Most SIM Only deals are Pay Monthly contracts not including a new phone. There are two main benefits to choosing a SIM Only deal. The first notable benefit is that SIM Only deals will typically be cheaper than comparable standard deals, and the second benefit is that SIM Only contracts often have short durations of 1 to 12 months, while standard contracts can last for up to 24 months.
Pay As You Go (PAYG) SIM cards are also available without a phone. Some network operators distribute these for free, while others require a payment for the SIM card or a minimum top-up of credit.
With a SIM Only deal you will be provided with a SIM card but no phone. Because of this you will either need to purchase a phone separately or already have a phone into which you can place the SIM card. The SIM card can then be used in any phone (provided it works on your selected network or is unlocked) except an iPhone 4, which uses a smaller Micro SIM.
The SIM card will come with a certain amount of free minutes, free texts and in some instances free data allowance. This is what you would expect from a standard monthly contract but because the network does not need to subsidise the cost of a phone the SIM Only deal will cost much less per month than a regular phone contract.
There are a couple of benefits to this. You can either choose a fairly standard contract term, say 300 minutes and 500 texts, and pay just as little as £5 per month (with a comparable monthly contract including a phone costing around £20-25). Alternatively, you can pay the same amount as an average contract (£25 per month) and get significantly more free minutes, texts and data allowance.
Networks have also started offering SIM Only deals with minimum terms of 12 and 18 months. These offer even better value, giving you more minutes and texts for the same monthly price as the equivalent 1 month SIM Only deal.
As well as pay monthly SIM Only deals you can also purchase Pay as You Go (PAYG) SIM cards too. Once inserted into a phone these will work like regular PAYG phones but like the pay monthly SIM Only deals they will not come with a handset.
With a PAYG SIM Only deal you can top up your SIM card with credit as and when you need it. Many PAYG SIM Only deals are available for free or are free when you buy a certain amount of credit (usually £10). There is no monthly fee for PAYG SIM cards like there is for Pay Monthly SIM Only deals. Pay Monthly and PAYG SIM Only deals can be used for as long, or as briefly as you like
Standard SIM cards are compatible with the vast majority of unlocked GSM phones available in the United Kingdom, but recently several prominent smartphones have made use of smaller SIM cards called MicroSIMs. Phones that require MicroSIMs include Apple’s iPhone 4 and iPhone 4S, as well as Motorola’s RAZR and Nokia’s Lumia Windows Phone 7 handsets. Regular SIM cards are too large to be inserted into phones designed for MicroSIMs and so standard SIM Only deals will not be useful if you have one of these phones.
Special MicroSIM Only deals for the iPhone 4, iPhone 4S and other MicroSIM phones are available from some networks. Follow the links below to view details and the ranges of deals available:
Click here for O2 micro SIM Only deals.
Click here for T-Mobile micro SIM Only deals.
Click here for Vodafone micro SIM Only deals.
Click here for Three micro SIM Only deals.
The drawback of using a SIM Only deal is that unless you already have a phone to use with the SIM card you will need to purchase a new handset. You can spend as little or as much as you like here, so long as the phone you choose is unlocked or offered on the network of your SIM card.
However, many monthly contracts will provide the latest phones with no upfront costs, as the cost of the handset is covered by the monthly charges. Because of this, if you want one of the latest top of the range phones it could cost you in excess of £500 when using SIM Only.
Of course, today there are many more basic handsets that are available for as little as £10. There are also many excellent handsets that have a good deal of modern features that can be picked up for less than £100.
A good example of when SIM Only deals may be beneficial is if you already have a phone that you enjoy that you want to keep, but you would like to change to a different network. You will need to ensure that you existing phone is unlocked as it may be restricted to use with a certain network.
There are many places that you can get a phone unlocked relatively cheaply and if you contact your existing phone network they are obligated to unlock your phone for you upon request. This is provided that you are not currently bound by a contract and they may charge a fee for unlocking your phone.
Purchasing a new SIM Only contract will not automatically cancel any existing contract you may have, and if you have not completed the mandatory contract period (12 months, 18 months, 24 months etc) you will still need to pay the monthly bill for your existing contract. If you have already completed your mandatory period then your existing contract can be cancelled by phoning your network provider, otherwise you may be expected to pay the remainder of the contract and possibly a fee upfront in order to cancel.
Another reason for choosing SIM Only is if you already have a phone that you would like to keep but you would like to switch from Pay as You Go to a monthly contract. Rather than paying extra for a phone that you already possess you can enjoy free minutes, texts and even data for significantly less by keeping your existing phone and purchasing a SIM Only deal.
Another example may be that you have found the phone you would like but you do not wish to be bound to a 2 year contract and you are willing to pay for the cost of the phone. While this may require more money to be paid upfront compared to many monthly contracts it also has the benefit of costing less per month and provides you with the option to cancel at any point.