eSIM: what it is, how it works and why you should get one

A comprehensive guide to why innovative eSIM technology is transforming the mobile experience, covering everything from setup to benefits.

Sophia King
Wed Dec 06 2023

If you’re reading this, there’s a good chance you’ve recently heard about the eSIM.

You might be super tech savvy, reading this off a phone using one right now. Or you might have stumbled across the term and thought ’what on earth is that?’.

Either way, you’ve come to the right place.

In this guide, we'll demystify eSIMs. From how they work, to where you can get one – and why more and more people are choosing them for a better mobile experience.

First things first. What is an eSIM? How does an eSIM work?

Despite what the tech enthusiasts might have you believe, the definition of an eSIM is pretty simple.

An eSIM is a digital version of the physical SIM card living inside your phone. Instead of a tiny chip, eSIMs store all your network info digitally. Think of it like the SIM card's smarter, more convenient sibling.

So instead of fiddling with tiny SIM trays and paperclips (like when you set up your current SIM), setting up an eSIM requires just a few taps of your phone screen. It really is that simple.

Are eSIMs available in the UK?

Yes. Despite still being relatively unknown here in the UK, eSIMs are available globally. From Germany and France to Japan and the United States – you name it, you can almost definitely use an eSIM there.

eSIMs have been about since 2015, and it’s not just Honest that provides them. O2, Vodafone, EE and the other big networks all do, too – they just don’t want you to know about it yet 👀

In fact, it might surprise you to learn that the global eSIM market is already worth 4.7bn USD – and growing fast.

What are the benefits of an eSIM?

What aren’t the benefits of an eSIM would be a quicker question to answer.

Here are just some of the reasons people are making the switch.

✅ They’re convenient

Imagine never having to swap out physical SIM cards when switching networks or travelling abroad again. Setting up or switching to an eSIM takes just a few taps of your screen. No need to visit a store or wait for a physical SIM to arrive in the post.

🌎 They make roaming easy

Easily connect to local networks when abroad, without the anxiety of roaming charges. You basically have a local SIM wherever you go. (Heading to the EU? Free EU roaming comes as standard with an Honest SIM. Check out our plans here.)

🤳 They support a work/life balance

Instead of juggling two phones or having your boss email you just as you settle down to watch that film, eSIMs let you manage your work and personal life on a single phone. Simply use your business eSIM during the day, then switch to your personal eSIM when clocking off.

🌳 They’re eco-friendly

Those who know Honest will know we’re big on sustainability. As the UK’s first B Corp mobile network we want to do what’s right by the planet. So the plastic waste associated with physical SIMs has always made us uneasy even when it’s fully recycled like ours. The digital nature of eSIMs means they get a big seal of approval from us.

📱 They take up less space in your phone

Just when you thought your phone couldn’t get any slicker eSIMs come along and free up even more space for manufacturers to go to town with. Hello better performance and an even more streamlined look for phones of the future 💁

🔒 They’re more secure

The advanced security features of an eSIM combined with the low likelihood of anyone swapping your SIM keeps you even more secure and protected from fraudsters.

✨They futureproof your phone

Forget the hassle of switching SIMs every time you upgrade your device. All you need to do is set up your eSIM in your new phone’s settings and you’re ready to roll.

💸 They can save you money

While what you pay for an eSIM will depend on your plan and network the overall advantages are likely to benefit your wallet. No more roaming charges or being stuck with a provider out of convenience. Check out our plans (and get your eSIM) here.

Rishi's review of the Honest eSIM setup process.

A step-by-step guide to setting up an eSIM

If reading the above has got you chomping at the bit to get your own eSIM, good news - it’s quick and easy to make the switch. Here’s how.

Step 1: Check your device compatibility

Before you get an eSIM, check your mobile supports the technology. If it’s a model released in the past few years – be that an iPhone Android or another smartphone – it almost definitely does. You can check this in your device settings.

Step 2: Choose your eSIM provider

Consider everything you normally would when choosing a phone network: coverage, data allowance, pricing… you get the gist. Looking for a planet-friendly plan that won’t break the bank and offers the UK’s fastest 5G? Check out Honest’s plans.

Step 3: Purchase your eSIM plan

Once you’ve found your perfect plan, it’s time to order your eSIM. It’s typically at this point that the provider will send you a QR code or activation link. This is your key to unlocking the benefits of eSIM technology.

Step 4: Easy activation

Next scan the QR code or click the activation link. Your device will immediately recognise and start downloading your new network profile.

When the download finishes, follow your network’s instructions to activate your eSIM. Then you’re ready to go!

Going forward, you can add, remove or switch between eSIMs directly on your phone. This is especially handy if you have separate profiles for work and personal use, or are travelling abroad.

Introducing Smart SIM

As well as offering eSIMs as standard for all our plans, we’re hard at work developing Smart SIM. Smart SIM will be an eSIM exclusive to Honest that lets you use essential apps, anywhere in the world. Rather than replace your regular eSIM, it'd work alongside.

Want unbeatable coverage and limitless roaming? Join the Smart SIM waiting list here.

Ready to get your own eSIM?

If you’ve read all the way to here, hopefully the only question you have left is: “Why doesn’t everyone have an eSIM?”.

We hear you – and we don’t think it’ll be long until physical SIMs are a relic of the past, along with Discmans and fax machines (shout out to anyone still rocking those).

By now, you’ve glimpsed the endless possibilities eSIMs offer. Whether you’re a frequent traveler, an eco-conscious consumer, or simply someone who values convenience, eSIMs will make your mobile that bit better.

Ready to join the eSIM revolution? Order yours now.

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