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What Are the Types of SIM Cards?

Max. D Gray
By Max. D Gray. June 29, 2024
What Are the Types of SIM Cards?

Have you ever wondered what that tiny chip inside your phone does? That's your SIM card, the key to connecting to your mobile network. It securely stores your unique identification number (IMSI) and keeps you connected for calls, texts, and data. But with all the talk of standard, micro, and nano SIMs, choosing the right one can be confusing.

This oneHOWTO article will break down everything you need to know about the different types of SIM cards, and explain how to pick the perfect one for your mobile device.

You may also be interested in: What Can I Do With My Old Cell Phone?
  1. Full size SIM cards (1FF)
  2. Mini SIM cards (2FF)
  3. Micro SIM Cards (3FF)
  4. Nano SIM cards (4FF)
  5. Integrated SIM card (MFF2)/eSIM
  6. Integrated SIM card or iSIM
  7. How to choose the SIM card for your mobile
  8. How do I know my SIM card type?

Full size SIM cards (1FF)

Regular size SIM cards, also known as 1FF (First Form Factor), correspond to the original SIM cards introduced in the early 1990s. They were called "credit card size" or "bar card" cards due to their size and shape, measuring 85.6 x 53.98 mm.

1FF SIM cards were used in the first portable phones, which were very bulky and compatible with the 2G network. These SIM cards could identify the user to the network, store their unique International Mobile Subscriber Identity (IMSI) number, and facilitate a connection to the mobile network.

Currently, devices that accept 1FF SIM cards are no longer manufactured, as newer and smaller SIM card formats like Mini SIM (2FF), Micro SIM (3FF), and Nano SIM (4FF) have taken their place in modern mobile devices.

Think your old phone is useless? Think again! Uncover surprising ways to reuse or recycle your old devise in our other article.

Mini SIM cards (2FF)

As smaller and more compact mobile devices were manufactured, smaller SIM cards were developed. In 1996, 2FF SIM cards were introduced, and for many years, they were the most common type of SIM card on the market .Measuring 25 x 15 mm, they are mainly used with GSM phones.

Despite the reduction in physical size, the mini SIM card maintains the same functionality as the original SIM card. It contains essential information about the network and user identification. In addition to mobile phones, 2FF SIM cards can also be found in IoT (Internet of Things) devices.

What Are the Types of SIM Cards? - Mini SIM cards (2FF)

Micro SIM Cards (3FF)

The arrival of smartphones on the market and the desire to make them smaller led to the creation of the Micro SIM or 3FF (Third Form Factor). Introduced in 2003, it was designed to replace 2FF SIM cards, which took up significant internal space in devices.

Measuring 15 x 12 mm, the Micro SIM is much smaller than the Mini SIM. Despite its reduced size, it performs the same functions: it authenticates the user with the network and contains the IMSI. The Micro SIM was widely used in early smartphones and continues to be used in today in some devices.

Nano SIM cards (4FF)

The 4FF SIM card, known as the Nano SIM, was introduced in 2012 and is the currently the smallest of the standard SIM cards.

Measuring 12.3 x 8 mm, it has minimal plastic around the chip, making it very compact and ideal for smart portable devices and the latest generation smartphones.

Currently, the Nano SIM is the smallest physical SIM card used in mobile devices. Despite its small size, it contains all the functions of its predecessors, including user authentication and storing the IMSI. As manufacturers continue to strive to make devices thinner and save space for other components, the Nano SIM remains a key innovation in the ongoing evolution of mobile technology.

What Are the Types of SIM Cards? - Nano SIM cards (4FF)

Integrated SIM card (MFF2)/eSIM

Unlike traditional SIMs, which must be inserted into a device, eSIMs are embedded and soldered into the device during manufacturing. Measuring just 6 x 5 mm, they are significantly smaller than Nano SIMs.

Also known as MFF2, eSIMs are commonly used in IoT devices that require greater flexibility. These integrated SIM cards are smaller and offer more security as they cannot be removed. Some new smartphones feature both an integrated eSIM and a traditional SIM slot, providing users with the option to choose their preferred type of SIM.

What Are the Types of SIM Cards? - Integrated SIM card (MFF2)/eSIM

Integrated SIM card or iSIM

Also known as iSIM, this is an advanced variant of the eSIM. While the eSIM is an independent chip embedded in the device, the iSIM is built directly into the device's hardware. This permanent integration makes it robust and resistant to physical wear and tear.

Embedded SIM cards, such as eSIMs and iSIMs, are well-suited for industrial applications, including IoT devices, smart city infrastructures, and connected cars, where physical changes to the SIM card are not practical. By integrating the SIM functionality directly into the hardware, iSIMs eliminate the need for a separate chip, saving space and allowing for further optimization and improvement of devices.

How to choose the SIM card for your mobile

Choosing a suitable SIM card for your mobile depends on various factors, including device design, scalability, environment, network coverage, and cost-effectiveness. Compact designs favor the use of Nano SIMs, but both eSIMs and iSIMs have become standard due to their minimal space requirements and flexibility.

However, not all IoT devices contain eSIM or iSIM. Some come with different SIM compatibility slots, leaving you wondering which size to choose. In this case, multi-size SIM cards are a convenient solution. These SIM cards contain all sizes on the same card, so you won't have to worry about getting a SIM card of the wrong size.

It is also important to keep in mind that mobile network operators use different technologies like GSM or CDMA. Ensure the SIM card you choose is compatible with the technology your phone uses. If your phone is 4G LTE enabled, you'll want a SIM card that supports 4G LTE as well.

How do I know my SIM card type?

The best way to determine which SIM card is currently in your phone is to locate the SIM card slot on your phone, usually found on the side or back. Then, remove the card and compare the sizes:

  • Standard SIM (largest, size of a credit card)
  • Micro SIM (medium size)
  • Nano SIM (smallest size)

By placing your SIM card next to a credit card or another SIM card (if you have one), you can determine its size and type.

Additionally, refer to your phone's user manual for specifications that mention the compatible SIM card size. You can also search the manufacturer's website for your specific phone model's specifications. This information should include the supported SIM card type.

Think your phone's too old for the latest SIM card? Think again! Discover how to easily adapt your Micro SIM for a seamless connection

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What Are the Types of SIM Cards?