A few years ago, it was really only viable to have a pay as you go phone if you were an infrequent mobile user. The reasoning was that contracts came with free minutes, texts and a browsing allowance that were far cheaper when combined into a package that required commitment of a year or two than they could ever be when used on a pay as you go basis.

However, contracts have always had a significant downside: customers must sign up to twelve, eighteen or even twenty four months with the same network, during which they must pay a consistent monthly sum. In other words, if your usage patterns suddenly changed, or if you lost your job – an increasingly prevalent concern – and were struggling to pay your contract charge, there really wasn’t much that you could do about it.

Enter the new generation of SIM only network providers which, led by communications company giffgaff, offer all the convenience of pay as you go with many of the advantages of a contract. The idea is that customers are given a free SIM card and can then choose from a selection of bundles ranging from around £5 up to £25 per month depending on the network provider. Essentially, these pay as you go bundles are designed just like a contract bundle, but users aren’t forced to commit to paying for any period longer than a month. If your usage goes up or down, or if your financial circumstances change, then you can opt to purchase a different bundle the next month.

Since their launch, these SIM only deals have taken off. A recent report found that the increase in the number of consumers purchasing unlocked smartphones is linked to a rise in the popularity of SIM only plans. Clearly, the current economic climate is prompting more people to opt for a payment model that is both more flexible and, frequently, better value.

So is SIM only right for you? If you already own a phone with plenty of use in it and are keen to take advantage of cheaper tariffs with greater flexibility, then it’s certainly worth investigating.