GiffGaff Sim Card

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Ditch your phone contract! with Giffgaff you can get unlimited data, 250 minutes any time/network and unlimited SMS for £10/month. And they’ll even throw in a FREE FIVER when you activate your SIM.

I’ve been using Giffgaff on my 2nd phone for eight months now, and I’m impressed. They operate on the O2 network, so they benefit from their infrastructure and signal quality, which seems to be pretty decent. At least it’s been rare that I’ve not had a 3G signal in London and on the south coast and even in fairly rural areas. Anyway, this article is mainly to get you thinking about whether you need to be tied to that (expensive, long) mobile phone contract. In short, on giffgaff I’m currently spending £10/month in total including unlimited data, with no contract, and no hidden obligations. You order a SIM card (for free), it arrives, you top it up, and you forget about it. How do I get by on a tenner? Simples:

  • 250 minutes of call time, any UK network, any time of day.
  • Unlimited Texts
  • Unlimited Data usage

Giffgaff Goody Bags

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The giffgaff goodybag is essentially a pre-packaged mixture of data, minutes and SMS allowance that lasts for one month. The £10 goodybag gets you all the above, the £15 gets you even more, and so on, up to a maximum of 1500 inclusive minutes (which is £20/month). If you’re not in need of unlimited data, there’s also a £5 goodybag that gets you a bunch of free minutes and SMS.

When the goodybag expires, you still fall back to your regular “credit” balance, like a normal PAYG arrangement; 
that is – you don’t have to buy a goodybag. The regular PAYG tariff is still very competitive:

  • 10p/min calls to any UK network or landline, any time of day
  • 6p/per text
  • Free calls to other giffgaff users
  • 0800 numbers are actually free
  • *Giffgaff goody bags expire (after one month), but normal credit doesn’t

These charges are very reasonable indeed compared to the competition, but if you require unlimited data (i.e. you have an smartphone), in the long run you’re probably better off with a £10 goodybag. Basically my goodybag covers all my normal usage, and my balance is kind of a backup, for when my goodybag lapses, or if I want to do something not covered by a goodybag, like texting a foreign number. Also, bear in mind that you can set up auto-topups, so you can totally avoid any “running out of credit” situation. Plus giffgaff warn you by text before your goodybag expires.

Do you really need a contract?

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This may be a newsflash for contract owners: PAYG tariffs have changed! giffgaff isn’t the only operator offering unlimited data on a PAYG tariff; and you’ve heard of Skype right? Well:

Smartphone + Wifi + Skype (or similar) = free calls

I’m not sure about the feasibility of VoIP on 3G, but presumably this will improve over time. Anyway, they have wifi in cafes now you know? And malls, and even train stations. What’s more, they have it in other countries too.

Few people seem to break down the real cost of their contract. Don’t pay £35/month just because you can afford to. Let’s face it, most people can afford to. But the conditions for contracts seem to have got substantially worse in the last couple of years (remember 12 month contracts?). Here’s a patronising formula for you:

24 months x £35/mnth = £840

£840, that’s some phone. What does it do? Give you an Indian head massage before bed? Unless you need more than 250 mins of call-time, you could be spending just £240 over 2 years on giffgaff. And if you do need more than 250 mins, get a bigger goody bag: 400 mins for £15.  Oh yeah, but have you seen the price of iPhones? They can cost unto £700 for the 64GB! Well that’s because Apple are being rather greedy. But it’s hardly your only option.

On the other hand I worked it out that purchasing the top iPhone cost £700 from Apple and an O2 sim only offering 600 minutes, unlimited texts and 500Mb of internet was an additional £300 for the year bringing the grand total to £1,000!!!

I instead opted for a 12 month contract at £56 per month plus the cost of the iPhone at £209 with O2 and the total came to £881, a small saving of £119, not much you say, but for that price I received 1,200 minutes, unlimited texts and 1GB of internet.

Then there’s the lack of flexibility. 24 months? Some marriages don’t last that long! What if you take a job abroad for a few months, or go traveling? (you have seen the foreign call charges right?) You’re gonna want a local SIM, with data allowance, which (maybe surprisingly to some ripped-off Brits), pretty much any country will provide you with. I’ve been to Thailand and Vietnam and paid less for data than I would here; just buy a local SIM (often free), plug it into your unlocked phone, and bask in the glory of not having a pointless UK contract.

All I’m saying is: think about the total cost of ownership of your contracted handset.

How do I get the free £5?

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Giffgaff will boost your credit by £5 if you sign up via an affiliate link, such as (mine!):
The free fiver will be added after you have activated the SIM and made your first top-up, which is done online and takes no time. I also get £5 credit, so everyone’s a winner 

Will giffgaff work with my iPhone?

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Yes. giffgaff will work with any iPhone version. Importantly, it will even work with an O2-locked iPhone (which many are), since giffgaff operate on O2. I’m not an iPhone user, but it sounds as though you simply need to send a text message to giffgaff, and they reply with the settings for your iPhone. More details here:
Does giffgaff SIM work with locked O2 iPhone?

Here’s an important point though – Giffgaff do not directly hand out Microsims. So you can either cut a regular SIM down to micro-size, as explained in numerous Youtube videos, or you can order a Microsim through the giffgaff community:http://apps.giffgaff.com/microgaff/ instead.

If your iPhone is locked to a network other than O2, then you will need to get it unlocked first. Sometimes the network will do this officially, for a charge. Apparently Orange do this:
Orange iPhone Unlock for £20


And less “official” methods do exist. giffgaff have recently added a very thorough guide to legitimately unlocking various handsets (including the iPhone), which can be found at www.giffgaff.com/unlock. It covers all the major UK networks.

Like Android phones, the iPhone is ideal for taking advantage of unlimited data with its feature-rich apps and background/sync tasks. The automated setup via SMS is also available for most Android phones.

How is giffgaff so cheap?

Obviously I’m no expert in the financial operations of a telecoms provider, but I think it has something to do with their business model. They have a community support system on their forum, encouraging others to contribute to support issues (such as setting up internet on your Android handset, or the iPhone thread linked to above), and rewarding contributors with “kudos” points, which can be cashed in at a later date. They also have a referral scheme, offering customers £5 of credit for every friend they sign up. Yes, I’ll get a fiver if you click  any of the the links and sign up.  An interesting blog article here talks about giffgaff’s “non-advertising” approach.

Any bad points?

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One small gripe. A couple of times I’ve been blocked from certain websites because of “over 18 content”. It wasn’t a porn site, honest. Anyway, I shot them a message through the online login on their website and it seemed to clear the issue.

I can’t really speak for their customer support quality, because I’ve had no issues. I am a fan of community-based support; you’ll often get a faster and more intelligent response than from someone in a generic call centre who’s handling calls for hundreds of companies(!). But I guess if you’re the kind of person that likes to phone someone up and ask “how do I turn on my phone?”, giffgaff might not be for you. Although for all I know, their phone support is great.

**UPDATE** Yes it seems they don’t offer phone support (as I suspected), and I guess this a major factor in keeping costs down.


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