The UK’s Best Value Smartphone SIM Only Tariffs with Internet

March 6th, 2014

If you already own a smartphone, you can save £200/year by switching to a SIM only deal. We compare across the UK networks to find the cheapest deal.

SIM card for SIM Only tariffNowadays, a large number of us already have a smartphone. When your contract comes to an end, there are normally two options to choose from:

The first option is taking out a new contract: you’re able to upgrade to the latest handset such as the iPhone 5s or Galaxy S4. In order to get a new smartphone, you’ll need to sign a 24-month contract. You’re likely to pay around £35/month and there could also be an upfront charge for the handset.

The second option is switching to a SIM Only deal. This is a great choice for anyone who is happy with their current smartphone. You simply pick up a new low-cost SIM card which then slots into the back of your existing handset. The SIM card is “airtime only” – as such it’s normally much cheaper than a standard mobile contract. You can expect to save between £15 and £20/month. Over a year, the savings can add up to more than £200.

SIM only deals are also ideal for consumers upgrading from Pay As You Go. You can also take advantage of a SIM only deal if you’ve bought a SIM-free handset or been given a second-hand device (e.g. an old phone from friends or family members).

In this article, we’ll review the UK’s best value SIM Only deals.

SIM Only Deals: What You Need To Know

Switching network? You may need to unlock your phone.

Smartphones StackedIf you bought a mobile phone as part of a contract, it might currently be locked to a network. Before changing mobile provider, you should first check if your handset is locked. If so, follow the instructions in this guide – you can normally unlock your handset so it’ll work on any network. For customers on O2, Three and Vodafone, it’s free to unlock your smartphone. For customers on EE, Orange and T-Mobile, you’ll normally need to pay £20.42. We’ve got a step-by-step guide to unlocking your iPhone and unlocking your Samsung Galaxy device.

You won’t need to unlock your phone if you’re buying a SIM only deal from your current mobile network. If you’re an O2 customer, you can also switch to giffgaff without unlocking your phone. giffgaff tends to offer much lower prices compared to O2.

Keeping your phone number when changing to a SIM only deal.

You can keep your current phone number when switching to a SIM only deal. This is true regardless of whether you’re staying on the same network or changing to a new one. To transfer a phone number between networks, you’ll need to use a PAC Code. The entire process of transferring a phone number takes no more than 24 hours. Our PAC Code Finder can take you through the entire process one step at a time.

Choosing the right type of SIM card.

SIM cards come in three different sizes: standard-sized, micro-sized and nano-sized. If prompted, you’ll need to select the SIM card that’s appropriate for your phone. To find out which size of SIM card is required by your phone, see our guide to smartphone SIM card types. We have a full listing of handsets and the types of SIM card they require. Alternatively, take the SIM card from your phone and compare it against the following image:

SIM Card Form Factors: Standard, Micro & Nano SIM
From left to right: Standard SIM, Micro SIM and Nano SIM. You’ll need to select the appropriate size of SIM card when buying your SIM only deal. Figure adapted from Wikipedia (CC-licensed).

If you’ve already ordered a SIM card of the wrong size, don’t despair. All of the UK’s mobile networks will provide you with a replacement SIM card of a different size. It’s free except from on EE and T-Mobile where customers are charged £10 to change SIM card type.

Best SIM Only Deals (By Price):

Please select your price range:

Less than £10/month

SIM Only Deals - Less than £10/month

You can get a surprising amount for less than £10 per month.

If you’re looking for a super-cheap SIM-only deal, there’s a variety of options costing less than a tenner per month.

From the UK’s mainstream providers, the cheapest SIM Only deal is Three’s Essential Internet 200. For £6.90/month, you’ll get 200 minutes, 5000 texts and 500MB of internet. 500MB is about enough for the typical smartphone user – it’s a great deal providing you’re not a huge talker or a heavy internet surfer. There’s a 12 month commitment when choosing this deal.

Alternatively, for an extra 60p/month, Tesco has a similar deal with 250 minutes, 5000 texts and 500MB of internet.

The full list of SIM only tariffs under £10/month:

12 month contracts

NetworkMinutesTextsInternetMonthly
Cost
Three2005000500MB£6.90
Tesco2505000500MB£7.50
Vodafone300500250MB£9.00
O2100Unlimited100MB£9.00
Three60050001GB£9.90

1 month contracts

NetworkMinutesTextsInternetMonthly
Cost
The Peoples Operator505050MB£5.00
giffgaff200Unlimited250MB£7.50
Three2005000500MB£9.90

From £10/month

At the £10/month price point, there’s a large variety of SIM only deals. For most smartphone owners, the best all-round tariff is Tesco Mobile’s offer of 1000 minutes, 5000 texts and 1GB of internet for £10/month (12 month contract).

For heavy internet users, we recommend the £12 Goodybag from giffgaff. giffgaff is a low-cost offering from O2: they use the O2 network but have much lower prices. For £12/month, giffgaff offers 250 minutes, unlimited texts and unlimited internet. Another benefit of giffgaff’s goodybags is they can be changed every month. You can change your tariff as required (e.g. when your usage patterns change).

For chatterboxes, the largest calling allowance can be found on The People’s Operator (runs on the EE 3G network). For £14.99/month, you’ll get unlimited calling, unlimited texting and 3GB of internet.

12 month contracts

NetworkMinutesTextsInternetMonthly
Cost
Tesco1,00050001GB£10.00
Tesco2505000500MB£10.00
O2300Unlimited300MB£11.00
Tesco1,50050002GB£12.50
Tesco50050001GB£12.50
EEUnlimitedUnlimited500MB£13.00
Vodafone900Unlimited500MB£13.00
O2500Unlimited500MB£14.00

1 month contracts

NetworkMinutesTextsInternetMonthly
Cost
giffgaff500Unlimited1GB£10.00
The Peoples Operator300Unlimited500MB£10.00
Tesco2505000500MB£10.00
giffgaff250UnlimitedUnlimited£12.00
O2100Unlimited100MB£12.00
Tesco75050002GB£12.50
Three2005000Unlimited£12.90
Three60050001GB£12.90
The Peoples OperatorUnlimitedUnlimited3GB£14.99

From £15/month

The following deals are available from £15/month:

12 month contracts

NetworkMinutesTextsInternetMonthly
Cost
Tesco2,00050003GB£15.00
Tesco1,00050002GB£15.00
Three6005000Unlimited£15.90
O21,000Unlimited1GB£16.00
Vodafone1,200Unlimited750MB£16.00
EEUnlimitedUnlimited500MB£16.00
EEUnlimitedUnlimited1GB£18.00
O2UnlimitedUnlimited1GB£19.00

1 month contracts

NetworkMinutesTextsInternetMonthly
Cost
giffgaff500UnlimitedUnlimited£15.00
Tesco75050001GB£15.00
O2300Unlimited300MB£15.00
Tesco2,00050003GB£17.50
Three6005000Unlimited£18.90

From £20/month

There’s a large choice of deals from £20/month with most mobile networks offering unlimited calling and texting. In our opinion, it’s worth having a look at The One Plan from Three. For £20/month, you’ll get 2000 minutes, 5000 Three-to-Three minutes, 5000 texts and all-you-can-eat data (unlimited internet). Notably, there’s access to 4G and you’re also able to tether for free (you can share the unlimited internet allowance with other devices such as a tablet or laptop). With mobile broadband essentially included in the price, it’s a great tariff for getting all of your devices online.

If you’d like unlimited internet but aren’t bothered about tethering, giffgaff’s £20/month Goodybag has 2000 minutes, unlimited texting and unlimited internet. It’s a one-month rolling contract so there’s greater flexibility compared to Three.

12 month contracts

NetworkMinutesTextsInternetMonthly
Cost
Three2,0005000Unlimited£20.00
Tesco3,00050003GB£20.00
O2UnlimitedUnlimited2GB£21.00
EEUnlimitedUnlimited1GB£21.00
VodafoneUnlimitedUnlimited1GB£21.00
EEUnlimitedUnlimited3GB£23.00

1 month contracts

NetworkMinutesTextsInternetMonthly
Cost
giffgaff2,000UnlimitedUnlimited£20.00
Tesco2,00050002GB£20.00
O2500Unlimited500MB£20.00
Three2,0005000Unlimited£23.00
EEUnlimitedUnlimited500MB£23.00

From £25/month

The following SIM only deals are available for £25/month and more:

12 month contracts

NetworkMinutesTextsInternetMonthly
Cost
O2UnlimitedUnlimited5GB£25.00
EEUnlimitedUnlimited3GB£26.00

1 month contracts

NetworkMinutesTextsInternetMonthly
Cost
O2UnlimitedUnlimited1GB£25.00
EEUnlimitedUnlimited1GB£28.00

£30/month and more

The following SIM only deals are available for £30/month and more:

12 month contracts

NetworkMinutesTextsInternetMonthly
Cost
O2UnlimitedUnlimited8GB£30.00
EEUnlimitedUnlimited5GB£31.00
VodafoneUnlimitedUnlimited9GB£41.00
EEUnlimitedUnlimited8GB£41.00
EEUnlimitedUnlimited20GB£61.00

1 month contracts

NetworkMinutesTextsInternetMonthly
Cost
O2UnlimitedUnlimited5GB£30.00
EEUnlimitedUnlimited3GB£33.00
EEUnlimitedUnlimited5GB£38.00
EEUnlimitedUnlimited8GB£43.00
EEUnlimitedUnlimited20GB£63.00

Finding Out More

You can find out more on the mobile operator’s websites. Please refer to the EE, giffgaff, O2, Tesco Mobile, Three, The People’s Operator and Vodafone sites for more information.

To compare coverage across the 10 networks, please refer to the table on this page.

    

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About Ken

Ken Lo

I'm a freelance writer specialising in mobile technology. I've been blogging at Ken's Tech Tips since 2005 with the aim of demystifying mobile technology for the rest of us.

Before writing about mobile technology, my background was in space & atmospheric physics. I have also worked in software development. Nowadays, I help companies to explain mobile technology to their customers. Please check out my portfolio or get in touch for more information. I'm also on Google+.

Your Comments

We'd love to hear your thoughts and any questions you may have. So far, we've received 42 comments from readers. You can add your own comment here.

  1. Leanne said:

    Hi there,

    Have you seen The People’s Operator Unlimited 30 day-SIM?

    Unlimited talk, text and data for just 14.99. Even though fair usage applies, still looks very good!

    http://www.thepeoplesoperator.com/pay-monthly#featured-deal

    Hope its useful, Leanne

  2. Hugo said:

    Hi Ken,

    Do you know if the one plan 12 month simonly contract on three will include 4g?

    Thanks

    1. Ken Lo
      Ken replied:

      Hi Hugo,

      Yep – the 12 month One Plan will include access to 4G (as will all of Three’s other plans). At £15/month for unlimited internet and 4G access, I think it’s a great deal!

      Ken

      1. Hugo replied:

        Sorry Ken, forgot to ask, what happens at the end of a 12 month sim only contract? Does it automatically renew for another 12months? Or, does it go onto rolling monthly basis?

        Thanks

        1. Ken Lo
          Ken replied:

          Hi Hugo,

          Thanks for your comment! The 12 month period refers to your minimum commitment. After the 12 months, your contract will continue as before though you’ll be able to leave at any time (essentially it becomes a rolling monthly contract).

          Hope this helps!

          Ken

  3. John Ward said:

    Your smartphone tips are as always, very informative, thank you. However, you haven’t mentioned the Virgin Media 30 Day SIM Only deal. 1200 minutes, unlimited texts and 1GB data for only £12 per month. I have recently signed up for this service which uses Orange and T-Mobile communications when it needs to. I will now save more than half of what I was paying on my last contract and get twice as much for my money.

  4. Leo said:

    Great info and tips and thanks for highlighting the best deals. I personally like the essential Internet tarriff from Three, which I bought @ just £6.90/month. Thanks again.

    1. Paul replied:

      Hi Leo,
      Do you know if this can be used in an iPhone (so long as I get the micro sim)?
      Thanks
      Paul.

  5. guest said:

    Ken you should mention that at the lower tariffs, H3G and Orange are charging for retrieving your voicemail. So on the H3G £6.90 tariff; you pay 10p for every voicemail you retrieve. This could be very expensive in the long run. Retrieve 5 voicemails a day and you add £15 to your monthly bill.

  6. Radioray29 said:

    Why has no-one mentioned GiffGaff Goody Bag @ £10 per month with 250 mins, Unlimited txts, internet & FREE Giffgaff to Giffgaff calls ? No contract and automatic monthly renewal if you choose. Brilliant value for UK based users

  7. Janis said:

    Hi Ken – First class site! My only comment would be which packages offer per second billing?

  8. Darren said:

    Hey Ken.

    I spotted a fantastic sim only deal when I was looking for a new sim for myself. 3 Mobile have just bought out some new tariffs and thier cheapest is now only £6.90 a month for 200 minutes, 5000 texts and 500mb of internet.

  9. mike said:

    hi ken, why don't you include giffgaff in your comparison chart as you recommend it on your other pages?

  10. Bravo said:

    Tesco Mobile have some fantastic deals at the moment, if you visit the following link and select "30 Day SIM"

    http://phone-shop.tesco.com/tesco-mobile/special-offers/

  11. Stephen Aldhouse said:

    I'm coming to the end of the initial free usage of my iPhone 3GS and iPad1. You may call me a skinflint; I say I just want best value. Given my usage pattern, I like the '3' £5/month deal. Can I milk it any further by using Skype, which appears to be available on my phone, thus turning my calls into data? Also, would 3 let me turn the 3GS iPhone into a personal hotspot and could it then allow my iPad1 internet access by Bluetooth?

    1. Ken Lo
      Ken replied:

      Hi Stephen,

      I believe Skype is allowed on Three – yes. They used to advertise this as a feature of their network – though they haven't recently. Tethering is only allowed on The One Plan (£25/mo) AFAIK.

      Ken

  12. ann said:

    i have just received a new htc wild fire i am currently on 02 simplicity 15 pounds monthly 02 02 unlimted 500 texts would like to add internet any sugestions

    1. Ken Lo
      Ken replied:

      Hi Ann,

      I've prepared a guide which reviews each of the internet packages (The Basics, The All Rounder & The Works).

      Hope this helps!

      Ken

  13. Nick said:

    What are these rolling contracts. I am thinking of buying a Samsung Galaxy S2 unlocked from say Amazon or Play and want a PAYG SIM for reasonable Internet access. Three sounds interesting but what exactly do you buy? Do you buy a SIM that has to be topped up every month or do you pay for a year's worth. Honestly, I don't understand these 30 day rolling contracts

    1. Ken Lo
      Ken replied:

      Hi Nick,

      Essentially you get a "Pay Monthly" mobile contract but one which doesn't come with a phone. It'll be a 1-month rolling contact or a 12 month contract. Because there is no phone included with the tariff, these tariffs are about £15/month to £20/month cheaper.

      Ken

  14. Matan said:

    Hi Ken,

    Are you planning to update this analysis for the latest position? And include details for the very attractive virtual networks (such as giffgaff, Vectone, Tesco Mobile, etc.)?

    Specifically very interested in getting something with unlimited (or 1GB) internet, a large amounts of minutes (say 500 ish), free land lines with a PAYG or 30-day rolling contract, but most attractive package seen to date is giffgaff's.

    I also heard rumours that Tesco used to do £10 p/m unlimited internet, 5000 texts and 500 minutes – is this true?

    Cheers,

    Matan

  15. Hands0n said:

    You need to update the information on Three's The One Plan – their Internet is completely unlimited in the pure dictionary definition. There are no catches or clauses, no FUPs or anything else. If your intention is to download the entire Internet then Three will not charge you a penny more for doing so! There is no speed throttling. It is, plain and simple, unlimited. A recent "challenge" was run by another blogger who managed 46GB in two weeks and with zero £ charge for Internet usage on his bill – validation that Internet with them is really unlimited in the package.

    1. Ken Lo
      Ken replied:

      Hi Hands0n,

      Thanks for getting in touch :) Sorry for the oversight on this page… we had reviewed "all-you-can-eat data" back in January. The details on this page have been updated now.

      Cheers

      Ken

  16. Ken Lo
    Ken said:

    You can use any tariff on a smartphone but you are strongly recommended to use one with an inclusive internet allowance. Otherwise, you'll have huge data bills. All of the tariffs listed on this page come with an inclusive internet allowance.

    Ken

  17. Sarah Page said:

    is it true that there are only certain tariffs you can use for smartphones?

  18. sam said:

    hi can any one help i have an unlocked blackberry curve 8900 i live 6 months in the UK and 6 months in Spain i want to know what is the best option for me i dont want to be tied to a contract when im not in the uk.

  19. Alex said:

    Great post, thank you. I persuaded Three to double my allowance from 1GB to 2GB on their £15/month SIM only deal. Giffgaff may be cheaper but three's coverage in rural Scotland is unsurpassed.

  20. jay said:

    Tesco have £5 off sim only contracts until 6th or 10th October. £10 = 500 min, 500 txt, 500MB. all on a 30 day contract. In-store only afaik.

  21. Adrian said:

    If one is considering the iPhone 4, a microSIM is required: so is there a good deal for a microSIM?

  22. Gareth said:

    Good article
    I have an unlocked 3G iPhone and am looking at doing a sim only monthly contract with tesco, I need the data 500 mb would be enough and the calls and texts. But whenever I speak to tesco they say they haven't yet released a sim only for a iPhone? But you look on the website and they have sims on with data?
    I am also considering giff gaff, any thoughts?

  23. Rick said:

    Does anyone know if Vodafone’s SIM-only for iPhone will work in an HTC Desire? Their online chatters say the SIM is incompatible, but is that technically bull?

  24. andrew said:

    http://giffgaff.com/
    offering free data till may 25 2010 with a minimum £10 top up

  25. Andy Burns said:

    O2 simplicity for smartphones, on a 12 month or 1 month contract, e.g. £15/month for 300 minutes + unlimited text + unlimited data

    http://shop.o2.co.uk/tariffs/simplicity/smartphone/12_months

  26. Ray cannon said:

    I have an unlocked HTC TyTNII with a t-mobile sim card on PAYG (mates rate).
    Walk-n-Web is capped at £1 a day, BUT you can buy 5 days in advance for £2.50
    (EG 6am on Monday till midnight on Saturday just £2.50, so you can effectively get
    unlimited for less than £15/month.)

    It was working fine until I upgraded TyTNN from Windows Mobile 6.0 to 6.5.
    Since then, although GRPS/3G are working, I can no longer connect to TomTom’s traffic downloads.

  27. Aaron said:

    I’m currently on the 3 network now- And I am extremely pleased with them. I get a signal virually everywhere, and 3 is the only network operator to provide 3g internet speeds where i go to school, and I live in rural dorset!!

    I’m actually planning on buying the Nexus one within the next few months, and am interested by rumors that 3 is trying to offer it from the google website. However, i digress. What I came here to ask was, with the 3 pay monthly-sim only, what exactly do they define as ‘unlimited’ ?
    Because I am aware 3 defines unlimited as 150mb on a PAYG sim card. I hope this won’t be the case for my data-hungry nexus? :(

    1. Ken Lo
      Ken replied:

      Hi Aaron,

      According to the Three T&C:
      http://www.three.co.uk/Help_Support/Terms_and_Conditions?content_aid=1214305746279

      The fair usage limit for Three is 1GB/mo. I’ve updated the article for clarification.

      Cheers

      Ken

  28. Matt said:

    Hey man, very good article. I’m thinking of changing now my 18 month O2 contract has run out but I’m worried about internet speed and GPS. I have an iphone 3G and was wondering if the GPS would still work on another network. I also heard that the internet on 3 might not be very good. What do you think?

    1. Ken Lo
      Ken replied:

      Hi Matt,

      Make sure you unlock your iPhone (http://cow.neondragon.net/index.php/how-to-unlock-your-iphone-from-o2-and-orange) first before trying a 3 SIM card. Firstly, you can use the coverage checker on their website. With the SIM only deal, you can cancel after one month if speeds are slopw. Alternatively, you could test the internet speed on 3 in your area using a 3Pay (3 Pay As You Go) SIM card (http://cow.neondragon.net/index.php/threes-pay-as-you-go-offers-free-texts-150mb-internet-skype-windows-live).

    2. Steve replied:

      I'm in pretty much the same position. I'm moving to Giffgaff. They use the o2 network and for a £10 a month rolling contract they give 250 minutes, unlimited texts and unlimited 3g web. A no brainer!

  29. dan said:

    well done and very interesting. however, there is one thing that I do not understand: Lets take the three contract for instance. There is unlimited internet – so, what does costs outside allowance for internet mean? thanks for clarifying!!! cheers, dan

    1. Ken Lo
      Ken replied:

      Thanks Dan :) For an unlimited tariff, the data costs outside of your allowance doesn’t really have much meaning (unless you exceed the fair usage allowance). Hope this helps, Ken

      1. @AshtonBRSC replied:

        There's no such thing as unlimited if you get charged if you use too much. Costs outside allowance are very important.

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