Tuesday, January 21, 2014

How to convert a SIM into a MicroSIM

Until a few days ago, all my mobile phones were capable of hosting an ordinary SIM card in their belly. And since I'm talking about 5 years old technology residing in my pocket, it was the time for a change and get some new hardware. As I didn't really follow the recent developments of telephony (5 years are, indeed, a long time span if you compare it with the way shorter characteristic time in Moore's law), I came to know that my future Android mobile will only be able to swallow MicroSIM cards.

So how can I put a SIM card into my new masterpiece of technology right away? After consulting Mr Google for a few advices, two possible solutions popped out: either your phone company will be happy to replace your SIM with an MicroSIM (or a NanoSIM. Yes, there are NanoSIM as well if you, like me, didn't even know about the existence of MicroSIM), or ... wait for it ... you can make your own MicroSIM out of your old SIM!

As I haven't looked at the websites of many mobile network operators, I'm not sure all of them will substitute your old SIM with a smaller one (it turns out mine does), so what I'll be discussing in this post is how to carve a MicroSIM out of your full size SIM (I won't deal with NanoSIM explicitly, but it is straightforward to adapt the following procedure to this case, just keep reading :)).

Before we proceed with our manufacturing process, a few words of warning (also a spoiler alert, for you're going to find out what we are about to do to your old SIM card, and you might not like it :P) and a disclaimer, for I won't take any responsibility whatsoever on damage you might cause to your SIM card while following these advices. The procedure I'm going to describe requires you to literally cut your MicroSIM out of the SIM you own, so basically there is no turning back afterwards. And I don't need to say to you that this might damage your SIM card beyond repair, voiding any warranty or whatever binding agreement you have with your company and, again, I don't take any responsibility for this. So keep reading only if you think you're brave enough to endure the sight of your SIM card being ripped off of its excessive plastic.

Here we go then. If you are already wondering "Hang on ... how am I supposed to know the exact shape and size of a MicroSIM?", there is a really simple answer to this question: download this PDF document (http://www.airportal.de/nanosim/How_to_cut_Mini_and_Micro_SIM_to_Nano_SIM.pdf, you can also have a look at their guide at http://www.airportal.de/nanosim/) and print it with no scaling, i.e. 100% original size. This document comes with instructions on the right margin, and in particular point 4 below shows you that the actual chip is just a tiny portion of your SIM, just in the middle of it, so that it is quite a safe procedure to cut the excess plastic away from it. You are of course free to follow that guide, but what if you then want to put your new MicroSIM (or NanoSIM) back into a phone which hosts a full size SIM? Well obviously you can buy a MicroSIM to SIM adapter, that's for sure, but why should we waste the extra plastic from our old SIM? It seems that, if we're careful enough, we can manufacture our own adapter, right? Of course, if you own a 3D printer, or you somehow have access to one of those cuties, you can always print your own adapter. In my case this wasn't applicable, so I decided to do some yoga to get enough patience to carefully carve the MicroSIM out of my old SIM card. How did I do it? Simple! I've used a box cutter! Yes, this has indeed been my only precision tool. And of course, since I'm writing this post, the whole process must have been successful in my case.

So what's the strategy then? If your SIM is not extremely colourful, you'll be able to draw the cutting lines (for this, just follow the first steps in the PDF document above) with just a pencil. Make sure the tip is sharp enough to not mark the whole surface of your SIM, or it'll be hard to tell where you have to cut. Once you have completed this step (it might be really helpful to stick the SIM on the paper you've printed, as suggested in the document, with double-sided tape. In my case I didn't and I really struggled to keep the SIM card steady while incising it). What you want to do is to start incising with the cutter in the middle of all the lines you drew in the previous step, and keep going back and forth to mark those lines. Be patient and keep incising for as long as you reach the other side of the SIM. And be extremely careful not to overcut it, or the stability of your adapter might be compromised. You just want to leave the frame intact, with no incisions. Don't worry too much if the edges will be too irregular, for we're going to smoothen them up with a file (the one provided with a nail clipper is well suited for the job, and that's add another tool to our toolbox of precision tools :P). Once you've carved your MicroSIM out of your SIM, use the file for as long as the new MicroSIM will fit nicely into your device, then smoothen up the adapter as well. As a final touch I've put some sellotape on the bottom side (or top side, depending on your preferred point of view on things, but to be clear I'm referring to the side which carries the logo of your company, i.e. the one that once was opposite to the metal chip) so that when I'll put the MicroSIM into it it'll stay in position.

My adapter at its final stage. You can notice the pencil marks, and probably the sellotape at the bottom.

So we come to the conclusion. I hope this short post has been of help and that you haven't screwed up with your SIM. If you did well you'll have a perfectly working MicroSIM, exactly like mine, and a cute little adapter, all for free.

To the next adventure!

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