Expansys blog

What is a SIM-free phone, and why should I get one?

One of the most common questions we get asked at Expansys.com isn’t about versions of Android or whether we think the iPhone4S was an impressive enough update; it’s what is a SIM-free phone, and what are the advantages of getting one? 

What does SIM-free mean?

Here on Expansys.com we sell phones on a contract, but have been long-known for having the latest smartphone selection SIM free. SIM-free means just that, you buy the phone of your choice without a SIM card in the package, free from any contract or commitment to a specific network. SIM-free phones come completely unlocked, letting you decide what SIM card to use in them. Most contract and pay-as-you-go SIMs will work in SIM-free handsets.

This means you are paying the full price of the handset, so at first it seems like a no-brainer; why pay full whack when they’re often free on a contract?

When you sign a contract for a phone the network will usually subsidise the cost of the handset, one of the ways they compete to entice you to their service. The latest smartphones can cost an eye-watering amount, so the networks have to charge you some of your line rental to cover the expense they incurred for your lovely new phone. As the cost of phones rise, so do the monthly bills and the lengths of contract; the more expensive your choice, the more likely the network will need a longer contract to recoup their investment.

How can going SIM-only save money?

By rushing into a long-term phone contract in order to get your hands on the latest handset, you could be spending more than you need. According to Ofcom-approved bill analysis service Billmonitor we each waste an average of £195 every year on our phone bills.

All the major networks now offer a good choice of SIM only plans, some pay-as-you-go, and others for a small monthly contract. Because there’s no phone subsidy to account for, these plans often cost much less. So getting the latest must-have mobiles SIM-free can work out to be a cheaper, less restrictive way of organising your mobile life.


For example, if you look at one of the best-selling handsets of the year (and one of our favourites!), Samsung’s Galaxy S II, this can be had SIM-free for a little over £400. Good SIM only plans start from as little as £10 a month for 300 minutes, 3,000 texts and 1GB of data allowance.

Contracts with a similar level of service, and with the phone free, start from over £30 a month and two commitment. Going SIM-free here can save you over £100 on the total cost of ownership. 

SIM-free = free to upgrade

And saving money isn't the only advantage. By not signing a contract you’re free to treat yourself to a new handset whenever there’s a new release you simply have to have, and who doesn’t like the sound of that?

We’ve found going SIM-free has long appealed to tech-fans and early adopters, as it allows upgrading whenever desire dictates. No more counting down the days until your contract ends, and with the relentless pace of new releases being able to snap up the latest phone and throw in your existing SIM-card is increasingly popular.

Another option many take who are in the middle of a contract, but need to replace their broken handset or simply really want the latest release, is to buy a SIM free mobile, and just put their SIM-card in. They can either upgrade again when their contract ends, or go for a SIM-only plan or contract with a low-end handset but a good monthly deal, then pick and choose when to splash out on a new phone.

Of course, going SIM-free isn’t for everyone - with so many contracts available there’s some great deals to be had, and others will prefer the reliability of a standard monthly arrangement. But, going SIM-free is a very credible alternative to consider next time you are out of contract; it could keep money in your pocket, along with the latest shiny handset.

We hope this helps explain what a SIM-free phone is, and why they’re popular. If there’s any other mobile tech topics you’d like us to discuss, please let us know!