In the UK, you can get an eSIM from EE, O2, Three and 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 11 and Galaxy S20, you can download an eSIM onto your phone. This allows you to get connected without a physical SIM card. You’ll need an eSIM if you want to benefit from dual-SIM connectivity on these phones as they only 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, Three and Vodafone. In addition, there are several other mobile networks currently working on eSIM support. BT Mobile offers eSIM support but only to 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 used for over 30 years. We’ll then look at devices you can use an eSIM in 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. Rather than having a physical SIM card from your mobile network that slots in to your device, the eSIM is a reprogrammable chip inside your smartphone. You can either scan a special QR code or you can use a mobile application to download an eSIM onto 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 could simply download or scan an eSIM to use a new network straight away. In addition, some mobile phones support dual-SIM connectivity but only where 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 very few 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 your other mobile phone 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
  • 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 Z Flip

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 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:

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 possible to get an eSIM on Pay Monthly and Small Business price plans. Unfortunately, eSIM isn’t currently available on EE Pay As You Go or EE Flex plans.

To change a regular SIM card into an eSIM, you’ll need to order a replacement eSIM pack from EE. This can be done by logging in to My EE, by visiting your nearest EE retail store, or by calling EE’s customer services team on 150 (0800 956 6000 if you’re calling from another network). Once you have an 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:

NetworkMinutesTextsDataMonthly
Cost
EEUnlimitedUnlimited3GB£19.00
12 months
EEUnlimitedUnlimited160GB£20.00
24 months
EEUnlimitedUnlimited100GB£20.00
24 months
EEUnlimitedUnlimited20GB£22.00
12 months
EEUnlimitedUnlimited200GB£23.00
24 months
EEUnlimitedUnlimited200GB£25.00
24 months
EEUnlimitedUnlimited40GB£25.00
12 months
EEUnlimitedUnlimited100GB£29.00
24 months
EEUnlimitedUnlimitedUnlimited£37.00
24 months
EEUnlimitedUnlimitedUnlimited£41.00
24 months
To show you the most relevant plans, 6 similar but more expensive plans have been hidden. .

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

O2

On O2, it’s possible to move your contract to an eSIM if you’re a Pay Monthly consumer or small business customer. In order to move to 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.

Unfortunately, 5G coverage isn’t currently supported on eSIMs from O2. You’ll therefore be restricted to using only 2G, 3G and 4G coverage on eSIMs from O2. It also isn’t currently possible to get an eSIM on other O2 plans such as Pay As You Go.

If you’d like a new SIM card from O2 which can be changed into an eSIM when you get it, O2 currently offers the following SIM-only deals:

NetworkMinutesTextsDataMonthly
Cost
O2UnlimitedUnlimited10GB£8.00
12 months
O2UnlimitedUnlimited5GB£10.00
18 months
O2UnlimitedUnlimited10GB£12.00
18 months
O2UnlimitedUnlimited2GB£12.00
12 months
O2UnlimitedUnlimited30GB£15.00
18 months
O2UnlimitedUnlimited5GB£15.00
12 months
O2UnlimitedUnlimited10GB£17.00
12 months
O2UnlimitedUnlimited60GB£18.00
18 months
O2UnlimitedUnlimited120GB£20.00
12 months
O2UnlimitedUnlimited250GB£25.00
12 months
O2UnlimitedUnlimited150GB£25.00
12 months
O2UnlimitedUnlimitedUnlimited£33.00
18 months
O2UnlimitedUnlimitedUnlimited£35.00
12 months
To show you the most relevant plans, 7 similar but more expensive plans have been hidden. .

All of O2’s eSIMs will give you access to 99% population coverage on O2’s 2G, 3G and 4G networks. You’ll also get access to the O2 Priority app as well as O2 Extras like 6 months of free Disney+.

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

Three

On Three, it’s possible to move your Pay Monthly plan onto an eSIM. This involves getting a replacement eSIM pack and moving your Pay Monthly plan onto it. As of October 2020, you can only get a replacement eSIM pack from selected Three retail stores in the North of England. As it’s a phased roll-out, it’ll take some time for eSIM packs to be available nationwide, as well as being available to order online.

If you’d like a new SIM card from Three which can be changed into an eSIM, Three currently offers the following SIM-only deals:

NetworkMinutesTextsDataMonthly
Cost
ThreeUnlimitedUnlimited4GB£6.00
12 months
ThreeUnlimitedUnlimited12GB£8.00
12 months
ThreeUnlimitedUnlimited8GB£8.00
12 months
ThreeUnlimitedUnlimited8GB£9.00
24 months
ThreeUnlimitedUnlimited4GB£9.00
12 months
ThreeUnlimitedUnlimited4GB£9.00
24 months
ThreeUnlimitedUnlimited12GB£10.00
12 months
ThreeUnlimitedUnlimited12GB£10.00
24 months
ThreeUnlimitedUnlimited8GB£10.00
12 months
ThreeUnlimitedUnlimited30GB£12.00
12 months
ThreeUnlimitedUnlimited12GB£12.00
12 months
ThreeUnlimitedUnlimited30GB£14.00
24 months
ThreeUnlimitedUnlimited30GB£15.00
12 months
ThreeUnlimitedUnlimitedUnlimited£16.00
12 months
ThreeUnlimitedUnlimited4GB£16.00
1 month
ThreeUnlimitedUnlimitedUnlimited£17.00
12 months
ThreeUnlimitedUnlimitedUnlimited£17.00
24 months
ThreeUnlimitedUnlimitedUnlimited£18.00
12 months
ThreeUnlimitedUnlimited12GB£19.00
1 month
ThreeUnlimitedUnlimitedUnlimited£22.00
24 months
ThreeUnlimitedUnlimitedUnlimited£24.00
1 month
ThreeUnlimitedUnlimitedUnlimited£24.00
12 months
ThreeUnlimitedUnlimited30GB£24.00
1 month
ThreeUnlimitedUnlimitedUnlimited£26.00
1 month
To show you the most relevant plans, 20 similar but more expensive plans have been hidden. .

All of the eSIMs provided by Three are 5G-ready.

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

Vodafone

On Vodafone, it’s possible to move your Pay Monthly plan onto eSIM. You can do this by following the instructions on Vodafone’s website which involves logging in to your My Vodafone account to create an eSIM.

If you’re not already a Vodafone customer, you can order a SIM card from Vodafone which can be changed into eSIM. At present, Vodafone offers the following SIM-only deals:

TariffMinutesTextsDataMonthly
Cost
Red
UnlimitedUnlimited1GB£11.00
24 months
Red
UnlimitedUnlimited1GB£12.00
12 months
Red
UnlimitedUnlimited5GB£15.00
24 months
Red
UnlimitedUnlimited5GB£16.00
12 months
Red
UnlimitedUnlimited60GB£20.00
24 months
Red
UnlimitedUnlimited1GB£20.00
1 month
Red
UnlimitedUnlimited20GB£21.00
12 months
Red
UnlimitedUnlimited5GB£24.00
1 month
Red
UnlimitedUnlimited40GB£25.00
24 months
Red
UnlimitedUnlimited40GB£27.00
12 months
Red
UnlimitedUnlimited20GB£29.00
1 month
To show you the most relevant plans, 6 similar but more expensive plans have been hidden. .

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

TariffMinutesTextsDataMonthly
Cost
Unlimited
UnlimitedUnlimitedUnlimited
2Mbps max
£22.00
24 months
Unlimited
UnlimitedUnlimitedUnlimited
2Mbps max
£24.00
12 months
Unlimited
UnlimitedUnlimitedUnlimited
10Mbps max
£26.00
24 months
Unlimited
UnlimitedUnlimitedUnlimited
10Mbps max
£28.00
12 months
Unlimited
UnlimitedUnlimitedUnlimited£30.00
24 months
Unlimited
UnlimitedUnlimitedUnlimited
2Mbps max
£32.00
1 month
Unlimited
UnlimitedUnlimitedUnlimited£33.00
12 months
Unlimited
UnlimitedUnlimitedUnlimited
10Mbps max
£36.00
1 month
Unlimited
UnlimitedUnlimitedUnlimited£41.00
1 month
To show you the most relevant plans, 6 similar but more expensive plans have been hidden. .

eSIM support is also available for the Apple Watch and some other IoT devices that use eSIM technology. There’s more information about this in Vodafone’s help centre.

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

Other Networks

Besides EE and O2, 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:

  • BT Mobile eSIM – As of July 2020, BT says there are no current plans to offer eSIM for consumers on BT Mobile. However, eSIM is currently available to BT Business customers.
  • giffgaff eSIM – At present, eSIMs are yet to launch on giffgaff. There’s an idea on the giffgaff community with more than 300 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 have any plans to support eSIM on their mobile network.
  • SMARTY eSIM – Smarty doesn’t support eSIMs on their mobile network. As a low-cost sub-brand of Three, the launch of eSIMs on SMARTY is likely to trail a launch on Three.
  • Tesco Mobile eSIM – Tesco Mobile are yet to make any announcements about eSIM on their network.
  • Virgin Mobile eSIM – Virgin Mobile does not currently offer eSIM support in the UK. They’ve yet to announce when eSIM will become available. Given the upcoming migration to O2 coverage next year, it’s highly unlikely we’ll see an eSIM from Virgin before 2022.
  • VOXI eSIM – Unfortunately, eSIM is not currently available to customers on VOXI. VOXI is a youth-orientated sub-brand of Vodafone, so is likely to offer eSIMs sometime after Vodafone.

More Information

For more information about eSIM in the UK, please see the EE, O2, Three and Vodafone websites.

Your Comments 10 so far

We'd love to hear your thoughts and any questions you may have. So far, we've received 10 comments from readers. You can add your own comment here.

  • I’ve currently tried and failed to get a replacement eSIM from Three mobile.

    I’m a customer of theirs for multiple years and normally rate their support GOOD.

    Calling support they said I had to physically visit a remote store, but when I called [multiple stores] they said it wasn’t possible. Then I saw on the webpage of three that I could covert from physical to eSIM . I call three 2 more times to point this out and demand an eSIM.

    Nothing happened so I raised a complaint.

    2 days later instead of calling me back as support promised I got a text indicating no progress and if I want anything further to write the Ombudsman.,

    So I HAVE written to the Ombudsman.

    If their flippin web page clearly says there have a conversion service then I expect them to deliver it.

    I’m waiting for response. We are into week 4 already. Nothing so far.

  • The carriers requiring a physical paper with the QR code on it is ridiculous, and defeats one of the advantages of the eSIM.

    There is no reason why they can’t simply have the QR code on a webpage to print out or point the phone camera. There is no reason to require customers to get a physical QR code.

    • Hi Ron,
      I do agree with you somewhat, as well as the fact you still need to get a physical SIM before you can switch it to an eSIM. This makes it even more of a convoluted process as there’s yet another hoop to jump through before you can get an eSIM. I believe the main thing that’s holding traditional mobile operators back is how their current billing/provisioning systems are set up and issues like how they verify identity & security if they’re giving you a QR code online instead of sending something in the post. I think Vodafone is the best of the big four providers at the moment as they can give you a QR code online instead of giving you a printed QR code in the post or in their shop.
      Most of the eSIM-native providers (e.g. Truphone, Ubigi, eSIM.net, etc) make this a lot easier – I believe they’ll simply give you a QR code online. However, they’re mostly focussed on the prepaid travel market so they’re often not ideal if you want it for UK-only usage.
      Ken

    • Completely agree, I think the future will be installing/downloading the eSim profile through the app of the network, in a similar way to adding tickets or credit cards to mobile wallets at the moment.

      Hopefully there will be some sort of universal implementation of this agreed within the next year or two, as you say sending a QR code in the post is ridiculous and eliminates the savings of not needing a physical sim.

    • Hi JP,
      Thanks, and appreciate the heads up! I’ve added some further information about Three’s eSIMs to this page for other readers 🙂
      Thanks again,
      Ken

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