A SIM free smartphone lays next to a SIM card, as if it were just removed from the device.

SIM Free vs Pay Monthly Contracts: Pros & Cons

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Currently, there are more ways than ever to finance a new cell phone. Customers can sign up for 24-month plans, pay as you go plans, bring your own device (BYOD) plans and more. Additionally, it is becoming far more common to purchase second hand, pre-owned devices. While users can buy used phones off a friend, providers are also starting to introduce pre-used cell phones into their lineup. So, with so many different ways to buy a phone and finance it, what should you do? Even more, how should one pay for their brand new device’s SIM card? This post will focus on a specific decision consumers currently face: SIM free vs pay monthly contracts. While SIM free phones may come at a reduced price, pay monthly contracts also have various attractive perks. Throughout this article, we’ll discuss the various pros and cons of each side.

How SIM Free Phones Work

Want to know how SIM free phones work? The answer is quite simple! Purchasing a SIM free device means that your device does not come equipped with a SIM card. In case you’re unaware your SIM card is a tiny chip in your cell phone that gives it a unique phone number. Even further, it’s what allows your mobile phone to place calls, send text messages and use mobile data. So, buying a phone without a SIM card means you cannot use all these functions right out of the box. However, there are still many things you can use a SIM free phone for.


Fortunately, mobile phones with no SIM cards can still connect to WiFi networks. Thus, you can download as many apps as you want. Even more, you can download apps like WhatsApp and Messenger to keep in touch with your friends and family whenever you have WiFi access. Obviously, this is more complicated than using a device with a SIM card. However, if you’re somebody that likes to collect smartphones, this could be appealing to you. Having several SIM cards means having several phone numbers, which could become complicated for your friends and family to get in touch with you. So, having one SIM card allows you to switch it between all your devices. If you’re in the mood to use your new iPhone 13, simply swap out your card and start your day!

What SIM Free Phone Means

SIM free phones are appealing to smartphone fans that are looking to save money. In addition to being cheaper than devices with SIM cards, it also allows consumers to avoid pay monthly plans. While many devices could take up to two years to fully pay off, SIM free phones are fully paid off with a simple flat rate. Although this is what SIM free phone means, it may not always be that simple. Unfortunately, SIM free devices could be locked to a certain network. This means that you won’t be able to use it outside of a certain mobile network. So, if the phone is locked to Telus, you cannot use it on any network other than Telus. Although there are ways to unlock your phone, it could still be an inconvenience if you tend to collect several smartphones.


Of course, the term SIM free devices could also apply to tablets. While some tablets have cellular connectivity features, SIM free ones cannot send any SMS messages or use any mobile data. Instead, they function more like traditional tablets. They are great for reading, playing games and watching movies with your favourite streaming services. Although this is a rather small detail, make sure to pay attention to it while shopping online. Nobody wants to end up buying a large tablet when they’re expecting a cell phone!

Where to Get Free SIM Card

Currently, pay monthly contracts with SIM cards are considered expensive due to the long-term contract which must be paid off over a long amount of time. Of course, this expensive fee is to pay off the device, and your respective plan. In reality, SIM cards are very cheap, and are not the reason why pay monthly plans are more expensive. Although there is no where to get free SIM cards, they can be purchased from most independent providers for just $10 CAD. Independent providers like Fizz and Public Mobile allow you to order a brand new SIM card entirely online for this flat rate. So, if you want to fully experience new mobile devices, you could combine these cards with a SIM free device. All you need to do is purchase a new device and order a cheap SIM card online. After unlocking the device (if necessary), insert the card into the device and start using it! 


Naturally, using a SIM card requires a phone plan. If you want to place calls, send texts and use data, you should also consider buying a simple phone plan that allows you to enjoy these aspects. Overall, there are several reasons to consider buying a SIM free cell phone. They allow you to avoid lengthy contracts and try out multiple devices from different manufacturers. Furthermore, the current ease of purchasing SIM cards makes it simple to swap in a card and start taking full advantage of your new device. Still, which is better for you? Buying a SIM free device or a pay monthly contract? Let’s find out:

Pros & Cons

Depending on your personal needs and preferences, it could make more sense to buy a SIM free device, or a more traditional pay monthly contract. This section will dissect various pros and cons of each side, in order to help you find out which suits you better. Before jumping into our list, we will briefly explain pay monthly contracts and how they function:


About Pay Monthly Contracts

Pay monthly contracts are precisely what their name implies. You will be charged for your plan every thirty days. First, you will choose the type of SIM card you want included in your device (nano, micro or standard). Then, you’ll need to pass a credit check in order to qualify for a contract. If you succeed, your monthly bills will be paid via automatic direct deposit. The core difference between pay monthly and pay as you go SIM plans is the allowance. Pay monthly plans include an allowance for calls, data and text which you get billed for every 30 days. Some providers let you sign up for a rolling plan, which allows your unused allowance to extend into the following month. On the other hand, pay as you go SIM plans require you to top up your credit every month depending on your needs at the time.


Pay Monthly Contracts – Pros

  • Possibility to opt in for a rolling plan
  • Bills are paid automatically – no stress about forgetting 
  • Choose up to three different kinds of SIM cards
  • Can be cancelled at any time (as long as you give 30 days notice)


Pay Monthly Contracts – Cons

  • Requires a credit check
  • More expensive
  • Long-term contract – commitment of 12-24 months


SIM Free – Pros

  • Save money
  • Lets you try more devices and figure out what you like
  • Can still enjoy most smartphone features when connected to WiFi
  • Swap in your own SIM card or order a new one for $10


SIM Free – Cons

  • Unable to text, call or use mobile data
  • Could end up with a locked phone
  • Not the full “smartphone experience”
  • Could be hard to return the device if you don’t end up liking it


Overall, there are many reasons to pursue a pay monthly contract, as well as a SIM free device. Ultimately, the choice is yours. Do you like to try out many different devices? Or use different ones depending on the day? Are long-term contracts unattractive to you? Would you prefer a contract that is automatically paid off? Or are credit checks a dealbreaker for you? By assessing these questions and understanding our pros and cons list, you should understand which SIM card choice is preferable to you. Fortunately, there is no wrong answer and you can always change your mind!


On top of financing a new SIM card, we understand how difficult it can be to find the right mobile plan. Canadians can spend hours researching plans online, only to end up purchasing one that they never end up using, or is far too expensive. Thankfully, we at Planhub can help make this process much easier. Our mobile plan searching tool searches the internet and immediately pulls up the greatest, most affordable phone plans for you depending on your personal needs and location. Whether it be phone plans, internet, TV or constant information on the telecom industry, Planhub is always here to help. 



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