Best SIM free phones
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Nokia 110 2023 Midnight BlueNokia 110 2023 Midnight Blueno data includedno minutes includedno texts includedNo contract£39.99upfront cost£0.00per monthVisit NowMobiles.co.uk
Nokia 110 2023 Midnight BlueNokia 110 2023 Midnight Blueno data includedno minutes includedno texts includedNo contract£39.99upfront cost£0.00per monthVisit Nowe2save
Alcatel 3082 X Dark GreyAlcatel 3082 X Dark Greyno data includedno minutes includedno texts includedNo contract£54.99upfront cost£0.00per monthVisit NowMobiles.co.uk
Nokia 2660 Flip BlackNokia 2660 Flip  Blackno data includedno minutes includedno texts includedNo contract£64.99upfront cost£0.00per monthVisit NowMobiles.co.uk
Nokia 2660 Flip PinkNokia 2660 Flip  Pinkno data includedno minutes includedno texts includedNo contract£64.99upfront cost£0.00per monthVisit NowMobiles.co.uk
Nokia 2660 Flip BlackNokia 2660 Flip  Blackno data includedno minutes includedno texts includedNo contract£64.99upfront cost£0.00per monthVisit Nowe2save
Nokia 2660 Flip PinkNokia 2660 Flip  Pinkno data includedno minutes includedno texts includedNo contract£64.99upfront cost£0.00per monthVisit Nowe2save
Motorola Moto E 13 64GB WhiteMotorola Moto E 13 Dual SIM 64GB Whiteno data includedno minutes includedno texts includedNo contract£69.00upfront cost£0.00per monthVisit NowMobiles.co.uk
Motorola Moto E 13 64GB BlackMotorola Moto E 13 Dual SIM 64GB Blackno data includedno minutes includedno texts includedNo contract£69.00upfront cost£0.00per monthVisit NowMobiles.co.uk
Motorola Moto E 13 64GB GreenMotorola Moto E 13 Dual SIM 64GB Greenno data includedno minutes includedno texts includedNo contract£69.00upfront cost£0.00per monthVisit NowMobiles.co.uk
Motorola Moto E 13 64GB BlackMotorola Moto E 13 Dual SIM 64GB Blackno data includedno minutes includedno texts includedNo contract£69.00upfront cost£0.00per monthVisit Nowe2save
Motorola Moto E 13 64GB GreenMotorola Moto E 13 Dual SIM 64GB Greenno data includedno minutes includedno texts includedNo contract£69.00upfront cost£0.00per monthVisit Nowe2save
Motorola Moto E 13 64GB WhiteMotorola Moto E 13 Dual SIM 64GB Whiteno data includedno minutes includedno texts includedNo contract£69.00upfront cost£0.00per monthVisit Nowe2save
Nokia C 02 32GB Charcoal BlackNokia C 02 Dual SIM 32GB Charcoal Blackno data includedno minutes includedno texts includedNo contract£69.99upfront cost£0.00per monthVisit NowMobiles.co.uk
Nokia C 02 32GB Charcoal BlackNokia C 02 Dual SIM 32GB Charcoal Blackno data includedno minutes includedno texts includedNo contract£69.99upfront cost£0.00per monthVisit Nowe2save
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What are SIM free mobile deals?

A SIM free mobile deal is a mobile handset you buy outright, that has no contract attached. It differs substantially, therefore, from a pay monthly mobile deal where the cost of the handset is spread across a number of years, allowing people to afford high-end handsets they perhaps could not otherwise.

Cheap, SIM free handsets are a good choice for those who cannot pass the credit checks involved in getting a regular pay-monthly contract. Or perhaps you just don't feel the need for an expensive phone as you won't use it much. Either way, SIM free mobile deals are less than ideal. You'll end up either with an inferior handset or have to pay through the nose for a better one, and your calls, texts and data will cost you more. If you can avoid it and get a contract mobile deal, you should.

Otherwise, here's what makes up a SIM free mobile deal. Its core components, as it were.

  • The phone itself – With a SIM free or PAYG mobile deal you will always pay for the handset upfront. It won't necessarily cost you a lot – we've seen SIM free phones going for as little as £5. Obviously, though, the less you pay, the fewer features you're going to get, and true SIM free smartphones start at around the £100-£200 mark. Likewise, the more you pay, the closer to the top end you can go
  • A PAYG SIM (optional) – As well as the phone, these deals will often come with a PAYG SIM. Where this is the case you will sometimes be required to add a minimum amount of top-up (often £10) when taking out one of these deals. This top-up amount is then discounted from the cost of the handset
  • Top-up – If you opt for a PAYG SIM to go with your SIM free phone, you will usually be required to purchase an amount of 'top-up'. This amount will then be drawn from every time you make a call, download data or send a text. You pay as you go, see?

Pros and cons of a SIM free mobile deal

We've covered this briefly in the description above, but here let's get down to the nitty gritty. What's good about a SIM free mobile deal – what are the advantages? And what's bad? What are the down sides?

Pros

  • No credit checks
  • Cheap handsets
  • Flexibility

Cons

  • Handset must be bought upfront
  • Allowances on PAYG cost more than a contract deal
  • Fewer features and perks

Pros

  • No credit checks – Because you're not taking out any credit. A SIM free mobile deal is simply you buying a phone, with the added benefit of a little money off if you get a PAYG SIM to go with it. If you need to avoid credit checks, and you need a handset, a SIM free mobile deal is the way to go
  • Cheap handsets – Take this with a pinch of salt: Yes, many SIM free handsets are very cheap, but ultimately you get what you pay for. The cheaper the handset you buy, the less smart the smartphone becomes, with the cheapest options consisting of phones reminiscent of the pre-smartphone era. Good for making calls and not much else. Of course, some people want a distraction free life, where a phone is just a phone.
  • Flexibility – The good thing about SIM free or PAYG mobile deal is they allow you the flexibility to have a second phone, or to use one phone as little as you like. After all, not everyone feels the urge to lead a 24/7 connected life

Cons

  • Handset must be bought upfront – This is the flipside of the coin to 'cheap handsets'. You get what you pay for can be a good thing, or a not-so-good thing. If you're going SIM free, you can forget about getting a top-end handset unless you have £600+ lying about
  • Allowances cost more than a contract deal – If you opt for PAYG with your SIM free handset, your top-up is going to offer far less value than a pay monthly contract deal. Minutes, texts and data are much more expensive on PAYG, which is why we only recommend it to people who either barely ever use their phone or simply have no choice
  • Fewer features and perks – You won't get anything fancy with a SIM free mobile deal. Some PAYG SIM free handset deals offer double data, for example, and other incentives if you top-up by a certain amount each month, but you won't get the unlimited Netflix and music streaming-type stuff you'll see being waved under the noses of those who are up for a pay-monthly contract phone

Which providers offer SIM free mobiles?

You can of course go to a high street retailer and buy a phone then order a free SIM from elsewhere. You can do that if you want. If you want a 'deal' though, you will have to get a SIM free or PAYG phone from one of the UK's four mobile network providers.

  • EE – At the time of writing, EE had 20 PAYG mobile deals available, costing up to £189.99 for the OPPO A45s, all the way down to as little as just £9.99 for the extremely humble Alcatel 3080. Its PAYG mobiles are from Samsung, Alcatel, OPPO, Doro, MobiWire, Motorola, Nokia and IMO
  • O2 – had 24 'PAYG phones' on offer at the time of writing. The most expensive handset on offer was the Samsung Galaxy S20fe at £629, with the iPhone 11 coming in next at £489. The cheapest handset on offer being the Alcatel 3080 at £19.99 with a selection of handsets from Xioami, OPPO, Doro, Motorola and Nokia in between. O2 also offers a selection of refurbished phones on PAYG, which vary according to availability. At the time of writing there were phones from Apple, Google, Motorola, SAmsung, Oppo and others.
  • Three – Had 33 PAYG phones on offer at the time of writing. Many of these are the same handsets you'll see in the monthly contract section. The latest flagship iPhones and Samsung Galaxy Handsets are on offer if you can fork out that much cash. The cheapest handset on offer is the Alcatel 1 at £49.99 and all the PAYG phones require a minimum £10 top-up at checkout. Other brands on offer include Alcatel, Apple, Google, Honor, Nokia, OPPO, OnePlus,Samsung and Xiaomi.
  • Vodafone – Offers most of the phones available on its pay monthly contracts as PAYG options. This means that if you have a large amount of money to spend upfront, you can get the latest Samsung or Apple flagship handset. Its cheapest handset is the Nokia 130 which is a mere £12. In between you can choose from a large selection of handsets for different budgets from Samsung, Apple, Alcatel, Nokia, Motorola, OPPO, Mobiwire, Doro, Xiaomi, TCL, Honor, Imo and Sony.

Who makes SIM free handsets?

Technically any phone can be a SIM free phone if you buy it outright. For the purposes of this question, though, we will focus on those manufacturers with either a mainly or entirely SIM free of PAYG offering, as sourced through the UK's four network providers.

  • Alcatel – A French brand of mobile handsets, owned by Nokia and specialising in budget handsets, from simple dumb phones to basic smartphones
  • Doro – Is a Swedish consumer electronics company. Is makes simple, budget phones with older people in mind
  • Honor – Is a sub-brand of Huawei. Honor phones are Huawei phones, albeit cheaper, simpler and marketed more towards younger people than Huawei's top-end handsets. Currently, it is inadvisable to buy a Huawei phone. Its future in the west is in doubt, after several controversies over national security issues in various countries and conflicts with Google which makes the Android operating system used on its phones
  • Huawei – See above for Honor. Huawei makes some great phones, but now is not a good time to buy
  • MobiWire – Makes so-called 'ultra-budget' phones for the most part – where the price of the handset is almost irrelevant as it simply acts as the cheapest and easiest means to get you on the network. The cheapest MobiWire phone is just 79p
  • Motorola – Was once a powerhouse in the mobile industry, with some of the best technology and phones in the world. Apple's iPhone changed that, inventing the smartphone and leaving Motorola in the dust. These days it sells budget-end, simple, functional handsets
  • Nokia – See Motorola. Nokia suffered the same fate
  • Samsung – Has literally every level of phone available. Unlike Apple, its number one competitor at the top end – which doesn't make budget phones – you'll find plenty at the affordable PAYG end with Samsung
  • Sony – Makes phones from budget to top-range phones with cutting edge cameras. There are some decent contract phones with Sony, and some well priced PAYG offerings. Our own experiences with Sony phones, though, hasn't been altogether that positive
  • OPPO – Makes phones from budget to the cheaper end of mid-range. Often found in the PAYG selection offered by mobile providers.
  • Xiaomi – Makes some great phones from budget to high-end at an affordable price. However Xiaomi has faced similar controversies to Huwawei for similar reasons which may affect your decision to buy one.
See also

Frequently asked questions

Can you pay monthly for a SIM free phone?

Yes and no. Yes, you can go to an electronics retailer and buy a phone outright, and choose to pay for it on a hire-purchase basis, which will of course require a credit check, the avoidance of which can be a big reason people have for choosing a PAYG phone. No, you cannot get a SIM free phone from a provider and pay for it in instalments as this requires a contract and is therefore no longer SIM free.

What is the best SIM free mobile phone?

Any mobile phone can be bought SIM free. Therefore this question simply becomes 'Which is the best phone?'. At the time of writing, the generally accepted 'best phone' is the Samsung Galaxy S22 Ultra or maybe the iPhone 13 Pro Max. If you're reading this a year later, it will be something else so we recommend doing a little research to find the latest thing.

Is pay as you go cheaper than contract?

No. Quite the opposite, in fact. You can certainly get very cheap handsets on PAYG, but you will pay more for services – for your minutes, texts and data – than you would pay if you received the allowances either through a contract phone deal, or a contract SIM-only deal.

Can I just buy a phone without a plan?

Yes. But from a retailer, rather than through a provider. Providers will usually want to bundle a SIM to go with it.

Is it better to pay for phone upfront or monthly?

While it's true that you will pay a little more for the phone in most cases when you pay for it across 24 months than you would if you bought the handset outright, whatever you save will likely be inconsequential compared to the money you will save through the generous allowances pay-monthly mobile deals offer. Your minutes, data and texts, that is.