SK Telecom squeezes Android, CPU, and storage into a SIM card

South Korea’s SK Telecom is looking to innovate what SIM cards can do with its upcoming Android SIM, and Theme SIM package. According to Engadget, SK’s Android SIM shoves the Android OS, a CPU, user data, applications, and a gig of storage onto a slightly-oversized SIM card.

SK sees Android SIM being particularly useful for “dumbphones” — typical cellphones that lack a rich web and e-mail experience. It would allow for cheaper phone hardware, since the phones wouldn’t need a CPU of their own, and users would more easily be able to transfer data and software across different phones. While the phone would be cheaper, having so much hardware on the SIM card would likely make it more expensive than the SIM cards we’re used to. Given the bit of information we have on the technology, Android SIM will likely require new phones built specifically to support the new SIM cards.

The dumbphone’s days are numbered among first-world countries, but there’s still potential for them to be incredibly useful in emerging markets. Android SIM shows that there’s still a lot that can be done with dumbphones and Google’s mobile operating system. We can expect Android to become more ubiquitous over the next few years, and that means we’ll see it in as many dumbphones as we will high-end smartphones like the Nexus One. With an operating system like Android running in dumbphones, they will eventually begin to resemble more fully featured phones over time.

SK’s Theme SIM package uses a similar over-sized SIM card to fit in user theme elements, music, pictures, and applications. It basically sounds like Android SIM without the Android OS.

SK Telecom is a major mobile operator in South Korea, and it has also tried to get into China’s market by buying $1 billion in China Unicom bonds in 2006. The two companies also worked together to buy large orders of handsets from Samsung, Motorola, and LG. SK sold off their Unicom bonds in 2008, but the two companies are still working together in other capacities. It also partnered with Earthlink back in 2005 to form Helio, which it eventually sold to Virgin Mobile in 2008.

SK may be onto something by innovating for phones that most companies are now ignoring in favor of smartphones. It’s also a sign that the Android platform will be a force to be reckoned with in sheer numbers alone.

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