The place to purchase telephones within the UK: Unlocked and contract offers

Shopping for a brand new telephone could be a minefield. Whether or not you’re in for a price range discount or a high-end flagship, a hoard of manufacturers and community carriers are all vying to your hard-earned money.

Learn subsequent: Finest Android telephones within the UK | Finest telephones beneath £500 within the UK | Beneath £200

With so many selections to make already, you’d be forgiven for not pondering past the essential questions. The place’s the most effective place to purchase a telephone within the U.Ok.? Is it higher to purchase unlocked or to purchase on-contract? How a lot will all this going value you? Is that this the suitable telephone?

Selecting out the most effective smartphone to purchase is simply half the battle, the following main determination to make is who and the place to buy it from. Thankfully within the U.Ok. there are a choice of excessive road and on-line retailers providing a variety of contract and unlocked handsets at affordable costs. This information walks by means of all the main choices and discusses the professionals and cons of every.

In Half 1, we’re looking at unlocked telephones within the UK — the advantages, the caveats, and the place to purchase telephones from.

In Half 2, we’re testing on-contract choices for purchasing telephones within the UK — the highest carriers, the smaller MVNOs and different issues to think about.

With out additional ado, listed below are the most effective locations to purchase telephones within the UK.

Shopping for unlocked telephones within the UK — Half one

With rising month-to-month prices and ever-higher price-tags, U.Ok. consumers are getting increasingly more market savvy, chopping and altering contracts and, crucially, carriers with growing frequency. To get entangled within the value conflict you’ll want one factor, nonetheless: an unlocked telephone.

However the place can you purchase an unlocked telephone within the U.Ok.? Let’s discover out.

Why purchase unlocked telephones?

Earlier than we delve into the place you possibly can decide up an unlocked smartphone, let’s first have a look at why you’d need one.

The most effective reply is freedom. Having the choice to change out your SIM card for one more tiny little bit of plastic with a chip in it from a special supplier opens up lots of prospects, even in case you’re fairly blissful along with your present community of alternative.

Unlocked telephones offer you freedom.

For these travelling exterior of the EU zone for lengthy durations of time, it’s normally infinitely cheaper to select up a neighborhood deal. Possibly you wish to preserve your telephone free from bloatware and keep away from inbuilt provider apps. Possibly you simply don’t need the trouble of unlocking your telephone in a yr or so to resell it for the utmost worth.

These are just some of the numerous situations the place an unlocked gadget could be a lifesaver, and it’s why client teams within the U.Ok. are pushing cellular suppliers to unlock all handsets mechanically both at level of buy or the top of a contract.

We’ll get into how you can unlock a locked telephone in one other publish quickly, however for now, right here are some things to be careful for when searching for an unlocked gadget:

At all times learn the wonderful print — Be sure you examine with the gross sales consultant or the shop FAQ earlier than handing over your money and all the time learn the small print! Each retailer listed under claims to promote unlocked or “SIM free” units, however you’re nonetheless higher off understanding the shop’s return insurance policies simply in case. Talking of SIM free units…Watch out when shopping for an iPhone — Some “SIM free” iPhones, like these purchased from Carphone Warehouse, will lock to the primary community it comes into contact with, regardless of initially being open to all carriers. Clearly we’d suggest shopping for an Android telephone over certainly one of Apple’s flagships (there are a couple of the reason why), however in case you’re wanting particularly for an unlocked iPhone, your finest guess is to go on to Apple. The entire retailer suggestions under are based mostly on shopping for Android units.Should you’re shopping for third-party, ensure to examine the vendor’s rankings — Should you’ve ever used eBay for greater than a small handful of purchases, you’ve most likely already encountered a disreputable vendor or two. Checking a vendor’s rankings on public sale or classified-style web sites needs to be your first step when shopping for third-party. Don’t danger shopping for a £500+ telephone from a poorly reviewed supply. It’s not definitely worth the danger.

With that out of the best way, let’s have a look at the most effective locations to purchase unlocked telephones within the U.Ok..

Unlocked telephone retailers: Excessive road and on-line

Carphone Warehouse

carphone warehous uk store

Stroll down any busy excessive road or by means of any main purchasing centres within the U.Ok. and also you’ll most likely see a Carphone Warehouse, each certainly one of which sells unlocked telephones.

With over 1,100 shops throughout the U.Ok. (and Eire), a simple-to-use on-line retailer with choices for click on and acquire or residence supply, frequent gross sales, and units starting from £50 characteristic telephones to £800+ flagships from nearly each OEM possible, there’s a purpose so many individuals select to spend their money at this cellular big.

Currys PC World

These two are grouped collectively, as each are a part of the Dixons Carphone group. They even share a web site. In contrast to Carphone Warehouse, which additionally gives pay month-to-month plans, Currys PC World completely sells SIM-free telephones, primarily from large identify manufacturers like Samsung, Google, LG, Sony, and extra.

Pricewise, Currys PC World tends to echo its sister provider, however you possibly can decide up completely different bundles than Carphone Warehouse once in a while.

Whilst you’ll discover loads of Currys PC World shops across the U.Ok., they don’t usually maintain an excessive amount of inventory of cellular units. Principally, benefit from the clicking and acquire characteristic on-line in case you can, however don’t anticipate availability to be as widespread as different choices on this record.


three store uk

That’s proper, one of many 4 main networks within the U.Ok. can also be an excellent supply for purchasing unlocked units. Whether or not on contract or purchased SIM free, all telephones bought from Three through its retail or on-line retailer will work with any community immediately.

The CK Hutchinson subsidiary made the choice to promote all units unlocked commonplace again in early 2014 and remains to be the one non-MVNO community to take action.

Whereas it doesn’t all the time convey the most effective SIM free gives to the desk, there’s no doubting Three is without doubt one of the finest locations to purchase an unlocked telephone on the excessive road.

John Lewis

Stunned to see John Lewis on the record? You shouldn’t be. It gives one thing you received’t discover elsewhere.

Ask any savvy purchaser the place to purchase an ultra-expensive TV and also you’re more likely to hear John Lewis talked about because of its unmatched five-year guarantee ensures. What most don’t know is that John Lewis additionally gives a two-year guarantee on basically all objects in its electronics division, together with each single certainly one of its fully-unlocked cell phones.

Mix that peace of thoughts with 49 retailer places throughout the U.Ok. and a stellar on-line service, and also you’ll see why so many individuals go to John Lewis for his or her tech purchases.


Most buyers will have already got a love-hate relationship with Argos. The wait-for-your-number catalogue system felt ridiculously outdated over a decade in the past and in-store inventory ranges are inconsistent at finest.

That stated, in case you get fortunate with inventory, Argos is a superb place to select up just about something you possibly can consider on a whim, together with unlocked mobiles.

The Quick Monitor assortment service is a ridiculously speedy method of choosing up a model new gadget in a close-by retailer and helps keep away from supply charges.

One other potential constructive is the “purchase now, pay later” Argos Card which helps you to unfold the price of a brand new telephone over three to 12 months. Simply watch out of the hefty APR hike and curiosity costs for any missed funds.


cex store uk

Is it “see ee ex,” “kecks,” or “intercourse”? Who is aware of. What we do know is CeX shops promote loads of unlocked telephones. On a regular basis clients can head to certainly one of over 300 CeX shops to trade-in DVDs, video video games, consoles, and, crucially, locked and unlocked smartphones.

As these are second-hand units, you normally received’t should pay anyplace close to as a lot as for a model new telephone. That’s very true in case you choose to purchase a tool with a decrease situation grade.

For consumers that may reside with a couple of scratches or marks, shopping for a “B” and even “C” graded telephone can knock as a lot as £100 off the general value of a handset. It’s value noting all units are lined by a two-year guarantee whatever the grade.

The draw back to purchasing telephones from CeX is it doesn’t assure the telephone you need shall be accessible. You possibly can examine on-line, however CeX’s on-line retailer is extremely tough across the edges.


Game store UK

The U.Ok.’s largest excessive road video video games retailer has supplied smartphone trade-in and reselling providers for a couple of years now. Most shops have a cupboard filled with telephones, many unlocked, within the entrance window.

A lot of what we stated about CeX applies right here, too, though in our expertise Sport generally received’t settle for trade-ins on lesser-known producers. Consequently, your shopping for choices may additionally be considerably restricted.

Sport’s on-line retailer can also be a whole mess. It contains “Sport fulfilled” listings with click on and acquire or residence supply choices, in addition to gives from third-party sellers. Be sure you’ve double-checked who you’re shopping for from, and keep in mind Sport will solely offer you a one-year guarantee.

Virgin Cellular

Whereas Virgin Cellular technically sells unlocked telephones, the unlocked half solely applies to units purchased on contract. Pay as you go clients aren’t so fortunate. Should you’re after a contract telephone anyway then the EE-supported MVNO could also be value a glance.

Unlocked telephone retailers: On-line solely

Amazon U.Ok.

Amazon app logo on Pixel 3 XL

Let’s get the apparent one out of the best way first. Because the world’s largest on-line retailer, Amazon ought to require no introduction.

The entire standard Amazon perks apply right here, particularly for Prime members who get entry to sooner or later supply as a part of their membership.

With common reductions, hundreds of well-reviewed resellers, and arguably the widest choice of accessible handsets, there isn’t a scarcity of the reason why so many individuals all around the world select Amazon when shopping for a brand new, SIM-free telephone.


Dorset-based e-retailer Clove shares an enormous number of unlocked units, together with these from extra area of interest names within the U.Ok. like Alcatel, Honor, Asus, and extra. It additionally sells Android tablets, refurbished telephones, and loads of equipment to go along with your new buy.


giffgaff uk phones

Giffgaff prides itself on providing a consumer-friendly MVNO provider service with freedom from prolonged contracts, so it shouldn’t be stunning that every one of its telephones come unlocked.

In addition to bonuses like free subsequent day supply, O2’s sister community additionally sells refurbished and pre-owned units far cheaper than their brand-new counterparts. You can even pay in a single lump sum or in instalments over a two yr interval. / E2Save

We’re lumping these two collectively as they’re each owned by Dixons Carphone. E2Save tends to stay to mid-range or entry-level units, however has a wider scope. Finest to examine each in case you’re purchasing round for the most effective deal.


uk phone deals ebay

Any shopping for expertise you might need on eBay is solely outlined by the reliability of the vendor. If a deal appears too good to be true, it could be simply that.

Should you discover a top-tier vendor with a strong monitor file, there are definitely bargains to be discovered both in auctions or “Purchase It Now” listings. Our large tip: all the time use PayPal for additional safety.

It’s value noting among the firms we’ve already talked about, like Argos and Tesco, promote unlocked units (with unique gives) by means of eBay shops which have a tendency to come back with additional ensures.


Should you’re after an unlocked telephone instantly and don’t fancy strolling down your native excessive road, you can all the time take a gander at Gumtree’s classifieds and discover a close by vendor.

Very like eBay, in case you get vendor you’ll have an excellent expertise. If the vendor is unhealthy it may be even worse, as Gumtree doesn’t supply any form of assist for consumers. Consider it like a automotive boot sale: you may snag an absolute discount, however there’s an opportunity you may find yourself with a load of previous garbage.


Say hi to voxi on their website

Voxi is a brand new identify within the U.Ok. telephone market, however the Vodafone-owned MVNO makes the record for providing a strong, if small choice of unlocked telephones. You’ll solely discover Samsung, Apple, Huawei, and Sony telephones, however you do get the choice of shopping for on contract with zero curiosity and no upfront value, by means of PayPal Credit score, or in a single lump sum.


There are many electrical equipment retailers that additionally promote SIM-free telephones, however only a few are as properly considered AO. On high of free 30 day returns, subsequent day supply, and finance gives, AO additionally gives a wonderful value match service that may be utilized earlier than buy or as much as seven days after supply.

Sky Cellular

sky mobile uk phones

One other O2 MVNO! Whereas Sky doesn’t promote units outright, you possibly can sign-up for a pay month-to-month plan safely understanding the telephone you’re getting is unlocked. Simply don’t anticipate to see all kinds. Sky Cellular at the moment solely shares Apple, Samsung, and Sony units on its web site.


Should you’re in search of Android equipment, there are only a few U.Ok.-based websites that may match MobileFun. What you won’t know — it’s very properly hidden on its web site — is MobileFun additionally sells SIM-free telephones and very often has some nice offers.


Whilst you ought to all the time be cautious of heavy rates of interest and late fee charges for finance offers, Very gives a reasonably respectable vary of unlocked telephones from main OEMs and less-known manufacturers, like STK and even CAT.

As you possibly can see, there are many retailers to select from when searching for an unlocked telephone within the UK. All of them supply a wide range of offers and perks. However what about contract telephone offers? Let’s have a look in Half Two!

Shopping for on-contract telephones within the UK — Half Two

Contract choices are nonetheless the most well-liked method to purchase telephones within the UK, bundling handset and information prices right into a single month-to-month fee plan. Though there’s nonetheless a powerful marketplace for SIM-free handset for patrons trying to follow their current information plan. On this rundown we’re going to be wanting on the UK carriers and retail chains that additionally supply contract and/or SIMs together with their handsets.

The large 4 networks: EE, O2, Three, and Vodafone

Your first cease for the most recent and best handsets is more likely to be immediately at one of many U.Ok.’s large 4 carriers. EE, O2, Three, and Vodafone all have their very own on-line and bodily retails shops dotted up and down the nation, making them arguably the most effective locations to go to to check out the most recent and best fashions as quickly as they hit the market. Not solely that, however it’s additionally one of the best ways to immediately try all the contract and SIM gives from the nation’s community operators, to be sure to’re getting the most recent offers. The disadvantage right here is that some telephones shall be locked to the community you purchase them from, making it tough to change to a special service.

Learn: Selecting the most effective community within the UK | Finest UK plans for worldwide calling and journey

After all, selecting the correct community for you is one other subject in and of itself. As a common rule of thumb, EE gives the quickest and broadest 4G LTE protection within the U.Ok. however costs a bit of greater than others. Three is an effective alternative is you’re in spite of everything you possibly can eat information, Vodafone gives some fascinating roaming offers and bundles in addition to reasonably priced 5G, whereas O2’s versatile tariffs are value a have a look at for early improve routes.

For the most effective deal when wanting the place to purchase telephones within the UK, it’s a good suggestion to flick thru all these accessible choices on-line first, so you possibly can talk about precisely what you’re after in case you pop right into a retailer. And it by no means hurts to play the networks off towards one another to your customized.

Carphone Warehouse

Exterior of the massive 4, the Carphone Warehouse is the only largest excessive road presence for smartphones and different cellular devices, with over 1,100 shops throughout the U.Ok. (and Eire). The corporate additionally has its personal on-line retailer that includes the identical choice of handsets and offers.

The good thing about visiting the Carphone Warehouse is that it’s the quickest strategy to evaluate a choice of contract and SIM-only gives from throughout the 4 main community operators. Merely pick a telephone you want, after which have the Carphone Warehouse assist pick the most effective or most reasonably priced contract possibility to fit your wants. The Carphone Warehouse additionally sometimes grabs unique contract choices and gives for its clients.

Should you’re extra taken with SIM-free handsets from among the trade’s main manufacturers, then you definitely may wish to try the opposite half of the Dixons Carphone retail group — Currys PC World. Once more, there are quite a few shops up and down the nation, however inventory largely the offers are inclined to mirror the Carphone Warehouse, so as an alternative it’s a useful strategy to pickup on-line purchases regionally. Though sometimes you may discover the previous distinctive supply.


With regards to locations the place you should buy telephones within the UK, the nation has a vibrant market for cellular digital community operators (MVNOs), a few of which supply bodily retailer presences and lots of extra which function completely on-line. Contract and SIM choices are typically extra versatile with MVNOs, and costs can usually be a bit of cheaper too, particularly in case you convey your individual handset. Should you’re eager to get your palms on some smartphones for a bodily browse earlier than committing to a purchase order, the choices are a bit of extra restricted however definitely not laborious to come back by.

Grocery store chain Tesco runs it personal MVNO on the O2 community, and also you’ll usually discover a choice of handsets from widespread producers in its bigger shops, together with Samsung, LG, and others. Flagships, mid-tier, and price range handsets are all normally on supply. Nevertheless, it’s value contemplating that the handsets bought in its shops are are locked to the Tesco Cellular community.

Virgin mobile logo

Virgin Cellular, by comparability, doesn’t have anyplace close to the nationwide retailer presence, however in case you’re positioned in a metropolis there’s probability there’s a Virgin Media retailer someplace close by. Whereas additionally showcasing the corporate’s vary of TV and broadband packages, the corporate’s shops showcase a variety of smartphones accessible on its community.

Virgin Cellular piggybacks on EE’s community, providing clients wonderful 4G LTE protection and speeds. It’s a moderately good possibility in case you’re in search of flexibility too, because it’s free to shift up and down tariff bands every month and unused information rolls over each 30 days.

Voxi card with sim

Different MVNO’s within the U.Ok. solely supply on-line purchases, except the iD Cellular which is operated by the Carphone Warehouse and so could be picked up of their shops too. Plenty of the county’s broadband and TV suppliers have moved into the provider house through the years, with BT, PlusNet, and Sky all providing SIM-only choices and fee plans for handsets. You don’t should be a broadband buyer to purchase a SIM from these firms, however there are sometimes notable reductions for many who are.

Exterior of the broadband race, GiffGaff, which runs on the O2 community, has gained a substantial following, providing low value information SIMs and month-to-month fee choices for lots of the newest flagship and mid-tier handsets. GiffGaff has turn into a well-liked alternative for many who choose versatile month-to-month contracts, because the provider permits clients to change plans at will and cancel at any time. Voxi by Vodafone has additionally constructed up a repute amongst a youthful viewers because of its “Infinite” information gives for social media apps.

UK phone box

And that’s a wrap! We’ll preserve our information on the place to purchase telephones within the U.Ok. updated. That is on no account an exhaustive record, however in case you’re in search of an unlocked telephone or the most effective contract offers within the U.Ok., this could put you heading in the right direction!

Budtik Editor

Tech and Entrepreneur Enthusiast

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