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Apple Nano-SIM submission chosen by Standards body

The European Telecommunications Standards Institute (ETSI) today announced that it had agreed on a new SIM card standard, and the option pushed by Apple was the victor.

Cupertino wanted a slimmer nano-SIM, which was supported by most European carriers. But rivals like Motorola Mobility, RIM, and Nokia were concerned that Apple might one day own the (very lucrative) patent rights to the technology.

The nano-SIM is even smaller than the existing micro-SIM. A smaller SIM slot means more room for advanced technologies in new gadgets.

When ETSI made its announcement today, there was initially some confusion over whether the standards body had selected the proposal from Apple or Nokia, but Nokia this afternoon confirmed that ETSI had sided with Apple.

"Nokia continues to believe that the selected nano-SIM proposal is technically inferior and not suitable for a number of applications, but the ETSI Smart Card Platform Technical Committee has now made its decision," a Nokia spokesman said. "Nokia believes that the existing micro-SIM (3FF) will continue to be a preferred option for many manufacturers and devices and so ultimately the market will decide whether 4FF is widely adopted."

Nokia added that ETSI has "taken steps to address Nokia's original concerns over the standardization process, [so] we have advised ETSI that we are prepared to license any Nokia patents which are essential to implement the standard, on FRAND terms."

The option selected by ETSI is known as the fourth form factor (4FF) card, which the organization said will be 40 percent smaller than the smallest SIM card design currently on the market. It will be 12.3mm wide and 8mm high and 0.67mm thick, and can be packaged and distributed in a way that is backwards compatible with existing SIM card designs, ETSI said. It will function the same as existing SIM cards.

"Today's SIM card designs take up a significant amount of space inside a mobile device," ETSI said. "This space is more and more valuable in today's handsets which deliver an ever increasing number of features."

Apple is notoriously particular about smartphone aesthetics, even reportedly eschewing 4G LTE in its latest iPhone in order to avoid making the device any thicker. As a result, the smallest possible form factor is likely a welcome choice for Cupertino.

ETSI's Smart Card Platform Technical Committee was originally scheduled to vote on the SIM card standard in March, but the battle between Apple and Nokia prompted it to delay the vote until a May 31-June 1 meeting in Osaka, Japan.