SMARTY vs giffgaff: Super Competitive Unlimited Data Plans and Flexibility!

SMARTY and giffgaff are both low-cost network operators with great flexibility and competitive unlimited data plans. Half Cooked will help you decide which one is the better choice in 2020.

smarty-vs-giffgaff

Latest Offer: Unlimited Data for £20!

smarty-winnerSMARTY is offering one of the cheapest unlimited data plans in the UK! Priced at £20 the deal also includes unlimited UK minutes and texts. No credit checks, no contracts!

Who is SMARTY?

SMARTY MobileSMARTY is directly owned by Three and it’s a mobile virtual network operator (MVNO). This means it’s piggybacking off Three’s infrastructure. SMARTY’s 1 month SIM only deals are some of the most competitively priced for low to high end data users. Moreover, all of their tariffs come with unlimited texts & minutes. Joining SMARTY is super easy, as you don’t have to undergo a credit check. Another benefit of being on SMARTY is that all their plans are no commitment. All SMARTY plans are based around 1 month SIM only offers and you even get a 14 day money back guarantee. If you find the service below your expectations you can receive a full refund during this period.

Half Cooked rates SMARTY as the best low-cost MVNO in the UK mobile market and a great all around network. If you are looking to get your hands on well priced, well rounded SIM only deals, SMARTY is probably the best choice for you. It also won Uswitch’s Best Value SIM Only 2020 award.

Pro’s

  • Money off your bill for any unused data on ‘data discount plans’.
  • No credit checks, 1 month plans, you may cancel anytime.
  • All plans include Unlimited Texts & Minutes.
  • Cheapest 1 month Unlimited Plan in the UK.
  •  

Con’s

  • Customer service is limited to web only.
  • No Wi-Fi Calling or 4G Calling.
  • No handset plan options.
 

Who is giffgaff?

giffgaff logoLaunched in November 2009, giffgaff provides a unique approach to the UK’s mobile market with its SIM only plans, or as giffgaff calls them ‘goodybags’. Being a low-cost mobile virtual network, giffgaff is piggybacking off O2’s network and thanks to this giffgaff customers get excellent 4G coverage, combined with decent download speeds.

Pro’s

  • Offering a unique flexibility with a variety of ‘goodybags’ and PAYG options.
  • Easy to switch between SIM Only (goodybags) price plans.
  • uSwitch Network of the year winner 2019.
  • Unlimited data plan option.
  • No credit checks.

Con’s

  • No Wi-Fi Calling, 4G Calling or hotspots.
  • Smaller data plans are at the more expensive end of the market.
  • 4G data speeds capped after 80GB.
  • Online-only customer support.
 

Table of Contents

 

Plans & Pricing

SIM Only Deals

smarty-vs-giffgaffSMARTY presents two different types of SIM-only deals: Data Discount Plans and ‘All The Data You Need for Less’ plans.

Data discount plans start from as low as £6/month for 1GB of data to £8/month for 3GB of data. You will get your money back for the data you didn’t use if you are on one of the data discount plans. However, the base cost of these tariffs are £5, covering SMARTY’s expenses, services and providing unlimited minutes & texts. You get back £1 per unused GB of data, which is the same rate SMARTY charges you for.

Data Discount Plans

NetworkDataPrice
SMARTY1GB£6.00
SMARTY2GB£7.00
SMARTY3GB£8.00
All SMARTY tariffs come with unlimited minutes & texts.

‘All the data you need for less’ plans are for data hungry people, but they don’t come with any discounts. These plans offer a massive amount of data, including an unlimited plan, at a very competitive price point. In fact there’s only one cheaper unlimited data offer than SMARTY’s and it’s offered by Three, but it locks you for a 12 month contract. Meanwhile, SMARTY’s unlimited plan is a 1 month deal, with no commitment or credit checks.

All the Data You Need for Less

NetworkDataPrice
SMARTY30GB£10.00
SMARTY50GB£15.00
SMARTYUnlimited£20.00
All SMARTY tariffs come with unlimited minutes & texts.

As for giffgaff, there’s only one set of SIM Only deals called goodybags. You can join giffgaff on a purely pay as you go basis too, and we’ll be covering that in a bit, but for the time being let’s focus on the goodybags.>

giffgaff’s goodybag deals are some of the best value options for most standard mobile users. They used to be even greater, but with new virtual networks constantly growing and improving giffgaff started to lag behind.

TARIFFMINUTES TEXTSDATAPRICE
£6 goodybagUnlimited Unlimited 500MB £6.00
£8 goodybagUnlimited Unlimited2GB£8.00
£10 goodybagUnlimited Unlimited6GB£10.00
£12 goodybagUnlimited Unlimited10GB£12.00
£15 goodybagUnlimited Unlimited 15GB£15.00
£20 goodybagUnlimited Unlimited 80GB£20.00
£20 goodybagUnlimited Unlimited Always on£25.00
Speed restrictions apply to Always On data. After 80 GB of data usage, your data speeds will be reduced to 384kbps from 8am to Midnight.

As the years went by giffgaff became pricier compared to some of its younger rivals. If you are a student looking for a good SIM only deal, you might want to check out our best student SIM plans in the UK.

Half Cooked’s Verdict:

smarty-winnerSMARTY easily wins here with much better value for money. On top of that, there are no data caps for SMARTY’s unlimited plan, unlike giffgaff’s.

Pay As You Go

giffgaff-payg-pricesIf you are not a regular mobile phone user, a PAYG plan could prove a better choice for you and giffgaff offers you a decent enough alternative. The networks PAYG rates are at 25p/minute, 10p/text and 5p/MB data. You don’t have to top-up on a monthly basis, but you have to top-up at least once every six months to make sure your SIM remains active. giffgaff customers are allowed to combine both goodybags and PAYG for their usage. Moreover, they may go through more than one goodybag per month if they run out of data, minutes or texts.

As for SMARTY, well you can’t use it on a Pay As You Go basis. If you want to keep your SIM card active, make and receive phone calls etc. you must renew your plan monthly.

Half Cooked’s Verdict:

As SMARTY doesn’t offer PAYG, giffgaff is obviously the winner of the two. Being able to keep your SIM card active for 6 months without a pay is a good deal.

Family/Group Plans

smarty-group-planSMARTY didn’t offer any family or group plans up until recently, but this has changed for the better. The network manages to stay competitive at their low price point and now proposes discounted group plans to its customers.

To use this new feature you have to be in a SMARTY Group. Groups are allowed to have a maximum number of 8 SIMs, this includes the owner. All members save an extra 10% on every SIM. Owner of the party can manage all the payment details, edit member plans and see all other group members’ activities.

giffgaff is absent in this category, as it doesn’t have any family/group specific plans.

If you want to learn more about family and group mobile plans in the UK guide as well as what other networks offer don’t forget to check our extensive guide!

Half Cooked’s Verdict:

smarty-winnerWith no competition from giffgaff, SMARTY earns the top spot out of the networks.

Pay Monthly Phones

giffgaff-other-perksYou can purchase handsets directly from giffgaff’s store, but at least for the first month you must also purchase a goodybag. The store’s handset options include the majority of the mobile phones available in the market including Apple, Samsung, Sony, Nokia and Huawei. giffgaff also has refurbished handsets available, if you are looking for cheaper alternatives. You may buy a phone outright or choose one of the instalment options starting from 6 months, followed by 12, 18 and 24 months. All the phones on giffgaff’s online store are unlocked, meaning you don’t have to stick with the network.

At the time of writing this article, SMARTY sticks to being a SIM only virtual network. SMARTY SIMs can be used with any unlocked 3G and 4G smartphone. We’d like to remind you that SMARTY doesn’t support 2G, therefore 2G only handsets won’t work with it.

Half Cooked’s Verdict:

giffgaff-winnergiffgaff has a wide range of handsets, short and long term contract options and even refurbished phones for people who are looking for less costly deals. SMARTY doesn’t sell any mobile devices, hence another unopposed win for giffgaff!

Network Coverage & Speeds

2G, 3G & 4G Coverage

smarty-vs-giffgaff-speed-testSMARTY is a virtual mobile network powered by Three. Basically, this means SMARTY customers get exactly the same network coverage for 3G and 4G as Three customers. There’s no 2G on SMARTY, this is due to Three not offering this generation of cellular network.

giffgaff is also a mobile virtual network, just like its competitor in this comparison. It’s running on the O2 Network, so giffgaff users get the same network coverage and speeds O2 customers do on 2G, 3G and 4G. O2 already covers more than 99% of the population, with only a few coastal and rural areas still having 2G/3G coverage.

Open Signal’s most recent network tests were published in April 2020 and the results show O2 as the slowest out of the four major network providers. This puts giffgaff behind SMARTY, when it comes to internet speeds, but when we look at the results we can easily say that there’s barely any noticeable difference between the two networks. Three’s average 4G download speed is at 19.1Mbps and its upload speed is averaging around 6.7Mbps. O2’s average download speed is 16.6Mbps and upload speed is at 5.8Mbps. The difference wouldn’t be noticeable to a common internet user.

If you are wondering who is the fastest UK network, it’s EE with a 34.6Mpbs average download speed and 9.7Mbps average upload speed. In any case, we strongly recommend you to monitor your frequent areas on both SMARTY’s and giffgaff’s network coverage checkers.

To find out which other networks offer faster 4G download and upload speeds, as well which ones cover the most areas, check out Half Cooked’s 4G Networks in the UK guide.

Half Cooked’s Verdict:

smarty-winnerSMARTY comes out on top here, as it is just a bit ahead of giffgaff with faster average 4G speeds in the UK. While not having 2G coverage is a slight downside, due to the fact 99% of the population is covered by 4G, Three’s slightly larger coverage makes up for it.

smarty-coverage-map

5G Coverage

smarty-5g-coverageBoth SMARTY and giffgaff announced that they’ll be supporting 5G soon, but when exactly this will happen is a mystery. SMARTY will be using Three’s 5G network and giffgaff’s 5G coverage will be powered by O2.

Half Cooked’s Verdict

Neither SMARTY nor giffgaff has 5G at the time of writing. We’ll come back and update our review once they start providing 5G to their customers.

Voice Call Quality

Voice call quality giffgaffTo assess SMARTY’s voice call quality, we need to look at its parent company Three’s recent performance results in call quality tests. Three only operates on 3G & 4G networks and does not use any 2G spectrum for voice calls.

The same goes for giffgaff, as the network itself has never been tested in this area, but parent network O2 is subject to many tests by independent parties such as OOKLA and umlaut (formerly known as P3 Communications).

When we look at the results of umlaut’s (an independent testing body who have widely been accepted as authoritative and highly objective) network tests, we see Three ranked as the 4th out of four major UK network providers. Three’s score is ranked as ‘sufficient’, and the main reason it’s falling behind other networks is call connection times taking longer than EE’s, Vodafone’s and O2’s network. The call setup times of Three was noticeably longer than EE and Vodafone, and slightly worse than O2’s.

Half Cooked’s Verdict

giffgaff-winnerThis is yet another close race between the two, but O2’s recent improvements in this area puts giffgaff ahead of SMARTY. Neither network offers 4G Calling or Wi-Fi Calling at the moment, unlike their parents. With either network, you won’t have any issues making or receiving calls.

Wi-Fi Calling & 4G Calling

smarty-vs-giffgaff-4gcalling-wificallingIf your phone and network provider both support Wi-Fi calling you can place calls & send texts using wireless internet, instead of using your 3G/4G network. This is nice to have, if you are somewhere without a mobile connection, but still have access to Wi-Fi.

4G Calling is a free service -just like Wi-Fi Calling-, which allows you to make phone calls over a 4G network. With this perk, indoor blackspots become less of a problem and it offers superior call quality. Of course your handset must be compatible to benefit from these features and your network carrier needs to support this feature.

Providing the value that SMARTY or giffgaff do usually means cutting back on features like this despite their owner companies’ having both Wi-Fi Calling & 4G Calling. Although it’s not officially announced by either, both networks are exploring ways to include these two call quality improving perks to their list of services.

If you are looking for a low-cost network with both these features,you should have a look at iD Mobile. It’s the only MVNO with both 4G Calling & Wi-Fi Calling. You may also want to check out Half Cooked’s best networks with Wi-Fi Calling in the UK guide.

Half Cooked’s Verdict

Both SMARTY and giffgaff are missing out on these features. If they ever get any of these included we’ll return to our reviews for both providers and update them accordingly.

Wi-Fi Hotspots

smarty-vs-giffgaff-hotspotAll the major networks in the UK (these being EE, Vodafone, Three and O2) offer some kind of free Wi-Fi. However, most mobile virtual networks have no Wi-Fi hotspot access. SMARTY and giffgaff are among the ones which don’t offer any Wi-Fi hotspots.

When the subject is Wi-Fi Hotspots, the best network is BT Mobile by a long shot. BT Mobile has over 5 million Wi-Fi hotspots & a further 13 million in other countries. To check which other networks offer Wi-Fi hotspots read our Wi-Fi hotspots in the UK-2020 guide.

Half Cooked’s Verdict

>Neither SMARTY nor giffgaff offer any kind of free Wi-Fi access.

Tethering

smarty-vs-giffgaff-tetheringTethering or turning a handset into a personal hotspot means sharing your phone’s network connection with other compatible devices such as other smartphones, tablets, computers etc. By turning on tethering you allow your smartphone to create a wireless connection from the SIM, enabling other Wi-Fi devices to connect to your internet and use it.

SMARTY allows its customers to share their data in any way they like, including tethering from their mobile device. Some networks used to limit how much you can tether or how many devices can connect to your personal hotspot, but as of late this has ceased to exist and almost all the networks offer pretty much unlimited tethering.

giffgaff offers tethering on all its ‘goodybags’ and airtime credit options (PAYG). You are allowed to use all your data on tethering, but there’s a small catch for Always-On-Data deal. Download speed on this goodybag is capped once you reach 80GB per month and reduced to 384kbps. This is quite slow even for personal use, let alone sharing it with other devices.

SMARTY’s unlimited data plan has a 1TB fair usage policy, but it is a ton of data to burn through! Besides that, there are no data or speed caps.

Half Cooked’s Verdict

smarty-winnerSMARTY offers more freedom when it comes to tethering and better value for your money. Compare both unlimited plans and it’s a clear win for SMARTY.

International Roaming

giffgaff-international-roamingAs of now, both SMARTY and giffgaff allow their customers to use their plans in the EU and selected destinations, just like they use them at home and without any extra charges. Sadly, there is no inclusive roaming across some of the non-EU countries such as you get with Three’s Go Roam proposition, but given how these two networks are low-cost MVNOs we can cut them some slack. SMARTY’s inclusive roaming only covers 35 countries and giffgaff’s international roaming offer contains only 37 countries.

To be able to make calls, send texts and use your data outside these inclusive roaming destinations you need to have credits on your plan, this is regardless of the network. SMARTY’s and giffgaff’s rates change from country to country, which makes it a bit hard to say which one would be less costly. We recommend you to check SMARTY’s and giffgaff’s international roaming charges pages to compare their rates, however, generally speaking SMARTY seems to be on the cheaper end in most cases.

In addition to all that, giffgaff has a data cap for roaming past 20GB of usage. The £25 Always-On goodybag and the £20 goodybag, additional data is charged at 0.36p (£0.0036) per MB if you’ve passed over your 20 GB data cap. Calls and texts are still free to receive.

To help customers control the cost of using the data on their phones when they’re abroad, SMARTY has set a worldwide roaming data limit of £52.77 (inc VAT).  This limit can be increased easily by contacting their customer support service.

A good value option with decent perks for international roaming would be Vodafone’s VOXI. On VOXI’s inclusive roaming there are 48 countries and destinations and 4 more might be added soon. Plus you still get to use your endless social media perk. You may also want to have a look at what all the other networks are offering for international roaming in 2020.

Half Cooked’s Verdict:

smarty-winnerWith more freedom, controllable spending limit and no data cap unlike giffgaff, SMARTY wins here.

Features

SMARTY’s Features

Data Rollover – Discount on your next bill

smarty-data-rolloverv2If your network features a data rollover option, this means  you may continue using your leftover data from one month to the next. Say you have a 2GB data plan and only used 1GB of it, the following month you will have 3GB to use.

SMARTY’s take on data rollover is very unique, proposing customers money off their next bill for any unused data they have. Unless you’re on one of Sky Mobile’s plans, under normal conditions your rolled over data can only be used in the next month and then will expire. On SMARTY the amount of leftover usage on your plan is calculated and then deducted from your very next bill. We weren’t joking when we said it’s a unique feature, however this perk is only available for SMARTY’s data discount plans.

If you want to check out SMARTY’s price plans and compare them, visit our extensive SMARTY – 2020 Review!

To learn more about unlimited plans, check out our article on the best unlimited mobile plans in the UK. You can click here to jump to SMARTY’s FAQ page and learn more about this unmatched feature. The only better data rollover alternative comes from Sky Mobile. Piggybacking on the O2 Network, Sky Mobile lets you hold onto your unused data for three full years and also transfer it between group members!

Unlimited Data Plan

SMARTY’s unlimited data plan is surely an eye catcher. It’s the cheapest, 1 month rolling unlimited data tariff out there. The internet speeds are not limited, nor are there any penalties or data caps. However, if you are willing to make a year long commitment, Three is offering an even better deal for £18/month with great perks like Go Binge and 5G coverage. If you’re interested we’d suggest reading our Three Review too!

Alternatively, you might also want to check out Superdrug Mobile’s unlimited data plans. Both SMARTY and Superdrug Mobile are powered by Three and offer similar unlimited data deals around the same price, plus if you’re a Superdrug customer you get a lot of benefits like double Health & Beautycard points. Make sure to read our Superdrug Mobile Review before you make your final decision!

Spending Caps

SMARTY aims to prevent their customers from receiving any nasty bill shocks at the end of the month. The network proposes a spending cap feature, so that you can always be aware if you are nearing the end of your data. Additional spendings like calling premium numbers, roaming abroad (non inclusive destinations) and data usage beyond the limits of your plan can only be done by purchasing add-ons.

Customer Rewards – Free month for referring friends

smarty-refer-friendSMARTY’s loyalty programme rewards customers with a free month of their regular SIM plan for referring friends, as well as providing a free month to the friend referred. You may refer any number of friends, there aren’t any limits to ‘refer-a-friend’. This means you can even get a whole year free on SMARTY if you refer 12 friends.

All you have to do is send a special referral link -which you get  from your account’s dashboard- to a friend or a family member, who uses this to sign up. Once the new account has been used for a minimum of 14 days the reward becomes unlocked. The free month reward  will be credited to both accounts at the next payment date.

If you are interested in a different kind of reward, VOXI, powered by Vodafone offers up to £20 Amazon vouchers to both referral and referee. VOXI deals come with an ‘Endless Social Media’ perk, which you might want to check out.

No Credit Check

smarty-no-credit-checkJoining SMARTY is super easy, as you don’t have to undergo credit checks, there’s no exception or a catch. Customers pay for monthly SIM plans upfront with a credit or debit card.This means even if you are under 18, have a poor credit record or have recently moved into the UK you can get yourself a SMARTY SIM.

Another network we’d recommend is iD Mobile. Just like SMARTY here, iD Mobile is also running on the Three Network. Due to this, both networks will provide the same coverage and you’ll have more variety of SIM deals to choose from and also some other perks!

giffgaff’s Features

Flexible Goodybags

giffgaff goodybagsBack in the day giffgaff was unrivalled when it came to flexibility and competitive prices. Nowadays Goodybags aren’t the best value option anymore, given how networks like SMARTY and iD Mobile are offering better value, but giffgaff’s flexibility is still unique.

On giffgaff customers are allowed to go through more than one plan in a single month, i.e. utilise multiple goodybags & then use any leftover credit balance on a per min, SMS or MB basis. In addition to this, you get to decide when the next goodybag will be activated once your current one runs out of data. Your SIM will stay active regardless for another 6 months, even if you don’t use it or top-up.

1GB Extra Data Boost

This data boost is only available on the £10, £12, £15 and £20 goodybags. To activate the 1GB extra data boost one must be on giffgaff for at least three months consecutively. After the third recurring goodybag purchase, 1GB of additional data is added. Keep in mind, that this boost kicks in once you are finished up with your base data.

Always-On-Data

Giffgaff’s unlimited data plan is called ‘Always-On-Data’, however this £25/month deal (giffgaff’s most expensive plan) comes with a data cap at 80GB. Customers with Always-On-Data are allowed unlimited 4G speeds till reaching the cap, but once they have used 80GB of data, their download speed will be restricted to 384kbps between 8 a.m. and midnight for the rest of the month. The restricted speed is unfortunately quite slow, and even doing the simplest things on the web could prove problematic.

For this reason, we think SMARTY’s unlimited data plan is the better choice. 80GB data may seem a lot to use up, but if you are tethering often, streaming high quality videos etc. it’s likely you’ll go through it faster than you realise.

giffgaff Payback Time

giffgaff-paybackThanks to their ‘Payback Time’ program, giffgaff offers a unique option to its customers. giffgaff users get rewarded with ‘Payback Points’ when they bring their friends and family on board, give helpful advice on giffgaff forums or suggest ideas to make giffgaff’s network better. If you refer a friend/family member to giffgaff and they top up at least £10 of credit you earn £5. Twice a year giffgaff customers can convert their ‘Payback Points’ to cash, credit or a donation to charity. These payouts are in June and December.

No Credit Checks

There are no credit checks on giffgaff when purchasing a SIM. The network in its core is a PAYG service, bundles are paid for in advance of use with either topped up credit or automatic renewal via direct debit. This means you don’t have to undergo any credit checks to buy a SIM only tariff from giffgaff. Even if you are under 18, have poor credit or have recently moved into the UK you can get a deal from the network. However, phone deals are of course not included.

Online Community Support

Thanks to ‘Payback Time’ rewards giffgaff has developed an online community which is quite active and full of customers and giffgaff team members alike who help & answer any questions others may have. giffgaff customers can earn Payback points by providing help to others.

Half Cooked’s Verdict:

smarty-winnerConsidering the different features & perks, one network could be better than the other depending on your personal needs. However, SMARTY’s plans offer more for less, its unlimited plan is superior to giffgaff’s and we believe the discount on your next bill is a great approach. SMARTY takes the win.

Half Cooked’s Overall Breakdown

smarty-vs-giffgaffWhile giffgaff has the lead in some areas, SMARTY is still close by. For a low-cost mobile network SMARTY is more competitively priced and offers better, more essential perks. giffgaff’s flexibility is still up there with the best, but not a game changer like it used to be.

SMARTY sticks to its “Simple, honest” motto and for us it’s the clear winner in this comparison.

smarty-vs-giffgaff

Frequently Asked Questions

Does SMARTY have 5G?

No, currently SMARTY doesn’t have 5G network coverage, but it was announced some time ago and we expect the network to provide 5G in 2020. SMARTY’s parent network Three already offers 5G.

Does giffgaff have 5G?

No, at the time of writing this piece giffgaff doesn’t offer any 5G coverage. However, 5G will come to giffgaff, and hopefully soon. It was announced by the network’s officials and parent company O2 is already offering 5G service.

Can I get a mobile phone deal with SMARTY?

SMARTY doesn’t offer any handset plans at the moment, but if this changes we’ll update our page to make sure you get the right information.

Does SMARTY have a mobile app?

No, currently SMARTY doesn’t have a mobile application.

How to check how much data I have left on SMARTY?

Go to smarty.co.uk and log in to your dashboard. Your dashboard will allow you to see how much data you used and how much you’ve got left at any point in the month.

Why is my credit going down when I have a goodybag?

There are a few things that aren’t included in your goodybag. So it’s possible it could be one of the below. Check if you’ve been: Making international calls, sending picture messages (MMS) and calling premium numbers are not included in the goodybags. Therefore these actions will use your credit rather than your bag. There’s also a chance you may have run of data, minutes or texts.

Why can’t I buy a goodybag?

You probably still have minutes or data left in your current goodybag you are using. When you have more than 100MB or 100 minutes on your current goodybag, your new goodybag will be queued, but won’t activate before the one you are using expires.

How do I activate my SIM on giffgaff?

All you have to do is to jump over to giffgaff.com/activate. Most SIM activations on giffgaff take only a few minutes. In some situations it may take up to 24 hours according to giffgaff’s online support.

How do I check my giffgaff credit balance?

Simply, just click on giffgaff’s dashboard and the page will show your credit balance.You can also check it on your phone by dialing *100#. To check your plan you can dial *100*7#.

Can I keep my phone number if I switch to SMARTY or giffgaff?

Yes, you can keep your current phone number when switching over to either SMARTY or giffgaff. First you need to get your PAC Code from your current provider. After activating your new SIM, you must provide the PAC Code given to you by your old network to your new choice of network. They will do the rest.

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