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It’s time to (finally) kill the SIM card

For everyone who has a GSM mobile phone, the SIM card has become a way of life, or at least a way of mobile life. That thumbnail-sized plastic card, which houses our mobile identity, is a necessary evil we’ve had to endure for far too long.

Apple pioneered the micro SIM card with the iPad and iPhone, and now it wants to go even smaller.

We, however, join the ranks of people asking for the total abolishment of the SIM card, and here’s why.

In the beginning there were no SIM cards

In the early days of mobile phones, there were no SIM cards. Only with the arrival of GSM in the 1990s did we have to start fiddling with these little plastic, spawn of the devil cards.

When the first mobile telephone call from a car was made in 1946, do you think it involved a SIM card?

Of course not!

In 1956, when the world’s first partly automatic car phone system (MTA) was introduced in Sweden, do you think the 40 kg heavy system was weighed down by a SIM card?

You must be crazy!

Do you think there was a SIM card in the first mobile phone for handheld use, the Motorola Dyna-Tac, created by Martin Cooper in 1973?

We think not!

How small do we have to go?

But the Subscriber Identification Module invaded our lives slowly but surely starting in 1991. The industry as well as users quickly settled in to using SIM cards in all kinds of mobile devices.

Then, fast forward to 2010 when Apple introduced the iPhone 4, and tremors went around the world with telecom operators as well as some users up in arms over the fact that it used the smaller micro SIM card.

‘How are we going to make this work? All our other mobile devices use the standard SIM cards!’ echoed the battle cry.

Now – control your excitement – get ready to hear the same thing again as Apple is pushing ahead with nano SIM cards, a proposal that was quickly rejected by the likes of Nokia.

But why do we even have to worry about the SIM card getting smaller? Why can’t we just get rid of it all together?

Just get rid of the SIM card already

We’re not promoting going back to your number and carrier being embedded in your phone. That way, if you lose your phone, you lose everything = bad idea.

Instead, the phone should be just a device, completely independent of you until you’ve signed in and entered your payment information. Then, your identity sits in the cloud somewhere. When you log into your phone, you get all your settings, apps, etc. and you can select the carrier and plan as you move around.

Some of this functionality is already in place in mobile operating systems, like Android and iOS.

But it’s not going far enough.

Therefore, we agree completely with Ilya Birman: “SIM Cards Must Die.”

Ilya even made a simple mockup of how it could work without SIM cards. First the user selects a provider, then they see what kind of options and plans are available, then, finally, payment information is confirmed.

That way, a user can switch, on the fly, between different offers. And it’s easy to imagine all different kinds of services popping up, offering users the best deal available at that time, in that place. Sort of what happened with long distance and international calls way back when.

Telcos will not like this, but we do!

Don’t hold your breath

Of course this is all written in a tongue-in-cheek way, but realistically, we’re stuck with the SIM card for a long time to come. We will have to keep using these little plastic pieces in our mobile devices just as assuredly as the cloud is entering the mobile space in a big way.

Getting rid of the SIM card seems to be right up Apple’s alley, and perhaps Cupertino will bring us salvation.

But we’re platform agnostics here at Pingdom, so if we can get what we want with Android, Windows Phone, or something else, that’s fine with us.

What about you, are you also wanting to get rid of the SIM card?

Top image via Shutterstock. Picture of MTA phone from Picture of Martin Cooper from Wikipedia. Conceptual sketch by Ilya Birman.

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