In the UK, you can get an eSIM from EE, O2 or Vodafone for use in your iPhone, Samsung Galaxy or Google Pixel phone.
eSIM or embedded SIM technology is now available in the latest flagship smartphones from Apple, Samsung and Google. On devices like the iPhone 12 and Galaxy S21, you can download an eSIM onto your phone. This allows you to get connected without a physical SIM card. You can also use an eSIM to benefit from dual-SIM connectivity on these phones as they have one physical SIM card slot in addition to eSIM.
At present, it’s possible to get an eSIM on compatible Pay Monthly plans from EE, O2 and Vodafone. In addition, there are several other mobile networks currently working on eSIM support. For instance, Three offered eSIMs for a short period during 2020 and is planning to relaunch it in 2021. Meanwhile, BT offers eSIM support but this is only available to BT Business customers.
In this article, we’ll look at eSIM technology in the UK. We’ll start by asking what eSIMs are and how they compare to the traditional SIM cards that have been in use for more than 30 years. We’ll then look at the devices you can use an eSIM with and at the support for eSIM across different UK networks.
What is eSIM?
In mobile phones, eSIM or “embedded SIM” technology is a new version of SIM card technology where the SIM card is embedded inside your device.
Instead of having a physical SIM card from your mobile network that you slot in to your device, eSIM uses a reprogrammable chip inside your smartphone. To download and install an eSIM, you’ll normally need to scan a QR code with your phone.
Compared to traditional SIM cards, there are both advantages of disadvantages of using an eSIM.
The advantage of using eSIM technology is it can make it a lot easier and faster to change to another mobile network. Rather than waiting for a SIM card to be sent to you through the post, you can simply download or scan an eSIM to use a new network straight away. In addition, some mobile phones support dual-SIM connectivity when an eSIM is used. By using both an eSIM and a physical SIM card in your phone at the same time, you can have two phone numbers and two price plans active at the same time (e.g. one for personal usage and another for work usage).
The downside of eSIM is that only a couple of mobile networks currently offer eSIM-compatible plans in the UK. In addition, eSIM is normally available only on a Pay Monthly plan and not on a Pay As You Go basis. There can also be complications when changing to another phone. With eSIM, it isn’t as simple as taking a physical SIM card out and putting it inside another phone. In addition, if you’re changing to a mobile phone that lacks support for eSIM, you’ll need to change your eSIM back into a physical SIM card before you’re able to use it.
eSIM Compatible Devices
At present, the following smartphones are compatible with eSIM:
- Apple iPhone 11
- Apple iPhone 11 Pro
- Apple iPhone 11 Pro Max
- Apple iPhone 12
- Apple iPhone 12 Mini
- Apple iPhone 12 Pro
- Apple iPhone 12 Pro Max
- Apple iPhone SE 2020
- Apple iPhone XS
- Apple iPhone XS Max
- Apple iPhone XR
- Google Pixel 31
- Google Pixel 3 XL1
- Google Pixel 3a
- Google Pixel 3a XL
- Google Pixel 4
- Google Pixel 4 XL
- Google Pixel 4a
- Google Pixel 4a 5G
- Google Pixel 5
- Huawei P40
- Huawei P40 Pro
- Motorola Razr2
- Samsung Galaxy Note 20
- Samsung Galaxy Note 20 Ultra
- Samsung Galaxy S20
- Samsung Galaxy S20 5G
- Samsung Galaxy S20+ 5G
- Samsung Galaxy S20 Ultra 5G
- Samsung Galaxy S21
- Samsung Galaxy S21+
- Samsung Galaxy S21 Ultra
- Samsung Galaxy Z Flip
- Samsung Galaxy Z Fold 2
Most of the above smartphones offer dual-SIM connectivity in conjunction with support for eSIM. This means you can use a traditional plastic SIM card, an eSIM, or both at the same time. If you’re using both a traditional SIM card and an eSIM at the same time, you’ll be able to have two phone numbers and two mobile networks on your phone at the same time.
For more information on how to set up and use eSIM on your phone, refer to your smartphone manufacturer’s website as follows:
- Apple: How to use dual SIM and eSIM (for compatible iPhone devices)
- Samsung: Using Galaxy smartphones with eSIM (for compatible Samsung Galaxy phones)
- Google: How to use dual SIMs (for compatible Google Pixel phones)
- Huawei: How to add an eSIM to your phone (for compatible Huawei P40 phones)
- Motorola: How can I activate the eSIM on Razr? (for Motorola Razr)
eSIM on UK Mobile Networks
In the following section, we’ll discuss the availability of eSIM on UK mobile networks.
To get an eSIM on EE, you’ll need to have a normal plastic SIM card to begin with. Once you’ve got one, you can order an eSIM to replace your old plastic SIM card.
To get a replacement eSIM pack, you can log in to My EE, you can visit your nearest EE retail store, or you can call EE’s customer services team on 150 (0800 956 6000 if you’re calling from another network). Once you have your eSIM pack, you can use EE’s SIM swap website to transfer your plan onto eSIM.
If you’d like a Pay Monthly SIM card from EE that can be changed into an eSIM, consider one of the following EE SIM-only deals:
On O2, it’s possible to move your contract to an eSIM if you’re a Pay Monthly customer. This includes on handset, SIM Only and business plans. It isn’t currently possible to get an eSIM on other plans such as O2 Pay As You Go.
To move your Pay Monthly plan onto an eSIM, you’ll need to obtain an O2 eSIM pack. You can get one by visiting your nearest O2 retail store or by calling O2’s customer services team on 202. Once you have an eSIM pack, it can take up to 24 hours to transfer your plan onto an eSIM.
In the past, 5G coverage wasn’t supported on eSIMs from O2. However, as of September 2020, O2 now also offer 5G-capable eSIMs. You’ll need to request a 5G eSIM pack instead of a regular 4G eSIM pack if you want access to 5G.
If you’d like a new O2 SIM card that can be changed into an eSIM when you get it, O2 currently offers the following SIM-only deals:
At present, Three isn’t allowing customers to get a new eSIM on their network.
Three previously offered eSIMs on a limited basis between September 2020 and December 2020. However, they’ve now paused the distribution of new eSIMs with the expectation of relaunching this in 2021.
If you already have an eSIM from Three, you’ll still be able to continue using it.
On Vodafone, you can order an eSIM plan online to start using straight away. Unlike on EE and O2, there’s no need to get a plastic SIM card first. This can save you a lot of time and hassle.
The following plans offer 4G coverage on an eSIM and are available from £6/month:
Alternatively, you can get a 5G-ready Vodafone Red plan on eSIM:
Vodafone also offers a range of unlimited data plans that can be used on eSIM:
To ensure you receive your plan on an eSIM, be sure to choose the “eSIM” option when checking out online. This is shown in the screenshot below:
If you’re already a Vodafone Pay Monthly customer, you can move your current plan onto an eSIM. To do this, follow the instructions on Vodafone’s website. It takes around 10 minutes to move your current Vodafone price plan to an eSIM.
As well as supporting the iPhone, Samsung Galaxy and Google Pixel devices, Vodafone also has eSIM support available for the Apple Watch and some IoT devices. There’s more information about this in Vodafone’s help centre.
Besides EE, O2 and Vodafone, you can also get an eSIM from specialist roaming providers. These specialist providers include eSIM.net, Truphone and Ubigi. Normally, the plans from these specialist providers are designed for people who travel fairly regularly. For this reason, it’s unlikely to be a good option if you’re looking for an eSIM that will mainly be used in the UK.
Amongst the other UK network providers:
Frequently Asked Questions
|Which UK mobile providers offer eSIM?||
At present, you can get an eSIM from the following UK mobile networks:
For a list of eSIM-compatible deals, see our guide to eSIM plans in the UK.
|How can I change my regular SIM card to an eSIM?|
|Which mobile devices are compatible with eSIM?||
You can use an eSIM in selected mobile phones from Apple, Google, Huawei, Motorola and Samsung. Compatible devices including Apple’s iPhone 12 and Samsung’s Galaxy S21. In most devices, eSIM will also enable dual-SIM connectivity, allowing you to have two phone numbers at the same time on your device.