An introduction to swapping your sim card – and shopping around for the best network deals
Almost every popular mobile or smartphone out there uses a sim card to connect to a mobile network – and if you are thinking about buying a new phone, you make sure that it does! If the device uses a sim card, it means that it is possible to remove this little chip from your phone and use a new one – and this swap need not cost you anything!
A free sim card is available at giffgaff.com for anyone that signs up as a member of their network (and this is not a trick, as registering for membership is also free). Taking a free sim card will allow you to access new deals on this new network, and can be a way to save money on the cost of calls, texts and data usage. However, there is a catch of sorts, for in most cases changing networks is not quite as simple as opening up the phone, and swapping the sim card.
When a mobile network supplies a subsidized phone as an incentive to signing up for a fixed contract, they ‘lock’ the phone to make sure that it cannot be used with free sim cards from a different network. This is an understandable attempt to keep customers from jumping ship before the network has had a chance to claw back the money used to subsidies the phone (not to mention make a profit on the deal). However, it is actually illegal to sell a mobile phone in the UK that cannot be unlocked – if you want to get confirmation of this, just look here at the UK telecommunication regulators website.
It is perhaps worth noting that while unlocking is not a criminal offence, if you signed up with a network provider to get the phone in the first place, you will still be bound by the terms of this agreement – which in some cases can mean paying the specified monthly payments right through to the end of the contract. However, there are other methods of picking up a mobile phone – like buying second hand for instance – that can leave you with a locked phone and no contractual obligations. Whatever your particular situation, there are several options for unlocking a mobile phone.
This is where the giffgaff site again comes in handy, for in fact a large portion of this website is dedicated to providing detailed information about exactly how to go about unlocking different makes and models of phone. Obviously, giffgaff hope that you will use this information to enable your mobile to accept the free sim card they offer, so that you start using the giffgaff network, but whichever route you decide to go, unlocking the phone can enable you to shop around for the best deals.
Unlocking the phone can also allow you to change sim cards for a local option when you go abroad, and save money by avoiding roaming charges – although your mobile will need to have the technical capability to function on the local network transmission frequency.
While it is possible to alter the operating system of the mobile so that it is no longer network locked, by connecting third party hardware or software to the device, this can risk actually damaging your phone. The safest route to unlocking is through entering a software unlocking code. With many smartphones this is simply achieved via the keypad, while with iPhones the process is sometimes carried out by accessing iTunes.
As well as accessing the specialist unlocking services available through the giffgaff site, most major mobile networks in the UK – who locked the phone in the first place – will provide a phone unlocking code after a minimum term of the contract has expired. Whoever supplies the unlocking code, they usually charge a fee – but this tends to be quite modest, and rarely tops the £20 mark.