In the UK, you can get an eSIM from EE, O2 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 and Vodafone. In addition, there are several other mobile networks currently working on eSIM support. For instance, Three says they’re expecting to launch eSIM in the next few months. Meanwhile, 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 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
- Motorola Razr2
- Samsung Galaxy S20
- Samsung Galaxy S20 5G
- Samsung Galaxy S20+ 5G
- Samsung Galaxy S20 Ultra 5G
- Samsung Galaxy Z Flip
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)
- 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 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:
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:
Three hasn’t yet launched support for eSIM on their network. Originally, the company was aiming to launch eSIM support in autumn 2019. However, this has been delayed a number of times and the latest estimate they’ve provided is now for eSIM support to launch in September 2020. Saying that, there’s a strong possibility this will be delayed once again.
Three are yet to announce the types of plan that can be used with eSIM. However, following the pattern set by EE and O2, we expect it will initially be available only to Three Pay Monthly customers.
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:
Vodafone also offers a range of unlimited data plans that can be used on eSIM:
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: