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Why does the gigantic Lumia 1520 SIM need to be a nano SIM?

By Adam Doud November 27, 2013, 7:00 am

According to Michael Fisher, the Nokia Lumia 1520 is ludicrously big. Insanely big. Our official review hasn’t hit the feeds yet, but I’m pretty sure that’s one thing you can take to the bank – it’s an insanely big huge phone. This is not necessarily a bad thing. Phablets are here and they’ll be here for a while so best just get used to the concept and move on. I’m sure it’s a great phone and there is a demand for it. I’ve written in the past about how the Lumia 1520 just would not be for me when it came out. I still hold that opinion.

But one thing that made us do a double take was Nokia’s choice to use a nano SIM in the phone. Really? A six inch phone needs a nano SIM? Whodathunkit? The thought that a six inch phone needs a nano anything is almost laughable. But for those of you not familiar with the concept – and I find it hard to believe you’re reading this site if you are not familiar, but we’ll play along – a nano SIM is the 4th generation of SIM technology to hit the smartphone market.


The history of the SIM


The original SIM card was exactly that – a card. It was about the size of a credit card and not widely used. The second generation SIM card, often referred to as just a SIM, is about the size of your thumb nail and is the most popular SIM in use today – both for smartphones and feature phones. The micro SIM is even smaller – about the size of your pointer finger nail and became popular with the introduction of the iPhone 4. Finally, the nano SIM or the fourth generation of SIM is roughly 40% smaller than the micro and popularized by…you guessed it…the iPhone 5.  The graphic to the right illustrates the dimensions and sizes of the various SIMs.

I first encountered the hazards of differing SIM sizes when I switched from my Pre 3 to my Lumia 800, which used second and third generation SIMs respectively. There are a number of adapters available to make your micro SIM the same size as a second generation SIM (which I’ll refer to as a “normal” SIM from now on). The problem with those adapters is when using them, there is a real risk of bending the copper contacts which need to make contact with the SIM. If those get bent your phone stops working and they are, by all accounts, darn near impossible to repair. So at the time, I kissed my Pre 3 goodbye (I’ll leave it up to your own imagination as to whether or not I actually kissed the phone or not) and moved on. Which brings us to a small problem today (see what I did there?).


Why now?

The introduction of the nano SIM into the Lumia line is interesting. First of all, as I mentioned above, the Lumia 1520 is insanely big. I can’t imagine a 40% reduction in SIM size was anywhere approaching a necessity in a phone so huge. This leads to some speculation on our part. Is this the precursor to future Lumias all sporting nano SIMs? Is this Nokia future-proofing their phone toward what it sees as the future trend in SIM technology?

Whatever the case may be, it’s really annoying for technology geeks like us who like to switch phones as often as our bed sheets. As I mentioned above, there are adapters that will convert a micro SIM to a normal SIM. There are also adapters that will convert a nano SIM to a micro SIM, but presumably the same problem exists with the bent contact potential.

We reached out to Nokia to see if someone there had any comments on the reasoning behind the move, but as of this writing we have not heard back. If we do hear back from Nokia, we will be sure to update the article with their comments.


In the meantime, we’re left to speculation as to Nokia’s motives behind the nano SIM. It seems likely that Nokia is simply future-proofing their newest phablet. Nano SIMs are, after all, the latest generation of SIM technology, and who can blame Nokia for going with the latest and greatest. It just seems particularly ironic that Nokia’s largest phone offering to date incorporates a nano SIM. I suppose it had to happen eventually – the whole nano SIM adoption thing. After all if tech companies didn’t adopt new technologies, we’d all be using credit-card sized SIMs in our bag phones. In the meantime, we’ll just enjoy the irony.


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