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:

NetworkMinutesTextsDataMonthly
Cost
ThreeUnlimitedUnlimited12GB£10.00
Plusnet MobileUnlimitedUnlimited9GB£10.00
VodafoneUnlimitedUnlimited8GB£10.00
giffgaffUnlimitedUnlimited6GB£10.00
Tesco Mobile3,0005,0006GB£10.00
SmartyUnlimitedUnlimited4GB£10.00
O21,000Unlimited2GB£10.00
EEUnlimitedUnlimited250MB£13.00

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.

Alternatives

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 77 so far

We'd love to hear your thoughts and any questions you may have. So far, we've received 77 comments from readers. You can add your own comment here.

  • I would like to give my old I phone to my husband for phone calls only. Can I do that? Right now it has no Sim Card. My own network is Telus.

    • Hi Mae,
      Thanks for your comment. Yes, it should be possible to do this. However, he’ll need to insert another SIM card into the device (from Telus if the handset is locked, or from any mobile network if the phone is unlocked).
      Hope this helps,
      Ken

  • Lyne Cadorette Bailey said:

    I would like to give my old phone to my daughter and I prefer going to a shop to unlocked it
    I put my old phone on charge all night but it didn’t charge at all
    Does the phone needs to be charged before I go to the shop?

    • Hi Lyne,
      Thanks for your comment. I’d strongly recommend getting your phone unlocked officially through the mobile network if possible. You’ll normally just need to fill out a form online to unlock it, and it will then either be unlocked remotely or you’ll be given a code to complete the unlocking process. So no need for the phone to even leave your sight! If you do decide to unlock it in a shop, it is worth charging it up beforehand, but if you don’t, I’m sure they’ll be able to charge it in store whilst the unlock is processed.
      Ken

  • Hello Ken
    I have owned my current iPhone for a year or so and when I bought it the O2 shop assistant transferred my data from my old iPhone. I now want to give my old phone to my wife to use on a pay as you go basis (also with O2) but despite installing a new SIM card its clearly still locked into my data and passwords etc..and doesn’t function (the O2 shop didn’t remove it, I guess). I am concerned that if I wipe the old phone and revert to factory settings….it may wipe my new phone’s data too? Am I worrying too much?
    Bob

    • Hi Bob,
      Thanks for your comment. You can safely do a factory reset on your old iPhone – it will only clear the data from the device and will not affect your new device.
      Hope this helps,
      Ken

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