After I published the Open Letter to Smartone-Vodafone in April, I thought Smartone-Vodafone (SMV) finally understands the needs of its subscribers when they released the new tariff plans for the iPad in July. When the dust is finally settled I finds out SMV still doesn't understand what subscriber needs.

SMV restricts the availability of micro-SIM cards to only certain tariff plans; plans that SMV believes iPad or iPhone 4 users should be using. Even though SMV now have large quantities of micro-SIM cards. SMV sales representatives say their back-office system explicitly restricts activations of certain tariff plans for micro-SIM and others with min-SIM.

Aside from the SIM type restrictions the tariff plans are also restricted to particular devices that SMV believes the tariff plans should be used with.

Just to compete with other Hong Kong mobile carriers SMV follows with its own pre-paid no contract roaming tariff plans, but these plans are restricted to Internet browsing and Email access.

Why is SMV still trying to dictate how we use the tariff plans we subscribe to? I can understand having these restrictions on limited tariff plans or if micro-SIM supplies are very low. For unlimited local data there should not be either of the above restrictions.

Speaking of "unlimited data...", in many of the tariff plans designed for the iOS device, SMV explicitly restricts these so call "unlimited data" to Internet browsing and checking emails, and do not include traffic from apps on the iOS device. Do they know that majority of the people who uses the iPad spend majority of their times within Internet enabled apps rather than the browser (Mobile Safari) or email app (Mail)? So a warning to subscribers, you need to read the small print and choose the plans that is most suitable to your usage of the iPad or iPhone.

Of all the carriers in Hong Kong I thought SMV was the only one that is open minded enough to "think different" (think outside the box) but from these actions they appear not.

[Updated: August 18, 13:20] As suggested by the reader, Art, I will clarify a few of the points in my post.

When I say, "restricts the availability of micro-SIM cards to only certain tariff plans..." I am referring to SMV not allowing certain tariff plans to be issued with a micro-SIM. These plans are the Mobile Broadband: Power 3, Power 8 and Power 28, subscribers are not allow to request the issue of micro-SIM cards with these plans.

When I say, "tariff plans are also restricted to particular devices...", SMV is preventing the HKD198 iPad plan from being used on any other device other than the iPad.

Recently you may have just purchased one of Apple's latest gadgets, the iPad WiFi+3G, from the 9 countries officially selling them, or plans to get one of the iPhone 4 from either Canada, France and UK. This is because all iPad WiFi+3G (except the ones sold in Japan) and iPhone 4 sold in Canada, France, UK and Hong Kong are SIM-unlocked. Meaning they will not be locked to a particular GSM carrier, therefore users can choose to put GSM SIM cards from any carriers into these devices and they will work. That's true with a small exception, these GSM SIM must be the micro-SIM format rather than the more commonly used "mini-SIM" among GSM carriers around the world.

At the moment micro-SIM cards are only available from 3 HK, but these cards are for data access only and does not include voice capabilities. For Smartone-Vodafone (SMV) and PCCW they both offer micro-SIM cards but only for customers who have subscribed to their data tariff plans and without voice capabilities.

So if you're looking for a micro-SIM to put inside your iPhone 4 from one of the Hong Kong carriers, you will have to wait until the official launch of the iPhone 4 in Hong Kong. Fortunately Hong Kong is one of the 9 countries in the second phrase iPhone launch initially planned for July 2010, but recent sales and high demands in the 4 initial launch countries may cause the second phrase to be delayed.

I had contacted SMV and PCCW and they both tells me that they have no availability date for micro-SIM card, only that both will have micro-SIM cards when the iPhone 4 is officially available for sale in Hong Kong.

If you cannot wait, the alternative is to convert your existing mini-SIM to a micro-SIM card. It turns out the contacts for these two types of SIM are the same. The only different being the dimensions of these cards 15mm x 25mm (mini-SIM) compared to 12mm x 15mm (micro-SIM).

The following step by step instructions are from iHackintosh.com and they are provided here for your convenient. There are no guarantee by iHackintosh.com or myself (Vinko.Com). Also note that most carriers charges a fee for replacement SIM cards.

What you you will need are: mini-SIM, marker pen, ruler, sharp cutter and filing tool (Nail File).

  1. Get a GSM mini-SIM card. Your existing GSM SIM card will do.
  2. Mark the mini-SIM with the dimensions of the micro-SIM card (12mm x 15mm).
  3. Make initial cuts along marked lines with a cuter, bend along the cuts and then finish with a scissors.
  4. Use the file to file down the conners and edges.

If you ever want to use this newly created micro-SIM card in a device that only accept mini-SIM cards like the original iPhone, iPhone 3G or iPhone 3GS. You can purchase a micro-SIM Adapter from Vinko's Treasures for USD5.15 including worldwide shipping.