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

February 17th, 2015

If you already have a smartphone, you can save more than £200/year by switching over to a SIM only deal. We compare across the UK networks to find the best value SIM card available.

SIM card for SIM Only tariffNowadays, many of us already have a smartphone that we’re happy to keep. When your 24-month contract comes to an end, there are normally two options you’re able to choose from.

The first option is buying a new handset. This requires taking out another 24 month contract. You’ll be able to upgrade to the latest handset such as the iPhone 6, the iPhone 6 Plus or the Galaxy S5. Expect to pay around £40/month on the new contract. Typically, there will also be an upfront charge for the handset.

The second option is switching over to a SIM Only deal. This is a much better choice if you’re happy with keeping your current smartphone. You simply pick up a new low-cost SIM card that slots into your handset and gives you much lower rates. As the SIM card will be on an airtime-only contract, it’ll be much cheaper than normal Pay Monthly. You can normally expect to save around £15 to £20 per month with a SIM only deal. Over a year, the savings can easily add up to more than £200.

SIM only deals are also ideal for anyone upgrading from Pay As You Go. They’re also great if you’ve bought a SIM-free or unlocked smartphone or if you’ve been given a second-hand handset (e.g. from friends and family).

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

SIM Only Deals: What You Need To Know

Switching network? You might need to unlock your phone first.


You might need to unlock your smartphone before using it on a SIM only deal.

If your current handset was originally provided by a mobile network operator (e.g. as part of a contract or on Pay As You Go), the handset could be locked to that network. Before you’re able to use the handset on a different network, you might need to first go through the process of unlocking it. We’ve got a step-by-step guide to unlocking your iPhone and unlocking your Samsung Galaxy smartphone.

If you’re changing to a SIM only tariff but on the same network as before, it won’t be necessary to unlock your handset first. Customers on O2 are also able to switch to giffgaff without unlocking their phone (giffgaff is a part of O2 but tends to offer much lower prices).

You can keep the same phone number as before.

It’s easy to keep your current phone number when moving 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 your phone number over to another network, you’ll need to obtain a PAC Code from your current network. It will take around one working day to transfer your number between two networks. Our PAC Code Finder can take you through the process one step at a time.

Be sure to choose the right type of SIM card.

SIM cards can come in three different sizes: Standard SIM, Micro SIM and Nano SIM. When ordering your new SIM only deal, you’ll normally be asked to choose the size of SIM card that’s appropriate for your phone. If you aren’t sure which size of SIM card is required by your phone, see our guide to smartphone SIM card types. Alternatively, you can take the SIM card from your phone and compare it to 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 choose the appropriate size of SIM card when ordering 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. It’s always possible to get a replacement SIM card later of the size you require (it’s free on all networks except from EE and T-Mobile where customers are charged £10.21).

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.

For a super-cheap SIM-only deal, there’s a variety of options costing less than £10 per month.

Three currently has the best value SIM only deal from the UK’s mainstream mobile providers. For only £8/month, you’ll get 200 minutes, unlimited text messages and 500MB of 4G internet. 500MB is about enough data for the typical smartphone user making this a pretty good deal providing you aren’t a huge talker (there’s only 200 minutes included every month).

Other key features on the tariff from Three include the Feel At Home offer where you’re able to use your smartphone abroad in 16 other countries at no extra charge (it includes the USA, Italy, France and Australia… Spain will also be added to the offer from April 2015). There’s also unlimited free calls to 0800 numbers and there’s a discounted rate of 5p/minute when calling 084 and 087 numbers. The tariff from Three has a twelve-month commitment.

Other popular deals for less than £10/month include the £7.50 tariff from Tesco. It’s marginally cheaper than the tariff from Three but only allows you to use 3G internet. It also lacks inclusive calls to 0800 numbers (they’ll cost you 20p/minute) and you won’t get access to the Feel At Home offer.

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

12 month contracts


1 month contracts

The Peoples Operator505050MB£5.00

From £10/month

Three and Giffgaff

Three and giffgaff have the best deals at £10/month.

There’s a huge variety in SIM only deals at the £10/month price point.

On a 12-month contract, the cheapest deals again come from Three. For all-round usage, there’s 600 minutes, unlimited texts and 1GB of 4G internet for £11/month. If you’d rather have a larger allowance of data instead of more minutes, you could alternatively choose the £11/month deal with 200 minutes, unlimited texts and 2GB of 4G internet. Both tariffs give you access to Feel At Home (no extra charge when using your smartphone abroad in 16 other countries) and there’s unlimited calls included to 0800 numbers.

For a shorter one-month rolling contract, we recommend the £10 and £12 goodybags from giffgaff. For £10/month, you’ll get 500 minutes, unlimited texts and 1GB of internet. For £12/month, the monthly data allowance is tripled to 3GB (easily enough even for heavy users of a smartphone). giffgaff is a low-cost offering from O2: they use the same O2 network and provide the same level of coverage as their parent network. Each giffgaff goodybag lasts for one month so you’re able to change your tariff as required (e.g. as 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 3G internet. There’s a £1.25 monthly charitable donation included on the tariff from The People’s Operator (that’s 10% of your monthly bill excluding VAT).

12 month contracts


1 month contracts

The Peoples Operator300Unlimited500MB£10.00
The Peoples Operator60010003GB£12.00
The Peoples OperatorUnlimitedUnlimited3GB£14.99

From £15/month

At the £15 price point, there’s a wide choice of tariffs from all the UK networks.

Notably, Three has a £17 tariff with all-you-can-eat unlimited 4G data. There’s also 200 minutes, unlimited texts and 4GB of personal hotspot included on the plan. As with the other tariffs also offered by Three, there’s unlimited calls to 0800 numbers and there’s the ability to use your phone abroad at no extra charge.

If you prefer calling rather than browsing, EE currently offers unlimited minutes, unlimited texts and 1GB of internet for £15.99/month.

The following deals are available from £15/month:

12 month contracts


1 month contracts


From £20/month

There’s a wide range of deals from £20/month with the vast majority of networks now offering unlimited calls and unlimited texts. In our opinion, it’s worth having a look at EE’s £21.99/month deal with unlimited calls, unlimited texts and 3GB of internet. Double speed 4G internet is included as part of the plan.

12 month contracts


1 month contracts


From £25/month

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

12 month contracts


1 month contracts


£30/month and more

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

12 month contracts


1 month contracts


More Information

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 websites for more information. Prices change on an occasional basis. You’re strongly advised to verify the tariff details before signing up.

To compare coverage across networks, please refer to the coverage table here. You can also see our guide to transferring your phone number between networks.


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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 57 comments from readers. You can add your own comment here.

  1. Kate Peace said:

    I have enjoyed finding out more about my mobile phone and will change to a Sim only deal now.
    I have an IPhone and spend 3/4 months each year in Thailand . At the moment ( on a fixed contract ) I dare not use my phone in Thailand.
    If I use Sim only and continue with EE will I be able to use it there without incurring huge costs ?

    1. Ken Lo
      Ken replied:

      Hi Kate,
      Thanks for your comment. Unfortunately, there are still hefty charges if you want to use your UK SIM card abroad when travelling in Thailand. This is the case even with a SIM only contract. According to EE’s website, it’s £1.50/minute to make or receive a phone call in Thailand. It’s also 50p to send a text message and it’s £7.50/day for 10MB of internet.
      To save money, I strongly recommend you unlock your iPhone and you use a local SIM card from a network in Thailand.
      Hope this helps,

  2. Alan said:

    Hi Ken

    Great article simple and precise, any advice / tips on best value for money on Pay As You Go data plans under £10 per month, where the data will not expire after 30 days ? thanks Alan

    1. Ken Lo
      Ken replied:

      Hi Alan,
      Thanks for your comment. The 30-day Pay As You Go data plans you refer to in your comment as known as Pay As You Go monthly bundles. If you want the internet without a monthly bundle, there are several options you’re able to choose from. The cheapest is probably Three’s 321 tariff (1p/MB when you access the internet, no expiry unless your SIM card is inactive for more than six months). You could also consider giffgaff Pay As You Go (20p/day for 20MB of internet, you only pay on the days where you actually use it).

      1. Alan replied:

        Hi Ken
        thanks really appreciate the smart advice , its a mind field of info out there but you make it all a lot more understandable

  3. Stephen said:

    Thanks Ken for making it easy to evaluate what is best to suit individual needs. We plan to be in UK and Switzerland for 1 month and you made it so easy for us to decide that Three is the most suitable for us without having to trawl through the different sites to get the information. Keep it up. It is very much appreciated.

  4. Vakeros said:

    Though this is SIM only deals – Tesco Mobile provide the Moto E and a couple of other handsets for the same price as SIM only deals – £7.50 a month. Admittedly it is a 24 month contract, but the price is almost the best possible, especially as you get a decent phone in the Moto E.

  5. David said:

    Very useful guide :-)

    It would be even more useful if you could indicate which plans allow you to tether.

    I am sure I am not the only one who has a smart phone plus a tablet that does not have a SIM card slot.
    As I rely on the phone to provide Internet to the tablet when away from home tethering (or hot spot) is a “must have”.

    1. Mark Richardson replied:

      Hi David, the only plans which allow tethering up to the data limit you decide to purchase is EE. The other plans either prohibit tethering, only allow tethering up to a pre-defined data limit or, charge extra for tethering. Some of Three`s plans for example allow unlimited data to be used on a smartphone but they prohibit tethering in excess of 2GB data and you would probably need to enter into a contract with Three in order to tether. EE plans allow tethering at any time and this also applies to their pay as you go add ons. Whilst EE charge higher prices, I find them much more convenient for unrestricted tethering but it depends on how often you tether and your data use whilst tetherin. I would advise reading the terms and conditions of EE, Three and Vodafone.

      1. Ken Lo
        Ken replied:

        Hi Mark,
        Thanks for this! You’re right: EE allows you to tether up to your monthly download limit. In addition, however, this is also possible on O2, Three and Vodafone SIM only contracts. For all-you-can-eat data plans on Three, there’s a 2GB limit on Pay Monthly plans with a new smartphone included and a 4GB limit on SIM only contracts. giffgaff also allows you to tether free of charge but only on the goodybags without unlimited data.

  6. 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!

    Hope its useful, Leanne

  7. Hugo said:

    Hi Ken,

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


    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!


      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?


        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!


  8. Jonathan said:

    Doesnt EE also offer Deezer on its 4G plans? I know with Orange thr code also offers 2-1 main course at Pizza express is that carried over to EE? Also what about EE’s back up app thing and international plans? Tbh I find EE’s explainations confusing.

    1. Ken Lo
      Ken replied:

      Hi Jonathan,

      Thanks for dropping in and leaving a comment! EE gives customers a free add-on but this is restricted to Pay Monthly plans of £41/month or more. As such, customers picking up an EE SIM Only deal won’t get free Deezer.

      With regards to 2 for 1 at Pizza Express, I’m not sure! The EE website makes no mention of it (however the Orange website advertises 2 for 1 pizza as part of the Orange Wednesday deal). It’s possible that pizza isn’t included with EE Film. I’ll see if I can get an official response from the guys at EE.

      Finally, EE Clone Phone is supposed to protect your phone and the data on it. All customers on 4GEE get 500MB of free cloud storage (fairly useless as you can get more from Google, Microsoft, etc). Everything else is a paid addition: phone insurance, phone tracking, etc.

      Hope this helps,


    2. Jonathan replied:

      Thanks for the response. I can see EE riding the wave a bit longer and then adjusting their offerings again. Surely they have to unless they hope coverage wins hearts and minds alone? I dont want to sound too bold in asking but the reason Im with orange is due to the handsets they offer (exclusive atrix before tmobile got it) and as such would it be possible to compare handset offers? I think for example the lumia 625 is exclusive to O2 and Vodafone which if it hits the £200 P&G mark will be a killer 4G handset! I think EE have the ascent P2 exclusive atm and three seem to have the most “niche” products. Also got my BB curve on orange cause a similar contract on O2 cost me £10 a month more. Ultimately on 2 occasions my network was chosen by the handset.

  9. Nigel Smith said:

    Your report today on SIM only deals says all four networks in UK use 800mhz but only Three and EE ALSO use 1800Mhz so check that your phone works.

    But when I look up the Samsing Galaxy S4 Mini spec it only says 4G LTE. Howe do I find the networks it is designed for?


    1. Ken Lo
      Ken replied:

      Hi Nigel,

      Thanks for getting in touch! You make a really good point – readers should refer to this page to see what frequencies each network is using. Your 4G phone will need to work on at least one of their 4G frequencies.

      With regards to the Galaxy S4 Mini, the selection of bands varies depending on your country. In the UK, the S4 Mini GT-I9195 supports the following bands:
      800 / 850 / 900 / 1800 / 2100 / 2600MHz (Source: Samsung UK)
      Hence, it should work on any of the UK’s 4G networks.


  10. 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.

  11. 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)?

  12. 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.

  13. 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

  14. Janis said:

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

  15. 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.

  16. mike said:

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

  17. Bravo said:

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

  18. 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.


  19. 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!


  20. 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.


  21. 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?



  22. 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.



  23. 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.


  24. Sarah Page said:

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

  25. 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.

  26. 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.

  27. 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.

  28. Adrian said:

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

  29. 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?

  30. 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?

  31. andrew said:
    offering free data till may 25 2010 with a minimum £10 top up

  32. 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

  33. 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.

  34. 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:

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



  35. 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 ( 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 (

    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!

  36. 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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