UPDATE: This post is superseded (well mostly) by this new post that outlines HOW to actually put a sim in an iPad in New Zealand, and how it works on XT better than Vodafone etc. You can still read this post all about what a Micro Sim is (and mini sim), but the “how to” of iPhones and sims in NZ is here.

With all the hype of the iPad launch around us this week, one thing that has gone relatively unanalysed  is the need for a micro-sim not a mini-sim (which is what 99% of us use in phones at the moment) in the iPad.

While no carrier that I know of outside the US has announced that they will supply micro-sim cards on mass to the consumer (yet that is), the GOOD news is that the actual core of both cards is the same – so if you want to attack your existing GSM mini-sim card with a pen knife, it SHOULD work.    Just like the old days when you could trim your sim card so two fitted into the space of one, and then could have a phone with 2 sims (certain phones that is!).

As reported on CreativeVision blog, this is indeed good news!

There is one caveat: Apple claims that to save space, they switched to the next generation Micro SIM standard. This is like a regular Mini SIM card, which is used by most mobile phones today, but with the excess plastic around the chip chopped off. But it turns out that the chip itself is not only the same size but electronically identical, as confirmed by the GSM association, so the good news is that even if your mobile phone network only supplies the older Mini SIM cards, you’ll be able to simply cut off the excess plastic yourself and fashion a DIY Mini SIM card. Cheap data roaming here we come, just remember to bring a steak knife!

This means even if Vodafone and Telecom (XT) don’t launch micro sims in NZ, there is a creative way of getting existing sims to work.

I for one will wait for the first report of someone actually doing this!

Of course many have asked why apple would do this – after all the iPad is hardly tiny! (the iPhone is MUCH smaller and doesn’t use/need it), and Engaget offers some comments:

In fact, from AT&T’s perspective, this is better than a software lock in some ways — you’re not going to be able to download a hack that gets you on another network, so you’re totally at the mercy of your carrier at choice for providing a compatible card. Intentionally evil? Perhaps not — all standards have to start somewhere — but it’s an awful pain in the ass.

I for one am waiting for the 3G version launch before I consider buying an iPad, as WiFi is just not well enough supported in New Zealand.  Depending on when I get one (ie do I go to OZ and get one early) this might mean my cutting skills get some practice :-)

UPDATE: Thanks to an excellent question from my good friend Mark, I have spotted there could be an issue for Vodafone with the iPad.  Not about sim cards, but around frequencies that they use for their network(s).

This is because the iPad supports 850,900, 1800 and 1900 MHz and NOT the 2100 MHz that the iPhone supports.

XT (Telecom) uses 850 MHz for it’s XT WCDMA network, so is fine.  But Vodafone uses 2100 for its WCDMA in all major cities and only has 900 MHz on WCDMA (the fast 3G network) in rural areas.  It’s has a full nationwide network on 900, but not on WCDMA, so it will be slow(er).  Ironically it will be fine in rural areas on Voda – just not the cities!

Details here if you want to read.  This might cause issues for Voda.  Watch this space!

Update 2: I was wrong about the frequency issue (the rest is still fine).   All explained in a new post here.

Black and White Version: We still don’t know what Apple decided on the micro-sim, but at least we know (think?) a normal sim can be trimmed to work.

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