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Secure Transactions News

ETSI adopts Apple

Thursday 14 June 2012

The long and contentious battle for the exact shape of 4FF technically came to a close on June 1, 2012. ETSI didn't actually announce which of the competing designs had actually won out, preferring to put forth a message of unity after a process that was anything but unified. However, the proposer of the winning specification was identified by card maker Giesecke & Devrient (G&D), which had a representative on the committee. It is said that Apple’s specification beat a competing proposal from Nokia, Research In Motion (RIM) and Google-owned Motorola Mobility.

Apple’s solution offers backward compatibility with the existing technology (with the 2FF and 3FF formats) with the two USB pads (C4 and C8) at the center of the connector.


The other solution presented by RIM/Motorola/Nokia proposed a SD-like format (6 pads aligned, and C4 and C8 apart) with a “push-push” reader function, but this proposal offered a total break without any backward compatibility.


However, Motorola and RIM also submitted an Apple-inspired design in an amended proposal. The dimensions are almost exactly the same, save for an additional catch in the card that helps it lock in place, so it could also suggest that ETSI chose to run the adapted version of Apple’s design.


ETSI is yet to release details of the standard. ETSI says the final design will be developed in a way that ensures it is backwards compatible with existing SIM card designs (that wasn’t the case with Apple’s rival proposal).

The new form factor was adopted by industry with the involvement of major mobile network operators, smart card suppliers and mobile device manufacturers. The new design will be published in due course in ETSI’s TS 102 221 specification, freely available at the ETSI website.