Which networks offer eSIMs?

21 May 2024

what is an esim | esim uk

Contents list

  1. What is an eSIM?
  2. Which networks offer eSIMs?
    1. EE
    2. Giffgaff
    3. Honest Mobile
    4. iD Mobile
    5. Lyca Mobile
    6. O2
    7. ParentShield
    8. Sky Mobile
    9. Spusu
    10. Tesco Mobile
    11. Three
    12. Vodafone
    13. Networks that don't offer eSIMs
  3. Which phones support eSIMs?
  4. How to setup an eSIM
  5. FAQ

eSIMs are the next generation of SIM cards, and a number of UK networks already support them – so if you have a phone with an eSIM built in, or you’re interested in getting one, you’ll be able to make full use of this futuristic tech.

What is an eSIM?

SIM cards are those small bits of plastic that operators give you to make your phone number work with your phone.

The acronym SIM stands for Subscriber Identity Module. Each SIM contains a unique serial number (ICCID), an international mobile subscriber identity (IMSI) number, several security authentication methods, and any temporary information needed to connect your phone to your chosen mobile network.

Embedded SIMs, or eSIMs, fulfil the exact same function, but they make the process of changing your number or network a virtual one.

As the name suggests, these eSIMs are embedded as a permanent part of a smartphone’s motherboard. When you change network or phone number with an eSIM, it involves a simple software update rather than a physical transfer process.

So you don’t have to put an eSIM in your phone – it will already have one (if it’s compatible with eSIMs), and nor do you remove or swap a physical SIM card when changing number.

Which UK networks offer eSIMs?

Networks offering eSIMs

eSIM plans

How to order

See deals

EE Logo

Pay Monthly plans

Select eSIM at checkout

See deals

(uses O2 network)

Pay Monthly and PAYG plans

Select eSIM at checkout

See deals

(uses Three network)

Pay Monthly plans

Select eSIM at checkout

See deals

(uses Three network)

Pay Monthly plans

Select eSIM at checkout

See deals

(uses O2 network)

Pay Monthly and PAYG plans

Select eSIM at checkout

See deals

Pay Monthly plans

Select eSIM at checkout

See deals

Pay Monthly and PAYG plans

Order SIM plan and swap to eSIM

See deals

(uses o2 network)

Pay Monthly plans

Order SIM plan and swap to eSIM

See deals

(uses EE network)

Pay Monthly plans

Select eSIM at checkout

See deals

(uses o2 network)

Pay Monthly and PAYG plans

Order SIM plan and swap to eSIM

See deals

Pay Monthly and PAYG plans

Select eSIM at checkout

See deals

Vodafone Logo

Pay Monthly and PAYG plans

Select eSIM at checkout

See deals

Compare SIM only deals

As of the time of writing, all four of the UK’s major mobile networks – EE, Vodafone, Three and O2 – offer eSIM support for compatible devices.

Outside of the major networks, Giffgaff, Honest Mobile, iD MobileLyca Mobile, ParentShield, Sky Mobile, Spusu, and Tesco Mobile also support eSIMs.

EE eSIMs

To get an eSIM from EE as a new customer you can request one at checkout when purchasing a SIM Only plan or a compatible phone.

To switch to an eSIM as an existing customer you can call 150 from your EE phone, login to your My EE account and order one from there, or head into an EE store. If you’re a new customer and you aren’t offered an eSIM during checkout then you can convert your physical SIM to an eSIM using one of the above methods once your SIM card arrives.

You can find up to date details of EE’s eSIM offering (including setup guides) on EE’s eSIM help page. Or keep reading for full details on setting up an eSIM below.

SIM Only Deals

Triple SIM

Micro SIM card
25GB Data
Unlimited Mins
Unlimited Texts
£16.00 a month
24 month contract
£16.00 a month

Triple SIM

Micro SIM card
30GB Data
Unlimited Mins
Unlimited Texts
£17.00 a month
24 month contract
£17.00 a month

Triple SIM

Micro SIM card
2GB Data
Unlimited Mins
Unlimited Texts
£18.00 a month
24 month contract
£18.00 a month

Giffgaff eSIMs

Uses O2's network

Giffgaff is a relatively recent addition to the world of eSIMs at the time of writing, but it now offers them on all plans, and in theory any phone that’s compatible with an eSIM should work with Giffgaff’s eSIMs.

To get an eSIM as a new customer you should start by downloading the Giffgaff app, then selecting the eSIM option on the dashboard, and then choosing a plan.

Alternatively, if you already have a physical Giffgaff SIM card, just head to the Giffgaff app and go Account > SIM > Replace my SIM > Switch to a new eSIM. Follow the simple instructions there to replace your physical SIM card with an eSIM. For more details of eSIMs on Giffgaff, head to Giffgaff’s eSIM support page.

SIM Only Deals

Triple SIM

Micro SIM card
2GB Data
Unlimited Mins
Unlimited Texts
£6.00 a month
1 month contract
£6.00 a month
EU Roaming

Triple SIM

Micro SIM card
6GB Data
Unlimited Mins
Unlimited Texts
£8.00 a month
18 month contract
£8.00 a month
EU Roaming

Triple SIM

Micro SIM card
5GB Data
Unlimited Mins
Unlimited Texts
£8.00 a month
1 month contract
£8.00 a month
EU Roaming

Honest Mobile eSIMs

Uses Three's network

Honest Mobile not only offers eSIMs, it puts them front and centre on its plans page, so the first choice you make (after deciding what allowances you want) is whether you want an eSIM or a physical SIM card.

iD Mobile eSIMs

Uses Three's network

iD Mobile also lets you select an eSIM when placing an order, and it offers them on all plans, including Pay Monthly and Pay As You Go.

Once you’ve placed an order, just download the eSIM QR code that will be sent to you – or for more detailed instructions read ‘how to set up an eSIM’ further down. You can also head to iD Mobile’s eSIM support page.

SIM Only Deals

Triple SIM

Micro SIM card
40GB Data
Unlimited Mins
Unlimited Texts
£7.00 a month
1 month contract
£7.00 a month
Data Rollover & Worldwide Roaming

Triple SIM

Micro SIM card
8GB Data
Unlimited Mins
Unlimited Texts
£6.00 a month
1 month contract
£6.00 a month
Data Rollover & Worldwide Roaming

Triple SIM

Micro SIM card
8GB Data
Unlimited Mins
Unlimited Texts
£6.00 a month
24 month contract
£6.00 a month
Data Rollover & Worldwide Roaming

Lyca Mobile eSIMs

Uses O2's network

All of Lyca Mobile’s plans support eSIM, including both Pay Monthly and Pay As You Go plans, and you can simply select an eSIM during checkout to get one.

Most devices with an eSIM should be compatible with Lyca Mobile too, including all iPhones from the iPhone XS onwards. You can find out more about eSIMs on Lyca Mobile by going to Lyca Mobile’s eSIM help page.

O2 eSIMs

O2 offers eSIMs with Pay Monthly and business plans (but not Pay As You Go). You can get one by selecting the eSIM option at checkout, or by switching to an eSIM through your My O2 account online or on the My O2 app.

O2 supports eSIMs in all iPhones from the iPhone XS onwards, the Samsung Galaxy S20, S20 Plus, S20 Ultra, Galaxy Z Flip, Google Pixel 3, Pixel 3 XL, Microsoft Surface Pro X, Samsung Galaxy Watch Active 2, and Galaxy Watch 3 at the time of writing.

You can find more details of O2’s eSIM terms and offerings on the company’s eSIM support page – or read on for general eSIM information that’s not specific to O2.

SIM Only Deals

Triple SIM

Micro SIM card
3GB Data
Unlimited Mins
Unlimited Texts
£15.00 a month
24 month contract
£15.00 a month
EU roaming

Triple SIM

Micro SIM card
6GB Data
Unlimited Mins
Unlimited Texts
£17.00 a month
24 month contract
£17.00 a month
EU roaming

Triple SIM

Micro SIM card
50GB Data
Unlimited Mins
Unlimited Texts
£17.00 a month
24 month contract
£17.00 a month
EU roaming

ParentShield eSIMs

ParentShield is an unusual network in that its plans are specifically for children, but in any case, you can request a switch to an eSIM on the network – though this doesn’t appear to be available at checkout, so you’ll be starting with a physical SIM card.

For more information, check out ParentShield’s eSIM page.

Sky Mobile eSIMs

Uses o2's network

Sky Mobile offers eSIMs, but this is another network where you have to start with a physical SIM card and then request an eSIM. You can do this through your online Sky Mobile account.

For more eSIM help, check out Sky Mobile’s eSIM support page.

SIM Only Deals

Triple SIM

Micro SIM card
3GB Data
Unlimited Mins
Unlimited Texts
£6.00 a month
12 month contract
£6.00 a month
Data Rollover

Triple SIM

Micro SIM card
5GB Data
Unlimited Mins
Unlimited Texts
£8.00 a month
12 month contract
£8.00 a month
Data Rollover

Triple SIM

Micro SIM card
10GB Data
Unlimited Mins
Unlimited Texts
£12.00 a month
12 month contract
£12.00 a month
Data Rollover

Spusu eSIMs

Uses EE's network

Spusu allows you to select an eSIM when placing your order, so the process is simple here. If you already have a physical Spusu SIM card, then you can switch to an eSIM by contacting Spusu’s service team.

For more information, take a look at Spusu’s eSIM support page.

SIM Only Deals

Triple SIM

SIM card
5GB Data
Unlimited Mins
Unlimited Texts
£1.00 a month
1 month contract
£1.00 a month

Triple SIM

SIM card
1GB Data
Unlimited Mins
Unlimited Texts
£2.90 a month
1 month contract
£2.90 a month

Triple SIM

SIM card
1GB Data
Unlimited Mins
Unlimited Texts
£2.90 a month
1 month contract
£2.90 a month

Tesco Mobile eSIMs

Uses o2's network

Tesco Mobile offers eSIMs on Pay Monthly plans and according to a customer service agent they’re also available on Pay As You Go.

However, they aren’t available online, so you’ll have to either switch to an eSIM by contacting Tesco Mobile’s customer services or heading to a Tesco store, or place your initial order at one of those places.

For more on Tesco Mobile’s eSIMs, check out Tesco Mobile’s eSIM support page.

SIM Only Deals

Triple SIM

Micro SIM card
2GB Data
Unlimited Mins
Unlimited Texts
£7.50 a month
24 month contract
£7.50 a month
EU roaming

Triple SIM

Micro SIM card
2GB Data
Unlimited Mins
Unlimited Texts
£8.00 a month
12 month contract
£8.00 a month
EU roaming

Triple SIM

Micro SIM card
12GB Data
Unlimited Mins
Unlimited Texts
£10.00 a month
24 month contract
£10.00 a month
£9 for Clubcard holdersEU roaming

Three eSIMs

Three offers eSIMs to customers of its Three Your Way plans, which are split into three types of plan – Lite, Value, and Complete. You can select an eSIM when placing your order (if purchasing a compatible phone or tablet, or a SIM Only plan). Or if you’re an existing Three Your Way customer then you can switch to eSIM by giving Three a call or popping into one of their stores.

Three also offers eSIMs on Pay As You Go, but you’ll have to call Three or visit one of the network’s stores for this – it’s not currently offered online.

As for which phones support Three eSIM, the network says to check its device support pages for this, though if you’re offered an eSIM during checkout then the device you’re buying definitely supports them.

However, most recent high-profile handsets such as the iPhone 15 range and many Samsung Galaxy phones should support eSIM. For more details of eSIMs on Three, head to Three’s eSIM support page.

SIM Only Deals

Triple SIM

Micro SIM card
8GB Data
Unlimited Mins
Unlimited Texts
£7.00 a month
12 month contract
£7.00 a month

Triple SIM

Micro SIM card
30GB Data
Unlimited Mins
Unlimited Texts
£8.00 a month
12 month contract
£8.00 a month

Triple SIM

Micro SIM card
60GB Data
Unlimited Mins
Unlimited Texts
£10.00 a month
12 month contract
£10.00 a month
Exclusive deal

Vodafone eSIMs

Vodafone offers eSIM plans to Pay Monthly customers as well as on Pay As You Go, and you can request one during checkout. Or if you already have a physical SIM card then contact Vodafone to switch or select the ‘Activate my eSIM’ option on your Vodafone account. For more details, head to Vodafone’s eSIM help page.

Vodafone lists a wide range of devices as compatible with its eSIMs. This includes every iPhone from the iPhone XS onwards, except the iPhone SE 2022, though the network possibly just hasn’t updated its list with that.

The network also lists various iPad models, and numerous phones from Samsung, Google and others, such as the Samsung Galaxy S24 series and the Google Pixel 8 line.

SIM Only Deals

Triple SIM

Micro SIM card
150GB Data
Unlimited Mins
Unlimited Texts
£12.50 a month
24 month contract
£12.50 a month

Triple SIM

Micro SIM card
50GB Data
Unlimited Mins
Unlimited Texts
£21.00 a month
24 month contract
£21.00 a month

Triple SIM

Micro SIM card
20GB Data
Unlimited Mins
Unlimited Texts
£24.00 a month
12 month contract
£24.00 a month

Which UK networks don’t offer eSIMs?

None of the following networks currently offer eSIMs:

  • Asda Mobile

Asda Mobile don't currently offer eSIM plans and havn't announced any plans to launch them.

  • Lebara Mobile

Lebara Mobile don't currently offer eSIM plans, but they have announced they plan to introduce them before the end of 2024. 

  • SMARTY

Smarty don't currently offer eSIM plans, but have stated it may be something they look at in the future.

  • VOXI

Voxi don't currently offer eSIM plans, but have confirmed they are working on it.

  • CMLink

CMLink don't currently offer eSIM plans and havn't announced any plans to launch them.

  • No other conventional UK networks offer eSIMs at the time of writing either.

Which phones support eSIMs?

Back in 2020, the Motorola Razr that was offered through EE was a rare phone that used an eSIM exclusively. That phone is no longer a going concern, and the vast majority of new phones that currently support eSIM will also support a physical SIM. So in other words you should in almost all cases still have the option of a physical SIM card.

In any case, the chart below lists key phones with eSIM, however there may be additional eSIM phones that aren’t accounted for here.

Phones that support eSIMs

Manufacturer Model

Apple

iPhone 15 range, iPhone 14 range, iPhone SE 2022, iPhone 13 range, iPhone 12 range, iPhone SE 2020, iPhone 11 range, iPhone XS, iPhone XS Max, iPhone XR

Google

Pixel 8, Pixel 8 Pro, Pixel 7, Pixel 7 Pro, Pixel 6, Pixel 6 Pro, Pixel 5, Pixel 4a, Pixel 4, Pixel 4 XL, Pixel 3a, Pixel 3a XL, Pixel 3

Microsoft

Microsoft Surface Duo

Motorola

Razr

Oppo

Oppo Find X3 Pro, Oppo Find X5 Pro

Samsung

Galaxy S24 range, Galaxy S23 range, Galaxy S22 range, Galaxy Z Flip 5, Galaxy Z Fold 5, Galaxy Z Flip 4, Galaxy Z Fold 4, Galaxy Z Flip 3, Galaxy Z Fold 3, Galaxy S21 range, Galaxy Note 20, Galaxy Note 20 Ultra, Galaxy S20, Galaxy S20 5G, Galaxy S20+ 5G, Galaxy S20 Ultra 5G, Galaxy Z Flip, Galaxy Fold, Galaxy Z Fold 2, Galaxy S22, Galaxy S22+, Galaxy S22 Ultra.

Fairphone 5G phones

Fairphone 5, Fairphone 4

Note that while the phones in the chart above all support eSIM, they won’t necessarily all be available with an eSIM from every network that offers eSIMs. Note also that in addition to phones there are a selection of tablets (mostly iPads) and smartwatches that support eSIM.

How to set up an eSIM

The process for setting up an eSIM will vary a bit depending on your network and device, but is broadly as follows.

Assuming you’ve checked that your phone supports eSIM, first ensure that your phone has Wi-Fi turned on. Then, if you received an eSIM QR code from your network, scan it in using your phone’s camera app. Your eSIM will install your profile automatically. If you’re prompted to install a ‘Data Plan’ or a ‘Mobile Plan’, do so.

If you can’t successfully scan the QR code directly from your phone’s camera or a QR code scanning app, then on iOS, head to Settings > Mobile Service, and select ‘Add eSIM’, to scan it from there.

On Samsung phones, go to Settings > Connections > SIM manager, and then select ‘Add eSIM’, followed by ‘Scan QR code’.

On a Google Pixel, you’ll find the relevant screen in Settings > Network and Internet > SIMs, where you should then select ‘Download a new eSIM’, and on a Motorola Razr head to Settings > Network & internet > Mobile network > Advanced > Carrier, and then select ‘Add carrier’.

Note that the process may vary slightly depending on which version of Android or iOS your phone is running, and will also differ a bit on brands other than those above, but in all cases it should be something along those lines.

Alternatively, if you don’t have a QR code then you may have to use your network’s app or website to set up your eSIM. You should have full instructions from your network to do this, but the process basically involves launching the app or loading your account on the website from the device you want the eSIM on (so you’ll need to be connected to Wi-Fi), then selecting the download eSIM option.

You may also have the option to bring up an eSIM QR code on the network’s website or app. This will require you to open the website or app on a different device, then to scan the QR code with the device you want to add the eSIM to.

How to switch from a physical SIM to an eSIM?

Just contact your network and ask them to make the change from SIM to eSIM. They’ll typically send you an eSIM pack with a QR code. Follow the relevant operator links listed above to initiate the switch.

Roaming with eSIM

Note that if you are using a dual-SIM phone with an active eSIM, you might be charged roaming fees on both lines when you go abroad. Our recommendation would be to go in and deactivate the secondary SIM whilst travelling abroad, just to be sure that you don’t get any nasty billing surprises.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

Can I access 5G with an eSIM?

If your particular phone supports 5G, and your network covers 5G in your area, then yes. 5G support won’t be a problem.

Can I move an existing line from a physical SIM to an eSIM?

Yes you can, assuming your network supports eSIMs for the plan type you have. Just contact your network operator and request the move, and they’ll supply you with an eSIM pack.

Do devices other than phones use eSIMs?

eSIMs have been used in numerous generations of Apples iPad family, and also in numerous smartwatches, including the Apple Watch and Samsung Galaxy Watch. Its use in the smartwatch form factor perfectly illustrates the space saving potential of going with an eSIM over a physical SIM.

Certain laptops can also make use of eSIMs, as can modern connected cars.

What are the advantages of an eSIM?

  • Can't be lost or damaged

Using an eSIM means that you’ll never lose or break this essential part of your phone, as is possible with old fashioned physical SIMs. It also lessens the likelihood of damaging your phone, as removing a SIM can be a fiddly process.

  • No waiting for post to arrive

Because sign up is virtual, you no longer have to wait for a network to send you a physical SIM card through the post.

  • Saves space inside a phone

eSIMs take up much less space within a smartphone than a physical SIM. They’re around half the size of a nano SIM, and they don’t require the same elaborate housing mechanism (such as the removable SIM tray). That’s precious space that could potentially be used for bigger batteries, more water-tight designs, or simply smaller phones.

  • Multiple profiles 

The virtual nature of the eSIM means that they can hold multiple profiles simultaneously. You could conceivably switch between up to five numbers and operators across multiple countries with a simple tweak in your phone’s settings menu.

Are there any disadvantages of eSIMs?

When your phone breaks, it’s easy to quickly switch a physical SIM to a new device. With eSIMs, the process is more laborious, and requires that you order a new eSIM pack from your network.

  • Privacy concerns

If you’re concerned about the ability for phone companies to track you, then eSIMs are potentially problematic. You can physically remove that ability with a SIM card, but not with an eSIM.

  • Single number sharing is more difficult

If you like to switch a single number between multiple phones, you’re better off with a physical SIM. With eSIMs you’ll need to go through the process of requesting a switch from your network each and every time.

Jon Mundy
About Jon Mundy

Technical Writer at 5G.co.uk

Jon has nine years experience of writing and editing copy for leading publications, as well as attending technology shows and events and conducting interviews. Currently working with 5G.co.uk, TechRadar, Trusted Reviews, T3, Digital Spy, What Mobile, Pocket Gamer, and The Gadget Show.

View more posts by Jon Mundy >
James Rogerson
About James Rogerson

Editorial Manager

James has been writing for us for over 10 years. Currently, he is Editorial Manager for our group of companies ( 3G.co.uk, 4G.co.uk and 5G.co.uk) and sub-editor at TechRadar. He specialises in smartphones, mobile networks/ technology, tablets, and wearables.

In the past, James has also written for T3, Digital Camera World, Clarity Media, Smart TV Radar, and others, with work on the web, in print and on TV. He has a film studies degree from the University of Kent, Canterbury, and has over a decade’s worth of professional writing experience.

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