Q: When is SIM Free not SIM Free?

November 5, 2012

A: When it is sold by Carphone Warehouse.

I need to buy a new iPhone 5. The one I got on launch day was stolen. Enough said about that, and as I’m on holiday today I thought it would be reasonably easy to get hold of one. I was sorely mistaken.

Apple have stock if you want a contract, but if you want SIM Free, you have to reserve online. The only problem with that, is that it isn’t instant, and you reserve in the morning, and get told in the evening and collect the next day. Though there are never any guarantees that you’ll get one. If you get a reservation e-mail – excellent, if you get nothing, you still don’t have a phone, and also, you have to reserve AGAIN, daily, until you get one.

So, I thought I’d look at Carphone Warehouse. Not anywhere near a list of my favourite companies to buy goods from, I never find their store staff personable, or the service good, but if they sold a phone SIM Free, they’d get my business, and money in the till.

Or so I thought. I went on their website, and the 64GB White, SIM Free is on there, at the same price as Apple. However, when going into store, and wanting to buy one, it wasn’t until the sales person told me that it would actually LOCK to a network. So, I ask of Carphone Warehouse, how the hell can you describe it as SIM Free? It’s not, it’s still a network locked handset. Further checking, there is a statement hidden (below the fold), on the page, that states this. It also goes on to say

SIM free iPhones can only be used with a UK-network SIM card, and will not accept foreign SIM cards.

Hang on a second? It’s supposed to be SIM Free, and by definition of that, it means it will accept any SIM card I throw at it. I’ve had an iPhone 4 with a US SIM card in it, and I bought that SIM Free from Apple. So, it’s not SIM Free is it? It’s a locked handset, being sold without subsidy.


This statement is wrong. It won’t be come permenantly unusable, it just won’t work with other SIM Card, that I think is scaremongering. Also, if you buy a handset from the network, they’ll unlock it, but with a CPWSIM Free Phone, would they be able to do that.

Although this is taken from a blog post back in 2009, it is still relevant and I would say perfectly correct.

Sim Free means exactly that – there is no Sim card included, it is just the phone (and any included accessories), because there is no network commitment here, the phone is not subsidised and will be the true value of the handset. As the handsets are not tied in any way to a network, any sim free phone can be used with almost all Sim cards. They have no network branding and will have the manufacturers original menu system on them. Buying your phone Sim Free can be a more expensive way of running a mobile phone, but handsets will often be available Sim Free before they are available through the networks, and with networks now doing much better deals on Sim only contracts, it can work out a cheaper, less restrictive way of running your mobile.

I would love Carphone Warehouse to reply to really explain why they are advertising a SIM Free handset, when they should be more clear with what product I’m buying. I don’t hold out much hope, as they’re not the most social media savvy company around.


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