Imagine a judge sentencing you to 18 months of prison time effective immediately.
Signing up to a long-term phone contract is a bit like being arrested. Whereas, SIM-only providers give you cheap minutes: lots of data, little commitment - why wouldn’t you want flexibility to travel and adjust, during a global recession?
All-in-all, it’s like escaping from Alcatraz. Let’s review the top SIM-only deals for that.
Our Top Pick of SIM-Only Deals (UK) 🇬🇧
As more people buy phones on their own instead of committing to two-year contracts, there’s more demand than ever before for the SIM Only model. But when crunching your Trading Data, take time to use good financial common sense.
Before the review - a few things to know about the top SIM Only Deals:
- With SIM-only plans, you can get a brand new phone to keep and swap every few months – at no cost or obligation until you’re ready to commit.
- You can find them from all sorts of service providers and many mobile virtual network operators too.
- 🦅 They’re often cheap to order and delivered fast.
There are a few factors that you should keep in mind:
Data Cap – Most Talkmobile providers offer a data cap. This is the maximum amount of data that can be used before you have to pay for it. Some providers allow use of the service even when you don’t have data left. Others require you to have at least one gigabyte of data left when you make a call.
Do Calls Require Data? – Make sure you know how much data you need to make and receive calls, texts and other data-intensive activities.
1. Lebara – Best-Value SIM Only Deals
So, SIM-only plans are great for not getting locked into a contract… The first on our list is known for cheap international deals.
Which means you can use this as a traveller or in the UK. When you’re in a foreign country, using your own wireless network is probably not an option. You can’t just pick up a local SIM card from someone and call it good.
The speeds on an unknown network will likely be substandard and the coverage won’t be great. You’ll have to invest money and time into getting a high-quality mobile phone connection, at least for international use. Even though you can’t exactly get your hands on a local SIM card, there are other ways to get a quality mobile network with low rates.
History of the Lebara mobile network
Can you trust these guys? They’ve been around a long time - despite being cheap, they do their job.
Lebara was one of the first 3G networks in the world. It was first rolled out in South Africa in 1996, and later in other countries in Africa and the Middle East. After only a year of operation, the network was shut down because of technological difficulties. It was relaunched in 2008 with the original network architecture and service characteristics.
Lebara SIM-only deals
The international operator offers several “SIM only” plans that work mostly on their own network. These are great if you don’t need high data capacity or want to save money. However, they don’t work well with other operators.
The best lebara SIM plans currently on the market are the following:
- £5: 3GB data, 1000 UK mins and texts, 100 international minutes
- £10: 15GB data, unlimited UK, 100 international
- £10: 6GB data, unlimited UK, 500 international
- ⭐ £15: 30GB data, unlimited UK, 500 international
- £20: 30GB data, 1000 UK, unlimited international
- ⭐ £25: Unlimited data, unlimited UK calls, 100 international
- £30: Unlimited data, unlimited UK, unlimited international
* These change, so make sure to double-check.
How to Get a Lebara Mobile Plan
There are many ways to get a Lebara mobile plan. The first and most straightforward way is to buy an unlocked phone from an official Lebara partner. You can then use the provided SIM card to sign up for a plan with Lebara.
You can also look for offers on social media platforms and in the inboxes of participating mobile network operators. You may even find deals on third-party websites that usually require you to “like” them in order to get the deal.
Should you get a Lebara mobile plan? The pros of a Lebara mobile plan are numerous: low rates, unlimited data, no contract, no taxes, easy signup, good coverage. There are also some cons, such as the need to bring your own phone, limited number of devices that can use the plan at the same time, and no support for other operators’ networks.
However, all these amount to a good deal for flexible Lebara mobile plan customers. For example, the VIP plan offers the best value for money. If you’re on a tight budget, the Classic plan might be a better option, as it only includes voice calls and doesn’t include data. If you’re really on a tight budget, the Flexi plan lets you bring your phone, but doesn’t give you any data.
Other than that, the best choice is to get a Lebara mobile plan if you’re travelling abroad. You won’t be able to get a good cellular connection back home, and you’ll save a lot of money compared to other options.
2. Talkmobile – Leading SIM-Only Deals
Talkmobile is a network that exclusively uses voice calling plans.
It isn’t a complete network like other mobile networks, such as EE or T-Mobile, which employ both voice and data services.
History of Talkmobile
The Talkmobile network was first launched in November 2010 after its original name, Fresh Mobile, was changed. Previously, the service has been available only to calls made to and from Australia and New Zealand. The operator now has international destinations, including the U.S., and many more locales around the world.
The benefits of a Talkmobile plan are numerous but they supposedly have one of the lowest domestic prices available on the market (including for the actual handset), which is often the deciding factor for consumers. This is especially true for families with three or more people who are on a budget.
Talkmobile offers a variety of SIM-only plans that give users access to their network’s complete range of services for a modest price. There are a number of factors customers should keep in mind before selecting a plan.
They offer a substantial amount of data, which is great for social media usage, photo and video chat and other high-data-usage apps. Talkmobile plans include:
- 🎴 Pay As You Go – This SIM only plan doesn’t require you to commit to a regular monthly payment. You can cancel the plan at any time and receive your full month’s supply of data for free:
- 🌴 Pay As You Grow – The Pay As You Grow plan gives you a fixed amount of data when you sign up, but it costs you nothing if you don’t use it. The growth rate is based on your phone’s usage, so you will always be charged according to how much data you use.
How to Get a Talkmobile Plan
Shop around – as with most things in life, the best deals can be found elsewhere than the store promos. Be sure to shop around for the best deal on your Talkmobile plan. Most providers offer different plans with different perks and data caps.
3. Asda Mobile – Popular SIM-Only Deals
History of Asda Mobile
Asda was once a major player in the mobile phone industry. In fact, the company that became Asda was once part of a different company called Baxi, which was acquired by the German retailer Bertelsmann in 1999.
Asda’s role in the subsequent evolution of mobile phone retailing was relatively limited, with the company remaining largely focused on its own distinctive range of groceries. However, that all changed in 2004, when Asda agreed to be acquired by the British supermarket chain Sainsbury’s.
Asda quickly became part of Sainsbury’s wider portfolio of brands, and has since been the subject of several mergers and acquisitions, including the acquisition of Baxi itself by Sweden’s Accel. So it’s no surprise that, today - from smartphones to tablets, laptops to cameras, chargers and cases all the way down to headphones and cases, Asda has something for everyone.
If you’re looking to get a new phone on a budget, but don’t want to register with a new operator first, you might be interested in Asda’s flexible £30 Monthly Pass. This lets you use their UK mobile SIM card, with no regard for the operator, on any UK network, for the entire month.
It’s a great deal if you want to switch networks mid-month or if you’re a bit of a stickler for quality of service. Other SIM-only deals are offered at Asda and things move quickly, so be sure to check.
4. Plusnet – Popular SIM-Only Deals
The roots of Plusnet lie in the United Kingdom, with its population of over 60 million people.
Plusnet was founded in 2002 by two former engineers, who were responsible for developing the original mobile operators for the UK.
The company was funded by investors including Sir Richard Branson, and since then has grown to become one of the largest mobile network providers in Europe, with almost 50 million customers in more than 50 countries.
In Britain, the government mandated that all mobile phone providers provide a voice service, which led to the creation of the now-defunct O2, which was then purchased by Vodafone. With the takeover of O2 by Vodafone in Europe and Asia, Plusnet became the only voice provider in the UK, with the focus shifting to its data offering. The company has since grown substantially, and currently serves 98% of the UK population.
Plusnet SIM-Only Deals
There are a number of telco providers with limited service outside of the regions where they are based that make great sim-only deals. These include Telefónica in Mexico, Telcel in Latin America, and Vodafone in Europe.
All three companies offer value-added services like free texting and free calls to certain countries, but only Plusnet has full-featured roaming agreements in more than 50 countries. The company offers a variety of plans with different perks and features, and you can choose the one that best fits your budget and needs.
For example, there’s a 6-month plan for around £75, or a 12-month plan for £100. Alternatively, you can pay under £50 for the first 6 months, and then pay a few more pounds for the rest of the year.
How to Get a Plusnet Mobile Plan
The process for getting a Plusnet mobile plan is pretty hassle-free. Here’s how to do it: Visit plusnet.com/mobile and sign up for a new plan. You’ll need to enter your phone number, activate the plan, and put down a deposit to secure your phone.
Deposit options include cash, PayPal, debit or credit card. Once the deposit is secure, you can pay the monthly fee. You can set up a payment plan to pay the entire fee in instalments, or you can pay it off in one lump sum. Once you’ve committed to the plan, you can’t change your mind, and have to stick with it for the duration of your contract.
Best SIM-Only Deals 🎴 – Buying Guide
The top SIM-only deals are so popular because people can cancel whenever they want. That’s still one of the best uses for a non-contract phone, but there are other useful things to know - that’s what this section is for…
What is a SIM-Only Plan?
The idea behind a SIM-only plan is that you get a new phone, but you’re not obligated to sign a contract. Instead, you pay as you go, month by month.
These plans are a great deal for anyone who doesn’t want to sign a contract but still wants a new phone every few months. There are many providers that offer them, but they’re most common in post-pandemic Europe. In the U.S., they’re still fairly uncommon.
Some carriers offer unlimited data, while others cap you at a low amount. You’re also likely to get a new phone at some point in your commitment. The catch is that if you want to leave in the middle of your contract, you’ll be charged an early-termination fee. This can make them more expensive than a more traditional two-year plan.
Why They’re So Popular? 👯
As long as they are compatible with your network and meet your data needs, they can often be used on any carrier at any time—even if they were originally purchased on another carrier. This means that there’s no penalty for switching from one carrier to another, and with no contractual obligations, you can switch carriers as often as you like.
If you’re on a plan with a carrier that requires you to sign a contract, you’ll get a great deal if you wait until your contract is up. But those offers are only available a few months before your agreement ends. That’s why so many people prefer SIM-only deals.
They let you get a new phone at any time, without committing to anything long-term. That flexibility can come at a cost, though. With no contract, you’ll have to pay the full cost of your phone in the first month. If it’s expensive, you’ll pay for the rest of the month and then the next month too.
If your phone is cheaper, you just pay for the phone and then you’re good to go.
Use as modem
You can use your phone as a modem for your laptop or computer. Just plug your device into a USB port on your computer and control it from your phone. You can also take your phone with you on vacation. Some providers even let you switch your phone number and keep using your same phone number.
How Do SIM-Only Plans Work?
The only thing that comes close to this, in terms of freedom and convenience, are VoIP providers. These only need an internet connection to work, so are even SIM-free.
Let’s say you have a phone that works on the T-Mobile network. You can get a SIM-only plan that will give you unlimited talk and texts with 5GB of data. When your plan is up, or if you need more data, you can go back to the network and renew it.
As long as your phone is compatible with the network, getting a SIM-only card is easy. All you have to do is visit your operator’s store, tell them which plan you want, and they’ll give you a card for free. Once you have the card, you can renew it online.
If your phone isn’t compatible with the network, it can still be used with a SIM-only plan if it has support for something called “CDMA technology”. This uses a different type of digital signal than GSM phones. If it doesn’t support this, don’t worry—you can still buy an off-contract one from eBay or Craigslist.
Advantages using a traditional contract…
The biggest advantage of SIM-only plans is that they give you the flexibility to use your phone on any carrier for a fraction of the cost of purchasing a new phone on traditional plans.
Many carriers offer unlimited data plans with no data caps or throttling, which makes it more realistic to use a VPN without it being laggy. It’s useful for people who don’t want to be locked into a contract or who want to switch carriers. But what about comparing it with multi-year contracts…?
1. Phone not subsided 📱
If you have a multi-year plan, your carrier will subsidise the cost of your phone. That means they will pay for part of your phone, and you’ll pay the rest in monthly instalments. The discount you get from being on contract is much bigger than any discount you can get from buying a phone outright from a retailer like eBay or Craigslist.
2. Changing plans is very simple
Unlike multi-year contracts, all it takes is one call to change what kind of data plan and how many minutes and texts you have each month - without complicated calculations.
3. No upgrades if your phone breaks or becomes outdated
Only on contract deals are you covered if your phone breaks or becomes outdated; your network will let you trade it in for an upgrade and pay off the remaining balance on your phone plan. The biggest drawback to using a SIM Only plan, therefore, is that they don’t come with much flexibility in terms of hardware upgrades or upgrades in service plans.
If your monthly data cap isn’t enough for your needs, or if you need to upgrade your phone, you’ll have to pay full price for a new SIM card and possibly another phone.
While it’s generally easier to get started with a traditional plan than with a SIM Only deal, there are some things that you can do in advance to help make sure that everything goes smoothly when it comes time to activate your service:
- Both the phone number and IMEI (International Mobile Equipment Identity) number should be checked if buying one from an independent dealer instead of directly from the carrier. The IMEI number is unique to each phone and can be used by law enforcement to track down a stolen phone, while the phone number is used to set up your service and then to keep track of your account.
- Make sure that you’re not purchasing the SIM card for an incompatible device. For example, if you’re buying a SIM card for a EE phone, make sure that you’re not buying one for an T-Mobile device because it won’t work on that carrier's network. The same thing goes if you want to use a T-Mobile phone on Orange or vice versa; they won’t work on each other's networks.
- If you plan on using your old phone with your new service provider, make sure that it is unlocked before activating it. This will allow the carrier to activate and provision the device, which ensures that all of its features are supported by the network.
- If you have an older model smartphone without 4G LTE support but plan on using it with one of these new plans, make sure that it supports 3G service before signing up for one of these plans because most carriers don't offer 3G service anymore.
Should You Get a SIM-Only Deal?
If you don’t like being locked into a contract and you don’t mind paying for your phone each month, a SIM Only plan might be worth looking into. Make sure to shop around, though, to make sure you get the best deal to budget during this period of inflation. And keep in mind that they’re not always available.
If they are, they probably aren’t available in your area. Even so, they’re usually worth looking into as an alternative to a contract plan. That’s especially true if you’re just looking for a new phone every few months. There are a lot of providers that offer them, so you can find one that fits your needs.
How Can I Get a SIM-Only Plan? ⭐
Simply order it online. When you find the right deal for you, you’ll want to do a few things. Next, find out how much data you can get. Some providers sell unlimited data with very high overage charges. Others have data caps that are lower than you might expect.
The biggest disadvantage is that there's no subsidy from the carrier, so you need to pay full price for your new device. There may be higher costs, if you use a ton of data and expensive phones.
In some ways, a SIM Only deal is like traditional month-to-month contract plans. The difference is that you don’t have to commit to a long-term contract and you can take your phone with you when you switch providers.
You’re also likely to get a newer phone at least once in your commitment. If that’s what you want, a SIM Only plan can be a great way to get it. But, keep in mind that there are some downsides, so you’ll want to do your research before signing up for one.