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How to activate a Three eSIM

The future of SIM cards isn’t physical objects that you have to put in your phone, rather it’s an eSIM. That’s the name for an embedded SIM card, and it’s a future that’s already beginning, as some smartphones and other devices already have an eSIM.

Below we’ll explain exactly how to activate an eSIM on Three, along with what phones support eSIM, and answers to any questions you’re likely to have about them.

Before we dive in though it’s worth noting that at the time of writing (September 2022), Three doesn’t currently offer eSIMs. However, it briefly trialled them and if you got one during that trial then you can still use it. Plus, the network plans to offer eSIMs again in future.

So whether you already have a device with a Three eSIM or you hope to get one in future – once they’re offered again – here’s what you need to know about setting them up.

How to activate a Three eSIM on an iPhone

The process for activating a Three eSIM on an iPhone is very simple. Just make sure Wi-Fi is turned on, then open the phone’s camera app and hold the viewfinder over the QR code that Three will have sent you. This will then cause the camera to recognise and scan the code, after which a notification saying 'Cellular Plan Detected' will appear.

Tap this, then tap 'Continue' followed by 'Add Cellular Plan'. Now your Three eSIM should be up and running.

Alternatively, once Wi-Fi is enabled you can head to Settings > Mobile Data > Add Data Plan, and then scan the QR code from there.

If for any reason your eSIM QR code won’t scan, there is an alternate way to activate your eSIM. With your iPhone connected to Wi-Fi, go to Settings > Mobile Data > Add Data Plan. Then tap 'Enter Details Manually' and fill in the relevant fields with the information found on the eSIM packaging.

For SM-DP+ Address you’ll want to enter: LPA:1$$

Your ‘Activation code’ is the 64-digit code found on the eSIM packaging, and ‘Confirmation code’ should be left blank.

How to activate a Three eSIM on Android

On Android the process to activate a Three eSIM is very similar to on an iPhone. All you need to do is ensure Wi-Fi is enabled, then start up your phone’s camera, point it at the QR code that Three will have sent you, and wait for it to scan. You’ll get a notification when your phone has scanned the QR code, and at that point your Three eSIM should be active.

Note however that on some Android phones you may first need to enable QR code scanning, an option that can generally be found in your camera or phone settings.

Some – particularly older – Android phones may also not be able to scan QR codes through the camera app, in which case you can download a dedicated QR scanner (such as QR & Barcode Reader) from the Google Play Store. However, since we’re only seeing eSIMs in recent handsets this is unlikely to be necessary.

If for whatever reason you can’t scan your eSIM QR code then, with your phone connected to Wi-Fi, do the following:

If you’re using a Pixel phone, head to the ‘Scan QR code for network’ screen, then tap ‘Need Help’. Then, on the ‘Having trouble scanning your QR code’ screen that appears, tap ‘Enter it manually’ to bring up the ‘Add network provider’ screen.

From there, enter your SM-DP+ address, which is LPA:1$$, and then enter your 64-digit activation code, which can be found on your eSIM packaging. Then hit ‘Continue’, followed by ‘Activate’.

If you’re using a Samsung phone then you should instead open the settings app, then tap ‘Connections’, followed by ‘SIM card manager’, and then select ‘Add mobile plan’ and tap ‘Add using activation code’.

The rest of the process is the same as on a Pixel – enter LPA:1$$ into the SM-DP+ address field, and enter your 64-digit activation code, which should be on your eSIM packaging. Finally, hit ‘Continue’ followed by ‘Activate’.

What phones support eSIM?

The main companies that support eSIM at the time of writing are Apple, Google, and Samsung.

You’ll find an eSIM inside every iPhone from the iPhone XR onwards for example, including the iPhone 14 range, along with many Samsung phones – such as the Samsung Galaxy S23 range, and in every Google Pixel phone from the Pixel 3 onwards.

You’ll also find one in some devices from other companies, such as select Huawei, Motorola and Oppo handsets. Some smartwatches also include them, such as the Apple Watch 7.

Note however that in some cases there will be multiple models of the devices – some with and some without eSIMs, and also just because a phone has an eSIM, it doesn’t mean that Three (or any given network) will support it, especially as most of these phones have a standard SIM card slot as well. So you’ll want to be sure when getting a SIM card that it’s specifically an eSIM that you’re getting.

As noted at the top of this article, Three also isn’t currently supporting eSIMs unless you already have one from the company, so at the time of writing you can’t purchase a new phone from Three to use with an eSIM.

Frequently asked questions

What is an eSIM?

An eSIM is an embedded SIM card. That means it’s built into your device, and on Three it’s activated with a QR code. If you ever change network then rather than changing SIM card you would simply change which network your eSIM is registered to.

Can I use both an eSIM and a physical SIM?

That depends on your device, but in general yes, as most current phones with an eSIM also have a standard SIM card. That means you can potentially have two different plans or networks on your phone at once, or simply choose whether you’d rather use the eSIM or physical SIM.

How do I remove a Three eSIM from my device?

If for any reason you need to remove an eSIM from your Three device, it’s easy to do. Just go to Settings > Mobile Data > Data Plan > Remove Data Plan, and finally tap ‘Remove Three Plan’.

How does the eSIM QR code work?

QR stands for ‘quick response’ and a QR code is a lot like a barcode – it contains information that a computer can read by scanning it. In the case of an eSIM QR code, it has the information required for Three to activate an eSIM on the phone that scans it.

What happens if I lose my eSIM QR code?

If you lose your eSIM QR code before setting it up, or delete your eSIM from your device, you can simply request a new eSIM QR code from Three. This can be done either online or by calling Three – on 333 from your Three phone, or 0333 338 1001 from any other phone.

What happens if I change device?

If your new device has an eSIM card then simply request a new eSIM from Three – you’ll be sent a QR code and can follow the above instructions again on your new device.

If it only has a physical SIM card slot then you can request a physical SIM card and pop it in, just like you’ll have done with previous phones.


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