Three is one of the four major networks in the UK, offering decent network coverage and a good array of SIM-only deals, as well as pay monthly handset contracts. In 2017, it was voted ‘Best Network for Data’ at the uSwitch mobile awards.
With a host of rewards and data-friendly tariffs available, as well as a range of phones that includes some of the more niche interest handsets, Three has got some positive attention over the years.
In recent years the company has run a series of TV ads with a purple muppet singing East 17, and more recently, a bizarre sloth/dolphin hybrid. Desperate attempts to meme aside, what is Three like for the average customer? We’ve taken a closer look to see what’s what.
One of Three's unique selling points is its All You Can Eat bundles, which give you unlimited data. There’s also the Go Binge deal, which allows you to stream your favourite shows on Netflix and the like, as well as stream music on Spotify, Apple Music, Deezer and the rest without using your data.
If you want a pay monthly deal, Three has a number to choose from. Firstly, there’s the Advanced Plans, which give you all of Three’s benefits, including the Feel At Home offers, so you can use your phone abroad. These tariffs are available to those who have a device included, or to customers who have a SIM-only deal.
Most pay monthly deals with a handset are subject to the usual two-year contract, although there are some attractive SIM-only deals ranging from 500MB a month to unlimited that last just 12 months. These all come with unlimited texts and calls too.
If you’re looking at a pay-as-you-go deal, then Three also has you covered. The rates are bog-standard for the market, but if you want more than the allowances on offer in the basic package, you have the chance to beef up your numbers with All-In-One Add-ons, so you can get extra with a bundle for your calls, data and texts. You can buy the aforementioned add-ons through the Three app, which is available to download on Google Play and Apple’s App Store. Currently, you get a free allowance of 10MB every time you pay for a top-up, with more available if you want to pay a little extra.
On the downside, Three manages traffic with a system called TrafficSense, which means you could see some throttling when you’re trying to use their network at certain times.
Three has recognised that the majority of customers are looking for a new Apple or Samsung phone, so the company’s shopfront reflects that, as it does with most providers. However, that isn’t the whole story – there is more to choose from, should you be in the market for something alternative.
If you’ve been eyeing up something from LG, Huawei, Sony, Motorola, Razer, Honor, Alcatel and others, there’s a number of devices to choose from, depending on your preference and price range. Away from the usual choices, the most notable device here is the Razer phone, which is a favourite of gamers with its beefed-up audio and display. It’s a niche handset, but it is a boon for Three to have it as an option for pay monthly customers.
There are also a number of options for tablets, with the typical range of iPads, as well as devices from Samsung, Huawei, Amazon and Alcatel. Three has the main bases of iOS, Android and Windows covered, so you're likely to find what you want.
Like most companies, Three has a comprehensive online support system, which is a move to try and ease the pressure on those who work in their call centres dealing with the complaints and concerns of disgruntled customers. You can live-chat to support agents online, but if you prefer to pick up the phone, Three does have staff waiting to take your call.
As for a general customer service rating, as in most business cases, the bad news travels faster than the good. Reviews of Three on Trustpilot are the typical mix of those complaining about poor service, and those who are reasonably happy. As ever with these kinds of sites, they tend to be skewed in the favour of poor reviews, since satisfied customers don’t generally tend to feel the need to vent their feelings on the internet.
That said, Three scores an ‘average’ rating on Trustpilot, which is solid enough when looking at the network’s competition. Of course, these scores are to be taken with a pinch of salt, although there are some legitimate concerns in there, should you want to peruse them at your leisure.
Three’s information on how to resolve complaints, or indeed take them to an independent adjudicator, is refreshingly straightforward, and it has a dedicated page where you can get all the information you need.
When it comes to getting the most bang for your buck, Three is reasonably consistent with its peers. There are good deals to be had, but you can certainly find cheaper options elsewhere. One of the major savings to be had with Three is through the All-You-Can-Eat bundles. If you lead a data-hungry life, then Three’s tariffs could be ideal for you.
As for value when it comes to PAYG, they’re solid enough. It goes without saying that the PAYG deals aren’t going to give you the same data allowances as those on a pay monthly contract, but you can easily buy add-ons through the Three app.
Three says that its 3G coverage covers 97% of the UK population, but what about 4G? Well, this is where it falls down – the company says that its 4G network is currently rolling out to a number of cities across the UK, which means that those living in more rural areas or smaller towns could well find their 4G coverage coming up short.
Seeing as Three was the last of the major UK networks to launch a 4G service, it isn’t surprising that it still has room to grow and improve. That said, Three’s 4G coverage does include a good portion of the UK map, so the best thing to do is check Three’s coverage using the online tool before you get into any agreement with them.
Like all mobile networks, the way coverage is calculated can only measure so much. It takes into account things like the reception you get within a radius around a masts, as well as the surrounding natural terrain. However, if you live in a house with thick stone walls in the middle of a mountain range, your signal could be worse than stated. However, these issues can be found with all providers – not just Three.
Three allows tethering (up to 30GB with its All-You-Can-Eat plans), which is a good thing given that not all companies do. We also like the Wuntu rewards app, which is great for rewards and deals. The roaming deals are also pretty good if you’re someone who travels frequently.
The choice of handsets offered by Three presents some interesting additions as well as the usual devices from Apple and Samsung. The traffic management is one of the few drawbacks, but all-in-all, Three offers some great packages, with something to suit everyone.
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