This post will compare low cost sim only mobile phone tariffs that are available in the UK (correct as of the 15th June 2012). I have included tariffs based on cheapness, which may not be the best value for money and therefore the majority of tariffs listed are 30 day rolling contracts.
Three are quite possible the most discussed mobile operator around at the moment. While they have the biggest 3G network by geography, they do not reach everywhere and therefore people complain about a lack of coverage and a lack of 2G backup, oh and chronic customer service! I have found them to be the most reliable for data in Northern Ireland, but I can’t use them at work! I used to have the Sim 100 1 month rolling contract, which for £10 per month I thought was great value. For an extra fiver (£15) you get 300 minutes and All You can Eat Data (AYCE) which is unlimited to the user.
Vodafone have a long heritage in the UK but I find them difficult to recommend if you’re looking for a low cost deal. Their coverage is adequate at best, but their data bundles are poor. For £10.50 you can get 50 minutes, 100MB of data and unlimited texts which is not really competitive. They do bundle BT Openzone access, but I can’t see how that’s useful for most people.
Orange have possibly the second best 3G network due partly to the formation of Everything Everywhere with T-Mobile. However, they do seem to be scrimping on the value prospect with most of their tariffs. I also found their website relatively difficult to navigate due to their tariffs still having those ridiculous animal names. They do have one hidden gem though which is their Dolphin 7 Sim which is a 12 month contract at £7 per month and includes 150 minutes, 250MB data and 500 texts. If Orange provide good coverage in your area, then this would seem like a good deal. Their 30 day sim only options are less attractive e.g. for £15.50 per month you get 100 minutes, 250MB data and unlimited texts.
O2 have the smallest 3G network and yet with the decision to allow them to use 3G900 they possibly have the best quality 3G network if you can find it! However, whether you would want to use one of their sim only options is another matter. For £16.50 per month you get 100 minutes, unlimited SMS and 500MB of data.
I’m a T-Mobile customer (which is a rare thing in Northern Ireland) but I manually select the Orange network to ensure that I always have 3G. I’m not sure if the network sharing arrangement is fully operational yet i.e. seamless but this option works well for me. I’m on an older tariff that includes unlimited data For £10.50 per month you can get 100 minutes, 5000 texts but no data. You now have to pay for the internet add on which is £5.00 for 750MB.
Giff Gaff (referral link) are a subsidiary of O2 and run on the O2 network. If you live in an area that has good O2 coverage then giff gaff would be a much better value proposition than O2 themselves. For a tenner per month you get 250 minutes, unlimited texts and unlimited data. I did switch to them last year, but after a few months I switched away due to poor network coverage. I do use one of their data sims in my iPad though!
I have no experience of Tesco Mobile, but they are a mobile virtual network operator (MVNO) using the O2 network. For £12.50 per month you can get 500 minutes, 5000 texts and 500MB.
Perhaps the least value option is Asda mobile which offers 100 minutes, unlimited texts and 100MB for £10 per month. Like Tesco, they are a MVNO using the Vodafone network.
Talk Mobile are also a MVNO using the Vodafone network and they offer a sim only plan for £8 per month which includes 200 minutes, 500 texts and 500MB of data.
I’m not going to recommend one tariff over another as it really depends on where you intend to use your phone that counts. I would however suggest you give one of the MVNO’s a try as this will probably save you a pounds per month.
Have you any tips on saving money on your mobile phone bill?