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My Tech Disasters: Chapter 43

Rory Cellan-Jones | 08:10 UK time, Friday, 14 May 2010

Every now and then, as an ageing technology journalist wanting to prove he can still hack it, I like to indulge in a little DIY. So when, having spent an inordinate amount of cash, I took delivery of a 3G Apple iPad brought over from New York by a kind friend, I set to work.

The problem, you see, is that the device will not work on a 3G network with a normal SIM card. You need to slot in a special micro-SIM and these are not yet available in the UK. But I had spotted on the internet that there was a workaround. Some clever folks had found that you could cut down a standard SIM so that it would fit into the iPad's SIM holder. A British friend had tried this out and assured me that it was quick and simple - and worked.

The various online guides suggested using anything from a meat cleaver to pair of scissors to undertake this task. Not having a meat cleaver to hand, I assembled a variety of tools, including a penknife, some scissors and a ballpoint pen. I took a standard O2 pay-as-you-go SIM card, which promised me a month's unlimited web access for £10 and began to hack away at it. And, as you can see from the video, I failed miserably. When I inserted the SIM into the iPad, the device remained oblivious of its presence. It seems I had trimmed just a little too much.

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So that's £10 down the drain. What's more, I'd had an earlier Tech Failure with the same SIM, trying and failing to use it (before trimming) in an HTC Desire phone. Mobile operators aren't keen to see these expensive pieces of kit used on anything but a nice chunky long-term contract SIM, so they don't make it easy. After hours of endless fiddling with the settings - and helpful advice from online friends - I ended up crashing the whole operating system

As for the iPad, I hardly think you need yet another review. So I shall wait until a rival product comes along to compare and contrast - luckily, I'm told there will be one on the market in just a few weeks' time. Then I can have a go at breaking that too.


  • Comment number 1.

    Took the Vodafone SIM from my unlocked iPhone, dropped it into my HTC Desire (purchased SIM-free and unlocked, not on Vodafone) and it just worked... if you failed on the HTC then it may not have been your cutting skills that were at fault!

  • Comment number 2.

    Oh dear. Maybe Rory should forget the technology reporting and stick to politics - now there's a field in which you could make some inroads with a meat cleaver and some scissors.

  • Comment number 3.

    Measure twice; cut once, as the old adage goes.

    It helps if you draw on the SIM to show how to line it up:

  • Comment number 4.

    Cutting a SIM to size is hardly a technical feat, but I'm interested to see/hear the success of it. Sounds cool. Have another go if you will; can always claim another tenner on the Beeb ;)

  • Comment number 5.

    If it didn't work on the HTC then you could have just got a bad SIM. I have a iPhone 3GS on pas as you go and it's fine, and the Desire and Nexus One come unlocked for any network - and any UK SIM. There's nothing they'd have done to the unlocked phone to prevent it from working on a pay as you go SIM, in fact I'm not even sure if such a thing is technically possible.

  • Comment number 6.

    Maybe instead of cutting down the SIM you could have found some sort of cut down ipad that takes a normal SIM, fits in your pocket and makes phone call.

    Oh, hang on..

  • Comment number 7.

    I'd have been interested to hear your thoughts on the Desire, as I recently got one after I decided I was fed up waiting for the next iPhone and realised how ridiculous it is that even a pretty considerable cost and length of contract does not entitle you to a free iPhone. I also think it's pretty cheeky that phone companies do not give discounts on iPhones when the next one is just a month or two away.

    Personally, I've found one or two wee niggles with the Desire, and the Android Market is unsurprisingly not as good as the App Store (yet), but overall it's remarkable that such a good phone costs just half the price of an iPhone. It'll certainly be interesting to see how the next iPhone matches up to it - the current iPhone cannot match the Desire's superior screen, but I dare say the next iPhone will, or at least should do for the inevitable cost - but it'll never match Android phones in terms of the freedom to do whatever you want with them. Also, as a Java developer, it's great that Android apps can be developed using the free Eclipse IDE with Android plugins - contrast that with the need to pay to sign up to the iPhone Developer Program just to test iPhone apps on your iPhone, plus the need to develop on a Mac as well as using (in my opinion) inferior programming languages. With any luck, Android Market will quickly catch up with the App Store. Oh, and what a boon to be able to just drag and drop my music files onto my SD card and have the Desire find them automatically - far quicker and more convenient than waiting for iTunes to load up. Not to mention that fact that if my SD card gets filled up, rather than being faced with the decision of continually removing songs in order to get other ones on verses shelling out for a more expensive iPhone, I can just but a larger SD card, and slip it in the phone!

    I think it's the bona fide "iPhone killer" that people have been waiting for - I've already got my sister and three folk at work deciding to get one. I think Apple's snubbing of Flash could actually be a turning point in the smartphone market, as most people's reasons for moving from the iPhone is "I'm fed up of being locked down by Apple", and that was a massive indicator that Apple's attitude will not change any time soon.

  • Comment number 8.

    Errm, it's an iPad.. Tech Disaster from the outset.

    Why would ANYONE in sane mind that not conditioned by Apples slick marketing, want a oversided iPod Touch?

  • Comment number 9.

    I had similar Internet nightmares with my new nokia phone bought at Christmas with an O2 pay-as-you-go sim. The problem is that O2 don't provide a full Internet service on pay-as-you-go (they don't support a gateway address on this service) so a lot of Internet functionality like gps and email just won't work. I finally changed to Orange but was very unhappy that O2 can sell a phone with all these bells and whistles but then don't supply the Internet services needed to use them.

    If you're considering trying again with pay-as-you-go sim use anything but O2!

  • Comment number 10.

    I started to think that I'd wandered onto a Blue Peter blog there. All that was missing was the sticky backed plastic and don't forget to get an adult to help you when using scissor (or a meat cleaver!)

    I think that I will continue my mantra of "I do not need an iPad" for another few months until all the inevitable new product hiccups have been ironed out and I don't need to hack at sim cards lol!

  • Comment number 11.

    Shame you couldn't get the Desire to work, despite some attempts to help you through Twitter! It is a very nice phone. I went for the Legend because it was cheaper instead though. The android store may not be as big as the Apple version but it is growing, and with Apple blocking Adobe's tools to create programmes I can see the App store slowing down. Also, if there's an app for iPhone, chances are you can find a near identical one on the Android store, or even somewhere else.

    I have a spare Vodafone sim if you are interested in trying this again.

  • Comment number 12.


    Precisely Android Marketplace is where it's at.

    Android devices are now outselling Apples products in the US according to NPD.

    Perhaps consumers are finally "getting it" that fancy marketing does not cover up for lousy hardware and locked in and restrictive software and marketplace.

  • Comment number 13.

    Flash is not actually that good though. It's all very well saying that the Android allows for flash development but that may not last forever. I don't blame Apple for shunning Adobe. for the past 10 years most adobe products haven't even been hard-coded for Macs it's just been emulated which as a consumer I think should be illegal. CS5 will be rubbish. Adobe have essentially a monopoly. When macromedia was bought by them it completely killed off any competition in the graphics/printing market. And flash is doing the same. You may all think your cool by using Flash to make programs but at the end of the day all forms of commercial code that I buy I would like hard coded. As a relatively un-skilled programmer I am enthusiastic and appreciative of good coders. But in the real world of software development you are not going to use flash.

  • Comment number 14.

    If the SIM didn't work in your HTC Desire then I wonder if it's a faulty one, Rory? Also why pay £10 for a PAYG SIM? All the networks offer them free - just have a wee search around the web for the promos!

    I think this micro SIM requirement for the iPad is another silly Apple proprietary requirement thing - sounds like collusion with the mobile networks to keep prices for these contracts up.

    As others have said I'm loving the HTC Desire, esp. can't wait for full Flash 10.1 to make it onto the system - likely within the week when Google launch v.2.2 (FroYo) of the Android OS at Google I/O :-)

  • Comment number 15.

    PS - it says "This content doesn't appear to be working. Try again later" when trying to view the video.

  • Comment number 16.

    In Reply to Alan Robertson at 11:40am on 16 May 2010.

    You probably just suffered as part of the ongoing D-DoS to which the BBC is currently being subjected.

    It is hard to know if this is intentional or due to there being so little worth watching on broadcast TV that people are resorting to iPlayer and innocently causing a degradation-of-service, to which they inadvertently add by posting in many other BBC boards of their grief at having to wait for content or even just click refresh.

  • Comment number 17.

    Rory, are you aware that O2 will send you SIM cards for free? No need to shell out your tenner until you've trimmed it down and gotten it working.



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