Network Comparison 2019: SMARTY vs giffgaff

Which network has the best coverage, speeds, customer perks and deals in 2019? half cooked has you covered.

Sep 6th, 2019

Latest Offer: Double Data – 8GB for the price of 4GB

SMARTY are offering customers 8GB of data for the price of 4GB for a year! This means you’ll get 8GB of data for £10 a month. With SMARTYS money back offer, any data you don’t use, you’ll get it discounted off your next bill. Click through to take advantage of this offer while it lasts.

Half cooked’s overall winner:

SMARTY vs giffgaff Review

It’s a close one but SMARTY is the overall winner here. With both SMARTY and giffgaff you will be getting a SIM that is one of the most competitively priced in the market with very similar perks. What differentiates the two networks is that with the data rollover that SMARTY has you will never pay for any unused data and can save money off your bill every month. However, where SMARTY is let down is that their top data offering is 8GB for £15, so for heavy data users giffgaff is the way to go.

Check out SMARTY and giffgaff’s current available offers.

Otherwise read on for our full review or skip to a specific section by choosing from the table of contents below.

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 23 MB/s vs EE who leads the way with 29MB/s.

O2 is however tracking behind Three with an average download speed on 4G of 15 MB/s.

Three despite winning the uSwitch Mobile 2017 award for ‘The best network for data’, voted for by consumers, fell behind giffgaff in 2018 and O2 won the uSwitch mobile awards in 2018 for best network coverage.

Half cooked’s verdict:

This is a draw – with comparable data coverage across the UK, you should be covered with either SMARTY or giffgaff but running on the Three network SMARTY benefits from faster data speeds. Despite the faster data speeds giffgaff has been running away with the awards in 2018 winning uSwitch 2018 Award for ‘best network for data’ and O2 (which the giffgaff network runs on) won the uSwitch mobile award for the best network coverage in 2018.

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.

The Three network only operates on the 3G & 4G network 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 authorative 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.

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’.

O2 has recently launched 4G calling which should help boost this score, having launched after all the other major operators – but this is currently unavailable to giffgaff customers.

Half cooked’s verdict:

Although Half Cooked has given both SMARTY and giffgaff three stars we have SMARTY edging this. Running on the Three network, the recent independent tests done by P3 communications show that Three is tracking ahead of O2 for voice call quality.


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 20GB.

However, SMARTY Large SIM plan data allowance is only 8GB which means you will have to purchase additional add ons if you exceed this. Additional data is charged at the same rate as the data in your SIM plan, £1.25 per GB, and once you start using more and more data you’re talking quite an expensive data cost versus the unlimited £20 plan offered by giffgaff.

Half cooked’s verdict:

This is a draw – both SMARTY and giffgaff allow data tethering for all their SIM plans. Where giffgaff throttle their tethering after 20GB of data usage on the unlimited plan, £1.25 per GB for any data above the 8GB SMARTY plan starts to get quite pricey.

International Roaming

SMARTY vs giffgaff International RoamingLike all other UK networks per EU roaming regulations, SMARTY and giffgaff no longer charge UK customers extra to make calls, send texts or use data within the EU.

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 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.

Find Out More About 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.

Click here to find out how much SMARTY add ons cost.

On the other hand, as giffgaff doesn’t work like a normal monthly SIM contract, there’s no option to set a spending cap as such.

You can only burn through the credit that you have on your account, if you use up your goodybag 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 goodybag. So although there are no spending caps, there also won’t be any nasty bill shocks.

Half cooked’s verdict:

SMARTY comes out on top – any additional spending with SMARTY outside your plans needs to be done using a purchased add on so you know exactly what you’re spending. 

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 do 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. 

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.

SIM Deals

SMARTY and giffgaff SIM deals are linked below.

SMARTY offer’s only three 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. These are great for lower data users but if you tend to use more than 8GB per month giffgaff is the way to go for competitive pricing

Giffgaff has several plans starting from 500MB data for £5 going up to £25 for always on (unlimited data).

Up to £15 for 8GB SMARTY’s price plans are more competitive but for the heavy data user giffgaff has more options available.

Click through on the plans below to purchase your SMARTY or giffgaff SIM.

Half Cooked’s overall winner:

SMARTY vs giffgaff Review