Advantages of SIM-free phones


Many people get a device included with their mobile phone contract. However, bundled packages are not the only way to get a phone and, for many, it is better to buy a phone “SIM-free” and choose a contract later.

A SIM-free phone is one which is purchased completely independently of any network operator. While the initial cost of a SIM-free phone can seem daunting, getting your phone in this way has its advantages.

In this post, we list some of the main advantages of SIM-free phones.

Greater choice of plans

Having your own phone allows you to choose any plan you like. Buying a specific phone from a network will provide comparatively fewer options. A SIM-free phone allows the choice of a plan perfectly suited to your usage, saving you money in the long-term.

More freedom to change or cancel your plan

If you find that your plan is too expensive before the contract ends, you may not be able to do anything about it. Paying to escape a long contract early can be expensive. Shorter contracts allow more freedom to change or cancel your plan and owning a SIM-free phone gives you the freedom to sign up for these easily.  Vodafone, Three, Meteor, eMobile and Tesco Mobile all offer 30-day contract bill pay plans. 

A 24 month plan may suit now, but will become an unwanted expense if you move abroad before the contract ends, for example. As an alternative to short billpay contracts, prepay plans generally require little commitment.

Easier to keep track of your bills

For bundled phone plans,  the device cost will be included in the plan’s monthly bill. Imagine a monthly bill of €60; how much of that cost is for the phone itself? Assuming the phone is worth €20 per month, do you really need €40 to cover the cost of your calls, texts and data usage? In reality, it is difficult to determine how much of your bill is going towards the device and how much is going towards the plan costs (i.e. calls, texts and data usage). With a SIM-free device, there is less uncertainty.

Avoid roaming charges

For people who incur high roaming charges, SIM-free phones allow you to swap your SIM card once you arrive in a different country. You could order a SIM directly from a network in the country of your choosing or use a service like SIM Local. People frequently travelling between different multiple locations may benefit from owning a dual-SIM device (such as the Motorola Moto G recommended in one of our previous posts). Dual-SIM phones allow you to easily alternate between two SIMs whenever you want.

Greater choice of phones

You may want to purchase a specific phone that the networks don’t currently offer. For example, you won’t find the OnePlus One from any of the Irish networks. While networks usually stock the latest devices on the market, buying the latest device is typically not good value for money. It may be more economical to purchase slightly older models.

Second-hand phones

Buying a second-hand phone is a great way of saving money, but networks only offer new phones with their plans. There is an abundance of second-hand phones on the market from sites such as BuyAndSellAdverts,eBayGumtree etc. Be careful though, buying a secondhand phone does not guarantee that it will be “unlocked”—it may be tied to a specific network, limiting your choice of plans. LifeHacker has a good article on the common pitfalls to avoid when buying phones second-hand.

Upgrade or change phones whenever you like 

With a SIM-free phone, you can upgrade whenever you like. A bundled phone does not afford the same freedom because your network determines your upgrade schedule. An upgrade may also be forced if you lose or break your phone. Breaking a phone doesn’t break your contract, so with bundled contracts, you will be paying for the phone until the contract expires.

While most people do not need to upgrade their phone annually, some people like to stay up to date with the latest technology. SIM-free phones allow upgrades on your own schedule.

SIM-free phones can be purchased from many retailers including etc.