In the UK, you can get an eSIM from EE, O2, Virgin Media or Vodafone for use in your iPhone, Samsung Galaxy or Google Pixel phone.

eSIM or embedded SIM technology is now available on the latest smartphones from Apple, Samsung and Google. On devices like the iPhone 13 and the Galaxy S21, you can download an eSIM to your phone. This will allow you to get connected without the need for a physical SIM card. You can also use an eSIM to activate dual-SIM functionality on these phones.

At present, it’s possible to get an eSIM on compatible Pay Monthly plans from EE, O2, Virgin Media 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 now planning to relaunch it in 2022. 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.

eSIM Plans: From £6/month
eSIM Providers UK:
  • EE (from £10/month, SIM swap required)
  • O2 (from £11/month, SIM swap required)
  • Virgin Mobile (from £6/month, SIM swap required)
  • Vodafone (from £6/month, with instant setup)
Compatible Devices:
  • Apple iPhone 11 and newer
  • Samsung Galaxy S20 and newer
  • Google Pixel 3 and newer
  • see more…

What is eSIM?

In mobile phones, eSIM or “embedded SIM” 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 into 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 Pay Monthly plans 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 out a physical SIM card 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 13
  • Apple iPhone 13 Mini
  • Apple iPhone 13 Pro
  • Apple iPhone 13 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
  • Google Pixel 5a
  • Google Pixel 6
  • Google Pixel 6 Pro
  • 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
  • Samsung Galaxy Z Fold 3

1 The Pixel 3 and Pixel 3 XL are able to hold both a physical SIM card and eSIM. You can change between the two but only one can be used at a given time. You therefore won’t be able to have two phone numbers at the same time.
2 The Motorola Razr is an eSIM-only device. It doesn’t support physical SIM cards.

Most of the above smartphones offer dual-SIM connectivity in conjunction with eSIM support. 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:

eSIM on UK Mobile Networks

In the following section, we’ll discuss the availability of eSIM on UK mobile networks.

EE

On EE, it’s currently possible to get an eSIM on Pay Monthly, SIM Only and Small Business plans. Unfortunately, however, eSIM isn’t currently available to EE Pay As You Go customers.

To get an eSIM on EE, you’ll need to start with a normal plastic SIM card. Once you’ve got one, you can order an eSIM to replace your normal 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 webpage to transfer your plan onto an eSIM.

If you’d like an EE Pay Monthly SIM card that can be changed into an eSIM, consider one of the following EE SIM-only deals:

NetworkMinutesTextsDataMonthly
Cost
EEUnlimitedUnlimited10GB£10.00
12 months
EEUnlimitedUnlimited25GB£15.00
12 months
EEUnlimitedUnlimited160GB£20.00
24 months
EEUnlimitedUnlimited200GB£23.00
24 months
EEUnlimitedUnlimitedUnlimited£35.00
24 months

All of EE’s eSIMs include access to their 5G network. In addition, you’ll get a Smart Benefit included when you choose an EE Smart SIM card. For instance, this could be an inclusive subscription to Apple Music, Netflix or BT Sport Ultimate.

Source: EE Help: What is an eSim?
Tariff Information: EE Website

O2

On O2, it’s possible to move your Pay Monthly contract onto an eSIM. This includes handset, SIM Only and business plans. However, it isn’t possible to get an eSIM on O2 Pay As You Go.

To move your O2 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.

If you’d like a new O2 SIM card that can be swapped for an eSIM when you receive it, O2 currently offers the following SIM-only deals:

NetworkMinutesTextsDataMonthly
Cost
O2UnlimitedUnlimited5GB£11.00
24 months
O2UnlimitedUnlimited10GB£12.00
24 months
O2UnlimitedUnlimited30GB£15.00
24 months
O2UnlimitedUnlimited120GB£20.00
24 months
O2UnlimitedUnlimited150GB£22.00
24 months
O2UnlimitedUnlimited250GB£28.00
12 months
O2UnlimitedUnlimitedUnlimited£30.00
24 months

All of O2’s eSIMs will give you access to the O2 Priority app along with O2 Extras such as inclusive Disney+. You’ll also get access to O2’s 5G network if you request a 5G eSIM pack.

Source: O2 Help and Support: eSIM
Tariff Information: O2 Website

Three

At present, Three isn’t allowing customers to get a new eSIM on their network.

Three previously offered eSIMs on a trial basis between September 2020 and December 2020. However, they paused the distribution of eSIMs owing to some issues. It’s now expected that eSIMs will relaunch on Three in 2022.

If you already have an eSIM from Three, you’ll still be able to continue using it.

Source: Three Help: eSIM Support
Tariff Information: Three Website

Virgin Mobile

If you have a Virgin Mobile Pay Monthly SIM card, you can request to move it onto an eSIM. You can do this through your Virgin Mobile account or by calling 0800 052 0422.

If you’re joining as a new Virgin Mobile customer, you can consider one of the following Virgin SIM-only deals:

NetworkMinutesTextsDataMonthly
Cost
Virgin MobileUnlimitedUnlimited5GB£6.00
12 months
Virgin MobileUnlimitedUnlimited12GB£7.00
24 months
Virgin MobileUnlimitedUnlimited20GB£9.00
24 months
Virgin MobileUnlimitedUnlimited25GB£10.00
12 months
Virgin MobileUnlimitedUnlimited36GB£11.00
24 months
Virgin MobileUnlimitedUnlimited45GB£13.00
12 months
Virgin MobileUnlimitedUnlimited60GB£14.00
24 months
Virgin MobileUnlimitedUnlimited100GB£16.00
24 months
Virgin MobileUnlimitedUnlimitedUnlimited£25.00
24 months

If you’re a Virgin Media Volt customer, your mobile service will be provided by O2 rather than Virgin Mobile. If this is the case, you’ll need to follow the instructions on O2’s website instead.

Source: Virgin Media Help: eSIM Support
Tariff Information: Virgin Mobile Website

Vodafone

On Vodafone, you can order an eSIM plan online to start using straight away. Unlike other networks, 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:

TariffMinutesTextsDataMonthly
Cost
Basics
UnlimitedUnlimited4GB£6.00
12 months
Basics
UnlimitedUnlimited20GB£8.00
12 months
Basics
UnlimitedUnlimited30GB£10.00
12 months
Basics
UnlimitedUnlimited35GB£15.00
12 months
Basics
UnlimitedUnlimited100GB£20.00
12 months

Alternatively, you can get a 5G-ready Vodafone Red plan on eSIM:

TariffMinutesTextsDataMonthly
Cost
Red
UnlimitedUnlimited1GB£11.00
24 months
Red
UnlimitedUnlimited5GB£15.00
24 months
Red
UnlimitedUnlimited160GB£20.00
24 months
Red
UnlimitedUnlimited200GB£23.00
24 months

Vodafone also offers a range of unlimited data plans that can be used on eSIM:

TariffMinutesTextsDataMonthly
Cost
Unlimited
UnlimitedUnlimitedUnlimited
2Mbps max
£23.00
24 months
Unlimited
UnlimitedUnlimitedUnlimited
10Mbps max
£27.00
24 months
Unlimited
UnlimitedUnlimitedUnlimited£32.00
24 months

To ensure you receive your plan on an eSIM, choose the “eSIM” option when you checkout online. This is shown in the screenshot below:

You can also get an eSIM on Vodafone Business if you’re planning to use the eSIM for your business or for work.

If you’re an existing Vodafone Pay Monthly customer, you can move your current plan onto an eSIM. To do so, 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 phones, Vodafone also has eSIM support available on the Apple Watch and on other wearable devices. There’s more information about this in Vodafone’s help centre.

Source: Vodafone Help: Discover eSIM
Tariff Information: Vodafone Website

Other Networks

Besides EE, O2, Virgin Media 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 abroad 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:

  • BT Mobile eSIM – On BT, eSIM technology is currently available to BT Business customers. In May 2020, BT stated that they “don’t have any plans to offer eSIM” for consumers.
  • giffgaff eSIM – At present, eSIMs are yet to launch on giffgaff. There’s an idea on the giffgaff community with more than 700 votes, with giffgaff saying they’re “looking into it”.
  • iD Mobile eSIM – Unfortunately, iD Mobile do not currently provide eSIMs on their network. They haven’t made any announcements as to when eSIM will be made available.
  • Lebara Mobile eSIM – Lebara Mobile doesn’t offer any eSIM support.
  • Lycamobile eSIM – It isn’t possible to get an eSIM from Lycamobile.
  • Sky Mobile eSIM – Sky Mobile doesn’t currently support eSIM. However, they’ve said they’re looking into adding the functionality in the future.
  • SMARTY eSIM – Smarty doesn’t currently support eSIMs on their network. As a low-cost sub-brand of Three, the launch of eSIMs on SMARTY is likely to come some time after the launch of eSIM on Three.
  • Tesco Mobile eSIM – Tesco Mobile are yet to make any announcements about the availability of eSIM on their network.
  • VOXI eSIM – Unfortunately, eSIM technology is not currently available to customers on VOXI (a youth-orientated sub-brand of Vodafone). As an alternative, consider getting a plan from Vodafone instead, given they have eSIM-ready plans from £6/month.

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?
On EE, O2 and Virgin Mobile, you’ll need to order a physical SIM card to begin with. This can then be changed to an eSIM at a later date, by ordering a replacement eSIM pack.

On Vodafone, you can order an eSIM straight away by choosing the relevant option when placing your order online.

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 13 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.

More Information

For more information about eSIM in the UK, please see the EE, O2, Three, Virgin Media and Vodafone websites. You can also see our guide to eSIM plans in the UK.

Your Comments 22 so far

We'd love to hear your thoughts and any questions you may have. So far, we've received 22 comments from readers. You can add your own comment here.

    • Hi Will,
      Thanks for the heads up! Do you have any more information about the eSIM being discontinued? I wasn’t able to find any reference to this on the Virgin Media website but it’s possible they just haven’t updated it…
      Thanks,
      Ken

      • Andrew replied:

        I tried to get one this evening and they said they definitely don’t do them. Didn’t make any reference to when that changed. When I said all the research I had done said they did they just kept repeating “we only do physical sim”!!

  • Hi. Does anyone know if I can use any of these eSIM plans on an LTE smart watch for call/messages/data on its own number and totally independent from a mobile phone?

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