Buying A SIM free phone

Buying A SIM Free Phone SIM contracts tend to be great value and are usually perfect for those who are happy with their current phone but want a better deal on their contract. Although this is the case for many there are others who simply want to keep the purchase of their phone and their contract separate, want to upgrade their phone more often that long term contracts allow for or need to replace their phone because for whatever reason. Because of the prevalence of contract plus phone deals in the UK, however, it isn’t always as simple as you might think to buy a SIM free phone.

One thing you should always be aware of when buying a SIM free phone is that the cost might be higher than you expect. SIM free mobiles in the UK are subject to VAT at 20% which pushes the prices up considerably from what the networks pay for the devices they give away and the retailer also needs to make a margin – usually between 20-40% – on top of the cost. This means that a device the network buys for £300 could easily sell SIM free for £500.

One way that many people get around these higher costs is to buy pay as you go phones instead of SIM free. Because pay as you go mobiles tend to be slightly subsidised by the networks (because they expect to get a mobile customer from the sale) and there usually isn’t a margin on top they can be considerably cheaper than SIM free devices. There are disadvantages to this though. Networks typically require a minimum top up when you first buy the phone to encourage you to actually use the SIM that comes with it. Also the phones tend to be locked to that particular network (although most can be easily unlocked at independent mobile phone shops) and have pay as you go settings rather than pay monthly settings pre installed (which may cause some problems with text messages and internet usage). Also the range of phones available on pay as you go is not always very broad – networks like to get economies of scale by buying huge amounts of a small number of devices – so you may not be able to find the phone you want, especially if it is a newer or top of the range device. Buying a pay as you go phone and replacing the SIM is called box breaking and the networks frown on this and we generally don’t recommend it for the reasons stated above and because it pushes up costs for all but some users do choose to do this.

Below are of places where you can find SIM free phones for sale which, when combined with the contracts on this site, can help give you your perfect mix of phone plus contract:

Expansys (www.expansys.com)

The UK’s number one provider of new, SIM free phones. Expansys have a huge range and reasonable prices and is one of the best places to find the latest mobiles available.

Carphone Warehouse

The biggest general mobile retailer in the UK sell their phones SIM free on both their website and in their stores. There is a wide range of current devices from the most basic call and text devices to the latest high end smartphones.

eBay (www.ebay.co.uk)

A mobile phone is sold every minute on ebay making it by far the number one destination for mobile sales in the UK. The majority of these are second hand and there are some great bargains to be had but increasingly the latest and greatest phones are also available brand new on ebay, sometimes even before they are available elsewhere. Watch out for imports and make sure if you do buy a device from abroad that you will be able to use it in the UK and as you will typically be spending a reasonably large amount of money only buy from merchants with good feedback ratings who you trust.

Amazon (www.amazon.co.uk)

Amazon have been keen to grow their mobile phone sales for some time and sell a wide range of pay as you go deals on the site. In addition to this though you will find good deals on SIM free devices, both from Amazon themselves and from the many third party merchants who sell through the site.

Play (www.play.com)

A large, general retailer, Play.com have made the move into SIM free mobiles and have a very wide range of the latest devices, including pre orders for up and coming launches

Pixmania (www.pixmania.co.uk)

Less well known the Amazon and Play.com, Pixmania is a large European online general retailer who tend to have very aggressive prices. They can be a great place to find SIM free phones at relatively bargain prices although their range can be patchy at times

High Street phone shops

Most town centres have independent mobile phone shops who often sell devices SIM free. Some of the best bargains can be found on slightly used second hand devices but you should always check for warranties and only buy if you trust the vendor

Direct from the manufacturers

Some of the manufacturers such as Sony and Samsung and, famously, Apple, have their own online and high street stores where they sell their latest devices SIM free. These tend to be amongst the most expensive places to buy but you do tend to get great service and the security and comfort of buying direct from the manufacturer.

From the networks themselves

This is becoming less common but some of the networks themselves sell SIM free devices in their high street stores, especially if they are over stocked on a particular device. They don’t tend to advertise this much as their focus is on driving new contracts and pay as you go customers but if you ask you may well find a good deal – although be prepared for an attempt to sell a contract to you!