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:

NetworkMinutesTextsInternetMonthly
Cost
Plusnet MobileUnlimitedUnlimited7GB£10.00
giffgaffUnlimitedUnlimited6GB£10.00
VodafoneUnlimitedUnlimited6GB£10.00
ThreeUnlimitedUnlimited4GB£10.00
SmartyUnlimitedUnlimited4GB£10.00
Tesco Mobile1,0005,0005GB£11.00
O21,000Unlimited2GB£12.00
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 50 so far

We'd love to hear your thoughts and any questions you may have. So far, we've received 50 comments from readers. You can add your own comment here.

  • Christine Harrison said:

    Hi. Got an apple I phone from a friend. Got it unlocked from ee then went to 3 shop where he put in a new sim card in for me. When I switched the phone on It came up with all her contacts and put my own in. She then rang me to say all her contacts have been deleted off her new one and mine have been added. Help !

    • Hi Christine,
      Thanks for your comment and sorry to hear about the problems you’ve experienced. It sounds like a factory reset wasn’t correctly performed on the old iPhone, and it’s likely the iPhone is still linked to your friend’s iCloud account. Therefore, things like your phone book are still be synchronised to her account. If you follow the instructions here to sign out of iCloud, this should stop further changes from synchronising to your friend’s device.
      Hope this helps,
      Ken

  • Juanita Tipton said:

    Hi, I just upgraded my phone through cricket and gave my sister my old phone. She has AT&T, took the phone there and they said the phone needs to be unlocked, how do I do that?

    • Hi Juanita,
      Thanks for your comment. To get your mobile phone unlocked, you’ll need to contact the mobile network that it’s locked to (Cricket in this case).
      Hope this helps,
      Ken

  • So basically whats happened is i gave my old phone to a friend and even though the email on the phone settings has been changed its still connected to my phone things are happening to both out phones e.g.
    -when she deletes contacts it deletes mine
    we have disconnected the email so it should be working properly right? i had the phone for 2 years and payed monthly and since i got a upgrade i thought she could have my old one

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