If you’re not keen on the idea of a long-term mobile contract (which more commonly include a new phone and a SIM card from a mobile network), there is an alternative: a SIM-free phone deal, otherwise known as a handset-only deal.
A SIM-free phone deal is the other half of the SIM-only deal. Whereas the SIM-only deal takes care of your calls, texts, mobile data and connectivity, a SIM-free deal gets you your mobile phone.
What is a SIM-free phone?
A SIM-free phone deal means you’re only buying a handset, as opposed to the more common mobile contract deal, where for a monthly fee you receive a phone, and an allowance of minutes, texts and data. A SIM-free deal is also sometimes referred to as a handset-only deal.
Once you’ve bought a handset - whether it’s a new phone, a second-hand phone or refurbished handset - you’ll need a SIM card.
As you haven’t signed up to a network, you’re free to shop around for a SIM plan from another provider. As well as saving you money, this gives you more flexibility with your phone plan; and your phone won’t be locked to a single network.
Buying a SIM-free phone: new, second-hand or refurbished handsets
When it comes to buying your handset, you can either pay for it outright, up-front; or take out a special financing plan such as a handset-only deal.
You don’t necessarily have to buy a brand new phone, either. The UK market offers a huge selection of new, second-hand and refurbished phones to choose from.
Whether you want the latest iPhone or are happy with a more modest mid-range model, or you’re on a limited budget, there are plenty of handset options.
It’s worth noting older models are considerably cheaper than the latest releases - particularly when shopping for premium phones from Apple and Samsung.
What are the benefits of buying a SIM-free phone?
- Overall it works out cheaper - you can shop around for a phone and a contract separately.
- Lower monthly contract payment - SIM-free contracts are usually much cheaper than contracts that include a phone (particularly a flagship handset).
- You have the flexibility to buy a new phone whenever you want.
- Great choice of phones - whether it’s brand new, second-hand or refurbished
- You’re not tied to a specific network as your handset is unlocked.
- You don’t need a credit check when you buy a phone outright.
- You have the option to Pay-as-you-go, which means you can keep your costs low.
What are the disadvantages of buying a SIM-free phone?
- Potentially a large initial outlay when you buy your phone outright - particularly if you go for a new flagship model.
- If you decide to go PAYG, Pay-as-you-go tariffs work out more expensive per minute, text and MB of data - compared to mobile contract rates.
- Mobile contract customers sometimes have access to specific network offers on cheaper packages of minutes, texts and data.
- Network exclusives on particular phones - occasionally a specific handset may not be available unless you sign up a for a particular mobile contract.
Cheap SIM free phone deals
Opting for a SIM-free handset deal is a great way of keeping your mobile costs down. You’re not signing up for an expensive long-term mobile contract over 12 or 24 months, and you don’t necessarily have to buy a new handset.
There are lots of ways to buy a cheap phone:
- Buy a mid-range or budget phone - We don’t all need the latest iPhone or Samsung Galaxy model. There are lots of excellent cheaper phones available that will suit your needs.
- Buy an older model - As the premium brands tend to release a new model each year, the price of older models will come down. Keep an eye on these phones and you could bag a bargain.
- Buy a refurbished phone - A refurbished handset, restored to its factory settings and given a thorough maintenance check and repair, is an excellent way to save money.
- Buy a second-hand phone - Not an option that will appeal to everyone, but still a good way to save some cash.
Once you’ve found your cheap or cheaper phone, there are lots of cheap SIM deals available to get things moving. Use our deals table to find the right handset deal and the right SIM deal for you.
If you're happy with your current phone and would like to hang on to it, we have some excellent SIM-only deals to check out.
You could also trade in your current smartphone and put the money towards one of the newer models. It's a quick and easy process with CompareMyMobile.com. Depending on what model you have, and how intact it is, you’ll be surprised at what you can get.