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What is Nano SIM? How is it different from Micro SIM or SIM? Which iPad models use a Nano SIM card? How do you cut down a Mini or Micro SIM card to the size of a Nano SIM?
Nano SIM refers to the SIM (Subscriber Identity Module) standard used by the cellular capable iPad models:
All iPhone 5 and later iPhone models use Nano SIMs, too.
Nano SIM is the fourth version, or the "fourth form factor" (4FF) of the SIM standard and measures a mere 12.3 mm by 8.8 mm by 0.67 mm, but still holds the same amount of data as earlier SIM cards.
Nano SIM is both smaller and approximately 15% thinner than the earlier Micro SIM (3FF) standard as well as the Mini SIM (2FF) cards that were ubiquitous for many years and people commonly refer to simply as SIM cards. Technically, the original SIM (1FF) card standard is the same size as a credit card and most people probably have never seen one in person.
This diagram compares the relative size of each SIM standard:
Photo Credit: Wikipedia (Justin Ormont)
As you can see, the Nano SIM (4FF) reduces the size of the SIM effectively to the gold contact area and has just barely enough extra insulating "card" around it to prevent electrical shorts.
Trimming a Mini or Micro SIM to Nano SIM
These days, it is not difficult to obtain a Nano SIM card directly from a carrier. However, if it is more convenient for whatever reason, a Mini or Micro SIM also can be cut down to the Nano SIM size for use in the applicable iPad and iPhone models.
It is quite possible to cut a Mini SIM or Micro SIM down to the Nano SIM size with a sharp pair of scissors or a razor blade and there are templates designed for individuals interested in doing so. However, given the particularly tight tolerances around the contact area on the Nano SIM, it is not surprising that the Internet is littered with comments from people who ruined their SIM card in the process of attempting to cut it down by hand.
In theory, the cut SIM also should be "sanded down" to reduce its thickness, but many Mini or Micro SIM cards are thin enough already to fit in the standard Nano SIM carrier without the need to do so.
Rather than take a great deal of time and risk destroying your existing SIM card by cutting it down by hand, EveryiPad.com strongly recommends purchasing a proper Nano SIM cutter.
A Nano SIM cutter makes it easy -- line up the card correctly and press the handle. It's effectively the same process as using a handheld embosser and even if you consider your time to be unimportant, it costs about the same amount as messing up a single SIM card trying to cut it by hand.