iPhone 5 & nano-SIM cards: Questions Answered

September 19th, 2012

The new iPhone 5 requires a new type of ‘Nano SIM’ card. We answer your questions about Nano SIMs.

Along with the iPhone 5, Apple are introducing a new type of SIM card called the ‘Nano SIM’. Slightly smaller than standard SIM cards and Micro SIM cards, you’ll need a new SIM card with Nano-SIM dimensions in order to connect to a mobile network with the iPhone 5. In this article, we answer your queries about Nano SIM cards and look at how you can obtain them.

What are the differences between Mini SIM, Micro SIM and Nano SIM?

There are currently three generations of SIM cards in use within mobile phones and tablets: standard-sized SIM cards which are used on the majority of handsets, micro-SIM cards which are used on the iPhone 4/4S and nano-SIM cards which are used on the new Apple iPhone 5. All three types of SIM card are essentially the same from a technical perspective but have varying amounts of plastic housing around the metal chip:


Three generations of SIM cards. From left to right: Standard SIM (2FF), Micro SIM (3FF) and Nano SIM (4FF). Adapted from Wikipedia (CC-licensed).

The dimensions of the three different types of SIM card are as follows:

SIM Type Alternative Names Length (mm) Width (mm) Height (mm)
Standard SIM 2FF (Mini SIM) 25.00 15.00 0.76
Micro SIM 3FF 15.00 12.00 0.76
Nano SIM 4FF 12.30 8.80 0.67

Please note that Nano SIMs are 0.09mm thinner than Standard SIMs and Micro SIMs. This makes its difficult to cut your own Nano SIM. With Micro SIMs, it was possible to cut a Standard SIM into a Micro SIM fairly easily as you would only need to cut it length-wise and width-wide. It is virtually impossible to cut your own regulation Nano SIM as you would also need to reduce the height by 0.09mm.

Can I ask my mobile operator for a replacement Nano SIM card?

Apple’s new iPhone 5 uses Nano-SIM sized cards.

Yes. All of the UK’s major mobile operators should provide you with a replacement Nano SIM card upon request.

  • Three – Three will replace your current SIM card with a Nano SIM card free of charge at any of their retail stores. Some stores may insist on charging you £5.11 for a replacement Nano SIM. However, we have been informed by Three that this charge should be waived when changing SIM card type.
  • O2 – O2 will replace your SIM card with a Nano SIM free of charge at any of their retail stores.
  • Orange – Orange are due to have Nano SIMs in stock from October. If you’ve had any experiences obtaining a Nano SIM from Orange, please drop us a comment below!
  • T-Mobile – T-Mobile charge £10.21 for a replacement Nano SIM. Nano SIMs will be available from the Friday 21st September at T-Mobile. You can have your SIM card switched over in under an hour at a T-Mobile retail store – alternatively you can ask T-Mobile customer services over the phone but you’ll lose service until the replacement Nano SIM arrives.
  • Vodafone – Vodafone can replace your existing SIM card with a Nano SIM card free of charge. This takes up to 15 minutes at one of their retail stores or up to 4 days if you request a replacement online or via the phone.

Can I cut an existing SIM card down to Nano SIM dimensions?

It is virtually impossible to cut your own Nano SIM from a Standard SIM or Micro SIM. This is due to the difference in thickness of Nano SIM cards. Nano SIM cards are 0.67mm in height whereas Standard SIMs and Micro SIMs are 0.76mm in height.

We would strongly recommend against cutting your own Nano SIM or using a Nano SIM cutting device. Whilst it would be fairly easy to cut the SIM to the correct height and width which would fit the SIM card slot, it would be virtually impossible to reduce the thickness of your SIM card in the same way. Whilst the 0.09mm difference in thickness would seem to be quite small, it could potentially be enough to jam the SIM card and could permanently damage your handset.

Is it possible to get a SIM Only contract with a Nano SIM?

Three provide the ‘Nano SIM’ as an option on all of their SIM Only contracts starting from £6.90/month. Some of our recommended SIM Only plans for the iPhone 5 include:

A full list of Three’s SIM only contracts can be found on their website. Please make sure you select the ‘Nano SIM’ option for the iPhone 5.

For other networks, it should be possible to order your SIM Only contract as normal and ask for a Nano SIM replacement once it arrives.

Is it possible to get a Nano SIM on Pay As You Go?

Be careful when using SIM adapters – not all handsets are compatible with them.

At present, we would recommend ordering a standard Pay As You Go SIM card and then asking for a Nano SIM replacement.

T-Mobile are offering Pay As You Go Nano-SIMs.

Is it possible to use a Nano SIM in a Micro SIM/SIM device with an adapter?

Apart from their dimensions and the size of the plastic housing around the metallic contact, Nano SIMs are essentially identical to Micro SIMs and standard SIMs. This should make it possible to use an plastic adapter to convert your Nano SIM into a Micro SIM or Standard SIM. Nano SIM adapters have started to appear on Amazon.co.uk, though we’ll have to wait until people start getting Nano SIMs in their hands before we can tell how well the adapters work.

We recommend great caution when using an adapter. Several handsets including the Nokia N8, BlackBerry Bold 9700, Sony Ericsson X10 and the Samsung Galaxy Note are known to be incompatible with adapters. Using an adapter in these devices can permanently damage the metal contacts in the SIM card slot and will render your handset unusable. We recommend checking online before using an SIM adapter of any kind in your handset.

Which handsets require a Nano SIM card?

At the time of writing, only the new Apple iPhone 5 requires Nano SIM cards (4FF).

The majority of mobile handsets still use the standard-sized SIM (2FF). Some recent high-end handsets such as the Apple iPhone 4/4S, HTC One X/S, Samsung Galaxy S3/Note 2 and Nokia Lumia 710/800 use Micro SIM cards (3FF). When ordering a new SIM card, you should ensure that you order the correct sized card for your device.

    

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About Ken

Ken Lo

I'm a freelance writer specialising in mobile technology. I've been blogging at Ken's Tech Tips since 2005 with the aim of demystifying mobile technology for the rest of us.

Before writing about mobile technology, my background was in space & atmospheric physics. I have also worked in software development. Nowadays, I help companies to explain mobile technology to their customers. Please check out my portfolio or get in touch for more information. I'm also on Google+.

Your Comments

We'd love to hear your thoughts and any questions you may have. So far, we've received 1 comment from readers. You can add your own comment here.

  1. Valerie said:

    Ken,
    I purchased an apple iphone 5 in the US for a friend who currently resides in St. Martin. He uses a pay as you go phone from Orange. Where would i purchase a pay as you go nano sim card for the Orange Network that he can use in the new iphone 5?
    Thank you in advance,
    Valerie

    1. Ken Lo
      Ken replied:

      Hi Valerie,

      Orange should be able to replace your friend's SIM with a Nano SIM. You can do this in an EE store.

      http://cow.neondragon.net/index.php/smartphone-type-standard-sim-micro-sim-or-nano-sim

      http://cow.neondragon.net/index.php/iphone-5-nano-sim-cards-questions-answered

      Hope this helps,

      Ken

  2. May said:

    Thank you so much for this info, I bought an iphone 5 for my daughters birthday this week and was going out tomorrow to take a new sim contract out, I had no idea they would exchange for a nano sim, thank you.

  3. Jesse said:

    Hello Ken,

    I bought an iPhone 5 yesterday without buying a nano sim, not realising that i would have to make this transition. At the moment, I have an orange micro sim which of course doesn't fit. Would I be able to keep my same contract and mobile number if i bought a nano sim from orange? Or would i have to change my movile number and contract?

    Cheers,

    Jesse

    1. Ken Lo
      Ken replied:

      Hi Jesse,

      Happy New Year! You will be able to have your SIM card switched to a Nano SIM by getting in touch with Orange – the easiest way is to go into an EE retail store and ask them to switch you over.

      Hope this helps,

      Ken

  4. wobbler2012 said:

    Hi there Ken,

    Very informative article many thanks. I have a question for you about the new nano-SIM, I did have a PAYG SIM on Virgin but have had to move to a one month rolling contract on Three because Virgin do not do PAYG nano's. That is extremely poor form, like Virgin thought "people won't buy handset only iphone5's" :rolleyes:

    Do you have any idea if they are likely to do so in the future? A customer service rep I spoke to at Virgin didn't have a clue. To be honest I am amazed that they don't do them.

    All the best and keep up the great work,

    Tony.

    1. Ken Lo
      Ken replied:

      Hi Tony,

      I'm afraid I don't know about Virgin's future product plans, though it's understandable they don't provide them yet as some mobile operators weren't even aware that the iPhone 5 would use nano-SIM until after Apple's announcement (companies such as Virgin don't have a direct commercial relationship with Apple). You could either try cutting your own nano-SIM from Virgin, otherwise I think Three have some good deals too!

      Ken

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