SMARTY vs Giffgaff 2020: Super Competitive Unlimited Plans!

Which network has the best coverage, speeds, customer perks and deals in 2020? Half Cooked has you covered.

Mar 6th, 2020

Smarty vs giffgaff review

SMARTY offers some of the most competitively priced 1 month SIM only plans for low to high-end data users. Being simple and honest means you know exactly what you get with SMARTY with no nasty bill shocks. No credit checks mean anyone can become a SMARTY customer and their 1 month SIM only plans mean there is no commitment required. A 14-day money-back guarantee also ensures that if the service isn’t up to expectations you can receive a full refund. 

Half Cooked rates SMARTY as the top low-cost virtual operator in the UK mobile market and a great all around network for customers looking for a well priced, well rounded SIM-only deal.


  • Money off your bill for any unused data
  • No credit check SIM product
  • Unlimited Minutes & Texts from £5/month
  • Unlimited Plan Offer



  • Webchat only customer service.
  • No free entertainment packages or Wi-Fi Calling.

Click here to go directly to SMARTY’s website to see their latest offers.

giffgaff provides affordable and flexible deals for all consumers with their range of ‘goody bags’ that will satisfy any customer from those looking for a low value option to data hungry users. Supported by 02’s network you’ll also be getting excellent 4G coverage with good speeds.


  • PAYG or 1 month SIM contract flexibility
  • Easy to switch between SIMO price plans
  • uSwitch Network of the year winner 2019
  • Unlimited data plan option
  • No credit checks



  • Unlimited Plan has speed restrictions
  • Generally, more expensive plans
Click here to go directly to Giffgaff’s website to see their latest offers

Table of Contents

1. Network Coverage & Speeds

2. Voice Call Quality

3. Tethering

4. International Roaming

5. Wi-Fi Calling & Wi-Fi Hotspots

6. Data Rollover

7. Spending Caps

8. Customer Rewards

9. No Credit Checks

10. Other Perks

11. Customer Service

12. SIM Deals

13. Half Cooked Overall Breakdown

Network Coverage & Speeds

SMARTY vs giffgaff Network Coverage Both SMARTY and giffgaff don’t have their own networks and their SIM’s piggyback off the back of larger networks. SMARTY SIM only contracts run on the Three network while giffgaff runs on the O2 network.

Both SMARTY and giffgaff’s networks benefit from over 99% coverage in the UK so you should get coverage wherever you are.

Per Open Signal for H1 2018 Three is only behind EE in terms of data speeds with an average download speed on 4G of 21.6 MB/s vs EE who leads the way with 33.7 MB/s.

O2 is however tracking behind Three with an average download speed on 4G of 15.1 MB/s, but giffgaff won the best network of the year award from uSwitch in 2019.

Half cooked’s verdict:

SMARTY comes out on top here – with comparable coverage and 4G now available across 99% of the UK we need to look at network speeds. And here SMARTY is just ahead of giffgaff with faster average 4G speeds in the UK. Despite this, we had no issues streaming HD content using our giffgaff SIM.

Useful link: SMARTY’s network and coverage  

Voice Call Quality

SMARTY vs giffgaff Voice Call QualityWith both SMARTY & giffgaff SIM’s running on Three and O2’s networks respectively we need to look at their recent performances in call quality tests to understand the quality of voice call service you will receive.

Three’s network coverage only includes 3G & 4G spectrum and does not use any 2G spectrum. Three offers super voice which means increased indoor and rural coverage. This means users can make calls in areas they couldn’t before and signals are stronger than ever. The faster data speeds mean information can be sent faster and as a result provide better call clarity.

However, looking at tests run by P3 communications, an independent testing body who have widely been accepted as authoritative and highly objective, Three came third out of the major operators with a score of ‘good’ with call connection times being the main reason for tracking behind EE and Vodafone’s network quality.

But this was still ahead of O2, which is the network giffgaff runs on – looking at O2’s performance in the same voice call quality tests, they came last out of the major operators with a score of ‘satisfactory’.

To learn a little bit more about Vodafone & EE you can check out our Vodafone vs EE review article.

Half cooked’s verdict:

SMARTY edges it in voice call quality with Three coming out on top in tests vs O2. Despite this neither network currently offers 4G calling or Voice over Wi-Fi like the networks they operate on. We don’t see this as a major factor, but more of a nice to have – SMARTY & giffgaff compensate for the lack of these features with their competitive pricing. If you want to learn more about the UK networks offering Wi-Fi calling check out our article.


Both giffgaff and SMARTY offer tethering on their SIM’s, however SMARTY unlike giffgaff do not throttle usage.

Giffgaff offers Tethering on all ‘goodybags’ and airtime credit (PAYG), you can use all your available data to tether however if you’re using the unlimited plan – data speeds are throttled once you exceed 40GB.

SMARTY on the other hand doesn’t throttle usage. Customers on all plans can use their data allowance exactly how they want. And with the unlimited data plan customers can take advantage of SMARTY’s unlimited tethering to use their mobile device to connect their laptops, tablets & other Wi-Fi enabled devices wherever there is network coverage.

Half cooked’s verdict:

SMARTY comes out on top here, with unlimited data tethering with no throttling customers can utilise their data allowance however they want. At the same time, giffgaff’s usage is only throttled on their unlimited plan once you hit 40GB of usage. Most users will find they won’t come near 40GB of usage so we don’t think this should be a deciding factor when picking your next network. 

You can check out how SMARTY’s tethering compares to Three in our SMARTY vs Three Review

See SMARTY Tethering

International Roaming

SMARTY vs giffgaff International RoamingRoaming abroad on mobile has become a lot easier for UK mobile network users in recent years due to EU roaming regulations meaning networks can no longer charge customers extra to make calls, send texts or use data in the EU. And this is something offered by both SMARTY & giffgaff meaning that in close to 50 European destinations you won’t be charged anything additional.

Unfortunately, neither SMARTY nor giffgaff offer inclusive roaming across non-EU countries such as you would receive with Three’s Go Roam proposition. You will have to pay per minute, text and MB of usage for any non-EU countries. This is common amongst a number of the more cost focused MVNO’s, these perks are only generally found on the larger more expensive operators. Despite this, giffgaff and SMARTY both offer reasonable roaming prices for their SIM customers.

You can find out the cost of any destination you want to roam to on SMARTY’S site by clicking here and on giffgaff’s site by clicking here.

Half cooked’s verdict:

SMARTY wins this one. Half cooked’s analysis has found that SMARTY’s non-EU roaming rates rank amongst the cheapest out of the operators, ranking just ahead of giffgaff.

Find Out More About SMARTY’s International Roaming

Wi-Fi Calling & Wi-Fi Hotspots

SMARTY vs giffgaff WiFi Calling Neither SMARTY nor giffgaff offer their SIM customers Wi-Fi calling or Wi-Fi hotspots but this is a trend found amongst a number of the smaller, cheaper MVNO operators.

Providing the value to their customers that both SMARTY and giffgaff does means missing out on a number of the bells and whistles offered by the larger more expensive operators.

Half cooked’s verdict:

This is a draw with neither Wi-Fi calling nor Wi-Fi hotspots currently part of any SIM packages offered by either SMARTY or giffgaff.

Data Rollover

SMARTY vs giffgaff Data RolloverData rollover means you can roll your unused data from one month to the next. For e.g. if you have a 2GB plan and only use 1GB the following month you will have 3GB as the extra 1GB would be rolled over.

SMARTY takes data rollover on UK networks one step further and offers customers money off their next bill for any unused data. This is a unique offer in the market only available for SMARTY SIM customers. One of the problems with rollover data is that it usually expires but with SMARTY your usage out of your current plan is calculated and then deducted from your very next bill.

Giffgaff doesn’t currently offer data rollover – any data you don’t use is lost at the end of the month.

Half cooked’s verdict:

No question SMARTY wins this – SMARTY’s discount off your bill for unused data is totally unique in the market and means you can save money on your bill every month.

See SMARTY’s Data Discount

Spending Caps

SMARTY say they’re ‘On a mission to make mobile simple and honest’ and that’s certainly the case with their spending cap option.

SMARTY SIM customers won’t get any nasty bill shocks with the usage capped dependent on the data package you purchase. Any additional spending such as calling premium numbers, roaming abroad and data usage above the plan limit can only be done by purchasing an add on. This offers SMARTY Mobile customers a simple way to take back control over their phone bill.

Useful info: SMARTY add on cost

giffgaff  also performs well – although there aren’t any explicit spending caps as it doesn’t operate like a standard monthly SIM contract deal, you can only burn through the credit that you have on your account. If you use up your goody bag early you have the option of starting your new plan but if you need more data you will lose your remaining minutes and texts by starting your next goody bag. So although there are no spending caps, there also won’t be any nasty bill shocks.

Half cooked’s verdict: 

This is a draw, with SMARTY any additional spending outside your plan needs to be done through a purchased add on & with giffgaff also being paid up front you can never exceed the amount your credited onto your account.

Both SMARTY & giffgaff are great no credit check SIM deals available to UK customers and both help prevent customers from having any nasty bill shocks.

Customer Rewards

SMARTY vs giffgaff Customer Rewardsgiffgaff do offer a unique opportunity to earn money for referring friends. If you refer a friend to giffgaff and they top up at least £10 in credit you earn £5, which can either be used as free credit added to your account or can be paid as cash into a PayPal account twice yearly.

SMARTY has their own referral scheme called ‘Refer-a-friend’ which offers customer a free month of your regular SIM plan for referring friends as well as providing a free month to the friend you referred. The free month will then be credited to both of your accounts at the next payment date. There’s no limits to referrals so if you manage to refer up to 12 friends you could be looking at a year of free mobile!

Half cooked’s verdict:

Giffgaff is the winner here – both SMARTY and giffgaff offer great referral schemes to their SIM customers however you can’t beat the opportunity to earn cold, hard cash like you can with giffgaff.

Find Out More About giffgaff’s Customer Rewards

No Credit Checks

There are no credit checks when purchasing a SIM on either SMARTY or giffgaff! SMARTY works by paying for monthly SIM plans upfront with credit or debit card and giffgaff is effectively a PAYG service.

This means there is no direct debit or BACS payment and no credit check for either network. Even if you are under 18, have poor credit or have recently moved into the UK you can get yourself a SMARTY or giffgaff SIM.

Half cooked’s verdict:

This is a draw – no matter your credit rating you can purchase a SMARTY or giffgaff SIM.  

Other Perks

Other perks are few and far between for both SMARTY & giffgaff – this is typical across the MVNO’s. Both SMARTY and giffgaff limit the perks to offer their SIM customers some of the most competitive rates on their data plans.

Giffgaff does, however, have an interesting perk that allows customers to purchase handsets and spread the cost of these over 6,12 or 24 month periods. The benefit of giffgaff’s handset sales are that they are not attached to your giffgaff SIM, they are sold separately and the devices are unlocked so you don’t have to stick with giffgaff and can switch provider whenever you wish.

Sky Mobile offers customers access to unlimited free streaming of multiple Sky TV channels right from their device, to learn more check out our Sky Mobile Review.

Half cooked’s verdict:

giffgaff wins this one narrowly – being able to spread the cost of a handset purchase while also not being tied down to your SIM is a useful perk if you’re always on the lookout for the best SIMO deals. 

See Latest Giffgaff SIM Deal Offers

Customer Service

SMARTY vs giffgaff Customer ServiceOffering the competitive deals that both SMARTY & giffgaff do means that you won’t be getting any telephone support. Both networks offer their customers online only support, with giffgaff this involves asking questions via an agent who will reply via SMS/Email.

Alternatively you can use the online community staffed by other giffgaff customers who provide help in return for free credit.

SMARTY do take it one step further with a webchat team that is open 7 days a week from 8AM to 8PM but again this is the only point of contact. If you send a message outside of these hours make sure you leave an email address or phone number to ensure you receive a response. SMARTY also has many help articles which are linked here. 

Half cooked’s verdict:

SMARTY wins this one – despite giffgaff’s online community being a great source of help for customers you can’t beat SMARTY’s option to chat directly with a webchat support agent.

Visit SMARTY Customer Service Section

SIM Deals

SMARTY and giffgaff SIM deals are linked below.

SMARTY offer’s only 5 different 1 month SIM only plans each with unlimited minutes and texts.

The plans are tiered into different data allowances with a 1GB, 2GB, 4GB8GB and unlimited version priced at £6.25, £7.50, £10, £15 and £25 respectively. These plans can then be supplemented with additional data add ons with data at the same price as your in-plan data at £1.25 per GB.

SMARTY tends to have discounts available from time to time, so you may end up snapping up an even better.

Giffgaff has several plans starting from 500MB data for £6 going up to £25 for always on (unlimited data).

SMARTY has the more competitive SIM only plans but Giffgaff also have the benefit of selling handset contracts at very competitive prices.