For years, fixed mobile plan contracts by Singtel, StarHub, and M1 locked you in for a period of 12- to 24-months with no way to switch telcos or plans without paying a hefty early termination penalty.
How did they attract you to sign up with them? The main tactic was to dangle the latest smartphone at an attractive upfront "discount" - provided you sign up or recontract with them, locking you in again for another 24 months.
Obviously, it wasn't really a discount - the cost of the smartphone was really just spread out over monthly instalments.
But thanks to the entry of new players such as My Republic, Zero, Circles.Life, Zero.1 and TPG, a myriad of flexible smartphone plans at attractive rates are now available with minimum lock-in period. This means consumers are now spoilt for choice when it comes to choosing the most affordable and cost-efficient mobile plans for their needs. This has forced the traditional incumbents - StarHub, M1 and SingTel - to also up their game, and in the first half of 2019, all three have launched their own version of SIM-only plans to try and regain market share.
WHAT IS A SIM ONLY PLAN?
A SIM only plan offers a package of data, talk time, and SMSes at a fixed monthly cost. SIM only plans are postpaid plans, and function much like traditional mobile phone contracts. The main (and most important) difference, however, is that you are not locked into a minimum contract period, and you are free to switch telcos or mobile plans as and when you wish with no penalty.
WHICH IS THE BEST SIM ONLY PLAN?
The best SIM only plan really depends on how much data you need. Check your previous telco bills or the data tracking app on your handset to see how much data you use on average each month. Also keep in mind how much talk time and SMS you use monthly before picking the most suitable SIM only plan for your needs.
WHICH IS THE CHEAPEST MOBILE PLAN?
It's hard to beat Circles.Life's $0/month Flexi Plan if you're looking at the absolute cheapest. The $0/month plan offers more 1GB of data, 30min talk time, and 10 SMS. The catch is that if you exceed 1GB data a month, you'll need to top up your data plan, starting at $6 for an additional 1GB of data.
IS A SIM ONLY PLAN BETTER THAN A FIXED CONTRACT?
Not necessarily. The main advantage of a SIM only plan is that you are not locked into any telco for a minimum contract period. However, SIM only plans come with, well, the SIM card only. So if you need a new handset, telcos like StarHub offer attractive discounts for 12- and 24-month contract plans. Research handset prices before you commit to either SIM only or contract plans.
BEST SIM ONLY PLAN FOR LIGHT DATA USERS: ZERO1
|FOR LIGHT DATA USERS|
|Zero1||1GB + Unlimited||$9.90||200 mins||200|
|Singtel||3GB + 2GB||$20||None||None|
|M1||30GB (base plan), free flow weekend data, unlimited streaming on Spotify||$25||
|My Republic^||1GB + Boundless Data||$18||1000 mins||1000|
|StarHub||5GB + 10GB free weekend data on Sat/Sun||$25||100 mins||None|
^Subscribe to My Republic's broadband services and get a bonus of 3GB (making it a total of 12GB per month).
Due to popular demand, Zero 1 is extending its promotion of $9.90/month for unlimited data. The '1GB to Unlimited' plan allows you to surf the first 1GB at a speed of 4G. Subsequently, it will be at a 'managed' network speed. Registration fee is $10.70 and it comes without contract.
It's a toss-up between Zero1 and Circles.Life for the best SIM only data plan for low data users. For an affordable $9.90/month for unlimited data, Zero1 comes out on top but be aware, you'll face slower connection speeds after exceeding 1G data.
Circles.Life's 'Flexi Plan' offers 1GB of data, 30 minutes of talk time, free caller ID, and free 10 SMS per calendar month - all at the low, low price of $0/month. But after the free 1GB, customisable top-up options through the Circles.Life app are quite pricey; you can purchase 1GB for $6 or 2GB for $10 As a fully virtual telco, Circles.Life's customer service is 100 per cent online only and has a reputation for being responsive on its online chat.
There is a one-time registration fee of $38 (but sign up for their mailing list and get $34 off).
M1’s newly launched base plan costs $25/month with no add-ons. For that, you’ll enjoy 30GB and free weekend data, free calls to 3 M1 numbers, unlimited streaming on Spotify and you can use your data overseas with the M1 Data Passport from $10/month.
All new subscribers to their plan will enjoy a promotional waiver of the first month’s registration for Caller ID (service chargeable at $5.35/month from the second month onwards) and free SIM card and registration and free delivery. This plan is good value for money but if you know you’ll nowhere reach the data cap of 30GB/month, you might as well go with Zero1.
For $20/month, Singtel offers you 3GB of data for its base plan, plus you get a bonus of 2GB on SingTel wifi every month. Do note that his plan does not come with any contract, talk time, or SMS so it's a pretty bare bones offer.
StarHub is waiving all activation charges and contracts for their SIM only plans. Enjoy 5GB data per month on top of free weekend data of 10GB on Sat/Sun for $25/month. Plus, get a $120 bill rebate when you sign up online with promo code nocontract!
MyRepublic's Uno 18 Basic Plan offers 1GB + boundless data for $18 per month. It comes with 1000 talk minutes and 1000 SMSes. However, be prepared for slower connection speeds after exceeding 1GB usage. You can also opt for data boosters or add-ons to suit your needs.
BEST SIM ONLY PLAN FOR MODERATE DATA USERS: M1
|FOR MODERATE DATA USERS|
|Circles.Life||20GB||$18||100 mins||25 SMS|
|Singtel GOMO||20GB||$20||200 mins||200 SMS|
|Zero1||3GB unlimited data Bonus 12||$29.99||200 mins||200 SMS|
|My Republic^||12GB + Unlimited||$35||1,000 mins||1000 SMS|
|M1||30GB + free flow weekend data, unlimited streaming on Spotify||$25||1000 mins, free caller ID, free calls to 3 M1 numbers||1000 SMS|
|StarHub GIGA||25GB||$25||1000 mins||1000 SMS|
*Bonus fee data and unlimited weekend data is valid for a year after sign-up.
^Subscribe to My Republic's broadband services and get a bonus of 3GB (making it a total of 15GB per month).
M1 is the latest telco to unveil their latest SIM only, no contract offering and it was worth waiting for. Their latest plan offers a ginormous 30GB of data for a fixed monthly price of $25. It comes with free-flow weekend data, unlimited streaming on music service Spotify, free calls to 3M1 phone numbers, 1,000 mins free talk time and 1,000 SMS. This offer trumps SingTel's GOMO Starhub's GIGA as well as Circles.Life base plan.
The newest entrant to the SIM only scene by Singtel offers an affordable package of $20/month for 20GB. It is slightly more expensive than Circles.Life, but you get an additional 100 mins of talk time and 175 SMSes at only $2 more per month - Circles.Life charges $0.05/SMS, so if you maximise your additional 175 SMSes, that's already an $8.75 value.
For moderate users of data, Circles.Life is offering $18/month for 20GB. The best part is that you can easily and instantly customise your plan via the Circles.Life app. Pay $6 for an extra 1GB or $10 for an extra 2 GB of data as and when you need it with no minimum commitment period.
My Republic's 12GB of data pales in comparison to what GOMO, GIGA and M1's new mobile plan offers, but you get boundless data if you can manage with slower network speeds.
Zero1's 3GB to Unlimited Data Bonus 12 plan allows you to surf the first 15GB at a speed of 4G. Although it is an Unlimited Data Plan, be prepared for slower, 'managed' network speeds after the first 15GB. The Unlimited Data is a limited offer for the first 12 months only. As of now, the registration, SIM card and delivery charges are waived for new subscribers.
CHEAPEST SIM ONLY PLAN FOR HEAVY DATA USERS: CIRCLES.LIFE
|FOR HEAVY DATA USERS|
|Circles.Life||Unlimited||$38||Per base plan||Per base plan|
|StarHub*||60GB + 10GB
weekend data on Sat/Sun
|$80||500 mins||$0.0535 per SMS|
|MyRepublic||80GB + unlimited data||$80||1,000 mins||1,000 SMSes|
|M1||30GB base plan + Bundle Pack (150GB)||$25 (base plan) + $50||10,000||Unlimited|
*Bonus fee data and unlimited weekend data is valid for a year after sign-up.
^Subscribe to My Republic's broadband services and get a bonus of 8GB (making it a total of 38GB per month).
Upsize your base plan by paying an additional $20/month for unlimited data, with the first month free. If you combine it with their current promotional rate of $18/month for your base plan, that means an amazing bargain price of $38/month for unlimited data!
The only case where this is not applicable is if you're subscribed to their $0 Flexi Plan. The first 20GB will run at 4G+ speeds, after which the rest of your unlimited data will be run at 'managed' network speeds - but that's still an amazing deal by a long shot.
With so many attractive plans to choose from now, the days of being locked into a contract are numbered. When choosing a SIM only plan, the "best" will depend very much on how heavy of a data user you are, whether you are looking to purchase a new handset, and whether you need talk time and SMS.
If you're keen to switch from contract to SIM only, take note of when you can switch from your existing plan or telco without incurring any early termination penalty. Or, in the event that you do incur a penalty, calculate if what you're saving by switching is enough to cover that amount.
For example, if your early termination penalty is $200, and you're 6 months away from the penalty-free period, your new SIM only plan should be at least $33.40 cheaper per month ($200 divided by 6) than your existing contract plan.
This article was first published in SingSaver.com.sg.