OK, we are using U.S. Mobile for cheap data. They are an MVNO for 5G on Verizon and for 4G LTE on T-mobile and with Verizon, you get pool plans that are pretty reasonable. Basically, $9/phone, and then you pay for the data pool you use which gives you 40GB for $80. So for 9 phones, this is $165/month which isn't terrible.
But, to get things running with modern phones like the Pixel 6 Pro and Pixel 7 Pro, its a bit of a chore because Android 13 of course changes the SIM interface and most importantly because the eSIM is not activated out of the box, so here is what you have to do:
- First of all, Google Help is out of date so looking at T-Mobile they have the correct interface steps (Google is always moving things around!).
- So first make sure you are the main user profile of the phone, if you have multiple users enabled, only the primary user has the SIM settings activated
- OK, the strangest step is that you have to put in a physical SIM to force the phone to allocate an eSIM number. So find an old SIM (it doesn't have to be activated just in the SIM slot) and put it in
- You go to Settings > Network & Internet > SIMs and choose the + icon
- It will ask you if you want to enable 2 SIMs.
OK here is the confusing part. Now you exit out of this whole thing and go back to:
- Settings > About Phone and scroll down and you should now see scrolling down to Device Details, SIM Status (sim slot 2), and also IMEI (sim slot 2). The IMEI (International Mobile Equipment Identity) is the same as the MAC ID on ethernet, it is the hard address of the physical device. In this case, you now get two of them. One that corresponds to the physical sim slot 1 and then another that is a virtual eSim slot 2.
- Now go to the browser and log in to the US Mobile site and click on add a line and then activate and it will ask for the eSIM number. This confusing is called the Digital IMEI 2 but it is the same idea.
- This will say it activates and then say activate by QR code. This does not work on Safari as the QR code does not display probably because of my Ghostery settings, but it does work on Chrome.
- Then you scan the QR code with your phone and it will activate.
If you have a physical SIM, things are easier, you just insert the SIM:
- Look on the top of the SIM (Subscriber Information Module), it has an ICCID (Integrated Circuit Card Identifier) number which is the unique serial number of the SIM. I didn't realize it but the digits are meaningful. The first two should be 89 for mobile SIMs, then there is a three-digit country identifier which is actually the country code, so the US is 001 for instance. Canada uses 302 as it shares the same country code as the US. And the next four digits are the issuer or Mobile Network Code (MNC)