Did you ever wonder about the SIM card you’ve inserted into the designated slot on your mobile phone? How does something so small still manage to provide essential functionality to our daily life, and for nearly 3 decades? While the SIM card as a unit wasn’t so small, to begin with, the electronic chip, also known as a MOS integrated circuit chip, remained the same throughout the years. The only thing that changed was improvements in size as the technology of mobile phones improved as well. To find a starting point, and realize how revolutionary it was for its time, let’s see what made Full-Size SIM card work.
What’s a Full-Size SIM card?
It is the first commercially available model of a SIM card that appeared on the market. The base concept of it is not new in any way and dates back to the 1960s. Every SIM card, except an Embedded-SIM card, consists of an electronic chip that has an insulating material of varying size around it. In reality, the only part of a SIM card that’s actually needed – the material around it, such as plastic or PVC, only acts to shield the chip from coming into contact with other electronics and causing a short circuit. With that said, Full-Size Sim card, as the name suggests, is the oldest type of SIM, and thus the biggest.
Dimensions of a Full-Size SIM Card
Full size SIM card is the largest SIM card available. Here are the dimensions of a Full-Size sim card.
|3.37 in (85.6 mm)
|2.12 in (53.98 mm)
|0.02992 in (0.76 mm)
Full-Size SIM data storage and size
As mentioned, the chip is what actually saves your contacts, text messages, and allows you to call or text. At the time of its creation, the Internet on your mobile device was not as widespread and only became essential in the later iterations of the SIM card. At first, it could store around 20 contacts, and between 5 to 10 messages, depending on length. Later improvements made that number much higher, with more than 250 contacts, and a much larger number of messages.
When it comes to its initial size, Full-SIM card measured 85.6 mm × 53.98 mm × 0.76 mm or 3.37 in x 2.125 in x 0.030 in. That’s around the size of a regular credit card we carry in our pockets on a daily basis. Being the first card to appear, it was also known as 1FF or First Form Factor.
Are Full-Size SIM cards still in use?
First and foremost, we’ll have to determine whether there is a need for you to be in-the-know, besides being well-informed. It should be obvious to you that modern smartphones are around one and a half times larger than a regular credit card, in both width and height. As such, it would be nearly impossible to fit a Full-Size SIM card, hence the card being deemed obsolete a long time ago. However, that doesn’t mean that it’s absolutely gone – some factories and industrial facilities still use the card for things such as stationary phones on the premises, although very rarely.
The difference between a Full-Size SIM card and Mini-SIM card
It was the second form factor, also known as Mini-SIM card, that made such a huge splash and allowed the concept of modern mobile phones to blossom. After technology improvements, the size has been reduced from 85.6 mm × 53.98 mm × 0.76 mm or 3.37 in x 2.125 in x 0.030 in to 25 mm x 15 mm x 0.76 mm or 0.98 in x 0.59 in x 0.030 in. That made it much more likely to fit inside a hand-held phone, and the card became widespread not too long after 1996, only 5 years after the introduction of its predecessor. It’s important to note that the chip inside has retained the same size and functionality, and only the rim of the insulating material around it has been cut to fit the slot.
How do other types of SIM cards compare?
Things snowballed from there, and the next iteration, introduced in 2003, named Micro-SIM or 3FF, measured 15 mm x 12 mm x 0.76 mm or 0.59 in x 0.47 in x 0.030 in. 4FF, also known as Nano-SIM card, went a step further and became widespread after 2012. Although not a huge improvement when compared to 3FF, it was a huge technological feat when compared to 1FF. It measures at 0.484 in × 0.346 in × 0.026 in or 12.3 mm × 8.8 mm × 0.67 mm.
Why do I always receive a Full-size SIM card?
If you were to purchase a new smartphone in the late 2010s, you’ll most likely require a Nano-SIM card. When requested, you might be surprised to find out that the mobile operator will give you a card that’s the size of a Full-Size card. We’ve pretty much established that the card is obsolete, but the reason lies in production and delivery costs. Manufacturers are looking to save costs by not producing different types of SIM cards separately since that would be less profitable and sustainable.
To combat that issue, they mass-produce the biggest, Full-Size SIM, but use the aid of machining tools to make cutouts for smaller types. Once in the hands of the user, he or she can simply punch out and remove the required type of SIM, and insert it into their mobile phone. In addition, if they were to downgrade to an older phone, they could simply fit in the smaller SIM card back into the cutout, and use a Mini-SIM or Micro-SIM card without an issue.
I’ve received a Full-Size SIM card, but it has no cutouts?
First of all, that is likely a problem with the quality control side, and shouldn’t have happened. However, if you’re in a hurry, and don’t have the time to contact your operator, it is possible to cut it down to size. First, refer to the size and the shape of a desired smaller SIM type. Get your scissors and a nail file. Then, trace the lines using a thin marker and a ruler, and start cutting, making sure to allow some room for error. Finally, file the edges until they fit into a designated slot, and insert the card. And voila, you’ve solved your issue with a little bit of time, sweat, and a little relief at the end.