How to use eSIM for data roaming

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I have been using M1 as my second phone line on my iPhone XS Max. I do this through the use of the eSIM function on my iPhone. As you can add more eSIM “cards” to your iPhone (although you can have only a maximum of 2 active lines per phone), you can hence have a choice of other eSIM “cards” to use for other purposes.

One of the most obvious purpose is to use another separate eSIM card for data roaming purposes.

Why use an eSIM card for Data Roaming

Recently, I used an eSIM for my personal short trip to Malaysia.

Before this, I usually do either one of two choices.

I either use a data wifi router from iChangi Recommends or I use the M1 Data Passport. The former is great as there are always many great discounts to bring down the list prices and also also you can share it with your family (although you must be physically close all the time..). And did I mention that there are unlimited data. It is a fantastic thing for the whole family. Only problem is that you have this router to bring along and you must charge it every night. If the router is flat, you are out πŸ™‚

The M1 data passport is great as it uses my relatively large un-used M1 local data plan for data roaming. It is in my phone and hence no need to bring anything along. The really bad thing though is that I have to pay a $5 activation charge in addition to the data passport charges for the country itself.

I always use the above two solutions because I can then keep my iPhone still for use overseas. I will have my personal line which is a physical eSIM and I also have my business line which is my M1 eSIM. If I buy a physical SIM card overseas, I will have to give up my personal line by removing the SIM card and putting in it the overseas SIM card.

Anyhow, I decided for my Malaysia trip to try out eSIM for data roaming. I knew I will not be far from wifi (in the hotel) and hence there will be probably not much data usage. It is also a relatively quiet period for my business.

So I decided to just purchase a cheap eSIM card online for data roaming.

But I hit an hiccup……

I thought I can have three lines. My original personal line. My m1 eSIM line. And then the new data roaming eSIM line.

Nope. No way, buddy.

It turns out that I will end up giving up one of the 2 eSIM line (either the data roaming line or the business line) as I can only have maximum of 2 lines per iPhone. One physical SIM. One eSIM. No more. No less.

Damn. πŸ™

The eSIM card company for data roaming

The company I chose was Airalo. You can download the iPhone app here.

Airalo eSIM for Data Roaming
Airalo eSIM for Data Roaming

There are no special reasons. I happened to see some promotional eSIM ads on my Facebook (eerie) and that promotion includes free “AirMoney” to use so I just signed up for an Airalo account πŸ™‚

And it is true. I used ZERO of my own money for the Malaysia eSIM card.

There was a couple of promotions ($1 Welcome Reward and then $5 of Curiosity Reward) that added up to $6 worth of “AirMoney” for my card.

I got $1 AirMoney but I did get some more later
I got $1 AirMoney but I did get some more later

Buying a eSIM card for Data Roaming

Upon launching the app, you can see that there are Local eSIMs and Regional eSIMs for sale. The local eSIMs are per country and the regional ones are.. well, multiple countries.

Local eSIM for sale on the Airalo app
Local eSIM for sale on the Airalo app

One thing to note is that they DO RUN OUT OF eSIMs. Not joking. I spotted one for Japan and wanted to buy it. But a couple of days before my Japan trip, I could no longer find the country in the app. After I came back from Japan, it was back on sale !! πŸ™‚

So here I am, going to buy an eSIM card for data roaming in Malaysia.

I launched the app and searched for “Malaysia”. You can buy either the 1GB for $3 or the 3GB for $6.

1GB or 3GB for data roaming
1GB or 3GB for data roaming

There are also top up packages you can buy. Some are 1GB and some are 3GB top up packages.

Top up packages for data roaming using eSIM card
Top up packages for data roaming using eSIM card

I think I am okay with 3GB (in the end, I only used about 1.5GB after 4 days).

So I bought the 3GB package at $6 Airmoney. Just nice. I have $6 free from the app πŸ™‚

3GB for $6
3GB for $6

Installing the eSIM on your iPhone

Once you purchased it, the app will give you options to use the QR code or a manual installation method to install the eSIM.

QR code or Manual Method to install the eSIM
QR code or Manual Method to install the eSIM

Installing the eSIM for data roaming use is quite straightforward if you have done so before in your iPhone. But first, somehow, you have to get a copy of the QR code off your iPhone so that you can scan that damn QR code. I did that by taking a photo of the QR code using my iPad and then use my iPhone to scan the QR code off my iPad.

Whatever that works πŸ™‚

QR code for installing eSIM
QR code for installing eSIM

You first add the data plan by going to the Settings>Mobile Data>Add Data Plan. You will then get a screen to scan your QR code.

Adding a Data Plan to your iPhone
Adding a Data Plan to your iPhone
Adding Data Plan to your phone
Adding Data Plan to your phone

After that, it tells me that a data plan from Starhub is ready to be added to the iPhone. Starhub ??!! Weird….

Starhub is the provider ?
Starhub is the provider ?

Then you can name the data plan. I smartly named it “Travel”. So smart…

Notice how I have only two plans left. The original personal line (my physical SIM card line) and now the “Travel” line (the data roaming eSIM line). My business eSIM line is gone.

Adding the eSIM for data roaming, calling it "Travel"
Adding the eSIM for data roaming, calling it “Travel”

This is confirmed in the final screen where you can see my Business line (M1 eSIM line) is now disabled. Damn.

My Original eSIM line is switched off
My Original eSIM line is switched off

Using the eSIM line for Data Roaming

Upon arriving at the country (Malaysia in my case), you will need to change the APN. As per the instruction stated here.

Change the APN to global data
Change the APN to global data

You do so through the Mobile Data settings for the “travel” line and then in the next screen, change the Mobile Data APN to “globaldata”.

Changing the APN
Changing the APN

And you also have to make the eSIM data roaming line as the default Mobile data line (of course) and then switch on the “Data Roaming” too (which surprises me).

Switch on the "Data Roaming" for your eSIM line
Switch on the “Data Roaming” for your eSIM line

And tata.. after that, the line is connected to Digi 3G or 4G in Malaysia and the data roaming is now working ! The “T” is for the “Travel” line :). The “P” is my personal line. The “B” (business) line is not there.

Data Roaming is switched on
Data Roaming is switched on

When you go back to your Airalo app, you can now see the line is ACTIVATED

Active eSIM Card for Data Roaming
Active eSIM Card for Data Roaming

Enjoy your data roaming using the cheap eSIM card πŸ™‚

Conclusion

During my four days of use, I had no problems with data roaming and getting all my apps like Facebook, Instagram, WhatsApp and Telegram to work. Web sites load quite fast and I used Google maps a few times to find my way. Waze was working good too.

All good. All fine. For $6.

The only bad thing is that my Business Line (the M1 eSIM line) was switched off completely so I could not receive any calls or SMS on my Business Line. But then my WhatsApp for Business is working so that’s fine too.

In conclusion, this is good if you have a iPhone that supports eSIM and you just want to use it with your iPhone without removing your physical SIM card !


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