In this article we provide a comprehensive review of SMARTY and Tesco Mobile, and see which network offers better deals, better features and better network coverage.
SMARTY is offering a 4GB data plan with unlimited UK texts & minutes + Wi-Fi Calling for just £6/month. This is the most amount of data you can get for just £6 a month!
esco Mobile is a low-cost mobile virtual network operator owned by British retailer Tesco. The carrier uses O2’s coverage to provide 2G, 3G, 4G and 5G coverage. Tesco Mobile’s main SIM only deals are long term contracts. If you want to access the best features Tesco offers, you’ll have to undergo a credit check. Alternatively you can use pay as you go on Tesco Mobile. The network provides PAYG bundles, as well as a traditional pay as you go service.
Tesco Mobile’s price plans are quite competitive and offer good value, plus you also benefit from double data if you have a Tesco Mobile Clubcard Plus. However some key features like 4G Calling and Wi-Fi Calling are not included in any of the network’s tariffs.
Although price plans are competitively priced and offer decent value, there are no unlimited UK calls and/or texts in any of their plans, nor do they offer a large data plan (except the unlimited data tariff). However, if you own a Tesco Mobile Clubcard Plus membership you get double data on all their tariffs plus some special discounts here and there.
Tesco Mobile is one of the very few MVNOs with 5G coverage. The carrier’s 5G service is also powered by O2.
SMARTY is a low-cost mobile virtual network operator using Three’s network to provide 3G and 4G coverage to its customers. The MVNO offers competitively priced, commitment-free SIM only plans.
You can find a variety of high value SIM Only tariffs on SMARTY, including one of the cheapest unlimited data plans in the UK. The network’s data discount plans come with a “money back” feature. SMARTY calculates your unused data at the end of your current month and deducts it from your next bill, provided you continue using their service and stay on one of their discount plans.
All SMARTY plans work on a prepaid basis, so you can just get a free SIM, purchase a plan and start using your phone right away. They also offer a 14-day money back guarantee, no questions asked, if you’re unhappy with the service in any way, you can get a full refund.
SMARTY offers two different types of SIM only plans dubbed as ‘data discount’ and ‘all the data you need’. The carrier gives money back for your unused data, provided you’re on one of their data discount plans. The base cost of these plans are £5, which means you can save up to £3 every month.
All the data you need for less plans include 10GB, 30GB, 50GB and an unlimited data plan. They are well priced and offer great value. Just keep in mind that the unlimited data plan has a fair usage limit of 1000GB, but that’s a lot of data to burn through in just one month. All SMARTY plans are commitment-free, meaning there are no credit checks.
Tesco Mobile on the other hand requires you to undergo a credit check, because whether you’re after a 5G or 4G plan, you must sign a 12 month contract with the network. The network’s price plans are significantly more expensive than SMARTY’s, but they still offer good value, plus on selected plans you get free Clubcard Plus membership for 6 months, which also gets you double data.
All Tesco Mobile plans, be it 4G or 5G, come with 5000 minutes & texts. This includes the network’s newly introduced unlimited data plans.
While Tesco offers a wider range of price plans, we prefer SMARTY’s SIM Only plans. They’re much cheaper, offer more value and they’re super flexible. Tesco will lock you in for at least a year.
Since SMARTY doesn’t offer any type of pay as you go service our focus under this category will be on Tesco Mobile. The O2 powered network offers multiple pay as you go schemes and they’re all quite good.
The network’s main PAYG deal is their Rocket Packs. These are pay monthly PAYG bundles and currently there are three of them. Rocket Packs last for 30 days and they all include 5000 UK minutes and texts. The Tesco Rocket Packs are just as flexible as giffgaff’s goodybags, which means you can purchase a new pack if you run out of your allowances without having to wait till your 30 days are up. If you set up a recurring payment for your Rocket Packs, you’ll be rewarded between 1GB to 4GB of extra data per month.
|Minutes & Text||Data||Price|
|500 Minutes & 5000 Texts||2GB||£7.50|
|500 Minutes & 5000 Texts||8GB||£10.00|
|500 Minutes & 5000 Texts||15GB||£12.50|
|500 Minutes & 5000 Texts||25GB||£15.00|
|500 Minutes & 5000 Texts||40GB||£20.00|
Tesco Mobile’s traditional pay as you go service is decent too. The network’s rates are 25p/minute, 10p/text and 10p/MB. Plus the carrier rewards you with triple credit that’s valid for a whole month when you top-up £10, £15 or £20 in one go. Your bonus credits will be spent first so you’ll keep your main allowance. Tesco Mobile will also reward you with either extra minutes, texts or data. The choice is yours. Top up for £10 and you can choose between 50 extra texts, 75 extra minutes or 250MB extra data. Top-up for £15 and Tesco will let you choose between 5000 texts, 200 minutes and 1GB extra data.
Tesco Mobile is the winner of this category, since they offer a decent variety of PAYG alternatives and SMARTY doesn’t have a pay as you go service.
SMARTY wants to keep things as simple as possible, and therefore doesn’t offer any phone contracts. This may change in the future, but for now you won’t be able to get a device from SMARTY.
Tesco Mobile has decent handset options and they’re selling both flagship phones from major brands and older/cheaper handsets. Some of the devices stocked include brands such as Apple, Samsung, Huawei, Nokia and more.
The carrier’s ‘Anytime Upgrade Flex’ allows you to split your phone bill and airtime bill into two, similar to O2’s Refresh, but slightly limited in comparison. Tesco Mobile will let you choose how long your phone contract will be (your current options are 12, 18, 24, 30 or 36 months). You’ll be able to switch between any pay monthly plan if you buy your device from Tesco, but you can swap tariffs once a month.
Tesco Mobile’s handset options aren’t that rich. Especially when it comes to 5G ready devices, but since SMARTY doesn’t offer any phone deals at all, Tesco wins.
SMARTY is powered by Three, and the host network doesn’t offer any 2G coverage in the UK. 2G is still used by all the other mobile networks in the UK as a fallback option and/or for texts and voice calls.
Both SMARTY and Tesco Mobile have over 99% 3G and 4G population coverage, but their landmass coverage is significantly behind the likes of EE and Vodafone. Depending on the region one network is better than the other, however, according to Opensignal’s April 2021 test results O2’s (The network Tesco runs on) 4G coverage is a bit better than Three’s.
As for data speeds, SMARTY has a lead over its opponent. Three’s average 4G download speeds are around 19.3Mbps and average upload speeds are measured at 6.8Mbps, meanwhile Tesco Mobile’s download speeds are around 17.3Mbps and upload speeds are around 6.7Mbps. SMARTY is the faster choice on paper, but the difference in speed isn’t really noticeable by the end user. Plus the exact data speeds you’ll get are dependent on your location and how good your coverage is.
SMARTY may technically have faster download and upload speeds, but Tesco Mobile’s data speeds aren’t far behind. Tesco offers a bit better 3G and 4G coverage, plus the network also provides 2G coverage.
SMARTY doesn’t offer any 5G plans at the moment, even though its parent network Three provides 5G Coverage for all their customers at no extra cost. The carrier made an announcement that 5G is coming, but there’s no date set in stone.
Tesco Mobile on the other hand makes full use of O2’s 5G infrastructure and offers multiple 5G deals including an unlimited data plan. The network’s 5G is live in 155 cities and towns and their 5G download speed is anywhere between 130Mbps to 180Mbps. Tesco Mobile’s 5G is only available to pay monthly contract customers. The network even offers an unlimited data plan with 5G coverage.
|Minutes & Text||Data||Price|
We’ll revisit this section when SMARTY launches their 5G service, but currently the winner is Tesco Mobile.
Measuring voice call quality is a tall order for us, we don’t have the means to test each network across the whole country. However, independent testing bodies like Open Signal, umlaut and OOKLA do, and when it comes to voice call quality we trust their results.
SMARTY’s network provider Three, and Tesco Mobile’s parent network O2 performed quite similarly in these tests, but having said that O2 had a better voice call quality score overall. Plus, Tesco Mobile offers 2G coverage too, which means their voice calls are less likely to drop in rural areas.
However, if you want the best network coverage, fastest download speeds and the best voice call quality you should read our EE Review. EE is the largest mobile network provider in the UK and they score the best when it comes to voice call quality as well.
In terms of overall voice call quality Tesco Mobile is ahead of SMARTY, but it’s a close race. Don’t forget to check each network’s coverage map!
4G Calling is a free mobile service which allows you to make and receive phone calls over your operator’s 4G network. This voice call quality improving feature eliminates many dark spots and lets you make higher definition calls.
Wi-Fi Calling keeps your handset connected by utilising an available Wi-Fi connection, even when you’re not getting any regular phone signal.
These two voice call quality improving features are rarely ever found in MVNOs and unfortunately neither SMARTY nor Tesco Mobile offer them. However, you can find both 4G Calling and Wi-Fi Calling on iD Mobile’s pay monthly SIM only contracts. Make sure to read our iD Mobile Review to discover more about the network.
It’s technically a tie, but only because neither network offers 4G Calling and/or Wi-Fi Calling. We know that SMARTY is planning to offer these services, but we don’t know when.
This is yet another area where both networks don’t offer anything. Both SMARTY and Tesco Mobile customers can benefit from O2’s Free WiFi or Sky Mobile’s The Cloud service, but that’s about it, there are no exclusive deals.
If you want to save your data by utilising free Wi-Fi Hotspots, we’d recommend checking out BT Mobile’s and Virgin Mobile’s contract deals. Both networks offer millions of free Wi-Fi hotspots in the UK. Make sure to have a look at our BT Mobile Review and Virgin Mobile Review too. You can also learn everything you need to know about The Cloud by reading our Sky Mobile Review.
Neither Tesco Mobile nor Tesco offer any exclusive deals or free Wi-Fi hotspots to their customers. We don’t expect this to change anytime soon.
Tethering (also known as turning your mobile phone into a personal hotspot) means sharing your device’s mobile data with other smartphones, laptops, gaming consoles etc.
You can tether freely on SMARTY and Tesco Mobile, but keep in mind that SMARTY’s unlimited data plan actually has a fair usage limit of 1000GB. This is still a ton of data to burn through, but at the end of the day it’s there and we wanted to warn you. Such limitations don’t exist on Tesco Mobile’s deals, however their unlimited data plans are significantly more expensive than SMARTY’s.
As always, Half Cooked would like to remind you that when tethering to other devices you’ll eat through your data at a much faster rate. Especially devices such as gaming consoles, PC’s and laptops will consume more, because mobile devices are optimised to use less data and these are not.
While both networks have unlimited data deals, we fancy SMARTY’s unlimited plan a bit more, because we believe it offers more value. Plus you can also get large data plans on SMARTY, while Tesco Mobile’s other plans don’t offer much data.
International roaming isn’t SMARTY’s strong suit. The network allows you to use your UK allowances in the EU, but even then their inclusive EU zone is a bit smaller than most other networks. If you have an unlimited data plan you’ll be subject to a fair use limit of 20GB/month. Outside the EU, you’ll need to add credits to your account to be able to make calls, send texts or use data. Thankfully you’ll only pay for what you use and nothing more, so you can choose to put that leftover money towards your next monthly bill or keep it for your next trip.
Tesco Mobile’s inclusive roaming only covers Europe, as you won’t find any other destinations to roam freely like at home. However, their inclusive roaming zone has more countries in it. Outside the Europe Zone, extra charges apply.
Tesco Mobile gets another close win here due to offering a few more inclusive roaming destinations. However, neither network is a good choice if you travel frequently.
SMARTY offers one of the best, if not the best data rollover feature in the UK. You get a discount on your next bill for extra data leftover from your previous month. The money back feature is only available to ‘Data Discount’ plans though.
It doesn’t matter if you’ve just moved to the UK, have a bad credit score or if you’re a student. Anyone can get a free SMARTY SIM and purchase a price plan. All SMARTY tariffs work on a prepaid basis, no credit checks required.
SMARTY offers one of the best unlimited data plans in the UK. The carrier’s unlimited deal is one of the cheapest in the UK and offers great value
The carrier gives you multiple spending cap options so you don’t overspend when you’re abroad or when you finish up your allowances. No nasty shocks at the end of the month waiting for you, SMARTY gives you full control over your plan.
SMARTY offers a 10% discount on every SIM added to your main account. You can have up to a total of 8 SIMs under one account and each group member can pick whichever plan they want. SMARTY is a good choice among many other family mobile plans offered by other networks.
By bringing a friend to SMARTY (via your referral link) you get a whole month for free. Your friend will also get a free month too! SMARTY will always reward you with your regular plan. There are no limits, so you can bring as many people as you want. You can even get a whole year on SMARTY for free.
Tesco Clubcard Plus members get double data on all Tesco Mobile pay monthly SIM deals. The feature includes both SIM only contracts and pay monthly phone deals. You’ll also earn double points on all the money you spend with Tesco Mobile and you can even use these points to pay towards your Tesco Mobile bill. Make sure to read our extensive Tesco Mobile Clubcard Plus Review to learn more!
Tesco Mobile offers an unlimited data plan that comes with O2’s 5G coverage in the UK. The network didn’t offer any unlimited data plans up until August 2020, but now they’re going big by not only offering a truly unlimited data plan, but combining it with 5G coverage.
If you have a Tesco Mobile Triple Credit SIM, you get triple credit that’s valid for a whole month when you top-up £10, £15 or £20 in one go. You’ll be using your bonus credit first, so your real allowance will stay safe until you burn through the bonus credit.
Tesco Mobile also gives you a free bonus bundle if you top-up £10 or £15 in one go. Top-up for £10, and you’re allowed to choose between 50 extra texts, 75 extra minutes or 250MB extra data. Top-up for £15 and Tesco will let you pick either 5000 texts, 200 minutes or 1GB extra data.
While Tesco Mobile certainly has some nice extras, they’re no match to SMARTY’s money back feature or reward programme. Not to mention how flexible SMARTY’s deals are as anyone can join the network or leave at any time.
We think both these networks offer great deals and comparing them is difficult given how they focus on different types of deals. SMARTY offers cheap, super-flexible deals. Tesco deals are pricier but they offer wider options combined with 5G coverage and multiple PAYG services. It’s a very close race, but we think SMARTY’s overall value gives them the win!
Tesco Mobile uses O2’s network to provide 2G, 3G, 4G and 5G coverage in the UK. Yes, the network even offers 5G ready price plans!
No, Tesco Mobile doesn’t offer any data rollover feature at the moment.
Tesco Mobile doesn’t offer 4G Calling or Wi-Fi Calling at the moment, and the network has made no announcements about these features so far. So we don’t know if they’ll ever offer them or not. However Sky Mobile, another O2 powered network offers them both.
Technically yes. Since Tesco Mobile is using O2’s infrastructure, the carrier offers identical network coverage and data speeds. However, O2 also offers free WiFi, O2 Priority and so many other extras. On top of that you get 4G Calling and Wi-Fi Calling with O2’s pay monthly deals, which means if your device also supports these features O2 will provide better coverage.
Yes, all you have to do is get your PAC code from your current provider and deliver this code to Tesco Mobile after you purchase a plan. They’ll do the rest. This shouldn’t take longer than two days.
No, SMARTY works on a prepaid system. You get a free SIM and can purchase any of their price plans. Once activated, you’re good to go.
SMARTY actually made an announcement stating that they’ll offer 5G coverage very soon, however, there is no date set in stone.
No, not at the moment. Having said that, we expect SMARTY to launch these voice call quality improving services at no extra cost very soon.
SMARTY is a low-cost mobile network operator owned and operated by Three.