Break free from lock-in contracts with the best SIM only plans in the market.
The SIM-only, mobile plan war is now in full swing.
Gone are the days when fixed mobile plan contracts by Singtel, StarHub, and M1 locked you in for a period of 12- to 24-months with no way out except by 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 re-contract with them, locking you in again for another 12-24 months.
Obviously, it wasn’t really a discount – the cost of the smartphone was really just spread out over monthly instalments.
Entry of new players flood the market
The three latest mobile virtual network operators (MNVOs) to join the battle are redONE (through StarHub’s mobile network), ViViFi (SingTel’s mobile network) and Grid Mobile (a new joint venture between SingTel and ST Telemedia),
Add these three to the ranks of My Republic, Zero, Circles.Life, Zero.1 and TPG, and suddenly, a myriad of flexible smartphone plans at attractive rates are now available, with no lock-in contracts. These are commonly referred to as SIM-only contracts.
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.
The other major game disruption in the mobile telco wars is the emphasis now on data — SMS is a thing of the past, so are calls made over land lines. All you need is a stable wifi or data connection and you can talk long-distance, message and even do video calls, for free, through chat apps like WhatsApp, Facebook Messenger, Skype, WeChat… and the list goes on. Add to this the ubiquity of streaming services like Spotify, Netflix and YouTube, as well as online gaming, and you’ll understand why data is now so critical to your mobile plan.
So which SIM-only, no contract mobile plans are best in the market right now? It depends on how much data juice you need. Decide if you are a light, moderate, or heavy data user and check our comparison price plans below. (Check this page regularly as telcos are quick to change their price plans to match the competition).
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.
How much data do you need?
According to a 2018 study by Info-comm Media Development Authority (IMDA), Singapore residents consumed an average of 2.7GB a month — up nearly 23 per cent from 2.2GB a month the previous year. Of course, if you spend a lot of time on your phone to play mobile games, stream a lot of music on Spotify or movies via Netflix, or have a lot of real-time video chats, your data consumption is going to shoot up.
The best gauge is to check your recent telco bills on the amount of data juice you use on average per month. To save on data, you can also log on to Wifi networks wherever possible or download the music or video content on Wifi and then consume it offline.
What is a MVNO?
Mobile virtual network operators (MVNOs) “rent” bandwidth and access to network services on the infrastructure lines and network from incumbents SingTel, M1 and StarHub at bulk wholesale rates. It then sets retail prices and packages accordingly, taking into account download speeds as well as network coverage.
What is ‘managed network speed’?
When a mobile plan promises “unlimited data”, check the fine print. It will usually say something like, “first 3G of data at 4G speed, managed network speeds thereafter” which basically translates to “your internet surfing based on the first 3G of data will be fast but after that, expect both your network coverage and download speeds to become more spotty and slow down.”
Best SIM Only Plan for Light Data Users: RedOne
|RedOne||3GB (can be used in M’sia too)||$8||100 mins||10|
|VIVIFI Lite||3GB||$8.80||500 mins||20|
|Zero1||1GB (option for unlimited data at $9.90 (U.P $13.90) for the first 6 months)||$9.90||200 mins||200|
|Singtel||3GB + 2GB Singtel Wifi||$20||None||None|
|MyRepublic||1GB + Boundless data (slower speed after 1GB)||$18||1,000 mins||1,000|
|StarHub||5GB + 20GB and weekend data (for first 12 months)||$25||100 mins||None|
Special mention: TPG’s $0 XL unlimited data plan
TPG, an Australian telco preparing for their full launch in Singapore, is offering a $0 per month, unlimited data plan as part of a six-month free trial of their services. Data usage is capped at 2GB per day, which is more than enough for the average user. International roaming is available for India (excluding Jammu and Kashmir). Enjoy free unlimited data roaming when travelling in India at 1mbps.
However, a major drawback is that you will need to use mainly Samsung and Huawei handsets to take advantage of the unlimited calls to local phones feature (full list here). Coverage underground is also still a little bit patchy. The $0 trial service offer can also be withdrawn anytime. TnCs can be found here.
Launched in May 2019, redONE’s basic no-frills plan comes in at $8. For that price, you get 3GB, 100 minutes of talktime and 10 SMSes — ideal if you don’t consume a lot of data.
The big plus point of this MVNO is that users have free data roaming in Malaysia and no additional charges for calling and texting Malaysian numbers, making it ideal for those who live, work or visit Malaysia often.
Awkward sounding name aside, VIVIFI is the latest MNVO to launch in July 2019, using Singtel’s mobile network infrastructure.
It recently launched its VIVIFI Lite Plan, which is affordably priced at $8.80 and comes with 3GB data, 500 minutes talk time and 20 SMS.
Due to popular demand, Zero 1 extended 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 a contract.
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.
MyRepublic’s 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.
StarHub is waiving all activation charges and contracts for their SIM-Only plans. And you won’t have to pay for Caller Number Display and International Roaming subscription. This saves you $15.35 every month! Skip the queue and sign up online to get the best deal – 5GB and free 20GB and weekend data (for the first 12 months).
Best SIM Only Plan for Moderate Data Users: Circles.Life
|RedOne||10GB (can be used in M’sia too)||$28||300||30|
|Circles.Life||20GB||$18||100 mins, free caller ID||25|
|Singtel GOMO||20GB||$20||200 mins||200|
|Grid Mobile||40GB||$24.90||200 mins||200|
|VIVIFI||20GB (can be shared via family plan)||$29.90||300 mins||100|
|StarHub giga||25GB (can be rolled over to next month)||$25||1,000 mins||1,000|
|M1||30GB + unlimited streaming on Spotify||$25||1,000 mins, free caller ID for first 3 months, free calls to 3 M1 numbers||1,000|
|Zero1||3GB to Unlimited Data||$29.99||200 mins, free caller ID||200|
|MyRepublic^||12GB + Unlimited||$35||1,000 mins||1,000|
^Subscribe to MyRepublic’s broadband services and get a bonus of 3GB (making it a total of 15GB per month).
Besides its basic no-frills plan, redONE also offers a 10GB plan for $28 (includes 300 minute talktime and 30 SMSes).
The big plus point of this MVNO is that users have free data roaming in Malaysia and no additional charges for calling and texting Malaysian numbers, making it ideal for those who live or work in Malaysia.
redONE uses StarHub’s mobile network infrastructure to deliver their services. Users have free data roaming in Malaysia, free unlimited calls to redONE users including those in Malaysia and no additional charges for calling and texting Malaysian numbers.
For moderate users of data which includes most of us, the best value-for-money plan is Circles.Life, which goes for $18/month for 20GB. The best part is that you can easily and instantly customise your plan via the Circles.Life app. For this segment, the toss-up was between M1 and Circles Life. While M1 offers an extra 10GB for an extra $7 per month, we think that for most average users, 20GB is more than enough data.
Singtel’s GOMO package (stands for Go Out More Often) 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. So if you make a lot of calls to landlines or fixed lines and still prefer to SMS, then Singtel’s GOMO package might be for you.
Grid Mobile is a joint venture between SingTel and ST Telemedia. It offers 20G of data, 200 mins of outgoing calls and 200 SMS for a price of $24.90. Additional benefits include free caller ID, free incoming calls and SMS, as well as free 1G roaming data in Malaysia per month. (For the month of August, and limited to the first 5,000 customers, Grid Mobile is offering an additional 20G data per month as well as free 200G worth of data).
Awkward sounding name aside, VIVIFI is the latest MNVO to launch in July 2019, using Singtel’s mobile network infrastructure.
It’s come up with an innovative $29.90 mobile plan (20GB, 200 minutes of talktime and 100 SMSes) which can be shared with up to 9 users.
Each user has to top up $5.35 per month to be part of the shared plan. For the first year of use, each additional user gets an extra 2GB to themselves per month. Free caller ID, free incoming calls and SMSes and no registration fees apply to all additional users too.
Users can also top up their plan beyond the 20GB at these rates:
- Tier 1: Less than 6GB ($10)
- Tier 2: Less than 18GB ($20)
- Tier 3: Less than 30GB ($30)
- More than 30GB, 1GB @ $4.28
This plan is ideal for families with young children or elderly folk who don’t use up much data.
StarHub launched its Giga plan in response to Singtel’s GOMO and M1 offerings. For $25 per month, it offers a sizeable 25GB of data and 1,000 minutes talk time and 1,000 SMS. If you are looking for something cheaper, there’s another plan that offers 5GB of data, 100 minutes of talk time and 100 SMS for just $10 a month.
What’s different about this plan is that any unused data can be rolled over to the following month, which makes this an attractive plan for those who have irregular usage of data every month.
M1’s latest SIM only, no contract offering offers a ginormous 30GB of data for a fixed monthly price of $25. While it may not be the cheapest at this tier — Circles Life’s $18 for 20GB is tops in that respect — M1’s plan 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.
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.
MyRepublic’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.
Cheapest SIM Only Plan for Heavy Data Users: Circles.Life
|Circles.Life||Unlimited||Base plan + $20||Per base plan||Per base plan|
|StarHub*||60GB + Free 10GB + 10GB/day on Sat & Sun (Online Exclusive)||$80||500 mins||Additional $3 for 500 SMS|
|MyRepublic^||Unlimited data (3GB/day at 4G, managed speed thereafter)||$48||Unlimited||Unlimited|
|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 MyRepublic’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 SIM-only mobile plans to choose from now, the days of being locked into a contract is now a thing of the past. When choosing a SIM-only plan, consider how much data, talk time and SMS you really need before making the switch.
If you’re switching from a fixed contract to SIM-only, take note of any early termination penalties. Generally, the earlier you terminate the fixed contract, the heavier the penalty so 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.
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By Zann Huang
A recipient of the Magnum Foundation Emergency Grant in 2014, my photos from the Middle East and Asia have also been published in Time Magazine and Le Monde etc. My written work ranges from travel, politics (Mid-East) to the environment and finance-related matters.