Jan 21st, 2020
Isn’t Tesco a British multinational groceries and general merchandise retailer? Well, yes. And they also have over 5 million customers on their mobile network, Tesco mobile.
Tesco Mobile has won a lot of awards such as uSwitch 2018 best mobile customer service award and runs on the reliable O2 network, that provides 99% UK population coverage.
They offer great perks such as free data & money off your bill for all families sharing an account, along with Tesco club card points. You also get capping features like zero bill cap, high usage limit and safety buffer helping prevent any bill shocks!
Despite the great money savings options provided by Tesco Mobile, they still lack some of the competitive features in terms of the data speeds they offer their customers and they don’t have a data rollover scheme which has now become commonplace in the mobile market.
- Reliable coverage with the O2 network
- Top rated customer service
- Great family plan perks
- Spending caps
- No data rollover of any unused data
- No inclusive subscriptions
- No Wi-Fi calling
SMARTY offers some of the most competitively priced 1-month SIM only plans for low to high end data users. SMARTY offers low costs, straightforward plans, transparent pricing and flexible deals with no nasty bill shocks. All SMARTY deals come on 30 day SIM only no credit check plans which means anyone can easily become a SMARTY customer with no commitment needed. 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 an excellent 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
- Free months for getting friends to join
- No credit check SIM product
- Unlimited Minutes & Texts from £6.25/month
- £20 Unlimited Plan
- Webchat only customer service.
- No free entertainment packages or Wi-Fi Calling
SMARTY Mobile is owned by Three mobile and Tesco Mobile is brought to you by the popular UK grocery chain, Tesco.
Both Tesco Mobile and SMARTY are low cost MVNOs running on networks operated by others. Then, how do you decide between the two, so you get the best in terms of benefits, plans and performance?
Well, that is exactly what we are going to do here. We will look at things like Network Coverage and Speeds, Voice Call Quality, Tethering, International Roaming, Wi-Fi calling and Wi-Fi hotspots, Data-Rollover, Family Plans, Customer rewards and other perks. This will help you see which network performs better in each of these areas, so you can make an informed choice based on what is important to you.
We’ve compared SMARTY against another low cost virtual operator in giffgaff, check out our SMARTY vs giffgaff
to learn more.
Table of Contents
Network Coverage & Speeds
Since SMARTY runs on Three’s network, you will be getting the same 4G/3G speeds (Three does not support 2G) and network coverage as any Three customer.
Three is the smallest of all the 4 main networks operating in the UK Mobile Market. But Three has made huge strides and now covers 99% of the UK population with both 3G and 4G.
A common question we came across online was what network does Tesco Mobile run off?
Tesco Mobile runs on O2’s mobile network. That means you’ll get 4G, 3G and 2G in all the places you get them on O2. Also, O2 is the UK’s joint-second biggest network.
Coverage stats show O2 as reaching 99% of the UK population with their 4G/3G/2G signals.
We recommend you check the quality of network coverage of these operators on their respective sites to make sure you are covered.
If you need to download huge files quickly or stream videos in ultra-high definition, Tesco Mobile may not be the right choice for you. As per independent network speed testers Speedtest and Opensignal, O2 was found to deliver average download speeds via 4G in the range of 15.8 Mbps and 16.95 Mbps. That is amongst the slowest of UK networks.
Half cooked’s verdict:
SMARTY has a slight edge here because of the higher 4G data speeds with 4G coverage being comparable between the networks. Read our breakdown off all the 4G networks operating today to see who has the best 4G network in UK
Voice Call Quality
Voice quality can suffer when signals struggle to get through buildings and thick walls. We noticed that Three’s regular 3G voice call signal has a harder time in these situations compared to the 3G/2G signal provided by O2. This means that you will have problems with voice quality on SMARTY in indoor blackspots.
Tesco is better placed in this department because O2’s 2G/3G signal is transmitted on different frequencies so it can get into more houses and buildings compared to other providers. This means there are less indoor blackspots for calls.
Half cooked’s verdict:
Tesco mobile wins in the voice quality department – because their 2G/3G signals are transmitted on better frequencies so you get better voice quality even in thick walled buildings.
Why should you care about tethering? Tethering allows you to connect your other Wi-Fi enabled devices to the internet using the data plan on your mobile SIM. This feature is offered by most network providers, including both SMARTY and Tesco Mobile, so the users have the freedom of using their data in whatever way they choose.
You can use your mobile device to set up a hotspot and connect all Wi-Fi devices to it. However, having a lot of devices connected can quickly burn through your data. Half cooked recommends you consider the unlimited data plans offered by SMARTY if you are big on tethering.
Tesco does not stop you from tethering, but it does not offer any unlimited data plans for users who are big on tethering, and thus have bigger data needs. They do, however, provide a very useful calculator to help you determine which plan to choose for your data needs.
Half cooked’s verdict
This is a draw. Both SMARTY and Tesco give users the freedom to control how they use their data allowance – you may choose to tether and hot spot all your data allowance with no speed restrictions on both the networks.
You can check which networks offer the Best Unlimited Data Plans
Plan to take your home network with you when you travel to international destinations? Both SMARTY and Tesco Mobile make it easy for you to roam with no additional charges within the EU by including it as part of all their packages. All you need to do is activate Roaming on your device.
However, SMARTY offers 35 EU destinations while you get 48 EU locations plus some other popular destinations with Tesco.
Both networks have a fair usage policy. SMARTY allows you to take your plan to any of the included EU countries and use your unlimited minutes and texts, along with your entire data allowance without paying anything extra (there is a limit of 19GB on the unlimited plan though). Tesco places a limit on 12 GB, and you can roam for 60 days in a 120-day period.
Half cooked verdict
This is a draw, although Tesco offer additional roaming destinations, SMARTY offers greater usage when roaming abroad.
Wi-Fi Calling & Wi-Fi Hotspots
Why should you care about Wi-Fi calling? Wi-Fi calling allows your phone to use a Wi-Fi signal to make/receive calls and text messages, instead of depending on conventional mobile signal.
This has a clear advantage – if you are in a blackspot where mobile coverage is generally poor, such as a thick-walled building or underground, you can still use your phone if you have access to a Wi-Fi signal.
Neither SMARTY nor Tesco mobile offer Wi-Fi calling. You are fully dependent on your mobile signal for voice calling.
Wi-Fi hotspots are not offered by either SMARTY or Tesco mobile. Again, this is something you will rarely find among the lower cost operators. Many public places such as restaurants and airports now offer free Wi-Fi so you may find that this wouldn’t be an issue.
Check out our article on networks that offer free Wi-Fi hotspots such as Sky Mobile on the London Underground
Half cooked verdict
This one is a draw. Neither SMARTY nor Tesco mobile offers Wi-Fi calling or Wi-Fi Hotspots.
If you want to learn more, check out our article that breaks down which networks support Wi-Fi calling
Why should you care about Data Rollover? Data Rollover schemes let you keep your leftover data at the end of the month so you can use it in future month(s). Without this feature, you lose what you don’t use!
Unfortunately, Tesco Mobile does not offer any data rollover feature. You lose your left-over data at the end of month on this network.
SMARTY on the other hand have a very unique rollover benefit. At the end of the month, they take your unused data, turn it into cash and take it off your monthly bill.
Half cooked verdict
SMARTY wins this by offering the unique “money off” advantage to its customers.
Explore Half cooked report to find the Best rollover data plan
Some networks are now offering customers discounts on any additional SIM or phone contract purchases they make to incentivise people to sign up their family & friends.
Tesco mobile does a very good job of letting you choose between multiple deals on the same account. For every additional SIM only plan or phone contract that you add to the main account, you can choose between money off, extra data, extra minutes, discounted insurance or extra Clubcard points. You can even change your perks around every month.
SMARTY lets you save 10% on every SIM (up to 8) owned by your friends and family by adding it to your group plan page. Each member still has their own plan which the group owner manages, the members can still see their usage details and manage personal details.
Half cooked verdict
Though both networks do a good enough job at offering benefits of enrolling family and friends under the same account, SMARTY is the overall winner here – the 10% discount can add up to greater overall savings.
A lot of providers reward their customers with add-ons as part of their plan: like apps that give customers discounts or freebies, free streaming apps which do not impact your data bundle for the month or premium subscriptions to services like Apple Music and Netflix.
EE are a good example of a premium network that offer customer rewards, read our Vodafone vs EE article to learn more about EE Rewards.
Tesco Mobile and SMARTY do not provide any such nice add-ons, but both have schemes in place to reward you and friends you refer.
You get a free month for yourself and the friend you refer to SMARTY, there is no limit on number of referrals and the number of free months you can earn.
Tesco mobile also makes it easy for you to recommend a friend, and once they join you both get £20 off your bill.
Read Half cooked’s guide on Endless social media
to learn more about streaming rewards offered by some providers.
Half cooked verdict
It is a draw between both SMARTY and Tesco mobile when it comes to customer rewards, with both having similar referral schemes.