ThimphuTech was the first technology blog in Bhutan. We started writing it in 2009, just as broadband and mobile internet started to take off. (Although internet in Bhutan was launched in 1999, it was either super-slow or super-expensive, and was only used by a selected few).

In the blog, we wrote about technology and food, but also about plenty of other stuff. The blog became popular and influential in Bhutan. A companion bi-weekly column -- Ask Boaz -- was published for many years in the Kuensel, Bhutan's national newspaper. (The complete Kuensel columns are available as an ebook, Blogging with Dragons).

We stopped updating the blog when we left Bhutan in 2014, but the information within the posts can still prove useful, and thus we decided to keep it online.

We thank all our readers.
Tashi Delek,
Boaz & Galit.

Thursday, September 13, 2012

Will the new iPhone 5 work in Bhutan?

"I need it, and I need it NOW!"

Two years ago we wrote one of our most popular posts ever, "Will the new iPhone 4 work in Bhutan?". That post still gets plenty of hits. Visitors to the Kingdom are eager to know whether they should pack their unlocked smartphone before that hair-raising landing in Paro. The answer to that question was a definite yes - one just needs to chop the B-Mobile (or TashiCell) SIM card down to the micro-SIM size.

The iPhone 5 was launched yesterday. It has a bigger and taller screen, a sharper camera, more processing power, as well support for LTE 4G, which is a high-speed data network (currently unavailable in Bhutan). One 'upgrade', however, will affect Bhutanese subscribers. The iPhone 5 uses a nano-SIM. The nano-SIM is even smaller than the micro-SIM:

SIM evolution according to Darwin

In theory, one could carefully cut a SIM (or a micro-SIM) down to a nano-SIM, since the physical contact sizes are the same. Nano-SIM cutters are already selling on E-bay. However, there is a caveat: In addition to being smaller, the nano-SIM is also thinner than the previous SIMs (0.67mm compared to 0.76mm, which is about 15% less), and so there is a chance that a cut-down SIM will be too thick to fit into the iPhone slot.

Update (24/9/2012): Cut down SIMs fit the iPhone 5 tray.

A nano-SIM cutter
As far as I know, B-Mobile and TashiCell have not put out orders for nano-SIMs. The only option left for iPhone owners is to shave off that extra 0.09mm of plastic, perhaps using sandpaper. Whether this is possible without affecting the internal circuitry remains to be seen. The best strategy is not to jump and order an iPhone 5 (yet), but wait until more information is available. Watch this space for updates!


  1. While the world is worried about getting their new iphone I am looking for every change to get my hand on older iphones that will suit my budget lol.
    This is one very important information for Crazy Bhutanese iPhone fans, who must have already ordered! Hope to see this in K2 this weekend, so that lives are saved!

  2. iphone is overrated, overpriced piece of junk :P

  3. why should anyone use iphone when we have better and smarter one. Samsung galaxy S III is the best.

  4. Hi, I am moving to Bhutan soon and am wondering if I should bring my unlocked Samsung Galaxy S II ? I will not be living in thimphu - we are moving to Chumey in Bumthang (volunteer teacher). Not sure what to expect from Bhutan re smart phone use. I have heard people far and wide use their phones to communicate, but would I be able to buy a data plan sim card?? I'm not all that tech savvy myself so I hope you understand my question! Thanks, Andrea in Australia.

    1. Andrea, you can certainly use your smartphone in Bumthang - just don't expect a fast and reliable data connection. Welcome to Bhutan and good luck!


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