eSIM Support for iPhones (plus: how to switch from a nano-SIM with EE in the UK)

I bought an iPhone XS in large part because of its dual SIM functionality (using eSIM). I tend to travel a fair bit, want data while I’m travelling, and hate SIM management. I’d like to keep my UK number in my phone for iMessages, WhatsApp conversations, etc. and I dislike the idea of my main SIM being out of my phone and easily lost. I’m also kinda stoked for the future where eSIMs are how I buy SIM cards in foreign countries, but that’s probably many years away. πŸ˜…

If, like me, you’re living in the UK and want to move your EE plan from your physical nano-SIM to your iPhone’s eSIM: here’s how. It’s really straightforward, but you’ll be hard-pressed to find the info onlineβ€”at least as of today (October 31, 2018).

Update: EE added a page on their site about using dual SIM features on iPhones. It’s pretty helpful! πŸ‘πŸ»

Swapping from Nano-SIM to eSIM with EE

If you’re a pay monthly EE customer in the UK and you have an iPhone XS, iPhone XS Max, or iPhone XR running iOS 12.1:Β you can convert your plan from running on your nano-SIM to an eSIM. I did so earlier today by visiting an EE Store and grabbing an eSIM data sheet. It’s got a QR code and a SIM serial to enter on EE’s website; that’s all you need to make the switch. Apparently you can call EE’s customer service on the phone instead of heading to a store, but when I tried this they directed me to the wrong page on the site and didn’t really know what was up. Maybe you’ll need to call a few times. πŸ€·πŸ»β€β™‚οΈ

You won’t find much information on EE’s website about how to do it, so here’s what I did:

  1. Get an eSIM data sheet/QR code from EE (I did it in-store; you can probably do it over the phone too)
  2. Go to ee.co.uk/simswap; enter your phone number, then the PIN and the serial number on the back of your eSIM data sheet
  3. Go to your iPhone’s Settings app, into “Mobile Data”, and into “Add Data Plan”
  4. Scan the QR code in your eSIM data sheet
  5. Follow the steps, being sure to set the new line as your main line
  6. Remove your SIM card and restart your phone

My eSIM was active and already using my existing number after I restarted my phone; EE’s website says it can take between 1-24 hours, but for me it was near instantaneous. πŸ‘πŸ»

Now I can keep my UK number active and not worry about swapping SIMs so much as just adding one when I travel outside the EEA and North America. Yay! πŸŽ‰

eSIM FAQ

Can I roam with my eSIM?

Yes. Think of the eSIM as a downloaded version of your nano-SIM, stored on the phone. Your plan works the exact same way and your phone communicates with cell networks the same way as it would with a physical SIM; in the case of eSIM it’s just that the data is stored on the phone rather than in the (removable) SIM card. You can still roam in any country as you would have before; your phone will appear the same to networks as it did with a physical SIM.

Does EE charge for the eSIM data sheet?

EE didn’t charge me for the data sheet, for the switch, or for anything else. My iPhone XS is unlocked and my plan with EE is SIM-only, but it shouldn’t matter what kind of plan you have provided it isn’t prepaid.

What happens if you want to change phones?

You’d need to order a new physical SIM and swap your plan back over. Swapping plans between phones could, in theory, be more annoying until you can get an eSIM data sheet in a more automated fashion. Maybe through the EE app? 🀞🏻

What happens if you lose your phone, with the eSIM in it?

First off: sorry for your loss. You’d need to contact EE same as if your phone with a SIM card were lost. It’s basically the same deal; they’d verify who you are and get your plan moved to a new SIM without needing verification from the current SIM.

Why bother with an eSIM?

If my main plan is on an eSIM, my SIM card slot is free to use data SIMs in countries I travel to that I don’t have free roaming in. I’ve been to four countries this year that all required separate SIM cards: Japan, Korea, Hong Kong, and Serbia. Being able to keep my UK number active for calls but get a cheap, local data SIM would’ve been nice in those scenarios. It’s a little perk, but it’s handy.

I don’t travel often, should I bother doing this?

No, it’s probably fine to stick with the physical SIM card.

I change phones often/swap my SIMs between phones often; should I bother doing this?

No, it will be annoying to constantly swap between the eSIM and the nano-SIM. Just keep the nano-SIM if you aren’t always using one phone as your “main phone”.