Everyone who owns a mobile phone knows that buying a handset isn’t the only cost you have to factor in. To be able to use your phone, you also have to subscribe for access to a mobile network. And that means paying for a SIM card to put in your phone.

SIM stands for subscriber identification module, which pretty much sums up its function - your SIM confirms to the network that you are a paid up customer, which then allows your phone to connect.

Originally, there were two basic options for buying a SIM. One was to sign up for a contract, which involves paying for your data/voice plan plus any additional usage on a monthly basis. Also known as pay monthly or post-paid contracts, these deals can last anything between six and 24 months. Contracts invariably included a handset as part of the deal, with the cost of it spread over the course of the agreement, so you’re paying a portion of the bill for your phone on top of usage costs.

The other option was pay-as-you-go (PAYG). This is also known as pre-paid mobile, because instead of paying for what you have used after the fact, you buy a SIM with a fixed amount of credit on it, and when you have used all of that up, you either top up the same card or replace it. PAYG is generally considered a better value option for low to moderate mobile use, plus of course there is the flexibility of not being tied into a contract.

Just a SIM

Then, a few years ago, another option came along. It is known as SIM-only - as in, you get just a SIM, with no bundled deals involving a phone or anything else as part of the package.

Sometimes SIM-only gets confused with PAYG, or there is an assumption that they mean the same thing. This probably stems from the fact that, before SIM-only was a thing, PAYG was the only way you could get ‘just a SIM’ - as we have said, new contract deals always came with a handset included. So if you had an old handset you wanted to keep using once your contract expired, you’d have no choice but to use PAYG SIMs.

In recent years, sales of second-hand smartphones have been rising steadily - much faster than sales of new phones, in fact, which have started to flatline. Mobile operators realised there was a new opportunity here - to offer SIMs on a contract basis, but without a phone being part of the deal. This was how the term ‘SIM-only’ came to be used in the mobile market.

In practice, a ‘SIM-only’ deal can be either a contract where you are sent just a SIM to slot into a phone you already have, or it can be a PAYG deal where you buy a new SIM with pre-loaded credit from a shop. At the same time, PAYG doesn’t necessarily mean SIM-only - you can buy mobile phones with a PAYG SIM included.

Once you have found your perfect mobile, you can head to ROW to get some cover for your handset. 

*The information in this blog is designed to provide helpful information on the subjects discussed. Please seek a professional for expert advice as we can not be held responsible for any damages or negative consequences upon following this information.

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