You can give your old mobile phone to someone else, like a friend or family member, when upgrading to a newer handset.

Every year, millions of us upgrade to a new mobile phone. Rather than leaving your old mobile phone unused in a sock drawer, a good option is giving your old mobile phone to someone else, like a friend or family member.

In the UK, you’re allowed to give your mobile phone to someone else providing you own it. In the vast majority of cases, you’ll own your mobile phone providing you bought it on a Pay Monthly contract, on Pay As You Go or on a SIM-free basis. You’ll normally own your handset even when you’re in the middle of your contract, but there are a few exceptions so it’s worth double-checking this in the contract (e.g. on EE’s Pay Monthly plans, you won’t own your handset until you’ve had your price plan for 6 months). On some price plans (e.g. Sky Mobile Swap), you’ll own your mobile phone but it’s typically expected that you’ll trade it in after a certain amount of time.

In this article, we’ll discuss how to give your old mobile phone to someone else. We’ll start by providing a checklist of things you should do, before looking at how your friend or family member can get started with the device. We’ll also discuss the alternative options available to you, like selling your old mobile phone or recycling it.

Giving Your Mobile Phone To Someone Else

If you no longer need your old mobile phone, it’s possible to give it to someone else. You can follow our six-step checklist for doing this:

  1. Make sure you own your mobile phone. In the vast majority of cases, you’ll own your mobile phone providing you bought it on a Pay Monthly contract, on Pay As You Go or on a SIM-free basis. The main exception is for people who lease their handset or for people who might not own their handset yet (e.g. customers of EE in the first six months of their contract).
  2. Unlock your mobile phone (optional, but recommended). If your mobile phone is locked to a network, it won’t be possible for other people to use it if they’re on a different mobile network provider. For this reason, it’s strongly recommended you unlock your handset before giving it to someone else so they have maximum flexibility on which mobile network to use. See our in-depth guides to unlocking an iPhone and unlocking a Samsung Galaxy device.
  3. Transfer all of your personal information to your new device. The data on your old device will no longer be available to you once you’ve given your old phone to someone else. For this reason, you should make sure all of the things you need have been transferred your new device (photos, videos, text messages, account logins, authenticator apps, etc).
  4. Disable security features like ‘Find your iPhone’ and ‘Android Device Manager’. You should remove and log out of security-related features like Find your iPhone and Android Device Manager. This will allow the new owner of the device to set up these features again once you give the phone to them.
  5. Remove your SIM card and any external storage. You should remove your SIM card from the device, and any external storage cards (e.g. your SD card). Your UK mobile phone number and price plan is linked to your SIM card rather than the handset itself, so this will also stop the new owner of the handset receiving your phone calls and SMS text messages. You can place your SIM card directly into a new device, or you can use a PAC Code if you’d like to transfer your phone number to a different mobile network and SIM.
  6. Remove your personal information by carrying out a factory reset. You should reset your mobile phone to factory settings before giving it to someone else. This will remove all of your personal data from the device, leaving it as if it had come new from the factory. The instructions for carrying out a factory reset differ for iPhone and Android devices. A factory reset cannot be reversed, so make sure you’ve already made a copy of any data that you’d like to keep.

Once you’ve carried out these six steps, the device should be ready for you to give to someone else.

Getting Started With A Pre-Owned Phone

You just need to add a SIM card to the pre-owned mobile phone.

As long as the six steps above have been followed for preparing the handset, it should be fairly straightforward to get started with a pre-owned mobile phone. If the six steps above have not all been completed, you may need to do them yourself (e.g. requesting an unlock code for the phone or carrying out a factory reset to wipe the old data).

Once you’re ready to start using the mobile phone, just place your SIM card inside it. Once you’ve done this, your mobile phone number and price plan will become linked to the handset, and you’ll be able to set up your applications and other services.

If you’d like a new SIM card to use in the handset, some great value SIM-only deals are available on a Pay Monthly and Pay As You Go basis. For instance, the following table shows a selection of SIM cards available from £10/month:

Tesco MobileUnlimitedUnlimited10GB£10.00
6 months half price

If you’re giving an old mobile phone to your kids, you may wish to choose a SIM card with no credit check. Alternatively, if you’re planning to pay the bill for their mobile phone usage, you can also explore Pay Monthly contracts with a spend cap.

See our full comparison of the UK’s best value SIM-only deals for more information.


As an alternative option to giving your old mobile phone to someone else, it’s also possible to:

  1. Keep it as a spare device. For instance, some people like to have a backup device in case their main mobile phone gets lost or stops working. Alternatively, you may wish to leave a spare mobile phone in your car (watch out for minimum usage requirements on your SIM card if you do this) or you may want to use your old mobile phone at occasions like a music festival where it’s sometimes inadvisable to bring a new handset.
  2. Sell your old mobile phone. If your old mobile phone is in fairly good condition, you may want to sell it through services like eBay, Gumtree or CEX. You can often get a fairly good price for your old mobile phone providing it’s unlocked and in fairly good condition. However, be sure to take all of the normal precautions around selling safely online.
  3. Trade-in your old mobile phone. Your mobile network may sometimes allow you to trade in your old handset when you upgrade to a new one. A discount might be offered in the form of a reduced upfront cost or a reduced monthly price (albeit, this will often be less than what you’d get for the handset on the open market). In some cases, it’s expected that you’ll trade in your old handset after a certain amount of time (e.g. on Sky Mobile’s Swap plan).
  4. Recycle your old mobile phone. This is normally less hassle than selling your old mobile phone directly. You’re essentially selling your mobile phone to a company who will either (i) refurbish it and sell it on to someone else as a pre-owned handset, or (ii) take the handset apart and re-use the materials in a new device. Most recycling services like O2 Recycle and giffgaff Recycle will pay you for your old handset, whereas some others will make a donation to charity in lieu of this.

More Information

For more information, see the rest of our in-depth guides on changing handset or mobile network.

Your Comments 99 so far

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  • Hi please can I have some help I sold my iPhone on eBay. I set my phone to factory settings but I forgot to take my SIM card out. The phone is on its way to the next owner. I am now worried will there still be personal information on the phone ?

    • Hi Joyce,
      Thanks for your comment. If you’ve already factory reset your phone, there shouldn’t be any personal information on it. However, the SIM card will give the other person access to your mobile plan (including your phone number, text messages, etc). For that reason, I’d recommend contacting your mobile network ASAP to get that SIM card blocked and replaced with a new one.
      Hope this helps,

  • Hi Ken, I have a pay as you go phone that was given brand new by an ex more than 20 years ago. I want to upgrade my phone, keeping the same number. (I’ve done this before when a standard sim fitted lots of phones by just putting the sim in the new phone) However, I now need to swap from standard to nano sim. Problem is, my provider refuses as the payg sim was not registered in my name. They are absolutely adamant about this. I obviously can’t change the name without the registered ‘owners’ permission which is impossible. So basically, in order to continue to keep my number, I can only use an old school phone that will take a standard sim. I also realise I can’t ever change from pay as you go to contract nor switch providers. Well, I’ve managed so far I guess! *But* if my sim were to break or I lost the phone, it means I can’t get the number back. Are you aware if there is anything I can do? I can’t believe that having had possession of the phone for so long and being it’s only user, effective owner, I actually don’t really own it at all.

    • Hi RCU,
      Thanks for your comment. Unfortunately, passing the security check on a Pay As You Go plan is often a frustrating experience as the details store on it are often outdated (it’s not like a Pay Monthly contract where you’ll update the name/address/etc as the money is coming out of your bank account each month).
      As one way to side-step this, are you able to get a PAC Code from your current network? You can text PAC to 65075 to request a PAC Code from your mobile network. This PAC Code can be used to move to another mobile network – either to a SIM-only plan that’s registered in your name, or to another Pay As You plan (e.g. from giffgaff). Your new mobile network will provide you with a nano-sized SIM card, and you can take this opportunity to ensure the new account is registered in your name.
      Hope this helps,

  • Hi, my son took out 2 sim only mobile contracts out for mobiles for myself and his sister, this was to boost his credit score up when he was 18 and paid via direct debit from a joint account we had together. When he got to 25 i took over paying the accounts but didnt change the name on the contract, we now want to cancel the contract and switch supplier, can myself and my daughter use the pac codes when we start a new contract in our own names so we can keep the numbers.

    • Hi John,
      Thanks for your comment. Yes, it’s possible for yourself and your daughter to use the PAC Code when starting contracts in your own name. There’s no requirement for the old & new contracts to be in the same name when using the PAC Code process.
      Hope this helps,

      • Hi Ken, thanks for your quick reply, i found it very helpful and it gave me of mind i will start the ball rolling now by cancelling the contracts we have now (thankfully only have a 30 day roll over contract) will get the pac codes and move to a new network. Thanks again.

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