SIM (Subscriber Identification Module) cards are still necessary for our lives. We use them to send and receive calls and texts and access the Internet wherever there’s carrier network coverage. Additionally, SIM cards store many things, including our personal and billing information and phonebook. With that said, it becomes somewhat obvious what SIM card readers are. However, having an idea and possessing a deeper knowledge are two different things. By the end, we intend to make you part of the latter group of people. With the groundwork laid out, here’s a detailed answer to the question, “what is SIM card reader, and how does it work?”
We define the SIM card reader as a device that allows you to insert a SIM card onto the designated slot. It has contact wires or thin contacts that read the data from the SIM card by touching the golden chip, known as the MOS chip. SIM card readers are also paired with software for your operating system. This is done for loading, analyzing, and sorting the data from the SIM card into a format that’s easily previewed. Every manufacturer of SIM card readers usually provides such software for free.
Appearance and size
The size of SIM card readers isn’t standardized. It largely depends on the number of features it has. Additionally, the build quality and thickness of the protective case depend on the price range. The majority of readers for SIM cards have the same shape and size as a USB stick e.g. flash memory. The difference is in two things:
- The core components we mentioned above are placed instead of the PCB with memory.
- There’s a thin slot (or multiple slots, based on compatibility) on the side or the back of the reader. It allows you to insert a SIM card or open the SIM card tray.
In some cases, SIM card readers are sold as part of a “Swiss army knife” gadget, paired with readers for various SD card sizes and smart cards. If so, the size is increased to approximately that of a credit card.
As mentioned above, the SIM card reader has a USB connector on one of its sides. To use it, follow these steps:
- Remove the SIM card from your phone. Here’s a guide for removing SIM cards on iPhone, too.
- Determine the SIM card size that the reader accepts. Ideally, it’s the same size as your SIM card. If not, you can change it by adding or removing plastic rims that were left off when punching you punched it out of a full-size SIM card. If the device shipped with adapters, use them to the same effect.
- Open the SIM card tray on the reader and place it on it. Or, slide in the SIM card directly into the slot. Use the tiny SIM card icon on the reader itself for guidance on the position.
- Close the tray if a tray was used. Plug the USB connector of your SIM card reader into the USB slot on your computer.
- Download and install the matching software from the manufacturer’s website.
Tip: If it shipped with one, the version of software on a CD/DVD is likely outdated, plus CD/DVD readers are obsolete nowadays.
- Open the software, and, unless it’s automatic, click on the Read button to import data.
Now that you know how to operate it, here are some of the uses of SIM card readers:
No phone, no problem
Having a cheap reader of SIM cards is a great way to see your call history, SMS, and contacts list without having to buy an expensive smartphone. Even better, you can directly edit the data on it. This requires your device to be a SIM card reader/writer type, a feature it might already support. The only downside is that you cannot receive new information or reply since there’s no network antenna.
You don’t have to stop at reading SIM cards on your computer, simply export the data for safekeeping. And not only on your computer – some software supports direct cloud backup. If anything happens to the phone or the SIM card, you can import the data back to a new card. The latter ability also requires your device to support writing.
Forgot your PIN (or PUK number to reset the PIN) or had a phone hardware or software malfunction? The data on the SIM card is inaccessible or likely wiped out, right? Not necessarily – the card reader might allow you to bypass PIN restrictions. If not, you can enter the PIN in the software and unlock the SIM. You can extract a surprising amount of information this way, trust us. Afterward, buy a SIM card and restore it.
Being able to read information without the other person knowing can be good and evil. Parents controlling their children’s activity can save them from danger. On the other hand, that invasion of privacy can turn into outright spying, asserting control, and overprotecting. This applies to adults as well – it depends on how you use it.
We already taught you how to clone a SIM card, listed its limitations, and mentioned that SIM card readers/writers are integral. There are plenty of benefits of SIM card cloning, but also superior alternatives to achieve them. We’d only use it if you have an unsupported SIM card or an outdated SIM card size. That way, you can clone data to a newer, blank SIM card.
Authentication and encryption
Every SIM card has a unique ICCID (Integrated Circuit Card Identification Number). For that reason, SIM card readers are widely used in factories, companies, government facilities, and any place with a need to authenticate the user’s identity. It’s superior to using passwords since physical access is required. A SIM card can also store a complex decryption key. In that case, reading data can unlock access to encrypted data.
We’ll mention what’s possible – always check the product description for the particular model. SIM card readers are compatible with SIM cards for Android and iOS devices, all widely-used networks (GSM, CDMA, and LTE), and carriers. Additionally, they support other versions of SIM such as USIM, R-SIM, X-SIM, R-UIM, and custom ones such as Nextel. Modern readers are also compatible with mini-SIM, micro-SIM, and nano-SIM cards and ship with adapters.