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.


  1. Not all people have smart phones.
    Storing auth info in cloud and tetrive them whenever user swictches the device on ?
    Impossible on a Nokia 1100.

    However in far future, Eventually it will become normal to have Siri like apps on all devices.

    Apple in other side are making high end products but Nokia still has biggest market on low end devices. I have no reports but it’s the truth. Love you Nokia.

    Wrote this from an iPhone.

  2. Who’s going to store your information, payment credits, etc. in the cloud so that you can switch carriers and plans at will? That’s the problem: You’d have to introduce another entity (one that would require a piece of the action itself). In contrast,a SIM card is simple: When you go from the Rome, New York to Rome, Italy or from Belgium to Bahrain, you change the SIM card–e.g., from your AT&T contract card to a prepaid TIM card, for example. No third party required.

    The only real problem with SIM cards is that some phones make them difficult to change. But that’s just bad phone design–it has nothing to do with the SIM card itself. (On my ancient Motorola flip phone, changing the SIM card is easy: Lift the logo plate, tilt out the card carrier, and switch cards. That’s a lot simpler all around than building a whole new infrastructure–and introducing a new money-sucking entity–just to compensate for the poor design of so many current smartphones.)

  3. Why not have an open network that just allows a device to connect via its imei number. Do away with Sims and harden the imei cloning for security.

  4. Well, when we connect billion of devices to the mobile network there is not enough gold in the world for the SIM cards. So we need to move away from them eventually.

  5. Apple actually proposed abolishing the SIM card – the carriers wouldn’t agree and the micro-SIM was the result

  6. no.
    we don’t need those plans. 100 text messages. thank you.
    we need just an internet. and then we may use our chat clients.
    that’s why I do not have a sim card, but I have a smartphone. I use it with own jabber server (which can talk to gtalk), have unlimited voice and sms messaging.
    as soon as we all do that carriers will become just internet providers, not more, not less.

  7. @pingdom virtual SIM card is high risk operation, old US made technology, first US cell phones were boundled with SIM number

  8. @pingdom Apple made a proposal to do this very thing but the carriers fought back hard. The nano SIM was “plan b”.

  9. Never fear goto
    and sign up it’s only $49.99 plus taxes…
    and start making money with your cell phone, we pay you to help refer other members  and we don’t use tv or radio to advertise we are helping people make money in America.

  10. 1. Not all people have smartphones
    2. Not all people have internet connection
    3. WiFi does not exist everywhere. (Yes it’s true, some people need to go and live on the countryside and open up their eyes to reality)
    4. Unless there is a better solution for a Provider to identify YOU!!! (means your smartphone) that is indeed YOURS (the paying customer) then SIM cards are going to remain with us (in different shapes perhaps)

    The only solution I see is: Smartphone designers will embed a device (similar to SIM) in smartphones to work as an identifier and then load the pre-paid packages from Providers either via wifi or network access. 

    In any case, SIM cards will remain with us in one form or another.

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