SIM Free Phones: Advantages and Disadvantages

This article was updated in May 2021

If you’ve been searching for a new smartphone, you will definitely have come across the term ‘SIM Free’ in your options and criteria. But what does that term actually mean? Well, it’s the answer to the question “Are you fed up of costly contracts and your phone being tied to one network?” for a start!

If you’re looking for a new smartphone but don’t want to be tied into a long contract, or simply like the idea of choosing your own network, SIM Free could be just the option for you. In this article from our regular blog series we’re going to break down some of the key points of SIM Free, and we’ll highlight the pros and cons.

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So what is SIM Free?

SIM Free is literally what it sounds like. A phone that is free of a SIM card.

Unlike phones you may pick up from networks such as Virgin, Vodafone and O2, which are often ‘locked’ to a certain carrier, SIM Free phones are completely ‘unlocked’ from specific networks. This means you can interchange SIM cards from different carriers in the phone.

Quick note, there is a difference between SIM Free and Unlocked. An Unlocked phone will have previously been locked to a network, but has since had any restrictions removed so that it can work with any network. SIM Free is a phone which has never been provided with a SIM card, and therefore will not be tied to a network.

Advantages of SIM Free

Let’s take a look of some of the advantages of SIM Free phones,

Upgrade when you want: Your phone and your network! That’s right, when you buy a SIM Free phone you’re not tied to a particular network or tariff just to get the phone, so when you’re bored of the handset or just fancy an upgrade you can go out and buy one.

Overall cheaper: As you can shop around for your phone and contract separately, you’ll find the best overall deal for your situation going the SIM Free route.

Lower monthly contract payment: SIM Free contracts (from networks) are usually far cheaper than those that come with a phone, especially modern handsets or flagship models.

Higher resale value: An unlocked phone has a far greater resale value as its compatibility is open. Resellers pay more for an unlocked phone than a locked equivalent.

Option to be PAYG: If you are really looking to keep the costs down, SIM Free phones can house Pay As You Go SIM cards, so there’s no need to sign up to a contract of any sorts.

No network branding on the phone: Who wants a big network logo plastered over their nice new smartphone anyway?

No network locked features: Networks often restrict key features like tethering, but a SIM Free phone is clear of any such chains.

Perfect for travel: SIM Free phones can use a local sim card, as the phone is not tethered to a UK network. So for the travellers out there needing multiple SIMs, you won’t need to buy a local phone just to make calls. Check out services like to see if a specific device would work in a certain country and on what network.

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Disadvantages of SIM Free

So we’ve seen the big list of advantages, but what are the disadvantages to a SIM Free phone?

Initial Outlay: The biggest issue going SIM Free is usually the initial outlay. Like buying a tablet or a watch, you are literally buying the whole handset upfront. So the £300 sting may come as a shock when you’re used to paying £25 a month.

Network Exclusives: In some cases networks have exclusives on particular phones, this is usually on a particular niche model or regional specific (UK, US etc…). So occasional a phone will literally not be available without a hefty contract.

Lack of Network Offers: Networks want you tied to long contracts with their services, so SIM Free phones kinda circumvent this. What this means to you is possibly a higher or less lucrative talk plan. The sweet package you may have got on texts, talk time and unlimited internet may just be reserved for traditional handset and contract customers, instead you might be forced to shop around.

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