Thanks to a number of previous leaks and reports, the new standards that Apple introduced today along with the iPhone 5 shouldn’t really be a surprise to people who have been paying attention. Specifically, talks of the new iPhone featuring a smaller Nano SIM card slot and a new 8-pin dock connector – now officially called ‘Lightning’ – have been making the rounds months before Apple pulled the covers off their latest products today. That doesn’t make it easier to swallow, though. If you’re a fan who’s heavily invested in the iOS ecosystem, then like us, you’re probably going through a weird mix of excitement and apprehension right now because of the changes Apple wants you to make.
First off, there’s the problem with the smaller new Nano SIM card that the iPhone 5 uses. While Apple already mentioned their reason for shifting to the (even) smaller SIM – basically, the space they saved allowed them to stuff in a lot of other good bits into a slimmer and lighter iPhone frame – it doesn’t make your job easier if you plan on moving up from an iPhone 4 or 4S to the 5.
Before anything else, we know what you’re thinking. The answer – or at least the official one – is no, you can’t crop your current Micro SIM card to fit it into the iPhone 5. Not the same way you snipped a regular SIM to fit the iPhone 4 or 4S.
According to a statement made by Giesecke & Devrient, the company who created and makes the new Nano SIM cards, the new SIM card standard is said to be 15% thinner than the previous two generations, so simply cutting it will not, well… cut it this time. While it used to work for Micro SIM cards – mainly because it shared the same thickness with previous SIM standard – the slimmer Nano SIM slot won’t let you mash in a chopped Micro SIM anymore.
We’re not saying that it’s been ruled out though. While we won’t put it past enterprising accessory makers or modders to find a way to make it work – someone could find a way to slice 15% off the thickness of a Micro SIM before the iPhone 5 even starts shipping – there’s no news on that front for now.
[UPDATE: Apparently, we spoke too soon. A quick search came up with this: an “all-in-one Nano SIM cutter” that’s supposedly able to crop a standard SIM into either a Micro SIM OR Nano SIM for the iPhone 5. The photo and description is pretty vague, and since the page doesn’t explain how (or if it’s even able) to go around the thickness problem, we’re not convinced.]
For people upgrading from the 2-year old iPhone 4 (a.k.a. people currently up for a new cellular contract), the new SIM standard shouldn’t be a problem. But if you’ve been buying previous iPhones and accessories, you’re going to have to deal with the Lightning dock interface like the rest of us.
Here’s the deal with the sexy new Lightning port (yes, we just called a port ‘sexy’) found on Apple’s just-released iPhone, iPod touch, and iPod nano: like the Nano SIM slot, it contributes to the new device’s slimmer dimensions. The new interface is described to be more durable, and it’s designed to be double-sided, which means that there’s no way to hook it up ‘the wrong way.’
Unfortunately, as you probably realize by now, the new iPhone (or iPods) won’t slot into your existing accessories out-of-the-box. While Apple also announced that they’re going to be selling a Lightning to 30-pin adapter for (ouch) $29 a pop, it’s not exactly an ideal solution.
For most speakers and accessories with a top-loading dock or wired 30-pin connection, this solution should still be good – if not a bit unsightly if the look of a perfect, flush device-to-dock fit is important to you – as long as there’s space for adding an inch of adapter between the dock and the device.
The problem here is that not all available accessories offer enough space to fit an adapter between a device and the dock (or the iPhone 5’s longer shell), and most of those accessories – like Oxygen Audio’s and Devium’s made-for-iPhone head units – don’t come cheap. On the bright side, most high-end docks offer more than a number of ways to hook up (including Bluetooth or a 3.5mm stereo cable) for audio streaming, but sometimes it’s just not enough.
With all three of Apple’s latest products launching with Lightning connections, it’s clear that it’s here to stay. So if you plan on sticking with Apple’s ecosystem, you’re just going to have to deal with it. Like millions of people all around the world.