Warning: Using a SIM adapter incorrectly brings down a world of hate

Android SIM tray
Android SIM tray

Or how a $3 piece of plastic can ruin your $600 phone

The HTC One M8 is the third high-profile smartphone to use a nanoSIM. Unless you already use an iPhone 5 or later, or a Moto X, you probably don't have a nanoSIM. But this is the way forward, and eventually every phone will be using the new standard. In the meantime, if you find yourself switching phones around a lot, you may need to adapt — with an adapter — any time you need to go bigger.

We went over switching from a microSIM to a nanoSIM and the various ways to go about it, but we only briefly touched on the dangers of a crappy SIM adapter. Let's talk a little more about that, and why you really need to be careful.

In this video, Kevin teaches us all how to break your brand new phone by not using common sense with a SIM adapter. We can't point and laugh too much, because I have a busted Galaxy Nexus here from doing the very same thing, and Phil had to play doctor with a Lumia 1020 because — you guessed it — a cheap SIM adapter got stuck.

It's a common enough horror story. You currently use a phone with a small micro or nanoSIM, and need an adapter when you switch to a phone that uses a larger SIM card. I'll tell you guys the same advice I tell my wife or my mom ('cause I mostly love you guys, too) — be smart, and go to the carrier store and get a new SIM card activated. It's a painful experience to go into a carrier store, and chances are they will make you pay for it, but this is the only way to be 100-percent sure you don't break "stuff" by using a SIM adapter. Leave the stupid risk-taking to Kevin, Phil and Jerry. We're good at taking stupid risks.

Since I know you're not about to listen to solid advice (now I love you even more!) and are going to use a SIM adapter anyway, let's have a look at why and how they break things, and what you can do to prevent it.

Spring pins are the devil

Spring pins

What you're seeing is a close up of the SIM tray for a Note 3. the Note 3 is a pretty unique device, and does wonderful things, but it shares the same method of holding and creating a circuit with your SIM card as most every other phone does — with nasty little spring pins. They're the two little "fingers" in the middle of the picture.

As mentioned, they serve two purposes. They use tension to press the SIM card in place so it doesn't move, and since they are part of a larger circuit they also act as a conductor to transfer data to and from the SIM. They rest on the metallic side of the SIM card, where the contact just the right spot of the card. That's why they need to hold everything in place, and the best (read: most evil) way to do it is with tension.

It doesn't matter what kind of SIM you're using, or how you put it in, deep inside your phone somewhere are these pins to do their job. While I hate them (and they hate me) they do their job well and they are cheap. This is likely why they are used. All my torment aside, there is really only one issue with this style spring pin — they are open on one side.

That means they are excellent at becoming lodged in any nook or cranny that slides against them when removing (sliding against their slope) your SIM card. Nooks like the small gap between the edge of a nanoSIM and the adapter, or crannies like that hole on the back of the cheap plastic SIM adapter you can buy from your carrier store. Once they get hooked in that little gap, any pressure against them only drives them in deeper, until you get all Hulksmash and yank the pins right out of the circuit board. All you can do is try to push the SIM and the adapter back in, and pray that it works. Getting a SIM adapter out that does this is a nightmare, but it can be done with a very thin piece of plastic slid between the pins and the card/adapter combo. Your best bet is to find a service center. Trust me.

An ounce of prevention

SIM adapter

Let me start by saying you should never, ever use one of those thin flimsy plastic SIM adapters (they usually have a hole in the back) or use one that uses tape to hold the SIM in. I don't believe in most conspiracy theories, but I'm positive that those are made by an evil cabal of phone manufacturer executives who know that you'll end up needing a new phone if you use them enough. Not really, but it's possible.

Buying a good SIM card adapter isn't very expensive — especially when compared to the price of the phone it's going in. If you ask around the Internets, you'll find that most people say to buy the Sadapter brand (opens in new tab). I agree with them. They are precision cut so there is no gap between the adapter and the edge of the card, they are stiff and won't flex during insertion or removal, and they don't use tape or sticky backings to hold the SIM in place. In fact, they are so good that they are on backorder at Amazon or at their own website half the time. There's a reason why good products sell out.

If you have to have one right away, and can't wait for them to get back in stock, the only acceptable substitute I've found (and I've tried a lot) are these made by Noosy (opens in new tab). They are not as good as the Sadapter, but they are nice and thick and won't flex. They also have a smooth surface, and are cut well so there are no gaps to catch those spring pins. Still, if you can, buy the Sadapter brand.

Don't join Phil, Kevin and I at the table where people who have broken phones are forced to sit. Either let your carrier take care of you when you swap phones, or buy the right adapter and be very careful when using it. Your phone will thank you.

Jerry Hildenbrand
Senior Editor — Google Ecosystem

Jerry is an amateur woodworker and struggling shade tree mechanic. There's nothing he can't take apart, but many things he can't reassemble. You'll find him writing and speaking his loud opinion on Android Central and occasionally on Twitter.

  • Whatever you do, NEVER insert an empty SIM tray into your device. Did this on my Nexus 5 and had to find a thin, rigid piece of plastic to get it out. It was a fiasco and a half. And if you buy an adapter, get the German made one. It's about $8 shipped and is worth every penny. http://microsim-shop.com/
  • Exact same issue exact same device. Broke only a single pin and got a friend to do a large dab of solider where the pin used to be.
    In the process the lever that pushes the tray out when you insert the Sim tool fell out and now it requires me prying on the tray with one of those plastic tools if I want the Sim out.
    Probably going to thread a piece of string in there to tug the tray out instead of using the tool. Highly annoying and will hurt my resale value when I get the nexus 6. Posted via Android Central App
  • Why would that be a problem? The Nexus 5 came with an empty SIM tray from Google. I have put empty trays in and out of 2 different Nexus 5's and never had a stuck tray or other issues.
  • Empty adapter in the tray into the slot. Instant fail because the pins Lodge up into the adapter which is missing the Sim card Posted via Android Central App
  • +1 Posted via Android Central App on my daily driver, the Droid MAX
  • I had the same problem. Had to use a piece of the factory screen protector to shim the tray out. Was a bit of a heartstopper.
  • Yes! I learned this the hard way on my Google Nexus 5!!! Thankfully Google was nice enough to replace it for me!
  • Hello, I'm having the exact issue. The lower thin plastic part of the sim side broke and I believe it went inside the sim port. How were you able to remove it? I can't insert my sim + tray anymore. Thanks!
  • I use those German ones and never had an issue with using a nano-sim in any of my phones, including the Note 3. Posted via Android Central App
  • I learned my lesson when I accidentally left the empty SIM adapter in the tray and put it back in my Lumia 1020. Also had to replace the SIM card assembly in a Galaxy S4 from doing the same thing. An expensive lesson learned to be sure. It will be nice if/when all phones are on the same standard. Posted via Android Central App
  • Why don't they just go with a universal SIM card size? All USB ports are universal now and we're better off for it.
  • I suppose the pursuit to minimize internals is pushing this to be the new standard. I'm sure nano will overtake micro very soon. Posted from my TARDIS!
  • SIM card sizes are universal, they've just gone through evolutions. Just like USB. Posted via Android Central App
  • Beat me to it, USB 2.0-3.0 is a bit of a switch, though you can still use 2.0 cables Posted via Android Central App
  • Nano SIM is supposed to be the new (universal) standard. Might take a bit longer to be in full effect.
  • easily fixed with a one or two pieces of tape on the backside of sim so it wont get loose...i´ve used one piece of tape on the back on every full size sim since -96 to get a lil bit more pressure on the pins
  • Love that you included my video in here, Jerry. :( I still hate myself for doing that. Worst thing is, that wasn't even the first time I made this stupid mistake. So easy to do.
  • There was no way this post could be written without that video embedded :)
  • I bent a pin on my Galaxy Nexus using a SIM card adapter, sent it off to have it repaired, and then did it again about a month later :( The pin is still bent, and now it is the Android equivalent of an iPod Touch.
  • I found blackberry's to be the worst culprit for this issue. I have used the noosey adapters and have had good luck. I made my own adapter by cutting a bigger Sim card to have a whole it the middle and needless to say my bb torch was never the same. Sims are cheap in Canada and you can on most carriers switch them online.
  • http://pbs.twimg.com/media/Bjc9u6NCAAEh63B.jpg :D
  • That would be a whole lot more fitting if there were such a thing as a "sematary" (Hint: I believe you meant "cementary").
  • Your comment would be a whole lot more fitting if you knew who Stephen King was (Hint: I believe you meant "cemetery"
  • All kinds of fail here.
  • O got the galaxy s3 a month ago with virgin and they sent me a micro sim and a adaptor the plastic bit had a tiny bit sticking out at the bottom put it in worked OK then took it out to try my other sim and ripped all the pins out luckily I no has to fix phones and ordered a replacement for 3 pound on eBay :) Posted via Android Central App
  • I wonder how many phones die every year from this? I bet the number is actually pretty big. I switch phones a lot, so like to just keep a nano sim on my main line, then I can upsize to micro or even full size if I need to. But it means you're dancing with the devil every time you stick it in the hole.
  • Your video illustrates a great idea (sliding the smaller sim in the bigger slot) but its far too common for newer phones to not use the galaxy or black been style slip-it-in method and use a tray, forcing an adapter. The only downside to this idea would be a drop which would likely be enough to dislodge the card in the slot. Posted via Android Central App
  • I broke an atrix 2 with a simple microSIM adapter. I was lucky I was able to use the sim card after all.
  • I also broke the pins on my SGS3 a year ago doing the same thing, bought a replacement part from ebay, installed it and all is OK. I use the phone as my spare device now but this is a very common problem since the all great adapters hit the market. Great job explaining the problem, that is exactly what happens to many people and they have no idea what the problem is.
  • "But it means you're dancing with the devil every time you stick it in the hole." We are still talking about sim adapters,right?
  • Lmao, I was thinking the same thing!! Posted via Android Central App
  • Heh something similar happened last week to me, my HTC One X started going apeshit by restarting itself on and off about every 5 seconds, i thought it was the end of the phones life so I switched the SIM I had on it to a HTC ChaCha, but the HTC ChaCha uses a full size SIM so i had to use an adapter i had laying around for a long time, i put it in but it struggled to get in, i stupidly pushed it in fully, few days later and the HTC One X starts working again so i went on a mission to remove the damn SIM, luckily no pins were damaged, only problem was with the sim card being too thick, i had to use needles to gently push it out, it took sometime but i finally got it out. Oh and just FYI, when i say it's my HTC One X, it is, but i gave it to my mother to use, my main phone is the HTC One M8 not that it matters.
  • Whoa I feel for you on that chacha. Not enough internal storage for the default google apps to fully update, much less install anything else (due to the growth of the apps since that device was released). Wish that for factor would have gotten more love with android. That or a portrait slider android. That would be my dream phone. Posted via Android Central App
  • it was a great phone, now it's just a decent back up phone, I would definitely be interested in a new model with KitKat and up to standard specs.
  • When you say "full size SIM" I presume you actually mean a mini SIM. A full sized SIM is the size of a credit card, and it has been 15 years or so since I saw a phone that takes one of those. Posted via Android Central App
  • My bad, I guess you learn something new everyday =D
  • I did this to a Z10....
  • if you cheap ass, like me, DX has good adapters also (quite close to Noosys). Never had problems with these. http://www.dx.com/p/nano-to-micro-nano-sim-adapter-micro-sim-adapter-for...
  • i just ordered an adapter from amazon the other day. Let's hope it works fine!
  • Has anyone tried the MediaDevil brand ones? I just bought them but haven't used them yet. I'm thinking of returning them for the Sadapter ones now. I just got a Note 3 and will be switching back and forthe between that and a Moto X. Also, for what it is worth, AT&T doesn't charge for SIM cards. I usually get 1 or 2 extras when I'm there just so i don't have to go get them so often (I change phones a lot, hence the adapters).
  • Do you have a special hook up? They told me the old cards are inactivated when you switch. In other words one card active per line.
  • No, what you said is correct. One active Sim per line. When I switch now I have to go into the store and get a brave new Sim. That is why I want an adapter. Activate a nano sim and put it into whatever adapter makes it for in the phone I'm using at that point. Posted via Android Central App
  • I used Noosy once for my old Gnex as it came with a SIM card cutter I got. It worked for the week I needed it, and I was lucky nothing got broken.
  • I have a dead N5 in my desk from a stupid nano Sim adapter :-( I play with my food
  • When I switched from the iPhone 5S to the note that I needed to go from a nano to micro sim. I got a sim adapter and intended to use that but was advised not to in the shop where I bought my note 3 and now I fully understand why not. Posted from my galaxy note 3
  • I don't have an iPhone or a Moto X and i have a nanoSIM. just sayin Posted from my newly Kit Katted Droid Ultra
  • Droid Ultra is pretty much the same as a Moto X...
  • I think you got that backwards buddy Posted from my newly Kit Katted Droid Ultra
  • I did that exact same thing to an old galaxy s3 a while back. I switched phones and i put the empty sim adapter into the s3 slot to store it so I wouldn't lose it. It wasn't until I tried to take it back out the next day that I realized I had made a mistake. I ended up breaking off the pins as well. I took it into a carrier store and told them my phone wasn't reading the sim and they played with it for a little while and tried a new sim then gave me a new phone. I got lucky. Lesson learned. never put an empty sim adapter in a phone. lol on my S4 I just stored the adapter under the battery when I wasn't using the phone.
  • When I switched from my Vivid to the N5 I just went to the AT&T store and they put a new Sim in for free. Posted from my Nexus 7 2013 via Android Central App
  • I found these German made Sim adapters also work awesome. Well worth the price. http://forums.androidcentral.com/general-news-discussion/320772-german-m... Posted via Android Central App
  • I have never had issues with empty Sim trays , not Sim adapters. Putting an empty Sim adapter inside of your phone is not smart. However I have not had any issues with empty trays in phones including but not limited to the nexus 5 Posted via Android Central App
  • Not the same but i broke my old HTC One S's sim slot by forcing in a cut down micro sim.. god was i pissed... Posted via Android Central App
  • Almost toasted my lumia 1020 by sticking an adaptor in empty. Now have a moto x and use a noosy to switch back to micro with no problem so far, way cheaper than other brand. Posted via Android Central App
  • I got one stuck in a G2, took me a while to figure out how to get it out. I was panicking!
  • does any Samsung phone use nano SIM? (current of near-future)
  • Yes, the current Galaxy S5 uses nanoSIM. The only 2014 flagship so far that doesn't do so is the Xperia Z2.
  • Does the z2 use the same thin plastic Sim tray as the z1s
  • Duplicate
  • S5 uses MICRO sim card.
  • This is creepy. It's also exactly the reason I chose to get an HTC One M7 over the M8 to quench my thirst of curiosity on using an Android phone. I used an iPhone 4 before with a cut down mini to micro SIM, then used that in my Nokia Lumia 810, 920 and 925 until I updated to an actual micro SIM over a month ago so Wi-Fi calling would work in my T-Mobile 925. I wanted to be able to easily swap the SIM out to try Android and knew going the SIM adapter route wouldn't be an option. Also, just wanted to point out to the author that there's yet another phone that uses a nano SIM - the Nokia Lumia 1520! :)
  • I hate nanoSIM cards. And honestly, I'm not using any phone as a daily driver until I have more than one phone with nanoSIM cards. Currently I have zero nanoSIM phones with the perspective of none in the future (maybe the Nokia L930 once the price drops to bellow 400€). Unless, of course, Sony puts a nanoSIM in the Z2 Compact for some weird reason. But I'll bookmark this article and the adapters page anyway, just in case. And damn you people who keep coming up with different SIM sizes.
  • I understand, but you will have to get over it because soon every smartphone will use nano Sim. via moto x.
  • This happened to my N5 as well. I was able to get it out though by sliding a plastic film. Took me couple of hours of jiggling and wiggling. Lesson learned. Posted via Android Central App
  • What was wrong with the micosim? It was fine until Crapple went to nanosim. Guess next Apple will remove the SIM card completely and all will follow. Posted via Android Central App
  • This happened http://www.phonearena.com/news/Apple-has-a-fight-on-its-hands-for-the-na... Posted via Android Central App
  • Just ordered Sadapter so I can switch between the M8 and S5 :D
  • Me too ordered this as soon I read the post. Want to switch between iPhone 5s, 1520, M8 and the S5. All the phones have nano sim except the S5. Please Samsung copy this one and make our lives easier :) Posted via Android Central App
  • Not to hijack your thread but I was at best buy today and saw the new HTC One #M8 available for boost mobile I have pictures to prove it in this Dropbox link I even asked an employee 2 employee's for that matter and they confirmed that the device #M8 is indeed available for boost mobile I've reached out to HTC and boost mobile via Twitter to no avail, and can't get an answer from anyone here's the link to the photos
  • For $800? That's pretty steep.
    I hope the s5 comes to boost too Posted via Android Central App
  • Well that's useless best buy price... They always have crazy off contract price. Basically they don't want you to buy off contract. Best buy makes money selling carrier contracts not the off contract phones. Posted via Android Central App
  • Same thing last week with a brand new 9900 from work. I tried with a microsim to SIM adaptor that worked on the the 9830 Torch and it didn't got in. It would have broken inside... along with some pins probably. So i got a regulat SIM from my carrier after half an hour of trying. That really is the smart move. Or some good slim rigid adaptors as pointed here in the comments, but i thing those will not work on a 9900 either dew to the way they (stupid) made the port).
  • Probably too late to be helpful, but here goes. I am using the Noosey micro to mini adapter in my son's phone, no problem. The issue I read about with the nano SIM is that it is the tiniest bit thinner than the micro and mini. Thus, the traditional hole-in-a-card adapter doesn't provide a consistent depth and so the pins tend to get stuck as you pull across. I haven't verified this with specs but it seems believable. I have rescued a SIM case by using a slip of paper, but it was easier because it was a full sized slot and exposed under the battery cover. I have no idea how I'd rescue one from my Nexus.
  • Thanks for the article AC! I'm just about to cut my first sim. Mini to micro so not too much worry here. The kit I bought online was pretty high rated. Fingers crossed. Posted via Android Central App
  • What a headache! I'm still using a traditional size SIM card but when I switch to a phone that requires a smaller SIM, that will be pretty much it. I might get the Sadapter SIM adapters just in case my new phone fails and I have to go back to my old phone for a while, but once I go smaller I don't want to swap SIM with phones that will require an adapter just for the fun of it; it'll only be done out of necessity as I just explained.
  • It still baffles me when I read any article like this and there's a warning about a charge for a SIM-swap! Is this predominantly a US thing? Would be great to see the nano SIM become the standard in any new device. Posted via Android Central App
  • The nano sim is the reason i will ignore the HTC One M8 for my next Android phone, currently i have a micro sim and i love to swap between my various device, but don't want to move to a nano sim and take risk to damage one with a adapter.
  • My (UK) carrier provide free SIM swaps. Better yet, you can re-use an old SIM, so I can switch from my NanoSIM to my MicroSIM to my MiniSIM if I need to using their website... Surely the same is true of other carriers around the world?
  • That would be a great idea. Not down here in New Zealand, You have to go back to the carrier to change SIM types. But if you order a new MiroSIM these days it comes as a MiniSIM and allows you to punch it out. Just put the MicroSIM back into the MiniSIM case to put it back to a phone with a normal MiniSIM. Not sure if NanoSIMs are the same or not as I haven't played with any..
  • That's a shame. Reusing old SIM cards isn't officially supported by my carrier but I've discovered through working for them that as long as the SIM is unregistered and of the correct type (you can't mix pre-pay with post-pay) it'll work. You just use the SIM swap website or SMS service. Our NanoSIMs have unique packaging, "thanks Apple," but like your carrier, MiniSIM and MicroSIM packages are dual size... In theory, but in practice it's a bad idea. See this article for more information. :)
  • I just ordered some Noosy ones since Sadapter are sold out. Anyone had any experience with them?
  • FYI Verizon does not charge for replacement SIM cards and the M8 comes with a Nano SIM preinstalled Posted via Android Central App on my daily driver, the Droid MAX
  • Stupid question born of ignorance. I have several unused SIMs, of both common sizes. Can I activate both a nano and micro SIM and not use an adapter at all? I swap between a Z30 (micro) and a Lumia Icon (nano).
  • In our country, there are places where you can have a larger sim stamp cut so that you will have a micro / nano sim. You get to keep the outer part in case you want to go back to a larger sim
  • I wish I had read this article... my brand new G3 just got ruined... and just ordered SAdapter... damn... now i have to get my g3 fixed... damn...
  • Sucks right? Ruined my note2
  • So please answer this. I have a Note 3. I also have an iPhone 5 s. Same carrier. I would like to go from iPhone to note 3 from time to time because when working out the iPhone 5s is smaller in pocket. Is this what I need to do so without having to go into att and have them deactivate one and reactivate the other? They don't mind it but it gets old driving there since a week or so. Pls advise. Thank you.
  • My phone is currently at ubreakifix waiting for the part to arrive. $50 repair bill will also be waiting for me when I pick up my phone.
  • Tip: SIM Tray Stuck on Nexus 5, You Should do This http://www.droid-life.com/2014/06/30/nexus-5-stuck-sim-tray-fix/
  • It's not the plastic adapter. It's the sim tray design. I just saw this post and yes. My note2 just got effed.
  • Just effed up my S4 by doing this. Stupidly put in the empty nano sim adapter and it got caught on the pins when I tried to slide it out. Managed to get it out, no pins broke it seems but it looks like one was sticking up. Tried to press it back down but still doesn't read any sim. Sim card still clicks into place as normal but I guess one of the pins is not making contact properly. So now just waiting for the replacement sim card tray replacement I ordered and will replace it myself. LOL so stupid. Don't know what possessed me to put the adapter in without the sim in it.
  • I know. Because you didn't want to have to look for the adapter when you switched phones. That was my thinking anyway before I broke the pins on my Lumia 928 pulling the sim card out with pliers.
  • Thank you! Exactly the information I needed!
  • Great article. Thinking of swapping my iPad Mini Retina (that I hardly use) for an LG G3 to pair with my 6 Plus and don't want to have to go to Verizon every time I swap phones because the SIM cards are different.
  • I had a stuck sim adapter in my Lumia. Search "stuck sim adapter" on youtube and you'll find videos that work. You shim a piece of plastic into the slot to depress the pins and eventually the tray will come out.
  • Yeah, Lumias seem to be notorious. I put in an adapter wtihout the sim and it got stuck in my Nokia Lumia 928. I just got some needle nosed pliers and yanked on it. It came out, but I ruined all the pins so now the phone is my new mp3 player!
  • My LG G3 might become my grandson's 5.5" wifi tablet if it doesn't get fixed.
  • Yes this very thing happened to my Blackberry. Luckily I fixed it myself.
  • I've used the Noosy ones and they are too thick for my LG G4. It's like a typical Samsung sim slot and you push it in and then it pops back out a little. Then to get it out you push it in and it pops it back out. Well, with the Noosy it is so thick it just gets wedged in there, and it works, but the spring device is not at work. You probably have to pull it out with a knife or tweezers or something. I'm going to try the good brand. I think Noosy made these all out of the same thickness of plastic, and we know the old standard size sims used to be thicker than the nano sim cards nowadays. That's why they're too thck for the new micro sim slots.
  • I'm facing the same problem right now with my LG G3. My main phone is a Nexus 6. I'm expecting a call today from a tech. I love the idea of using a strip of plastic screen protector for removal. It seems to me that this problem could have been avoided by making the sim cards read the way a memory card does, with the contact points at the end and not the middle. But, that ship has sailed. These pins are the heater core of smartphones.