SIM cutting

Mini and Micro and Nano, oh my! A guide to cutting your own SIM cards

My favorite blog posts always start with the disclaimer of "We're not responsible if you do this and it makes bad stuff happen." But, we're not, and it could. You've been sufficiently warned.

I have a feeling a lot of us are ordering a Moto X today. Enough to crush the website, at least. Each and every one of us who ordered is going to need one thing — a Nano SIM. Most Android phones currently use a Micro SIM, some older models use a Mini SIM (note that a full-sized SIM looks like a credit card, and none of your phones use one), but the Moto X uses a Nano version.

You can get a new SIM card from whoever provides your cell service, but for some of us that means waiting for the mail or driving a few miles or more to go pick one up. And there's a good chance it won't be free. Luckily, cutting your own isn't that difficult.

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Read on.

The easy way

SIM cutter

$13 gets this Noosy SIM card cutter delivered to your door from Amazon. You put your current SIM card in the tray under the handle, set it on a flat, sturdy surface, and press the handle down. Your Nano (or Micro — it does both) SIM card pops out of the bottom like some sort of magic. OK, so it's not really magic. It presses the SIM through a die-cut opening which stamps out a SIM of the right size. It is, however, really easy. If you use a lot of different phones or different pre-paid SIM cards that you switch around a lot, it's a smart buy. If you want to cut your own card without messing it up, it's also a good buy. Don't order just yet, because you'll need some adapters, too. Keep reading.

The manual way

SIM cutting

I hesitate to call this the hard way, because it's not really hard. It does require you be a little careful — cutting something is easier than adding material back to it. 

There are two ways to go here, the by-the-seat-of-your-pants Jerry way, or the template way. The Jerry way is to nibble away at the card until it fits in the phone's SIM tray using some very sharp scissors and a pair of nail clippers. This way works, but I wouldn't recommend it until you have a few under your belt. Cutting things too small is really easy to do, and I have the pile of too-small Nano SIM cards to prove it. On the other hand, if you're like me (and I know some of you are), grab a beer and some sharp things and whittle away. The folks who sell spare SIM cards will love you for it. I'll love you too, because more people doing silly things makes me look normal.

Using a template is much smarter. Here's a great one from the folks at Simple Mobile. Print it out, get some tape and your scissors, follow directions and you should have no issues. 

SIM adapters

SIM adapter

You might want to put your SIM card back into a phone that doesn't use a Nano SIM — especially since that would be every other Android phone. To do that, you'll probably need an adapter.

These things are the devil. Even the best ones can flex while inserting or removing the SIM card, and depending on the phone that could ruin things. Beside my pile of too-small SIM cards, I also have a Galaxy Nexus with a broken mainboard from a shoddy adapter. This is a bigger deal on some phones that it is on others. Have a look at this.

SIM holder

That's the SIM tray of a Note 3. You have to use an adapter to get the SIM in the right spot, because you have no access to three sides of the holder to correctly position a Nano SIM in a Mini SIM-sized slot. There are springy contacts under there, and if you catch them while putting your SIM card in or out you can really muck things up. 

The key is to find a decent adapter, and be extra careful while putting things in and out. The decent adapter part is easy enough, because both Phil and I have been through all sorts of them and finally found two brands that are worth using. I recommend this set from Amazon, made by Noosy — the same people who make the cutter I recommend buying. Phil says to use this Sadapter brand one from Amazon. They both have two things in common — they are thick and sturdy, and don't use glue or tape to hold the SIM card. 

I can't stress enough that you don't want to use one of those flimsy, colorful ones that include sticky tape. Take it from someone with a broken phone from using them.

Regardless of which adapter you use, take your time and be careful putting the card in or out when it's in an adapter. If something doesn't look or feel right, stop and see why. The mechanism that holds things in place as well as the electronics that are exposed are pretty fragile.

SIM card and adapter

There's no shame in realizing that your phone cost way too much to be tinkering with a $6 SIM card in a way that might break it. A phone call to your service provider will get a properly sized SIM card in the mail and on the way to you, and waiting an extra day or two is worth it for a lot of people.

But if you need that feeling that comes with instant gratification, or just like to cut stuff (or both), good luck with your SIM card resizing!

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