What Are SIM Free Phones?

SIM free phones are mobile phones that are not locked to any particular network such as Vodafone or EE. They are open to all networks, even with the majority of mobile phone networks that are available abroad.

Spec wise, SIM free phones are just the same as contract phones, they both have the same hardware, processor, RAM and so on. However, when it comes to the software there will be some differences. You will not find any bloatware that often comes with contract phones.

These types of phones are generally popular amongst people who don’t like the idea of being tied into long term contracts. Buying a SIM free phone gives you the option to choose shorter tariffs or contract free rolling monthly tariffs.

Are SIM Free Phones and Unlocked Phones The Same?

You may have seen phones advertised as either SIM free or unlocked, but what is the difference?

As explained above, SIM free phones are manufactured without being assigned to any particular network and open to the majority of phone networks available.

Unlocked phones are generally phones that have been assigned to a network such as Vodafone and have been manually unlocked to all networks using a software that unlocks phones. These phones may still have the mobile phone network branding on them and this is a huge giveaway that the phone has been unlocked from a particular network.

When buying SIM free phones, you need to be extremely careful as some people will put misleading descriptions about it being SIM free. For example, you could have a phone that is assigned to 02 but someone could be selling it as a SIM free phone, as they are selling it without a SIM. Always read the description carefully and if you’re unsure, ask the seller if the phone is locked to any particular network or has been locked to any particular network in the past.

When buying a SIM free phone, make sure it was manufactured unlocked to all networks and not manually unlocked by a third party.

What are the Advantages of SIM Free Phones?

  • No bloatware – The biggest benefit of a SIM free phone is that it’s not locked to any particular network and this means you don’t get any network operator bloatware. Bloatware is when mobile phone networks install a lot of unnecessary software that you can’t uninstall and takes up valuable gigabytes on your phone.
  • Manufacturers original software – Some mobile phone networks will not only add bloatware but try to rewrite some of the original software to make it work better with their network, this may not always be beneficial to you.
  • Can work out cheaper – Because you are paying the cost up front, you can shop around for better deals. Especially on days like Black Friday, Cyber Monday or around Christmas time, you can save quite a lot of money during these periods.
  • Upgrade when you want – Because you are not tied into a long contract, you can upgrade your phone as you please.
  • Can use PAYG bundle packs – Pay as you go bundle packs from various different mobile phone network providers actually offer very good tariff deals at very good prices. Prices range from £5 to £40 and you can get tariffs that will give you unlimited calls and texts. You are not locked into any contract and these can auto renew, you can cancel or upgrade and downgrade at any time. SIM free phones and PAYG bundle packs go great together as you have no contracts at all and free to change either as you please.
  • Higher phone resale value – SIM free phones can be sold for more money on the second-hand phone market. Because they are open to all networks this can be quite appealing and will generally fetch a higher price than phones locked to a particular network.
  • Lower contract payments and length of contractGetting a SIM only contract will always be cheaper as you do not have to pay the cost of the phone over the course of the contract. Not only is a SIM only contract cheaper but you can also get a 12 month contract as opposed to being forced into a 24 month contract.
  • No network branding – Having a mobile phone operator plaster their logo all over the mobile phone can ruin the look of the phone, for example having a Vodafone logo on the front or back can ruin the look of the phone. With SIM free phones you do not have to worry about this.
  • Great for people who travel a lot – If you travel a lot and spent any lengthy time abroad, then SIM free phones can be a wonderful option. This is because wherever you go abroad, you can get a local SIM and use that to help keep costs down. As we all know, if you use a UK SIM abroad, the fees can be extraordinarily high.

What are the Disadvantages of SIM Free Phones?

  • Paying upfront – The biggest disadvantage of a SIM free phone is that you have to pay the cost up front. If you’re buying a mid-range phone for around £200 – £300 this isn’t too bad, if you plan to buy a flagship phone that can range from £500-£700 this can be a bit tricky for some people as the initial outlay is too much.
  • Doing your due diligence before you buy one – When you buy a SIM free phone you need to make sure it was originally manufactured to be open to all networks and somebody hasn’t just unlocked an O2 phone. You also need to be wary about grey imports, make sure the phone isn’t from China or somewhere else as models can be slightly different to the UK versions.
  • Network phone exclusive – Although this is rare nowadays, some networks will have exclusivity to a particular mobile phone model which is only available on one of their contract bundles.
  • Phone and network insurance – if you decide to go SIM free you will not get the phone and network insurance often offered by mobile phone networks. These insurances can be quite good as they cover both your phone and any unauthorised calls if your phone gets stolen.

Are SIM Free Phones More Expensive?

Thanks to the Internet, SIM free phones are generally a lot cheaper than if you were to purchase a mobile with a contract. When you buy a phone with a contract you will always pay the highest recommended retail price. However, if you go online, you can find very good deals where the phone is a lot cheaper than the recommended retail price. Remember, you have days like Black Friday and Cyber Monday when the prices are slashed even more and sometimes you can get the best phones at extremely cheap prices on these days.

What makes SIM free phones seem more expensive is that you have to pay the cost up front, but the reality is, you will end up paying more for the phone if you take it out on a contract but because you are paying monthly it is less noticeable.

Why Go SIM Free?

  • The potential to not be tied into any contracts with rolling monthly tariffs.
  • The flexibility and freedom it offers.
  • You own the handset, contracts are leasing you the phone until you pay your contact off.
  • Upgrade to the latest handset when you please.
  • More control of your phone as you don’t have to worry about network approved updates.
  • The network operator has not modified the original software.
  • No annoying Bloatware that takes up unnecessary space.
  • Greater choice of network plans.
  • No unexpected roaming charges.
  • Going SIM free puts all the power back to you!


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