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Best Sim-free mobile phone deals

By Callum Tennent

Looking to grab a bargain mobile phone? Read on to see our pick of the best deals and biggest current discounts on iOS and Android handsets.

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Smartphone contracts can help to spread the cost of a new mobile phone to make it more affordable in the short term. But savvy shoppers know that if you can afford it, buying a Sim-free phone outright will nearly always save you money in the long term.

We've tracked down some of the best deals and discounts in the country to help you save money on your new mobile today.

You'll also find plenty of buying advice to help you decide exactly which features and brands are worth paying more for. But bear in mind, these discounts often don't last for long.

In this article:

Only logged-in Which? members can view our recommendations. If you’re not yet a member, join Which? to get instant access. Keep scrolling and you'll also find advice on shopping for a great deal. 

This month's best mobile phone deals

Samsung Galaxy Note 9

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Reviewed

Samsung Galaxy S8

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Samsung's Galaxy S8, being last year's model, is currently available at a bit of a bargain price. Expect to pay around £350 for it if you shop around, less than half the original price. To find out whether it can still compete with the best of this year's phones, or if it's worth paying more for the S9, read our in-depth review.

Huawei P20 Pro

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The P20 Pro really put Huawei on the map, largely due to the unique triple camera. We put it through a rigorous series of tests to see if it lived up to the hype, and the price. Fortunately it could be yours now for nearly £200 off, but check our review to see if it's worth what is still a high price for a handset.

Apple iPhone 7

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As per usual, this flagship phone costed a small fortune at launch. That was more than 2 years ago, though, and what was once one of the most popular handsets on the planet is now available for around £450. Find out how the iPhone 7 fared in our tests, and how it compares with the iPhone 8 and iPhone X, so you can decide if it’s worth paying more for a newer model.

Motorola Moto G6 Plus

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If you're not looking to spend too much on a great phone, the Motorola G6 Plus could be right up your street. It's great value for around £210 at the moment, over £60 off. But shopping in this price range can be touch and go for mobile phones - so read our review to see if it's a real bargain, or false economy.

Nokia 7.1

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It may not have been a show-stopper, but the Nokia 7.1 performed solidly in our tests. For anyone looking for a phone that would be a good companion, the Nokia can now be found for £199, taking it down £100 into budget smartphone territory.

Samsung Galaxy J6

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It's nice to know if you're not too fussed about the latest and greatest smartphone features, you can get a very capable new phone for a very affordable price. They don't come much cheaper than the Galaxy J6 - it was only £230 at launch, and if you shop around you could now find it for just £150. Cheap isn't always cheerful though, and even Samsung is capable of putting out poor phones. Read our review to see how it rated in our tests before you buy.

Pricing, recommendations and test scores correct as of May 2019.

How to choose the best mobile phone deal 

While Sim-free phones nearly always represent a saving in the long run, there's no getting away from the fact that they can be an expensive purchase, especially if you want a flagship model from one of the big brands. 

If you're looking to make an affordable purchase, it's well worth considering a mid-range model. These phones have come on leaps and bounds over the past few years as technology has advanced, and many are more than capable of handling just about any task you throw at them. Spending around £300-400 on a new phone, or less if you can find a good deal, can get you a slim, stylish and powerful model that may not look too different from a high-end cousin, especially if you're using a case to protect your phone.

Find out more about the rise of these affordable handsets, and browse some of the best mid-range phones on the market. And if you want to spend even less, read our guide to the best cheap mobile phones.

Mobile phone brands worth paying for 

Another way to save is to consider different brands. Despite an ocean of options, two players clearly dominate the smartphone market at the moment: Apple and Samsung. But a growing list of worthy competitors, including the likes of Google, Huawei and OnePlus, have joined more familiar brands such as HTC, LG, Motorola and Sony to challenge the duopoly. 

And challenge they have. Every one of these brands has had at least one Best Buy in our tough mobile phone tests. In fact, over the past two years, 27 Best Buys have come from brands other than Apple and Samsung.

The numbers from rival brands are promising, if unpredictable. A favourite with our members, Motorola has averaged a very respectable score of 63% in that timeframe - but it's also had a mixture of both Best Buys and Don't Buys. The same could be said of LG, with its highest scorer a tremendous 76% Best Buy, but its lowest scorer a pitiful 40% Don't Buy. Take a look at the graphic below to learn more about how some of the most popular brands score in our tests:

It goes to show that there are plenty of quality phones out there. But with performance varying, and price no indicator of quality, it's vital to do your research before you buy.

Read more about how smartphone brands fared in our mobile phone reliability survey.

The best time to find great mobile phone deals 

Although deals and discounts can vary year-round, generally you'll find the best time to buy a handset at a great price is once its successor has been released. The model you're after will almost always come down in price, despite being scarcely a year old.

Phones may often be discounted around the time that their successor is announced, but before its release. It can be tempting to bite when that first reduction comes in, but if you can wait that little bit longer, prices will almost certainly lower again once the new model hits the market.

Release dates are, of course, subject to change, and you should always do your research before buying, but you can expect new handsets to be released at the following times of year:

  • Apple iPhone September
  • Google Pixel October
  • OnePlus June
  • Samsung Galaxy S April

Other popular handsets are less predictable than the ones listed above, so may need a little extra vigilance.

If you're interested in further savings, you might want to consider avoiding brand-new phones altogether. Take a look at our guide to buying a second-hand or refurbished mobile phone.

How to choose a mobile network 

Once you've settled on a shiny new phone, you'll need to get a Sim and provider sorted out, if you don't already have them.

For many people, simply swapping a Sim card from an old phone to a new one is the quickest and easiest solution – you're up and running again straight away. If you're not happy with your current provider, or are in the process of cancelling a contract in order to go Sim-free, you'd do well to shop around here as well.

Mobile networks vary significantly in both how much they charge, and the service they provide. 

We've got plenty of advice for you on this front. If you're not sure what type of Sim is best, read our guide to choosing the best mobile phone deal. You may also want to use our mobile phone coverage map to see how a potential new provider does in your area. 

Importantly, find out who we rate as the best and worst mobile providers in the UK to help choose a network that delivers.

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