other companies did the same with their SIM card standards.
    Since Apple uses regular SIM cards in 3GSs this is a huge deal for them, so it is not so benign and clear cut as posted.
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