The convenience and ease of eSims makes them an excellent choice for anyone with a smartphone. No need to navigate a foreign country’s sim cards every time you travel, nor wait for a physical sim card to arrive in the mail. There are a number of UK eSims providers — including most major networks, so it’s worth shopping around to find one that gives you exactly the features you need.
Advantages of eSims
If you have an eSim compatible smartphone, you essentially just download your SIM from your provider. So no more fiddling around with constantly shrinking sim cards and no need to swap physical sim cards to change providers. Some providers will allow you to purchase and download eSims online, cutting out the need for a trip to a stores and reducing wait times to zero.
Finally, eSims allows for “dual sim” modes on phones – two simultaneous tariffs at once (the eSim and the physical sim.) This can be useful when travelling, allowing you to have a tariff with advantageous roaming rules, while still keeping your regular phone number.
eSim compatible Smartphones
To use an eSim, you will need a smart phone with eSim capability, fortunately many of the main smartphone makers now use eSims. Most iphones (since the XS and XR), Google Pixels (since Pixel 2), as well as the Samsung Galaxy S21 and S20 are all eSim capable. There are also various other eSim compatible smartphones including handsets from Motorola, Nokia and Sony.
UK Mobile Providers offering eSims
Vodafone’s biggest selling point in the eSim market is being the only network that allows you to order them entirely online. Simply toggle the “eSim” option at checkout and rather than sending you a physical sim, your order will contain instructions on accessing your eSim through QR code. This makes Vodafone one of the most convenient options for users looking for an eSim at short notice, such as recent UK arrivals. With a large selection of plans and add-ons, it’s easy enough to customize your sim to exactly what you need in terms of minutes, messages, and data.
Any additional changes you want to make to your sim, such as plan changes or deleting your eSim, can also be managed online. Depending on your needs, Vodafone can also offer advantageous roaming allowances. If you’re looking to use a Vodafone eSim while abroad, it’s worth checking to see what your plan gives you.
EE is just a step behind Vodafone in terms of convenience. You can’t order an eSim directly through the website, but can change to an eSim through their MyEE service. Generally, if this is a new contract, you’ll still have to wait for delivery, but the steps afterwards can be done online. This makes EE a good option for visitors to the UK if you can line up sim delivery with your arrival. Airport collection, for instance, would mean you have the sim in hand straight away and could convert at your leisure once you’re settled.
If you’re thinking of leaving the UK for a while, an EE eSim may also be useful to have. Although they do have roaming charges abroad, for £10 a month you can purchase a “Roam Abroad” pass which allows data usage in 47 European countries. If you’re a digital nomad away for a few weeks, or plan to hop between countries, this is one of the most cost-effective roaming options available.
O2’s eSim offerings are slightly less convenient for UK arrivals than Vodafone or EE. In order to obtain an eSim, you have to first order a conventional sim card. Once that’s arrived, you can change it to an eSim by calling or going into store, so you’re limited to business hours. They will then send you a physical eSim pack, so that’s a few more days of waiting. Overall, if you’re arriving in the UK, you’ll need to plan out receiving your eSim to avoid at least a 3 day wait.
However, if you’re leaving the UK, O2 might be one of your best options. Many of the tariffs it offers come with free EU roaming as a perk. This makes it an ideal choice to dual sim with your regular number when travelling in the EU. A data-only eSim in combination with your regular sim might be the perfect choice for the budget conscious traveler.
Three have just completed an initial trial of eSims. Unless you were in the initial group to be offered them, you won’t be able to get an eSim from Three for the time being.
If you want to see our recommendations for good old physical sims, see our article on best UK sim-only deals.
If you’re a frequent traveller make sure you’re up to speed with the post-Brexit EU roaming regulations, and how much providers charge for your data-jaunt across the channel.