My boyfriend had been telling me for years that he wanted to show me around his home country, Hong Kong (and Indonesia), early on in our relationship.
And I thought that would be a great idea – being guided by a local.
That way, you can see the city-state from a different lens than as a regular tourist.
Unfortunately, the pandemic hit, and the city-state was closed off from the world.
Following its neighbor up north, it imposed a strict zero-COVID policy, so we had to postpone our plans for a while.
Until the country announced it would reopen (without quarantine requirements) in December 2022.
So in January 2023, we went to Hong Kong and stayed for two months.
And my boyfriend, and many repeat Phone Travel Wiz readers, know that I do not go to a country without testing its SIM cards and various travel eSIMs before I recommend them.
So I tested out eight travel eSIMs, including Simify's China Unicom Hong Kong eSIM, four Hong Kong SIM cards & one travel SIM card to be used here.
This resulted in me spending about 2560 HKD (≈ 326.15 USD) for my Hong Kong SIM card and travel eSIM review series – yeah… I went all out for you 😎.
In many countries, getting a local SIM card will be the most cost-effective way to stay connected.
But in the same countries, getting a travel eSIM will be much more convenient because you do not have to deal with SIM card registration requirements (which can be stringent).
As of March 2022, SIM card registration rules came into effect in Hong Kong after avoiding it for many years, making the country the final East Asian country to do so.
So, is the Simify China Unicom Hong Kong eSIM a good option? Is it cheap compared to the local options and its travel eSIM competitors? How is its reception? And is it fast?
I will answer all those questions in this review. Let's do this.
Original publication: 6th of February 2023. Last updated: 15th of January 2024.
Table of Contents
Which Phones are Compatible with Simify eSIMs?
Before discussing the Simify eSIM to be used in Hong Kong specifically, you must know whether your phone can even support Simify's eSIMs.
Unlike most travel eSIM providers, Simify claims that practically all eSIM-compatible phone can use (most of) its eSIMs.
So that makes things easy 😎.
But the image will still give you an overview of the most popular phones that support eSIM.
With that out of the way, let's talk more about the Simify Hong Kong eSIM!
As of August 2023, the phones shown in the infographic below are compatible with Simify eSIMs:
How Much Does the Simify Hong Kong eSIM Cost?
You can get the Simify eSIM to be used in Hong Kong for 18 USD/15 GBP/25 AUD/25 CAD for 10 GB (30 days) or 25 USD/20 GBP/35 AUD/35 CAD for 25 GB (90 days).
Very straightforward, is it not?
But I actually did not know about the prices until I started writing this review.
Wait… how could I not know?
Well, I was Simify's lab rat because it recently started working with China Unicom Hong Kong for its Hong Kong and other Asian eSIMs.
And before it wanted to sell the new eSIMs to the general public, Simify asked me if I wanted to try the eSIM out.
And I did 🐀.
Throughout this review, you will find out if I had a good experience with the eSIM (spoiler: I did).
So Simify now sells the Hong Kong eSIM with the Phone Travel Wiz approved seal, and you will find out why later.
Simify Hong Kong eSIM Setup
Like most travel eSIMs, you can set up your Simify Hong Kong eSIM by scanning a QR code or manually entering the activation code.
The most convenient way is by scanning the QR code you receive in the second email you receive from Simify (from [email protected]) titled Here's your Travel eSIM/s! – OrderNumber (which contains an attachment).
The Order OrderNumber confirmed email is just a receipt.
When you scroll down a little, you can see the name of your purchased eSIM(s), the QR code, phone number & activation code.
I am ignoring SM-DP+ Server because you do not have to do anything with it.
Most Simify eSIMs are data-only eSIMs, meaning you cannot call or text with them (nor can you receive either), so you do not get a (local) phone number.
So why does the email contain a suspiciously long phone number?
That is just the eSIM number, which you need to register your eSIM on the China Unicom Hong Kong website (more about that later).
Anyway, depending on your phone, you have to follow these steps to download your eSIM (and always be on a (stable) WiFI connection when downloading eSIMs because your phone will terminate cellular data as part of the installation process).
If these steps are not clear enough (because they do not contain any photos), the email you receive from Simify/SimsDirect has a link to an online guide with an installation guide for iPhone and Samsung devices, but I am sure you will manage without them 😜.
When the QR code has been scanned, or you manually entered the Activation Code (so not the Phone Number), your (Android) phone will ask you if you want to use Unicom_Global, as per the screenshot below – that is correct.
Wait for a few seconds, and your eSIM will be successfully installed!
I usually rename my eSIMs to the eSIM provider (Simify) and the two-letter country code (HK for Hong Kong) because I often use eSIMs from the same mobile operator for review purposes, which can get confusing, but you do not have to.
But if you do so, you will receive a text message from China Unicom with some details.
With some eSIMs, you would be done here, but there are two more things you need to do with the Simify Hong Kong eSIM.
First, you need to set up the Access Point Network (APN).
This step is not included in Simify's current installation guide, but China Unicom will send you two text messages (one in traditional Chinese and one in English) on what the APN is: 3gnet – worry not, you will get (fast) 4G/LTE speeds in Hong Kong, not (just) 3G!
If you do not set the APN, you cannot connect to the internet.
The steps I will lay out will be the same/similar on Android phones (on Android 12 and 13) – I am not sure how it is done on iPhone.
Go to your settings > Mobile & internet > SIMs > Select the eSIM (Unicom_Global or whatever you renamed it to – Simify HK in my case) > scroll down to the bottom to Access Point Names (below Choose network and above Allow 2G > create a new APN by pressing the + sign > press on Name > name it whatever (I used China Unicom HK) > Press OK > Press APN > enter 3gnet > press the three dots and save > select the APN if needed > a connection should be established now!
Or watch this video on how it is all done (with the Simify Southeast Asia eSIM I used in Singapore, but it is by China Unicom Hong Kong too).
With any other Simify China Unicom eSIM, you will be done by now. But for Hong Kong, there is one more step: registration.
As of March 2022, SIM card registration rules came into effect in Hong Kong after avoiding it for many years, making the country the final East Asian country to do so.
And because China Unicom Hong Kong is from… well… Hong Kong, you need to register your eSIM purchased for Hong Kong too.
But note that registration is only mandatory for Hong Kong eSIMs.
Registering is unnecessary if you use a China Unicom eSIM in other countries like I did in Singapore.
Registration can be done on this page (and click here to switch to the English version of the site).
The first step is to enter your eSIM number.
Remember that suspiciously long 19-digit phone number from the email? That is the number you enter here.
On the second page, you select your identity type (probably your passport – select 外國公民護照 (the last option) – not sure why that option and the other two are still in traditional Chinese characters).
Be sure to also tick I do not hold a Hong Kong identity card (if you truly do not have one of course).
Next, you upload a photo of your passport, specifically the part with the machine-readable section.
But preferably not as in the photo above because the holder covers the upper right corner (the site will not accept a picture like this).
Now, here is where I experienced an issue because the site would not accept any of my photos – even with clear light.
I tried it multiple times without luck.
For some reason, I could still use my eSIM without registration (somehow), but that will not be possible as of the 24th of February.
But China Unicom Hong Kong informed me that if you experience issues registering online, you can visit any of their stores (you may have to search CUniq on Google maps instead of China Unicom), and they will assist you with registration.
Once you have completed all these steps, you can finally enjoy your Simify Hong Kong eSIM!
My Simify eSIM in Hong Kong Experience
I used my Simify Hong Kong eSIM in Hong Kong Island, Kowloon & New Territories.
As Hong Kong does not really have cities (in the sense of the Government of Hong Kong not using them for administrative purposes and only as geographical limits), I could not visit multiple ones.
Before we continue, I do want to let you know how travel eSIM providers like Simify work.
It is impossible for Simify, or any other mobile operator, to operate in every country (and do not trust any company saying otherwise), so they set up roaming agreements.
What Simify does, and basically all (actual) mobile operators do, is partner up with a local mobile operator so that their customers can still stay connected when abroad.
In the case of Hong Kong, Simify resells the eSIMs from China Unicom Hong Kong, which is a Mobile Virtual Network Operator (MVNO) on the 3 Hong Kong network.
Just like how I tested the Simify Hong Kong eSIM on my Hong Kong trip, I also tried all the local Hong Kong SIM cards excluding the MVNOs (China Mobile Hong Kong Mobile, CSL Mobile, 3 Hong Kong & SmarTone Hong Kong) and various other eSIMs (Airalo Hkmobile, Airalo Asialink (in Hong Kong and various other Asian countries), Airalo Discover Global (in Hong Kong and worldwide), Holafly, Nomad (Hong Kong and APAC) & Ubigi + the 3 (UK) Travel SIM Card by Holidaysimcard in Hong Kong Review (also used in Australia and Singapore)).
Yeah, I went all out 😏.
Because of this, I could also assess how 3 Hong Kong performed compared to its competitors.
Well, not entirely. 3 Hong Kong did not allow prepaid customers to use its 5G NR network (but that may have changed now).
So in reality, I could only compare 3 Hong Kong with CSL Mobile… and it was not pretty for 3 Hong Kong.
Anyway, when looking at 4G/LTE availability in Hong Kong, the four mobile operators cover practically all of the country (mostly because it is a small city-state), with an availability of more than 98.6%.
4G/LTE reception is so good in Hong Kong that I thought 3G did not exist anymore (until 3 Hong Kong was stuck at 3G a handful of times 😩).
In terms of speed, 3 Hong Kong has the worst download speed, with a median download speed of 32.52 Mbps, behind CSL Mobile (45.96 Mbps), SmarTone Hong Kong (48.14 Mbps) and China Mobile Hong Kong (66.11 Mbps).
Okay, that is enough background information – let's compare the Simify Hong Kong eSIM to 3 Hong Kong in Hong Kong Island, Kowloon & New Territories.
Simify Hong Kong eSIM Speed Test Results in Hong Kong Island, Kowloon & New Territories
Hong Kong is one of the most densely populated countries, or Special Administrative Region (SAR) if we want to be correct, worldwide behind Macau (also a SAR), Monaco & Singapore.
There are not many countries where you struggle to walk on the pavement because there are so many people around as Hong Kong without getting constantly pushed.
And I was there during the winter and when the China-Hong Kong border just opened – imagine how crazy it is during summer 😳.
But the country has a lot to offer: fantastic food, Ocean Park (attraction park) & even Disneyland for those who want it.
And of course smaller attractions, such as the Central–Mid-Levels escalator – the longest outdoor covered escalator in the world, The Peak (with the peak tram) & the Big Buddha (Ngong Ping) cable car.
The latter is 5.7 kilometers long and takes 25 minutes – and you even have a clear (called crystal) car option if you dare.
I am not fond of heights… but I actually enjoyed being in the crystal car… so I bet you will too!
Anyway, let's finally talk about my Simify Hong Kong speed test results, right?
My Overall Experience with the Simify eSIM in Hong Kong – Is It Any Good?
I would recommend the Simify Hong Kong eSIM, and it would be one of my top recommendations for anyone wanting to buy a Hong Kong travel eSIM.
Getting the Simify Hong Kong eSIM, and any other Simify eSIM for that matter, is easy and straightforward.
I did spend some time on how to set up your China Unicom Hong Kong eSIM, which I often do not do, because of the SIM card (and eSIM) registration requirements in Hong Kong.
Moreover, the APN is not set automatically, while most travel eSIMs have them set for you.
While this is not a big deal, I felt the need to explain how to get settled before you get frustrated (although the Simify eSIM installation guide is comprehensive and will explain it too).
It was the only travel eSIM using the 3 Hong Kong network (all the others used CSL Mobile instead).
And I can tell you that you will not have any reception issues with the Simify Hong Kong eSIM – even on the MTR.
And I find this odd because the 3 Hong Kong eSIM struggled at times.
For example, I had no reception with the 3 Hong Kong eSIM inside the Hong Kong High Court.
In contrast, the Simify Hong Kong eSIM had the fastest download speed of all the travel eSIM I tested.
Heck, it was even faster than CSL Mobile (39.80 Mbps vs. 20.30 Mbps).
So you really get shafted when using a 3 Hong Kong SIM card (or eSIM), which is why I recommend those feeling the need to be on its network to use its budget brand SoSIM instead (the cheapest in the country) so that you do not overpay.
Anyway… let's continue analyzing the Simify eSIM… this is not a 3 Hong Kong review (well, not entirely 🤪).
While your speeds will often be fast enough for general data browsing and video streaming, you should not expect too much.
Even then, the Simify Hong Kong was the fastest among all the travel eSIMs I tested (download and upload).
Taking all 56 speed tests into account, I had an average overall download speed of 44.55 Mbps and a median download speed of 34.04 Mbps with the Simify Hong Kong eSIM.
When looking at upload speeds, I had an average upload speed of 20.87 Mbps and a median upload speed of 19.59 Mbps with the Simify Hong Kong eSIM.
Once again, an eSIM as a Mobile Virtual Network Operator (MVNO) was faster than the mobile operator itself.
And unlike Austria, where prepaid speeds are throttled because the mobile operators hate you (but they are upfront about it), the 3 Hong Kong plan I got was supposed to be on its 4.5G network (the second-fastest behind 5G NR).
So I cannot just say that 3 Hong Kong's 4G/LTE network sucks (like in most countries 3 operates in) because the Simify Hong Kong eSIM did well.
So I suspect 3 Hong Kong does throttle prepaid speeds… but does not tell you.
And if you suspect it was just my phone acting up, I used the same Google Pixel 7 Pro for the Airalo Hkmobile, Asialink & Discover Global eSIMs.
The fastest speed I managed to get was 243.60 Mbps among them (and 1.1 Gbps on 5G NR in Australia).
So the phone is not the culprit.
I spent 200 HKD (about 25.50 USD) on my 3 Hong Kong eSIM, while you can get a Simify eSIM for the same price for speeds twice as fast as 3 Hong Kong itself.
Incredible… in a bad way for 3 Hong Kong but good for Simify.
With excellent coverage, affordable data plans, & faster speeds than the mobile operator itself, you should have a smooth browsing experience with the Simify Hong Kong eSIM.
Other Hong Kong eSIM Reviews (Airalo, Holafly, Nomad & Ubigi)
As mentioned earlier, I also tried out other eSIMs from Airalo (Hkmobile, Asialink & Discover Global), Holafly, Nomad (Hong Kong & APAC) & Ubigi + 3 (UK) travel SIM card by Holidaysimcard.
You should read those reviews too.
>>> Airalo Hkmobile eSIM in Hong Kong Review | Airalo Asialink eSIM in Hong Kong Review | Airalo Discover Global eSIM in Hong Kong eSIM Review | Holafly Hong Kong eSIM Review | Nomad Hong Kong eSIM Review | Nomad APAC eSIM in Hong Kong Review | Ubigi Hong Kong eSIM Review | 3 (UK) Travel SIM Card by Holidaysimcard in Hong Kong Review (also used in Australia and Singapore) <<<
I also tried out various local Hong Kong cards: China Mobile Hong Kong, CSL Mobile, 3 Hong Kong & SmarTone Hong Kong.
If your phone does not support eSIM (but felt like reading this Airalo review in full anyway – awesome) or want to have the best network experience possible, you want to go directly with the local mobile operators instead of roaming on their networks (as you do with travel eSIMs).
So I encourage you to read the Hong Kong SIM card reviews too.
Check out my reviews page if you want to read all the other reviews I have written, including other Asian SIM cards.