iPhone SIM-only Deals

The best iPhone SIM-only deals

While shopping for the best iPhone deals, you might have heard of something called a SIM only deal, but might not know what it is. 

This guide has everything you need to know about iPhone SIM only deals. We explain what a SIM only deal is, how it can help you take control of your bill, and tell you which network has the best deal for you.

The much-rumoured iPhone 13 is here and so the clamour to find the latest tech at the cheapest price begins.

The major phone networks will be quick to offer a lengthy device and airtime contract. Many will sign it, and then be unable to take advantage of more tempting deals down the line.

 This is where the humble SIM only deal comes in.

 But what is a SIM? Why is a SIM only deal important? And how can it be used to give you more control?

This guide will answer all of these questions, as well as showing you how to make the switch, along with handy tips and tricks to get the best offer on your iPhone SIM only deal.

What Is a SIM?

SIM is an acronym for ‘Subscriber Identity Module’, so it identifies the phone plan you’ve signed up for, and it enables you to make use of the call minutes, text messages, and data allowance included in that plan. A SIM card provides you the MSISDN number, which in simpler words is your phone number. 

What is an iPhone SIM-only deal?

The quickest and perhaps most known method of buying a SIM is as part of a deal that includes the phone. 

In contrast, a SIM-only deal does not include a handset. This type of offer includes minutes, texts, and your mobile data allowance. Since these SIM-only plans don’t include a device, they’re often cheaper than other mobile phone deals

 You can place your newly purchased SIM card in a previously bought phone, or shop for a new one in a separate transaction. You can also transfer the SIM in and out of as many phones as you would like, including compatible iPhone models.

Compare iPhone handset and contract deals

The best iPhone SIM-only deals

Each of the major network providers have their own strengths and selling points. Read on to find what those are, and which one suits your networking needs. 

EE iPhone SIM-only deals

Best deal for: those who need a reliable network with speed.

EE doesn’t offer the most cost-effective iPhone SIM-only deals but they do provide great network performance and 4G speed.

EE is happy to showcase the power of its network. The company cites a study by RootMetrics that customers receive “the fastest average download speeds in England, Scotland, Wales, Northern Ireland and London.”. 

 If you are a person who is always on the go and does not have access to wi-fi all the time, you can rely on the mobile data performance offered by EE.

Using pay-as-you-go as an example, we would suggest looking at the £20 package. This includes unlimited calls, unlimited texts, and 30 GB of data. It also has the advantage of having no contract commitments.

Three iPhone SIM-only deals

Best deal for: those who want cheap data.

Three’s iPhone SIM deals offer cheap data options. The company provides 5G at no extra cost and allows data use with no slow-down in the UK.

Travellers can also make use of their plan in 71 countries around the world at no extra cost. This does come with some terms and conditions though.

We recommend that you check out Three’s 24-month SIM contract. For £20 a month, you will receive unlimited calls, unlimited texts, and unlimited data. At the time of writing, the first six months are priced at £10 a month.

O2 iPhone SIM-only deals

Best deal for: those who want to go to the biggest concerts.

O2 deals offer a good amount of data and added perks such as priority booking at O2 venues. O2 customers can typically expect a 48-hour presale window on the

biggest tours and the best musicians in the world. A two-day head start could

prove the difference between bopping to your favourite tunes in person or watching

grainy videos on YouTube. With the O2 priority app, you will find plenty of

other perks to keep you satisfied.

O2’s customer service is also very helpful and will be willing to assist you in resolving your issues and queries.

For £25 a month you can make use of unlimited calls, unlimited texts and unlimited data. This is as part of a 24-month SIM only contract.

 Vodafone iPhone SIM-only deals

Best deal for: those who like the Vodafone experience.

Vodafone has 5G on its network but appears to limit download speeds on some of its packages. This means that you will have to pay more to get faster.

This is a disappointing caveat, but it doesn’t have to be a deal breaker if you’re not in a rush to get things done on the web.

Like its rivals the brand offers both pay-as-you-go and long-term contracts. Unfortunately, the data offering on pay-as-you-go is not overly enticing. For example, one deal provides unlimited data for a pricey £40.

We instead recommend a 12-month contract at £24. This provides unlimited calls, unlimited data, and unlimited texts. The download speed is capped at 2Mbps.

 giffgaff iPhone SIM-only deals

Best deal for: those who want short-term flexibility.

giffgaff’s plans are for those that want to change or cancel their package at short notice.

You can select from a range of what giffgaff calls “goodybags”. According to the website, “All our plans come with unlimited UK calls and texts.”

If you need plenty of data, then giffgaff might not be for you. The unlimited data package is £35. The plans page only advertises 5G for its golden packages. 4G is given at the lower levels.

This is best used by someone who likes flexibility and doesn’t use a lot of data. We recommend the £20 Golden goodybag. This gives you 100GB of data and allows you to make use of 5G.

Why you should consider choosing an iPhone SIM-only offer?

 The main benefit of a SIM only deal is the flexibility which it can allow.

 With a top of the range phone like an Apple device, networks typically offer expensive contracts combining both the cost of the device and the airtime package. Normally, these contracts are given over two or three years and offer very few cheap ways to change your device or plan.

 A SIM only deal allows you to keep the phone that you like while being able to shop for the best minutes, texts, and data. You could choose to go pay-as-you-go or take out a contract on a SIM plan.

A SIM only deal means that if you don’t like your plan, then you can dispense with it without having to pay off the integrated cost of a premium handset.

What benefits can I expect from a SIM-only deal?

As we mentioned above, the biggest benefit is flexibility. 

Whether you want to keep your old phone, and get a better package, or dump your phone and keep your package, a SIM only deal allows you to mix and match. Separating your device and SIM bill may also make things cheaper for you in the long run.

Typically, when you look to take out a combined contract with a network, you’re stuck with the high price they value the phone at. You are also forced to choose from the relatively small selection of phone plans that the single provider offers.

 Splitting your purchases, means that you can more easily take advantage of the wide range of deals and perks supplied by the U.K.’s multiple mobile networks. 

 For example, if you enjoy concerts then O2 Priority might be for you. Three meanwhile, has excellent deals for the well-travelled, while EE might be for the football lover who wants to watch BT Sport for free.

If you are willing to put in the time, then you’ll find a deal that is right for you.

The Apple Upgrade Programme

 As you are reading this, it’s safe to say that you’re an iOS fan. What’s more, we’re sure you wouldn’t mind getting your hands on the newest yearly offering.

 On the usual network all in one contract, this would be prohibitively expensive. These types of contracts are typically set over two to three years and must be paid off to upgrade or exit.

 Thankfully, there is another way for those that need the latest equipment. When purchasing the current iPhone12 you can choose to join the iPhone Upgrade Programme. 

 This scheme allows you to pay for the phone monthly, and then trade it in after 12 months for one of the then current iPhones. This also includes AppleCare protection as part of the price.

 It should be said though, that this isn’t a cheap option and is only available on the latest iPhones. You will also need to pass a credit check before you sign-up. You can sign-up for the scheme at the Apple Store. 

Signing up for an iPhone SIM-only deal

 Signing-up for a SIM only deal should be an easy process. 

 Just pick your network, examine the deals, and then go through the sign-up process. You can choose between a monthly pay-as-you-go, or opt into a contract for your minutes, texts, and data.

 The latter option is very similar to completing a combined phone and SIM package. This might be different if you have a phone locked to a specific network.

 This means that that phone won’t initially work on a new network.

In December 2021, the practice is set to be outlawed by UK regulator Ofcom. In the meantime if you bought your phone directly from EE, Vodafone, BT, or Tesco Mobile, (BBC News), then the device may be locked to that network.

To release the phone, you should contact your service provider. The expense and time it takes to unlock will depend on your provider’s policy.

  Learn how to unlock your phone with these guides from network providers.

Vodafone Unlock Instructions

 EE Unlock Instructions

Tesco Mobile Unlock Instructions

BT Unlock Instructions

Network coverage

When considering the best deal for you, arguably the most important factor is the network coverage

Great network coverage will have you chatting with your friends for hours while casually surfing the web on 4G or 5G. Poor network coverage on the other hand, will have your Internet connection slowed to a crawl and calls continually dropping out.

In an effort to help you avoid this waking nightmare, below are the links to the major networks coverage maps, so you can find the one that is right for you.

What type of iPhone SIM card will be compatible with my phone?

There are three main types of SIM cards, varying on the basis of dimensions, with the smaller ones designed for the newer phones.  Inform your chosen network of the type of phone that you have and they will provide the correct SIM. Here are the three SIM varieties and their corresponding iPhones, so you know what to look out for.

Standard SIM card For the Original iPhone

The Standard SIM cards are the biggest SIMs measuring 15 x 25mm, and these are suitable for the original iPhone. They are also compatible with the iPhone 3GS. 

Micro SIM card For iPhone 4

A Micro-SIM card has smaller dimensions of 12 x 15mm and it is an iPhone 4 and 4s  SIM card. The small size of the card makes it easier to get lost, so we recommend you only get it out of the packaging when you want to insert it into your phone.

Nano SIM card For iPhone 5 And Newer

The Nano SIM card  accommodates the  iPhone 12. Starting with the iPhone 5, this type of card is compatible with many of the more recent iPhone handsets.

According to the Apple’s official iPhone technical specifications the following devices are compatible with the Nano SIM card:

  • iPhone 12, iPhone 12 mini, iPhone 12 Pro, iPhone 12 Pro Max
  • iPhone SE (2nd generation)
  • iPhone 11, iPhone 11 Pro, iPhone 11 Pro Max
  • iPhone XS, iPhone XS Max
  • iPhone XR
  • iPhone X
  • iPhone 8, iPhone 8 Plus
  • iPhone 7, iPhone 7 Plus
  • iPhone 6s, iPhone 6s Plus
  • iPhone 6, iPhone 6 Plus
  • iPhone SE (1st generation)
  • iPhone 5s, iPhone 5c, iPhone 5

Compare iPhone deals

  (Measurements sourced from  4G.co.uk)

Switching to an iPhone SIM-only contract

Step 1: Inform your current network provider

To stop your current provider from continuing to charge you the monthly cost of the existing SIM-only contract, once your initial contract term is over, you must contact and inform them. 

 If you wish to switch to another SIM plan offered by the same provider, they will handle the rest. 

 However, if you plan to opt into a SIM-only deal offered by a different provider, you will have to wait for the current contract to end or pay an early exit fee, and then contact your new provider. 

Step 2: start making the switch

If you would like to keep your number when joining a new provider, be sure to request a PAC code from the old company. This code will allow you to keep your existing number on your new network.  

You will need to supply the code to your new network.

 Alternatively, Ofcom’s text-to-switch service has made network switching  easy. If you want to switch to another network while still using your existing number, you will have to text ‘PAC’ to 65075. However, if you want to switch to a different number, then text ‘STAC’ to 75075.

 Both these numbers are free Ofcom service numbers, and you will get a quick reply from your provider, when you text on these numbers. The reply will provide you with all the information required for the switching process.  

 iPhone SIM-only Deals FAQ

Are all iPhone SIM cards the same? 

No. The generation of your iPhone will determine which Sim card you need. The latest phones use the Nano SIM.

Can you use an iPhone without a SIM card?

Yes. You can make use of apps and connect to Wi-Fi. However, without a SIM card you won’t be able to make or receive calls, or use your data plan.

Will an iPhone SIM card work in an Android phone?

Yes. A SIM card is not brand specific. As long as the card is compatible with the Android phone it can be transferred.

Latest News

Adam Smith and Shweta Sharma
Anthony Cuthbertson