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(Pocket-lint) - When it comes to buying a smartphone, you have two main options: either sign up to a lengthy contract or splash out on an unlocked SIM-free phone and have the freedom to choose a SIM-only tariff to better suit your needs.

Signing up to a traditional network contract with a mobile operator may initially seem ideal when you compare the upfront fees to stumping up £500+ outright on a new handset.

For us, we'd always choose the SIM-free option, and here's 5 reasons why.

1. You save money over the same period

Sure, paying £500 to own the phone outright is a lot of money, but you can also spread that cost out into monthly installments if you prefer, leaving you completely free to choose a SIM-only plan from any provider you want. That way, you can get a decent tariff with the amount of data that suits you, not whatever is currently the most affordable tariff being offered. By splitting out the phone and SIM like this and tailoring the plan to what you actually need, you can save yourself literally hundreds of pounds over a 24-month period compared to a traditional network contract.

2. You can change your tariff whenever you want

Because you're not shackled into a 24-month contract with a mobile operator, you can change your SIM-only plan whenever you like. Most plans are offered on either a 1 month rolling or a 12 month fixed basis. And because your phone is SIM-free and completely unlocked, you don't have to stick with the same mobile operator, you can switch your network operator the same way your switch your energy provider – whenever a better deal comes along.

UNSHACKLED.com offers SIM-only deals from 16 different mobile operators in the UK, including the major companies such as Three, Vodafone, EE or O2. This is the widest selection available in one place and because they're independent from these networks, you know they're not pushing any 'deal of the week’ to suit the network provider, you’ve got complete free choice over what’s going to suit you best.

3. You can upgrade your phone whenever you want

New phone models tend to get released on a yearly cycle. Each new Apple iPhone is launched in September, for example. But if you're signed into a 24 month contract, you can't get the latest and greatest phone unless you pay off the entire remainder of the contract, and most companies charge you hefty exit fees.

When you get your phone with UNSHACKLED.com, you own it - you're not leasing it. So when the latest phone is released, you can simply sell or recycle your one and buy whichever new one you're after. So you can escape that whole concept of waiting to upgrade because there's no one you have to ask permission from if you want to buy a newer phone.

4. You can choose whatever phone you want

Some mobile operators will save their best deals for the most expensive, or latest handsets. UNSHACKLED.com doesn't want you to be tied down to such a limited choice

and as a result, offers every phone available in the UK, all completely unlocked. If you don't want the most powerful phone with more features than you can handle, and would rather have a more basic device that just makes calls and can send messages, you can

5. You keep control

It’s important to remember that none of these benefits listed above are things you can easily do within a traditional network contract. If you want to upgrade, you have to wait until they let you or pay for the privilege. If you want to switch mobile operators you end up paying massive exit fees because when you sign up to a phone contract, you basically agree to pay the full value of it whether you stay the full 24 months or not.

If you've never gotten halfway through a phone contract and found yourself really hating your phone, either because there’s a much better one available or yours has started playing up, then stay with phone contracts. If you've never taken out a phone contract in the summer and then regretted not waiting until all of the winter deals for Black Friday and the like, then stay with phone contracts. And if you've never had a bad experience with your mobile operator and wanted to leave them for someone else, either because of their poor customer service or lack of signal in your area, then stick with phone contracts.

My guess is you can relate to all of these examples, because these are the situations we've all experienced as consumers and smartphone users. Well, we don't have to put up with it anymore. From now on, there is a better way to buy your mobile.