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
VodafoneUnlimitedUnlimited8GB£10.00
giffgaffUnlimitedUnlimited6GB£10.00
ThreeUnlimitedUnlimited4GB£10.00
SmartyUnlimitedUnlimited4GB£10.00
Tesco Mobile5,0005,0004GB£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 72 so far

We'd love to hear your thoughts and any questions you may have. So far, we've received 72 comments from readers. You can add your own comment here.

  • 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

  • I have my Mum’s old Vodafone mobile. I think she was on PAYG but not sure of network atm. I’ve replaced her SIM with my Motorola E SIM card (Virgin contract). I get ‘Enter SIM ME lock[NP]’ when someone tries to call me.
    What do I need to do to use my Mum’s old phone without changing my mobile number or contract.

      • Thx Ken.
        My Motorola E doesnt hold the charge for long now as it used to. Is there anything I can do to improve this or is it on its last legs and needs to be replaced?

        • Hi AH,
          Aside from replacing the battery with a new one, there’s probably very little you’re able to do :(. Things like turning down the brightness might allow you to squeeze an extra hour or two of usage, but fundamentally it’s probably an issue with the battery capacity being reduced.
          As a small tip, when you get your next phone, try to charge it as much as you can (i.e. don’t run down the battery before charging it up again). This will maximise how long your battery with last for.
          Hope this helps,
          Ken

  • Thank you Ken, this is a great resource! I have an Android phone with all of the security updates, the latest OS version 10, and all the settings “optimized.” I no longer use the phone and I want to give the phone to my wife. Before I hand it off, do you think I should factory reset it, or just try to erase my accounts and data?
    -Phill

    • Hi Phil,
      Thanks for your comment. I would definitely go for a full factory reset before giving your phone to someone else 🙂 Even though it’s called a “factory reset”, this won’t actually uninstall all of the operating system updates. It will simply give a fresh install of Android OS 10, ready to be set up from scratch 🙂
      Ken

  • Hi, My neighbor has given me her old phone,I believe it was a contract phone which she has ended some time ago. I did a factory reset on the phone but the network is locked. If I put in a new sim on the same network will the phone work? I don’t use phones very often so im not that bothered but some of the phones features are very useful.

    Thanks Terry

    • Hi Terry,
      Thanks for your comment. Yes, the phone will still work with a different SIM card from the original network (e.g. if it was originally locked to O2, you can use another O2 SIM card belonging to yourself).
      Hope this helps,
      Ken

  • i have just received a used android and had it unlocked,the previous owner did not restore it to factory settings. when i start using my browser could the original owner see what i am browsing and should i restore it to factory settings

    • Hi Andrew,
      Thanks for your comment. To be safe, I’d always recommend doing a factory reset where possible. This will remove any chance of the previous owner’s data or accounts still being linked to the device. To answer your question more directly, it’s possible if the web browser is set up to synchronise information to a Google account (e.g. with Google Chrome’s cross device syncing). If you have that turned off or disconnected from the previous owner’s account, you should probably be fine (notwithstanding other apps or plugins that might behave differently to Chrome).
      Ken

  • Hope you can help. I owned an iPhone 8 that is due to come to the end of its contract. I am still paying for this phone until my contract is fully paid, however I have gifted my phone to a good friend in Turkey. Will I be charged for any usage with this phone or am I clear because the phone is not in use as the same number, same iCloud or in my name?

    • Hi Emma,
      Thanks for your comment. All of the charges incurred will be linked to the SIM card inside the device. Therefore, as long as you still have your SIM card, you wouldn’t be charged by your mobile network for any usage of that phone (except from the monthly contract costs that you’ve already agreed to pay).
      Hope this helps,
      Ken

  • Jacqui Reeves said:

    Hi, hope you can help. Put a new sim in an old I phone for my Mum who has no WiFi and wants to use it for phone calls, texting and taking photos. The first thing it has done is ask me to chose a WiFi network? Can you talk me through what to do please?

    • Hi Jacqui,
      Thanks for your comment. Normally, most smartphones will give you the option to set up a wi-fi connection during the setup process. However, by all means, you can decide to skip this step if you don’t have a Wi-Fi network that you’d like to use 🙂
      Ken

  • Barbara Cooper said:

    Hi I gave my husband my old android phone and can’t get onto his FB account. Keeps showing mine although I put his mobile number in. Help

    • Hi Barbara,
      Thanks for your comment. Have you tried resetting the Facebook application, or removing the data from it? This should allow him to log in with his own Facebook account.
      Hope this helps,
      Ken

  • 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

  • I’m staying in uk for a month, from Canada. I brought my old Samsung phone with me to buy a sim to use over here. The Samsung had no sim as I had upgraded in Canada to an iPhone. Got a sim from vodaphone and it’s asking for an unlock code before it will allow me on the network. No joy getting help directly from vodaphone. Help!!

    • Hi Sybil,
      Thanks for your comment. Unfortunately, it sounds like your Samsung device might still be locked to the mobile network in Canada. It might be worth getting in touch with them to see if they’re able to unlock it for you.
      Ken

  • Elainetompkins said:

    Hi I’ve got Samsung s8 on Vodaphone,I’ve gone back to I phone,on the Samsung I’m giving it to our daughter,I’ve done factory reset but I MAY have forgotten to sign out of wassap and couple other bits,I’ve copied all pics etc to new phone but if I’ve not signed out of anything,and daughter will be on different network,could she retrieve my data.and can she still use bits if I did forget to sign out?can I unlock Samsung S 8 once factory reset done?all that’s on screen is emergency calls and won’t move??

    • Hi there,
      Thanks for your comment. If you’ve already performed a factory reset on the handset, all of the data should be removed from it (including any WhatsApp logins, etc). It shouldn’t therefore be possible to recover this data from the phone.
      Hope this helps,
      Ken

  • I kept my old number when upgrading to a new phone, (both were outright purchase). How do I get a new number for the old phone so I can give it to a relative.

  • Hi, I gave my Galaxy J6, which I bought sim free, to my son, when he put his O2 sim in he was asked for a code. Not sure what code or password this is.

    • Hi Anne,
      Thanks for your comment. Was there a message on the screen, indicating what number you were supposed to enter? It’s possible the handset might be locked to a network, or it could simply be the normal handset PIN code screen.
      Ken

  • Debbie sheridan said:

    Hi ive just given my old phone to someone else and they will be putting a new sim card in it but i have left all my texts and photos on old phone will they be able to read or see them when they put a new sim in .

  • How do I reset this phone my friend gave it to me she backed all her things onto her new iPhone 6 so how do I reset it

    • Hi Martin,
      Thanks for your comment. She won’t lose the credit on her phone (this is attached to the account you have with your mobile provider, rather than to the handset itself).
      Hope this helps,
      Ken

  • My sister gave me her old phone (my first phone), but when i go onto google play and try to download anything such as instagram or snapchat it won’t allow me to because the “administer has not made it possible”. who is the administrator and how can they make it possible?

    • Hi Eva,
      Thanks for your comment. It sounds like there are some administrative restrictions on the phone – was it previously used as a device for work? Unfortunately, it sounds like your sister will need to take a look at this and to remove the administrative restrictions from the device.
      Ken

  • I just got my dad’s old phone and all of his old stuff is on the phone and I have no idea how to get it all off I tried doing anything I know I I try to do anything I could but nothing is working I just want to like reset the phone so I can put all my stuff on there can you help

    • Hi there,
      Which mobile phone do you have? The best way to remove all of the information on it is to carry out a “factory reset”. The instructions for doing this will differ depending on the handset, but you’ll normally find it somewhere within the “Settings” application.
      Ken

  • I have an Samsung S6 that I would like to give to my friend. He currently has a flip phone (for real!) that is on a pay as you go program. How would I go about giving him my phone to replace his old one. Our SIM cards are different.

  • Heidi Jayne Best said:

    Hi
    I’ve just sold my Samsung S8, I transferred all my settings & did a factory reset. The buyer is now informing me that the phone will still be registered to my Samsung account so he won’t be able to set it up. Is this correct,I’m confused
    Thank Heidi

    • Hi Heidi,
      If you’ve performed a factory reset of the handset, there shouldn’t be any data from your Samsung account still on the device.
      Hope this helps,
      Ken

  • Jacqueline Gallacher said:

    I passed my old smartphone to my partner and he keeps getting my things on it I thought everything was deleted but it’s not howcan I make sure everything is deleted?

    • Hi Jacqueline,
      The easiest way to make sure all of your data is removed to carry out a “factory reset” of the phone. This will restore it to original factory condition, with no personal data or applications left on the phone.
      Hope this helps,
      Ken

  • I would like to pass my iPhone onto my son when I upgrade so he can use it to text me if needed etc. Can I keep the same number on my new upgraded phone as my old phone? How can I get a different number for him? Thanks in advance!

    • Hi Deb,
      Thanks for your comment. Yes, it’s a straightforward process to do this – just put your existing SIM card into your new mobile phone (as the phone number is attached to the SIM, and not to the handset itself). You’ll also want to deactivate iMessage, WhatsApp, etc on your old iPhone, and transfer these over to your new mobile phone.
      In terms of getting a new phone number for your son, you can order a free Pay As You Go SIM card which will come with a brand new phone number. Just slot that new SIM card into your iPhone and you should be ready to get going 🙂
      Ken

  • Hi Ken – I kept my old iphone (the number had been ported). I inserted a Vodafone pay as you go SIM card. The phone indicates vodafone uk at the top. However it has no phone number associated with it (not at the top of the Contacts list nor in Settings). It won’t send a text. How do I acquire a phone number?

  • I’m giving my phone and sim to a family member, how can I stop them getting texts and calls from people that have my number from that sim saved on their phones?

    • Hi Misaal,
      Thanks for your comment. The only way of stopping people from contacting your old phone number would be to change it for a new one (e.g. asking your mobile network to change it or doing so via a PAC Code). After doing this, your old phone number will be disabled and there will be a new phone number attached to the SIM card/handset.
      Hope this helps,
      Ken

  • Debbie Evans said:

    I want to pass on my Samsung phone to my mum ( as I’ve upgrade to iPhone) she wants to use it as pay as you go. Is this possible just by putting her SIM card in ?

    • Hi Debbie,
      Many thanks for your comment. As long as your mobile phone isn’t locked to a network, it shouldn’t be a problem putting your mum’s SIM card into your old Samsung mobile phone. Alternatively, if you’re using the same network, this should be absolutely fine even if your handset is locked.
      Hope this helps,
      Ken

  • Gwen McNamara said:

    Hi I’ve just upgraded and want to give my old iPhone 6s Plus to my granddaughter. I’ve font the factory reset on my old iPhone and I read that with EE contacts if the iPhone is over 18 months old it’s automatically inlocked is this so? Or do I have to ring EE?

    • Hi Gwen,
      Many thanks for your comment. You’re right regarding the automatic unlock after 18 months. From the EE website:

      “Please note: Any Apple device (iPhone or iPad) which was sold on or after 1 September 2015 will be unlocked automatically once the device reaches 18 months old (unless you’re a business customer).”

      This means your granddaughter should be able to use the iPhone 6s on the network of her choice.
      Hope this helps,
      Ken

  • Hi slightly different if i upgraded and gave the new phone to my son would there be any issues with that? Thanks paul

    • Hi Paul,
      It should be absolutely fine to give your new phone to your son: I can’t envision any specific problems doing this!
      Ken

  • Hi,
    I have got a sim only contract with Vodafone to use on my daughter’s old I phone 5 and keep getting asked to sign in my (her) password to the I cloud.
    I don’t want this. How can I get rid of the ms gs and just use my phone?

  • Many thanks for the tips and info. I’m about to ‘upgrade’ from a very ancient Nokia to an iphone4. This involves a sim change and a leap of faith. The article explaining the ‘things to do’ was really helpful.

  • Hi just wondering if anyone can help. I have been given an iphone4s from a friends friend but it isn't unlocked. They were on orange and I'm on 02. They have moved abroad. Am I able to unlock the phone myself if I go to an orange store?

  • Anita Ellison said:

    Can anyone help?
    I am buying my friends iphone 3GS and wondered what i can do to protect myself from mobile hijacking where you get massive phone bills with out knowing it? Would getting a PAYG stop this or at least limit it? I dont want to take out a protction plan as its too expensive:( Ive only had basic phones up until now, no internet or apps. Many Thanks

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