Apple offers nano-SIM design free of royalties, but there's a catch

By on March 26, 2012, 6:00 PM

The future of tiny SIM slots everywhere hangs in the balance as Apple, Motorola, RIM and Nokia continue deliberating over what the next nano-SIM standard will be. Not content with other offerings, Apple is now promising its own design will be royalty-free barring one tiny stipulation: everyone needs to adopt it as the de facto nano-SIM card standard.

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 ETSI. 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.

Source: fosspatents.com

Almost certainly, many industry players would like nothing more than a royalty-free standard. However, there are some reservations about Apple's designs.

For starters, according to Nokia, Apple's "nano-SIM" actually has the same width and length as a micro-SIM. Not only does this sound like a non-improvement, but Nokia claims it is concerned about users inserting micro-SIM cards into nano-SIM slots and getting them stuck. Another point of contention seems to be that Apple's design requires a tray mechanism. This adds to the bulk, complexity and cost of devices which would house a nano-SIM card. It's interesting to note that both the iPad and iPhone currently sport a tray design.

An ETSI (European Telecommunications Standards Institute) committee will be voting this Thursday on what they believe the next standard should be. Even if it is technically inferior, a royalty-free design may score big points with the panel.

Some may remember Apple's IEEE1394 (Firewire) standard. While technically superior to USB in both speed and features, Apple collected a handsome royalty ($1) for each Firewire device sold. Firewire's tepid adoption is often attributed to those royalty costs. USB on the other hand, despite its disadvantages, was essentially free to license and became ubiquitous seemingly overnight -- even for Macs. 

Although Apple did decide to stop collecting royalties around the turn of the century, USB 2.0 was already upon us. It was too late and the majority of the world seemingly forgot about Firewire. 

With that in mind, even if Apple's design isn't chosen, perhaps other companies will be pressured into offering their nano-SIM designs on the house.




User Comments: 12

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m4a4 m4a4 said:

If the whole point of coming up with a new standard is to shrink the card yet apple's design doesn't actually do that, I hope they lose. I say this because even without royalties, it has a complexity that would basically replace that fee that would get passed onto the consumer.

Yet again it seems that apple is doing something because they think their way is better, even though it's only easier for them.

psycros psycros said:

m4a4 said:

If the whole point of coming up with a new standard is to shrink the card yet apple's design doesn't actually do that, I hope they lose. I say this because even without royalties, it has a complexity that would basically replace that fee that would get passed onto the consumer.

Yet again it seems that apple is doing something because they think their way is better, even though it's only easier for them.

It may also be that by hindering the ability of competitors to make lighter and thinner devices than Apple, that takes away a potential threat. Their newest device is thicker <b>and</b> runs hotter than the previous version - that could be used against them.

Guest said:

i would suggest that the tray makes insertion/removal easy and removes the chance for error. Lots of people try to push them the wrong way wrecking the card and/or device slot area.

Guest said:

Everyone seems to be overlooking that Nokia or RIM designs may not have an "external" tray, but inside the phone there will be something to hold their nano-cards on the right place and this slot will be using the same or more space than a tray.

About backwards compatibility: The nanoSIM card to microSIM or SIM adapter can be made with a piece of paper found on your desk right now, perhaps some adhesive tape for an improved DIY adapter, or you can buy a plastic adapter. With Nokia or RIM designs, if ever possible, there will be no way to adapt your nano card somewhere else without a real adapter.

That's why I will go with Apple Design, they are doing the best job so far.

gwailo247, TechSpot Chancellor, said:

Guest said:

Everyone seems to be overlooking that Nokia or RIM designs may not have an "external" tray, but inside the phone there will be something to hold their nano-cards on the right place and this slot will be using the same or more space than a tray.

About backwards compatibility: The nanoSIM card to microSIM or SIM adapter can be made with a piece of paper found on your desk right now, perhaps some adhesive tape for an improved DIY adapter, or you can buy a plastic adapter. With Nokia or RIM designs, if ever possible, there will be no way to adapt your nano card somewhere else without a real adapter.

That's why I will go with Apple Design, they are doing the best job so far.

What we're NOT overlooking is that this is some ploy by Apple to screw over everyone down the line.

See Apple is behind this. You look at "best job" and start getting a tingling in your groin, we see how they have run their business for the past decade, and how it affects consumers who aren't part of the collective. We see injunctions and lawsuits against products WE want to buy.

So no thanks buddy.

Leeky Leeky said:

I'm not too sure if the implied point about the tray mechanism came from Nokia as well, but if it did, I don't see the argument here, as the Nokia Lumia 800 also uses a tray design for its sim card.

I also fail to see how a tray that is barely the depth of the sim card itself would cause issues with the design thickness of mobile handsets.

Guest said:

Seriously, where is bin Laden when you need one? As far I'm concerned Apple should be burned to the ground. Why it is always those [beeep censored] screwing people worldwide constantly and there is nobody who can stop them. On yer bike Apple, get lost and never come back.

Classic SIM work just fine. If you ask me mobile phones are already too small and many are well beyond ridiculously small. With next generation you will get free anvil and anchor chain from a battleship to attach it to the phone so you won't lose it in your own pocket. Miniaturization yes, but not for the sake of miniaturization.

taimuraly taimuraly said:

I think there must be some catch. Maybe the sims will be royalty free but how about the tray design, what if there is a patent on that ^_^

Guest said:

Funny how people make fun of Apple Fanbois and then you read all of these comments from Apple Hating Fanbois!

Reality is---if Apple is offering the standard for free and it offers additional benefits above the previous standard than it should at least be considered. I don't see how any other company is getting screwed if they're being offered the design free of royalties.

As the article stated above, look at USB...

DanUK DanUK said:

"For starters, according to Nokia, Apple's "nano-SIM" actually has the same width and length as a micro-SIM. Not only does this sound like a non-improvement..."

Doesn't this make their idea pointless then?

Guest said:

At this time, actually Apple offers free lisence :D

captaincranky captaincranky, TechSpot Addict, said:

Apple offers nano-SIM design free of royalties, but there's a catch
This is Apple right? There's always a catch.

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