Jio, Vi, and Airtel eSIM explained: What is it, how to activate eSIM on supported devices, and more questions answered

Here's everything you need to know about eSIM in India

Highlights

  • eSIM stands for embedded SIM
  • Unlike traditional SIM cards, eSIM requires no physical swapping
  • eSIM comes built-in on your phone/device and requires only carrier support to work

We’ve seen the mobile SIM card descend in size over the past few years. From mini, the SIM moved to macro, followed by nano. Going forward, the physical SIM card could vanish and be replaced by eSIM aka embedded SIM card. Devices supporting eSIM have been in the market for a while now, though still in limited numbers. It’s only a matter of time before OEMs start launching more devices such as smartphones, smartwatches, tablets with eSIM support. What is eSIM? What eSIM-supported phones/ devices are available in India? How to activate eSIM and can you port regular SIM to Jio, Vi, and Airtel eSIM? These are some of the questions we look to answer today.

What is eSIM?

eSIM or an embedded SIM is a programmable SIM card that is embedded into a phone, a smartwatch, or any other connected device. The eSIM stays on the device and cannot be physically pulled out or swapped like a physical SIM card. The embedded SIM, however, needs to be supported by your carrier or network to work. Having said that, you would not find any real-world difference between the service of eSIM and a regular physical SIM. Both authenticate your identity to a carrier or network to make calls, send SMSes, and use the internet using its towers. Additionally, eSIM supports all the regular networks such as 4G/ 5G, much like the regular physical SIM.

You may be wondering that since the eSIM isn’t swappable, will it be locked to just one network? Thankfully, no. An eSIM is portable. The technology is rewritable and supports multiple accounts, meaning you can easily switch to a new network or carrier.

eSIM in India: compatible smartphones/devices

eSIM in India was introduced back in 2018 with iPhone XR, XS, and XS Max. Jio and Airtel both announced support for the eSIM soon after that, followed by Vi aka Vodafone Idea. BSNL hasn’t announced support for eSIM in India yet. The prepaid and postpaid recharge packs of Jio, Vi, and Airtel eSIM remain the same as the regular physical SIMs.

In addition to iPhone XR and XS series, the eSIM support in India is available on the following devices

  • iPhone SE 2020
  • iPhone 11 series
  • iPhone 12 series
  • Moto RAZR flip phone
  • Apple Watch SE
  • Apple Watch Series 6
  • Apple Watch Series 5
  • Apple Watch Series 4
  • Apple Watch Series 3
  • Samsung Galaxy LTE
  • Samsung Galaxy Watch Active2
  • Samsung Galaxy Gear S3

Barring smartwatches and Moto RAZR flip phone, you’ll find a slot for a regular SIM on other eSIM-supported devices. Motorola RAZR is the first completely eSIM-only phone out there. Outside India, you may find eSIM support on a handful of Samsung Galaxy smartphones, Google Pixel 2 series and above, Microsoft Surface Duo, and Huawei flagships.

Airtel eSIM activation

You can’t apply, but you can convert your physical SIM card to an Airtel eSIM. It can be done from the comfort of your home, using the following steps

  • SMS eSIM with your email ID to 121 in the format ‘eSIM<SPACE>email’
  • If your email id is valid, you will receive an SMS, confirming the initiation of the process to convert your physical SIM to an eSIM
  • Reply with ‘1’ to confirm the eSIM change request. Per Airtel’s website, this needs to be done within 60 seconds
  • After this, you’ll receive another from 121 asking you to provide consent over a call 
  • Then, a message with a QR code will be sent to your email device

After this Airtel eSIM activation process will begin. Your existing SIM will continue to work during this period.

Jio eSIM activation

  • Unlike Airtel, Jio does not have a provision to turn the physical SIM into a digital SIM online yet.
  • They will have to go to a Jio Store or a Reliance Digital outlet for Jio eSIM activation
  • There Jio representatives will ask for the eSIM compatible phone’s IMEI number (found by keying in *#06# in the keypad)
  • Next, fill the Customer Acquisition Form (CAF) with relevant details
  • The details will be used to create a QR code, similar to Airtel’s, for Jio eSIM activation

Vi eSIM activation

Vi eSIM is currently available to only postpaid subscribers, living in Mumbai, Gujarat, Delhi, Karnataka, Punjab, UP East, Maharashtra, and Goa regions. If you’re one of them, convert your physical SIM to eSIM with the steps listed below:

  • SMS eSIM< space >registered email id to199
  • You will receive a confirmation SMS. Reply on this message with “ESIMY” to confirm the eSIM change request
  • After this, you will receive another SMS from 199 asking you to provide consent over a call
  • Once it’s done, you will receive a QR Code on your registered email ID
  • The code will activate the Vodafone Idea eSIM

How to activate eSIM on iPhone and other devices

The activation process of Jio, Vi, and Airtel SIM is a bit different for smartphones and smartwatches. 

  • To activate eSIM on iPhone, head to Settings –> Mobile Data –> Add Data Plan –> Scan QR code received on mail (make sure that the phone is connected to mobile data/Wi-Fi while scanning) –> Label for your new plan –> Label eSIM. 
  • Motorola RAZR Flip phone users can click on Settings, then Network & Internet –> ‘+’ sign besides ‘Mobile Network –> Next (Download your SIM) –> Scan QR code received on your email –> Activate to activate their eSIM
  • To activate eSIM on your smartwatch, you’ll first have to pair it with a smartphone and login with your Apple/ Samsung ID, and then proceed with the instruction that follows.

It’s to be noted that once the activation is complete, the SIM profile on your physical SIM card will be removed and it cannot be used on any other handset. 

How to transfer eSIM from one phone to another

If you’ve upgraded to a new eSIM phone, you can transfer your eSIM from your old mobile phone by visiting the service provider store. Whether it’s Airtel, Jio, or Vi store, you’ll be given a physical SIM for your eSIM. Insert it on your new smartphone and follow the above steps to convert your physical SIM into eSIM.