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Mobile Operator Giffgaff Finally Launches UK eSIM Support

Wednesday, Oct 11th, 2023 (7:31 am) - Score 8,432

Mobile network operator giffgaff has just become the latest provider to introduce eSIM (Electronic SIM) support, although at present they only appear to be allowing existing customers with the operator’s latest Smartphone app installed (iOS App and Android App) – version 12.13.0-v337 or above – to transition from a physical to electronic SIM.

For a bit of context on all this. The eSIM standard is an alternative to physical SIM cards, which works by essentially embedding an electronic SIM into your device (Smartphone) and that could – once fully implemented – make it easier and quicker to switch between operators (e.g. not having to wait for a SIM card to arrive), as well as to use additional networks alongside your main mobile operator (e.g. eSIMs for travel when abroad).

NOTE: Giffgaff is a virtual mobile operator (MVNO) on O2’s (VMO2) national UK infrastructure.

However, getting eSIMs into the mainstream has been a bit of a bumpy ride, with issues of patchy support via different devices, confusing setup routines and some operators being much slower than others to fully introduce the feature. But progress has been made and the extra flexibility that a properly implemented eSIM solution can bring is not something to be underestimated.

The latest operator to join the eSIM club is giffgaff (credits to R0MK1N for spotting), albeit with the odd catch. For example, if you don’t already have an account on giffgaff, then you won’t be able to get an eSIM on giffgaff, but the operator does say this will be “coming very soon“. Until then, new customers will have to activate a physical SIM and then switch onto an eSIM, which kind of removes one of eSIM’s benefits (i.e. not having to use a physical SIM).

In addition, if a customer reports either their physical SIM or eSIM as lost or stolen, then you’ll have to reactivate your account using the physical SIM that gets sent to you by post. Finally, wearables (e.g. Smartwatches like the Apple Watch) aren’t officially supported yet and giffgaff doesn’t currently know how long it will take to add. But no doubt the operator will work out a lot of these issues over time and if you don’t need or want an eSIM then nothing changes (it’s all optional), physical SIMs aren’t going away anytime soon. More details here.

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By Mark Jackson
Mark is a professional technology writer, IT consultant and computer engineer from Dorset (England), he also founded ISPreview in 1999 and enjoys analysing the latest telecoms and broadband developments. Find me on X (Twitter), Mastodon, Facebook and .
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28 Responses
  1. Avatar photo Kris Lord says:

    I went back to physical sim after the hassle of moving to a new iPhone.

    Neither O2 or Lyca support phone to phone eSIM transfer.

    O2 have to post you a QR code for a new eSIM which you install on your new device then wait hours for your number to transfer to that eSIM.

    Lyca make you order a new PAYG eSIM and then transfer to that. Again waiting hours for your number to be active.

    1. Avatar photo Ad47uk says:

      I thought phones that had an esim did not have space for a physical sim, so if you have gone back to a physical sim, you would have to buy a new phon. I could be wrong about that. I have not really looked at Esim phones as I don;t have any reason to buy a new phone and when I do I want to avoid esims.

    2. Avatar photo André says:

      The European iPhones have both eSIM and physical SIM support (for the time being)
      I would imagine many other brands do the same.

    3. Avatar photo Andrew says:

      I’ve never had an issue with transferring my eSIM to a new blank one with Lyca, it’s fairly instant, maybe 5 minutes tops. i’ve done it a few times in the past

      O2 on the other hand, I didn’t have signal on my new iPhone 15 for 4 hours after transferring the eSIM to the new iPhone using the app, it was a disgrace

    4. Avatar photo No Name says:

      I had the same experience with EE, although it was about 18 months ago now. I upgraded from a Note 10 to an S22 Ultra, they had to send me a new eSim activation in the post. It took 3 days and cost £1.50.

      I’ve just gone back to having 2 standard nano Sim cards now. eSim was a pain in the arse.

    5. Avatar photo I love Starlink says:

      “Neither O2 or Lyca support phone to phone eSIM transfer.”

      Why not? Sky Mobile do. The QR code is reusable and is stored on your account – and they send you the code by e-mail which you can also get re sent again via the account.

      Sky has the option to replace/or move an Esim on demand. So it’s a MNVO problem not the network. Lyca’s is single use so when my Iphone messed up they just said “oh well” and claimed to close my account down and refund the money but never did.

    6. Avatar photo I love Starlink says:


      When I called I was not given this option I was told it was not possible to do anything as the QR code was single use.

    7. Avatar photo Raj says:

      Tesco supports eSIM being moved. Their QR code can be used up to 3 times before requiring a new one. Just uninstall on the old device and reinstall on the new one.

    8. Avatar photo eSIM says:

      There like that in America but very soon physical Sim cards will be obsolete you I’ll need to use eSIM regardless if you hate them or not

    9. Avatar photo Ad47uk says:

      @André. I thought one of the reasons Apple wanted Esim was to slim the phone down even more? How much slimmer they can make a phone, I don’t know. Saying that some of the Iphones I have seen are thicker than my Oppo.
      I thought I would be nosy and look to see what Opps have Esim, but it don’t say, so I presume none, not that I am planning to renew my phone until it dies.

    10. Avatar photo eSIM says:

      Ad47uk After some research there two reasons why they want to get rid of physical Sim card is make it easier for end user and to combat sim swap fraud

  2. Avatar photo Obi says:

    This is good news. I think why they’ve went existing customers only for their first run is because only the enthusiasts will bother doing it.

    Companies in general seem to be quite wary of ESims, I switched to EE via BT retentions, will have physical initially and the option to swap at a later date.

  3. Avatar photo Anon says:

    Still no VoLTE support though.

    1. Avatar photo anon says:

      oh no, i can’t download things while i’m using my phone as a phone.

    2. Avatar photo Alex E says:

      If you’re using the phone’s navigation whilst on a call it is actually useful to have VoLTE.

    3. Avatar photo Sam B says:

      @anon – There’s other advantages to VoLTE than just being able to use data whilst on a call.

      The phone not having to drop to 3G means call connect times are substantially reduced, and the higher bandiwdth allows for HD Voice.

      VoLTE is also a prerequisite for WiFi Calling.

    4. Avatar photo brin says:

      “VoLTE is also a prerequisite for WiFi Calling.”

      what? no it isn’t. Case in point: I have VoWiFi but not VoLTE on my phone.

  4. Avatar photo acdeag says:

    O2 support new eSIM provisioning via their app if you have moved to their new billing system, if not it is by post or in store.

  5. Avatar photo Me says:

    Hopefully this means Tesco Mobile will release it publicly soon. They have WiFi calling and VOLTE coming too.

    1. Avatar photo Raj says:

      Tesco Mobile already do eSIMs (PAYM only). They released it 2 weeks ago. They just aren’t publicly advertising it for now. You can go into any TM store and swap to eSIM right there and then.

  6. Avatar photo anon says:

    This is good news. While eSIMs are not without their issues, it’s handy for people to not wait around for royal mail to deliver your next-day SIM card 7 days later. Or for people abroad etc.

    1. Avatar photo Raj says:

      Unfortunately, due to security purposes, many networks are still doing physical-only delivery of eSIM. That’s to prevent SIM Swap fraud (OTP hijacking).

      So you’ll still need to wait for the eSIM to arrive in the post. Or alternatively get it swapped in-store.

      Not every network is like this though.

  7. Avatar photo Me says:

    Why would anyone want a service from GiffGaff at all? Uses the terrible Slow2 network!

    1. Avatar photo Gerarda says:

      I have today moved from O2 to Giffgaff (getting a better deal for a thirs of the price) as although the O2 coverage is poor they are going to support 3G for longer. Vodafone, EE and Three’s erratic 4G coverage locally means I would be on 2G for much of the time

      As someone else noted I wasnt offered an ESim

    2. Avatar photo anon says:

      speak for yourself, I’m getting 300mbit on “Slow2” here.
      Compare that with three who a year ago was 800mbit and today is 30.

  8. Avatar photo WonkoTheSaneUK says:

    Sadly, GiffGaff’s new eSIMs are not yet compatible with smart watches, etc.

    “Wearables (e.g. smart watches) aren’t officially supported

    While wearables make use of eSIM technology in the background, these devices have other network dependencies that aren’t available on our network yet

    Unfortunately, we can’t give you a solid timeframe for when we might bring in this kind of support”

  9. Avatar photo Tomo says:

    The app must still be beta only as I’ve not got it yet (and the beta program is full), which is annoying. Or it’s not yet fully rolled out to Google Play. I’ve been desperate for this for ages but at least it’s a thing now!

    1. Avatar photo WonkoTheSaneUK says:

      It’s not beta, I switched to eSIM yesterday.
      Giffgaff’s instructions (the “more details here” link in the article) say to force stop the app and restart it to get the correct version.

Comments are closed

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