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Are Subsidised Phone Plans Really More Expensive Compared To SIM Only Plans In 2019?

It’s 2019. Your SIM only plan is (still) great. But only if you don’t need a new phone or can’t be bothered to sell off a new phone that you get.

Over the past few years, the discussion about mobile plans in Singapore has been on how SIM only plans are cheaper and can help people save more money. This is increasingly notable during a time when people are expecting greater data provision for their mobile phone, due to the higher usage of apps such as Facebook, Telegram, Instagram, Netflix, YouTube and Spotify which they may find themselves using on a daily basis.

We have written extensively about how SIM only plans can help you save money on your mobile bills.

If you have been cost conscious like some of our writers on DollarsAndSense, you may even have moved away from subsidised phone plans over the past couple of years, as you seek for cheaper plans that provide you with greater level of data.

Read Also: [Cheatsheet] The Best SIM-Only Plans in Singapore (2019 Edition)

But what you may not have realised after having moved away from subsidised phone plans is that in order to retain their existing market share, some telcos are now offering enticing 24-month subsidised phone plans.

Ironically, these are plans which may even be cheaper than current SIM only plans.

Do You Need A New Phone?

There are two approaches to think about cost savings when it comes to getting a subsidised mobile phone plan.

The first approach is that you want to buy a new mobile phone and hence, you are opting for a subsidised phone plan to reduce your upfront phone cost.

The second approach to take is when you do not want a new phone but want to calculate if it will be cheaper for you to opt for a subsidised phone plan anyway, sell the new phone and to use the profits to subside the phone plan that you sign up for.

For this article, we will analyse both approaches.

Phone plans are not designed the same way and the best plan depends on your expected usage hence we need to make some assumptions. For this article, we will assume you are a moderate to heavy data usage, which is probably the reason why you want to consider a SIM only plan in the first place.

We will look at plans that give us:

  • Minimum of 10GB of data or more
  • Basic 100 minutes of talktime
  • Unlimited/free incoming calls
  • Caller ID

Scenario 1: I Need A New Phone

Option A: SIM Only + New iPhone

Let’s assume you need a new phone and proceed ahead to get an iPhone. We are not going to argue which phone gives you the best bang for your buck or if you should be getting an iPhone in this article so for discussion sake, let’s just assume you want to get the latest iPhone XR (256GB), which costs S$1,469 from Apple.

Let’s now assume you get a SIM only plan with Circles.Life. The base plan costs $28. Here’s what you get.

Plan Circles.Life Base Plan
(No Contract)
Data 20GB
Free Talktime 100 minutes
Caller ID Included
Unlimited incoming calls + $2
Total $30/month


You pay $30 for 20GB, 100 minutes talktime, caller ID and unlimited incoming calls. Over a 24-month period, you would pay a total of $720.

Do note that if you are among the first 10,000 customers to sign up for this new promotion, you get a bonus 14GB/month for a year.

If you add this amount to the listed price of a new iPhone XR (256GB), you would spend a total of $2,189 over a 24-month period.

Option B: Subsidised Phone Plan

Let’s now assume you buy the iPhone XR (256GB) through a subsidised phone plan. For the purpose of this comparison, we will be using M1’s current MySIM(e) 40 which we believe is one of the most affordable and value-for-money subsidised phone plans that is in the market.

Plan M1 MySIM(e) 40
(24-month contract)
Data 5GB + 10 GB (free) =15GB
Free Talktime 100 minutes
Caller ID Included
Unlimited Incoming Included
Total $40


Over a 24-month period, you will be paying a total of $960. However, you will be able to purchase the iPhone XR (256GB) for $645 (usual price: $1,469). In total, you will spend $1,605.

Here’s a comparison between both plans.

Plan Circles.Life Base Plan
(No contract)
M1 MySIM(e) 40
($40 per month)
(24-month contract)
Data 20GB 15GB
Free Talktime 100 minutes 100 minutes
Caller ID Included Included
Unlimited Incoming + $2 Included
Total/month $30 $40
Total (over 24 months) $720 $960
Total (including listed price of iPhone XR 256 GB) $2,189 $1,605


Immediately, you can see that M1’s MySIM(e) 40 is the more attractive plan if you want to get a plan and a new phone, with savings of about $584 over a 24-month period as compared to the Circles.Life base plan.

Of course, this isn’t an apple-for-apple comparison because the Circles.Life plan does give us 1) 5GB more data each month, 2) unlimited WhatsApp and 3) there is no contract involved.

However, if your main requirements are sufficient data for your heavy usage (10 GB or more), basic free talktime (100 minutes) and unlimited incoming calls and caller ID – theMySIM(e) 40 – which is a subsidised phone plan offered by M1, gives you a very attractive deal.

Option C: Subsidised Phone Plan With Multi-Service Saver

M1 also provides a Multi-Service Saver where you enjoy further discount. This makes an already attractive plan even more delightful if you have a home broadband plan with M1.

For example, if you have a home broadband plan and 3 mobile lines under your name (e.g. yourself, your spouse, your child/parent), then you can enjoy a 20% discount off your mobile plan. This means you will pay only $32 per month.

The discount goes up to 30% if you have 5 mobile lines.

Think about it. The subsidy that you get on an iPhone XR (256GB) is already a whopping $824 ($1,469 minus $645). This essentially means that the discount which you are getting off your phone each month ($34.33) is already more than what the plan may costs you ($32) if you enjoy a 20% discount with the Multi-Service Saver.

Plan Circles.Life Base Plan
(No contract)
M1 MySIM(e) 40
($40 per month
(24-month contract)
M1 MySIM(e) 40
($32 per month
(24-month contract assuming 20% discount)
Data 20GB 15GB 15GB
Free Talktime 100 minutes 100 minutes 100 minutes
Caller ID Included Included Included
Unlimited Incoming + $2 Included Included
Total/month $30 $40 $32
Total (over 24 months) $720 $960 $768
Total (including listed price of iPhone XR 256 GB) $2,189 $1,605 $1,413


Scenario 2: I Don’t Need A New Phone

In Scenario 1, we saw that in the event that you need a new phone, it’s better to buy it through a subsidised phone plan, at least in our comparison. But what happens if you do not need or want a new phone? Should you still get a subsidised handset and then sell it off?

A quick search on Google tells us that we are able to sell a new iPhone XR (256GB) for $1,080.

If you choose the same M1’s MySim(e) 40 plan, you would need to pay only $645 for the iPhone XR (256GB), which means you can make a profit of $435 if you were to sell your phone.

Over a 24-month period, your plan would cost you $960. If you were to subtract the profit, made through selling the phone, you will be paying a total of $525, or about $21.88 per month for the plan.

Of course, if you are on a Multi-Service Saver, the discount that you get on your monthly plan will be even higher.

Plan Circles.Life Base Plan
(No contract)
M1 MySIM(e) 40
(24-month contract)
M1 MySIM(e) 40
(24-month contract assuming 20% discount)
Total/month $30 $40 $32
Total (over 24 months) $720 $960 $768
Profit from selling iPhone N.A $435 $435
Total Cost $720 $525 $333
Cost Per Month $30 $21.88 $13.88


Conclusion: Some Subsidised Phone Plans Are Currently Offering Deals Which Are Almost Too Good To Turn Down

If you are looking to buy a new phone and also looking to renew your phone plan or is currently on a no-contract SIM only plan, this might be the time that you wish to consider some of the subsidised phone plans in the market. As shown above, some of them can be significantly cheaper than getting a SIM only plan and buying a phone separately.

But even if you don’t need a new phone, selling the phone and using the profit to subsidise your own phone plan also makes financial sense. This becomes even more attractive if you are able to enjoy a discount off your mobile phone plan – such as through the Multi-Service Saver.

A word of advice. Not all telcos are offering similarly attractive deals for their subsidised phone plans, at least not at the point of writing. We do not know if the market for subsidised phone plans will become more competitive in the near future, but there is no harm in keeping up with the deals available if that means we get more bang for our buck.

Read Also: Should You Always Upgrade Your Mobile Plan If You Consistently Exceed Your Monthly Data Cap?

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