Your smartphone is a highly advanced piece of modern technology, jam-packed with wi-fi, GPS, a brilliant camera, Bluetooth, motion sensors and much, much more.
However, to make calls, use mobile data and send cellular text messages, you’ll still need to insert a SIM card to connect with your network operator. You might not have realised it, but there are actually a few different SIM card sizes available – and the one you need all depends on the type of phone you have.
If you’re buying a phone directly from a network or a third-party retailer, the chances are they’ll hook you up with the right SIM card there and then. However, if you are opting for a SIM-only deal, you’ll need your own handset. Whether you are buying a second-hand phone, inheriting one from a friend or picking one up SIM-free from a retailer in order to choose, you’ll need to ensure you have pick up the corresponding card.
There’s the standard SIM, which is sometimes referred to as the ‘mini SIM’ and is still used across a range of phones and tablets today, then there are two smaller and increasingly more common SIM card sizes – the micro SIM and the nano SIM. What’s the difference between these SIM cards? And which one is right for you?
Your SIM – or Subscriber Identity Module – is the small plastic card you pop into your phone when you first get it. After that, you’ll probably just forget all about. But, if you decide to upgrade your phone or change your plan, you may need to know about the different SIM card sizes there are.
Essentially, all SIM cards do the same job. Using a built in circuit board, they allow your phone to connect with the network you’re signed up to so you can receive and send calls, texts and data. Every SIM card has its own unique identity, assigned to your contract, so your network knows exactly how to bill you for what you’ve been using. The only real difference between standard, micro and nano SIM cards are the size – and how this allows them to fit into today’s increasingly slim, compact smartphones.
Manufacturers like Apple are keen to make sure the components that go into their gadgets are as small as possible, so they can squeeze even more functionality in. This is why the iPhone has used nano SIM cards since 2012 (iPhone 5), having switched from standard to micro SIMs in 2010 (iPhone 4 and 4S).
But that’s not to say all modern phones and tablets use nano SIM size. There are plenty of gadgets out there that are still using the micro SIM size – and even a few that will have a standard SIM tucked away and working hard.
SIM card sizes: Which one is right for you?
Apple iPhone and iPad - If you have an iPhone 3GS or older (for example, an iPhone purchased in 2009 or before), you’ll need a standard SIM size. If you have an iPhone 4 or 4S, you’ll want a micro SIM size, and if you’ve an iPhone 5 or anything newer, then a nano SIM will be right for you. When it comes to network-enabled iPads, it’s even simpler. The first iPad and the iPad 2 both use a micro SIM, but since then all the tablets (Air, Mini and Pro included) have used a nano SIM.
Samsung Galaxy smartphones and tablets - As there are so many more different models out there, it gets a little more complicated with SIM card sizes when talking about Samsung phones and tablets. In short, the manufacturer introduced nano SIM cards for its Galaxy Alpha and Galaxy A5 smartphones in late 2014. If your phone or tablet was bought after that time, chances are it will need a nano SIM – but there’s no guarantee.
And the rest. There are phones, smartphones and tablets of all shapes and sizes out there – and they could be using nano, micro, or possibly even standard SIM card sizes. With that in mind, the easiest way to find out which one you need is to check your user manual. Alternatively, you can always measure the SIM card or SIM card tray inside your gadget and compare it against the guide picture above.
If you find yourself with the wrong sized SIM card for your phone or tablet, don’t worry, as there are solutions available. You can either contact your network and ask for the right size, or you can adapt the SIM yourself by cutting it or buying an adaptor.
If you have a Micro SIM card and wish to use it in an older handset, buy an inexpensive adapter, which can be picked up from retailers like Amazon for around £1. You can convert a Nano SIM to a Micro SIM and create a Standard SIM from a Nano or Micro SIM.There’s very little science to these adapters. Effectively, they provide the extra plastic necessary to make the card sit securely in your phone’s SIM card slot.
If your SIM card is too big for your phone’s SIM card slot, a bit of DIY can come to the rescue. While you need to be careful, you can turn a Standard SIM into a Micro or Nano SIM simply by trimming it. This can save you getting a new SIM when you upgrade phones to a model which uses a different card standard. There are a host of tutorials you can follow online and on YouTube, but do so at your own risk - if you damage the chip, the SIM won’t work at all.
You've been warned!