One of the largest benefits of using GSM technology over, say, CDMA, has always been the portability of devices, or the hassle-free method of swapping devices around. If you have two different phones for AT&T, simply removing the SIM from one phone and popping it in another would switch service between the phones.
To swap phones on Verizon's CDMA network before they instituted a web client, you would either have to call customer service from a phone other than the two you wanted to swap or dial the reprovisioning line, the infamous *228, and hope it would let you access the third menu option. Now that Verizon is utilizing LTE, which is SIM-based, users can simply swap SIM cards between LTE-capable devices to transfer service. Switching from an LTE phone to a basic CDMA device, however, will burn your LTE SIM card and require you to use the web client. To switch from a 3G CDMA phone to an LTE device, you will need to purchase a SIM card first and use the web client to transfer service to the new device.
In other words, swapping phones on GSM is (or was) about as plain and simple as it could possibly get. Then the iPad happened. With the iPhone 4, AT&T (who still had iPhone exclusivity at the time) and Apple introduced what was then the newest SIM technology in the US, micro SIM. As you can see above, all a micro SIM does is cut away the unnecessary plastic surrounding the contact chip in the SIM card, effectively making the micro SIM much more compact and space efficient.
Don't get me wrong, there is nothing wrong with micro SIM technology. In fact, they're a good thing. They help cut down on wasted space, which is particularly important since manufacturers have started squeezing parts into every possible square millimeter. The DROID RAZR, as an example, has very little space to spare on the inside, and a micro SIM simply made more sense.
The problem, though, is that only a handful of manufacturers have incorporated micro SIM cards in their devices. For instance, the DROID RAZR and DROID RAZR MAXX have micro SIM slots. The DROID BIONIC, released just two months prior to the DROID RAZR, takes a standard SIM card. The Samsung Stratosphere uses a micro SIM and the Galaxy Nexus takes a full-sized SIM. And all of this is just on one carrier.
What this means is that even switching between two carrier locked devices can become a bit of a chore. If you want to switch from a SIM to micro SIM device, you will have to either purchase a micro SIM and activate it or slice up your full-sized SIM, which can get tricky. One wrong cut and it's a useless piece of plastic. If you're going the other way, however, you can simply purchase a micro SIM to SIM adapter -- from what I've been told, the adapters are usually more trouble than they're worth.
Just this morning, the first LTE compatible micro SIM cards for AT&T were spotted by a tipster for Phone Arena. Of course, these could be for the upcoming Lumia 900 and purported iPhone 5. But how long will it take other OEMs who are making LTE devices to adopt micro SIM technology? It has already taken two years.
This isn't rocket science. And it's not like micro SIM technology was introduced last week. It's been around for quite a while now -- nearly two years in the US. However, a good deal of manufacturers continue to use old SIMs. As Eric Zeman of Phone Scoop says, with each manufacturer using whatever SIM technology they see fit, this "negates the usefulness of GSM."
It just doesn't make sense for an OEM to use a micro SIM in one phone and then turn around and use a full SIM in the next device (i.e.: Samsung Stratosphere and Galaxy Nexus). And it's inefficient for each different OEM and carrier to have a different preference. All major wireless providers need to put their foot down and mandate the use of micro SIM cards in all future devices. That, or they need to offer a more simplified way for users to switch between SIM and micro SIM devices without burning through SIM cards and using adapters.
What's worse is that nano SIM tech is on the horizon. Giesecke & Devrient introduced the world to the smallest SIM yet back in November, the nano SIM, which is 30 percent smaller than the micro SIM. Our luck would have it that carriers mandate the use of micro SIMs and some manufacturer wants to progress to the nano SIM. It's not clear whether nano SIM technology will ever catch on. But it wouldn't surprise me as every little inch on the inside of a device will be vital as phones become thinner, more lightweight and powerful.
What say you, ladies and gents? Should carriers force the transition to micro SIM technology already? Have they waited too long? Will nano SIMs negate micro SIM technology before it becomes a standard?
Image via Apple