Phones

How do you get a Three eSIM?

iPhone on table
Network upgrade? Three will soon support eSIMs

At the time of writing (May 2022), the simple answer is that you can’t get a Three eSIM. At least not for the time being.

Three began trials of eSIMs in selected stores in 2020, but two years later the network is still to roll them out. If you visit the eSIM page on the Three website, you’re met with a message that says:

We recently offered eSIMs as part of a trial. While we’re working on offering eSIMs again soon, we’re currently only able to replace them for trial participants.

I checked in with Three’s support team on Twitter, which confirmed that eSIMs were still unavailable but would be launched this year.

Update – 22 June 2022: Three has announced limited support for eSIMs for Apple Watch owners. According to the company’s press release: “Three will begin offering its customers the Apple Watch Series 7 (GPS and cellular) or Apple Watch SE (GPS and cellular) with the added benefit to linking the smartwatch to an existing mobile contract and their mobile number from today.” You can find out more on Three’s Apple Watch support page.

How do eSIMs work?

Instead of putting a little piece of plastic into the phone’s SIM-card slot, an eSIM is a virtual SIM card. They’re good for the environment, because the phone network doesn’t have to manufacture plastic SIM cards, package them and send them to customers. They’re good for the networks, because eSIMs reduce their costs. And they’re good for the consumer, because they should be less hassle than those increasingly fiddly pieces of plastic.

Many of the leading smartphones now offer support for eSIMs, including the latest Apple iPhones. eSIMs can also be used in devices that can’t physically accommodate a SIM card, such as smartwatches.

If you want to see how you activate an eSIM card, Three produced this video during its trial:

Alas, as Three’s elongated launch has proven, eSIMs can be tricky for the networks to implement. It requires big changes to their back-end systems, customer support staff need to be trained and there are security implications too.

Hence, even though eSIMs have been around for a while, they are still rarely used amongst UK consumers.

Let’s hope 2022 becomes the year that eSIMs finally become mainstream and we can do away with those little pieces of plastic…

Woman on smartphone

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About the author

Barry Collins

Barry has scribbled about tech for almost 20 years for The Sunday Times, PC Pro, WebUser, Which? and many others. He was once Deputy Editor of Mail Online and remains in therapy to this day. Email Barry at barry@bigtechquestion.com.

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