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.
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:
- Our best Sim-free deals
- How to choose the best mobile phone deal
- Mobile phone brands worth paying for
- The best time to find great mobile phone deals
- How to choose a mobile network
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
This brand has proven to be a force to be reckoned with, but it was this smartphone that really put it on the map, largely due to the unique camera. We were really impressed by the design, great battery life, and the camera, and it could be yours now for nearly £300 off its launch price.
This smartphone proved to be a high-scorer in our tests, earning the first Best Buy for the growing brand. After its initial launch at £499 in January, you can bag yourself a hearty discount if you buy it now, as it’s on sale for £349 on Argos and Amazon.
While it’s a little old now, this is still a great handset, and strikes a good balance between performance and price. Available at around £400 – £200 less than its original price, there's a reason why this handset has remained so popular so long after it was first launched.
Pricing, recommendations and test scores correct as of July 2019.
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.
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.
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.
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.