To cut the cost of calls and texts, first unlock your mobile
With Ikea and Tesco entering the market, Emma Lunn investigates the attraction of SIM-only deals
Sunday 31 August 2008
Mobile users could double the inclusive call minutes and texts they get for their monthly outlay by switching to a SIM-only tariff, say experts.
The past few months have seen a major push on SIM-only deals from all the main networks, as well as new entrants to the market, including some of the high street's biggest names, such as Ikea and Tesco.
Ikea's SIM-only offer is called Family Mobile. The tariff is open to people who join the Ikea Family, which provides a range of in-store discounts. Family Mobile customers are given a free SIM card with £5 worth of credit. Thereafter, UK calls cost 9p per minute and texts 6p, routed over the T-Mobile network.
Tesco's SIM-only pay-as-you-go deal costs just £2.47 for the SIM card. Calls are then 20p per minute and texts 10p each, or half these prices to your five favourite numbers. You also get 500 texts or 150 free minutes if you top up with £15 or more each month.
As the name suggests, a standard SIM-only deal gives you a SIM, or Subscriber Identity Module, card only – you have to provide your own handset. The card is used to store data such as a customer's mobile phone number and address book contact information, allowing users to transfer their phone numbers and contacts to new phones simply by removing it from one phone and inserting it in another.
SIM-only deals are relatively cheap for networks to offer because they don't have to subsidise the cost of supplying a handset with increased line rental.
Research from the consumer magazine Which? shows that someone switching to a SIM-only mobile phone deal can save up to £15 a month – £180 a year – on equivalent contract deals. The price comparison site moneysupermarket.com says users can double their inclusive allowance of minutes and texts by going SIM-only.
Ernest Doku, technology editor at the mobile phone comparison site OMIO.com, says: "SIM-only mobile deals generally come with excellent tariffs and offer great flexibility, such as allowing people to keep their existing number and phone, and requiring them to give only 30 days' notice before moving to another provider.
"They're a good option for someone whose contract is at an end and who is hanging around for a new handset to be released, or for people who are simply getting poor value from their current provider."
SIM-only deals can either be pay-as-you-go or on a monthly contract, although these usually tie you in for only a month at a time.
Mr Doku identifies the best SIM-only monthly deals as those from Vodafone and O2. Vodafone will give SIM-only customers ordering online 600 minutes and unlimited texts for £20 a month. O2's Simplicity range includes a £30-per-month deal, which gives users 1,200 minutes a month, 1,000 texts and unlimited O2 to O2 calls.
These deals are much cheaper than monthly contracts where a handset is included. For example, O2's best online tariff costs £35 a month and gives you 600 minutes – half the number you get on the network's SIM-only deal. And while you do get 1,000 texts a month and unlimited O2 to O2 calls, you also have to sign up for 18 months, although you are given a choice of new handsets.
With all monthly contracts, users will have to pay for calls and texts in excess of the agreed limits. It's also worth checking whether voicemail is included – at T-Mobile, for example, customers are charged 12p a minute to get their messages. But if you have a SIM-only deal and start to exceed your monthly minutes or texts allowance, there's nothing to stop you upgrading to a bigger package. If you want to leave altogether, you will usually have to give only 30 days' notice.
"The downside to SIM-only contracts," says Mr Doku, "is that you have to have a mobile phone in the first place, which will obviously cost you unless you are happy with an old phone from a previous contract. But people on a budget can always look to sites like eBay, where they can potentially pick up a cool new handset for a good price."
You will also need to make sure your handset is "unlocked" before opting for a SIM-only deal. When you purchase or are given a handset it will be "locked" on to a certain network and won't accept SIM cards from rival networks until it is unlocked. Your current provider may be able to unlock the handset for you or you could try a high-street phone shop, which will do it for a small fee, usually no more than £5.
A new handset can cost as little as £15 if you want something pretty basic, such as the Motorola Motorfone F3, and there are several Nokia handsets for under £30. A top-of-the-range phone will set you back more, though; the Nokia 8600 Luna, for example, with a camera, radio, MP3 player and Bluetooth, costs around £300.
James Parker, commercial manager of mobiles at moneysupermarket.com, says that in today's difficult financial climate, people are becoming more focused on their expenses and, as a result, SIM-only deals are growing in popularity.
"However," he adds, "it is worth bearing in mind that these deals aren't for everyone. A SIM-only deal is just that – there is no handset included, not even a basic one. Consumers must either use a handset they already have or buy one separately."
- 1 The black and blue dress: Makers considering a white and gold version
- 2 Husband and wife die holding hands within hours of each other after 67 years of marriage
- 3 What color is The Dress, white and gold or blue and black? An eyewitness gives a definitive answer
- 5 Fearne Cotton quits Radio 1 after ten years for 'family and new adventures'
New theory could prove how life began and disprove God
Half of Ukip voters say they are prejudiced against people of other races
'Cash for access' scandal: Sir Malcolm Rifkind says 'unrealistic' for MPs to live on £67,000 salary
This is what it's like to be dead, according to a guy who died for a bit
'Jihadi John': CAGE representative storms off Sky News accusing Kay Burley of Islamophobia
Aqsa Mahmood branded a 'disgrace' by her parents after claims she recruited three UK girls flying to Middle East
iJobs Money & Business
£40000 - £50000 per annum + pro rata: SThree: SThree Group have been well esta...
£30000 - £37000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Established in 1999, a highly r...
£250-£300 Day Rate: Jemma Gent: Are you a qualified accountant with strong exp...
£230 - £260 Day Rate: Jemma Gent: Do you want to stamp your footprint in histo...
Day In a Page
This six-bedroom Georgian home is on three floors with open fireplaces, a two-oven Aga, an annexe, and cottage gardens with outbuildings and a car barn
High Crest House covers an impressive 9384sq ft, with almost three acres of grounds including a tennis court and summer house enclosed by electric gates
A six-bedroom farmhouse with separate accommodation in converted stables. Situated in the village of Church Aston, within walking distance to the market town
A two-bedroom flat with under-heated walnut floors and bespoke built-in storage. The Tube and Clapham Common are a short stroll away
A refurbished seven-bedroom townhouse with staff quarters, cinema room, superb gym, steam room and plunge pool
A minimnalist four-bedroom home designed to the highest spec, featuring glass walls and a kitchen space lit by a glass roof
Hibernate during winter and make your living during the summer at this busy guesthouse with panoramic sea views, in the village of Lynton
A four-bedroom penthouse next to the Tate with direct views of St Paul's from two floors of luxurious living space
A four-bedroom detached home surrounded by spacious gardens and woodland, close to New Pudsey
An 18th-century, three-bedroom home near Langstone Harbour built from ships beams with vaulted ceilings and wood burning stoves
A five-bedroom semi-detached home with a mix of period and modern features in a popular and convenient location
This five-bedroom red-brick beauty overlooks the village green and sits in just under two acres of land
A three-bedroom villa with self-contained flat, minutes from Lake Windermere
A deceptively spacious, beautifully presented Georgian home with 3000sq ft of living space and five reception rooms
A five-bedroom Victorian home with four receptions, superb gardens and paddock in Pembury
An eight-bedroom house on the south side of the The Green with cinema, wine cellars and summer house
This 17th century beauty is full of rustic cosiness, while the detached home office means you can also run a business
Four exclusive apartments in a Grade II-listed former medical school with 2,275 sq ft of living space and 18ft ceilings
A five-bedroom terraced house on the popular Peterborough Estate, ideally located for both Eel Brook Common and South Park
A state-of-the-art farm-building conversion on the former Cliveden Estate, with 11,420sq ft of internal space, cinema and wine cellar
A three-bedroom, 15th-century cottage with original features in the picturesque village of Sissinghurst
A six-bedroom terraced house with large south-facing roof terrace, cinema room and wine cellar
A new seven-bedroom home built in Queen Anne-style with swimming pool and parkland views in Mortimer
A listed, four-bedroom farmhouse in the rural hamlet of Rushall with detached barn, four acres of gardens and paddocks
A first-floor flat with two bedrooms, a spacious reception room and communal grounds in a leafy part of London
A three-bedroom flat with a spacious rootop terrace and balcony, accessed from a private gated courtyard
A Grade II-listed pile with six bedrooms, stables and 39 acres of grounds in Standlake
A two-bedroom flat with boutique hotel-style interiors, close to the foodie haunt of West End Lane
A two-bedroom flat in a beautiful old vicarage, with many original features, close to the city centre
A three-bedroom 16th-century home with an aga kitchen, private gardens and heated outdoor pool, in Hadleigh
A three-bedrom home in sought-after Queen's Gate Mews, with Italian marble-finished bathrooms
Surrounded by glorious countryside in the village of Udimore, sits this impressive four-kiln oast and barn conversion
A five-bedroom house in the picturesque village of Kettlewell, north Yorkshire
An 18th-century former coaching inn with original staircase, open fireplaces and beams throughout
A Grade II-listed Georgian town house with three bedrooms and a south-facing courtyard, near Arundel Castle
Feel on top of the world at this über chic penthouse on the 37th floor of one of Europe’s tallest blocks.
A Grade II-listed Victorian villa with six bedrooms and two further cottages, all with spectacular sea views
A grade II-listed, Georgian cottage with mature 50ft garden, perfect for summer entertaining
A magnificent Georgian pile with turrets, seven bedrooms, a heated pool and four acres of gardens
Fairoak Farm has five bedroom suites, gym, outdoor swimming pool and golf course
Chic two-bedroom river-fronted flat with a private lift that delivers you directly to your home
A spectacular seven-bedroom Tudor pile, once owned by Henry VIII, with 18 acres of land
A seven-bedroom Georgian property previously used as a picturesque wedding venue
A split-level flat in a church conversion with two en suite bedrooms and 1,200sq ft of living space
A three-bedroom bungalow situated behind an impressive stone wall, £645,000
Windsor Castle overlooks this three-bedroom Victorian cottage located on one of Windsor's smartest roads