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Giffgaff Mobile review 2017

Richard Murphy
Monday, January 9th 2017

Giffgaff offers low-priced SIM-only deals. Its unique selling point is its community-driven customer service, whose most active members save money and earn cash back for helping others.

Giffgaff also presents one of the cheapest, most versatile ways to get the Apple iPhone 6s and 6s Plus. Plus, it operates on O2’s network, so it has good coverage across the UK and offers 4G. If you know what you want, and don’t mind asking other customers when you have a problem, could giffgaff be for you?

Is giffgaff any good?

Broadband Richard Murphy
  • Tariffs & plans
    3/5
  • Phone & device range
    2/5
  • Customer service
    3/5
  • Value for money
    4/5
  • Coverage
    3/5
  • Overall
    3/5

Pros and cons

  • Cheapest iPhone 6s deals in the UK
  • Good levels of customer satisfaction
  • Great value 4G service
  • Flexible handset contracts
  • SIM-only deals require unlocked handsets
  • No highstreet presence
  • Tethering is restricted
  • Limited handset choice

What we like

Giffgaff offers adaptable contracts, a range of payment options for handsets, and a reward scheme for members of the giffgaff community who contribute in assisting others. If you’re looking to shave some money off your mobile bill and have spare time and a nurturing nature, you might want to pay attention.

On the other hand, some will not like the community-run approach to customer service or the lack of physical presence on the high street.

The cheapest iPhone 6s deals in the UK

Giffgaff’s iPhone 6s and iPhone 6 deals are some of the best around, even though it has only recently started selling handsets. With each iPhone (giffgaff also sells the 5s) you have the option to pay for the phone outright or spread the cost over six, 12, 18 or 24 months. You can also choose whichever goodybag (giffgaff’s name for a SIM deal) you want.

Good customer satisfaction

General feedback about giffgaff’s unusual approach to customer service is positive, but giffgaff’s market share is too small to have had its customer service rated formally by industry regulator Ofcom. It is worth noting that giffgaff runs on O2’s 3G and 4G networks.

Great value 4G service

In the most recent Ofcom report the average 4G speed on O2 was 18Mbps, compared with a 3G speed of just 5Mbps. Giffgaff offers a variety of 4G goodybags that come with a set amount of minutes, texts and data. Just make sure you check coverage in your area, and make sure to choose the right giffgaff SIM package for your expected data usage.

Flexible handset contracts

Giffgaff has a flexible approach to handset contracts. Once you’ve selected your phone, you can pay for it outright or in instalments. If you choose the monthly payment route, you can choose to make an initial payment, how much that payment will be, and how long you want your contract to be (from six to 24 months).

You then add your goodybag (minutes, data, texts). The cost of your monthly repayments for the handset is then combined with the monthly cost of your goodybag. Giffgaff will send you your handset on a free next day delivery service.

Visit Giffgaff

What we don’t like

SIM-only deals require an unlocked handset

If you’re happy with your handset and want a SIM-only deal from giffgaff, you’ll need to make sure your phone is unlocked. When you purchase a phone from a mobile provider that phone is usually ‘locked’ to that provider, meaning it won’t work if you try to put another provider’s SIM into it.

Most providers or independent phone retailers will unlock your phone (sometimes for a small fee) and giffgaff has a page dedicated to it called the Unlockapedia. Here you can put the make and model of your phone, and the provider it’s locked to, and giffgaff will give you a list of companies that can unlock it, how much it will cost and how long it will take.

No highstreet presence

Giffgaff is what is known as a ‘Mobile Virtual Network Operator’ or MVNO. Don’t let the jargon scare you; it just means it uses another network to make calls, send texts or send and receive data. Giffgaff uses O2’s network. It doesn’t have any shops on the high street you can visit if you want to test out a new handset, or make a complaint.

It is also worth noting that giffgaff customers have reported that they do not receive the same data bandwidth and availability privileges in perfect like-for-like fashion with O2 customers.

Tethering is restricted

Tethering is a system in which you use your mobile as a wireless router to distribute a 3G or 4G connection to other devices. Giffgaff allows tethering on all its SIMs, however it is restricted to 6GB on the 4G £20 goodybag (Always on UK data) that offers unlimited data. Note that the speed is restricted after 6GB of data usage on the £20 goodybag.

Limited handset choice

Giffgaff began life just offering SIM-only contracts but it now also sells a variety of handsets from major manufacturers. Anyone used to the vast selection of handsets on offer from high street providers might be disappointed by the limited range offered by giffgaff.

Compare SIM-only deals

Coverage

Giffgaff runs on the O2 network, which has good coverage across the UK. However, some areas will be unable to get either 3G or 4G, so to find out if you’re covered where you are, you can check giffgaff’s coverage map online.

Check coverage

Giffgaff SIM-only plans

Giffgaff’s SIM-only deals are called goodybags, and they offer minutes, texts and data on flexible 30-day contracts that can be chopped and changed as your needs evolve.

Giffgaff has SIMs for 4G, that come with a set amount of minutes, texts and data.

4G goodybags

Minutes Texts Data Price  
125 - unlimited 500 - Unlimited 100MB - unlimited £5 - £20 Buy Now

A good range of reasonably priced SIMs

Giffgaff’s SIM-only deals, or goodybags as they’re known, are simple, relatively inexpensive and all last for 30 days. These SIMs can be bought separately and used in your current handset, providing it’s unlocked, and each one comes with a specific amount of minutes, texts and data. Tethering is allowed on all plans.

Giffgaff offers an unlimited data plan, but it’s traffic-managed

Giffgaff has a traffic management system called Traffic Flow on its unlimited data SIM. Once your usage reaches 6GB, you'll still have access to unlimited data but at a restricted speed of 256 kilobits per second (from 8am and midnight).

You can still use giffgaff’s 3G service

If you’re in an area that can’t receive giffgaff’s 4G signal, you can still go online with its 3G service – assuming that 3G is available.

Tethering is permitted on all SIMs

You can use your 4G SIM to tether. Tethering is when you use your handset as a mobile router, allowing you to connect other wireless devices to it using the same data allowance. You can tether on all plans, but because 4G is a much faster connection you might find you use up your data allowance much sooner than if you were tethering with 3G.

Giffgaff 4G goodybags

Giffgaff pay-as-you-go plans

If you want something a little simpler and easier to control than a pay-monthly or handset plan, giffgaff has pay-as-you-go plans. With these SIM plans you have no set monthly bill. Instead you just pay as much or as little as you want when you want; the cost of your calls, texts and data is deducted from what you have paid.

Giffgaff provides a free SIM and a number of ways to keep your account topped up. You can even set up an automatic top-up, which will recur once a month to keep you connected.

PAYG SIMs are free

Giffgaff offers free PAYG SIMs. These SIMs are sent out for free through its website when you first sign up and can be topped up a number of different ways. You do not get a new SIM each time you top up. To get up and running with your PAYG account you’ll need an unlocked handset, a SIM and a method of topping up.

If your phone is locked to a different provider, giffgaff’s forums have advice on getting it unlocked. Phones locked to O2 will work on giffgaff’s network without the need for unlocking.

A range of SIMs for different handsets

Different handsets require different SIM cards. Currently there are three in general usage: the standard SIM, the micro SIM and the nano SIM. When you order your PAYG SIM, make sure you know which one your handset takes.

Lots of ways to top your account up

There are a number of different ways of topping your account up once it’s activated. You can top up online using a credit or debit card. The minimum top-up is £10. A top-up voucher can be purchased in a shop and activated by calling 43430. Finally, you can set up an automatic top-up to recur once a month, paid for with your credit or debit card.

Giffgaff PAYG free SIM

Giffgaff mobile phones

Giffgaff only recently started selling handsets, but has made quite a name for itself by offering top models from major brands, including Apple’s iPhone 6s and 6s Plus, on fairly flexible repayment plans.

All giffgaff’s handsets are sold unlocked, and are compatible with its goodybags. Because it doesn’t have any high street stores, all handsets are sent out in the mail and you don’t get to try before you buy.

iPhone plans

Minutes Texts Data Speed Price  
500 - unlimited Unlimited 1GB - unlimited 4G From £10 Buy Now

All the latest iPhones on flexible plans

Currently, giffgaff has both the iPhone 6 and 6 Plus, as well as the newer iPhone 6s and 6s Plus. You can choose to pay the handset off for a one-off fee, or spread the cost over six, 12, 18 or 24 months.

The longer the repayment period, the more you’ll end up paying, but the monthly repayments will be smaller. You can also choose to make an initial payment, which will also reduce your monthly and overall payment. Older iPhone models are also available.

All iPhones are 4G-ready

Those looking to take full advantage of all the iPhone’s features will be delighted to hear that all giffgaff’s iPhones are both 4G-ready and come unlocked, so you can swap to another network if you want.

Giffgaff iPhone deals

Other handset plans

Minutes Texts Data Speed Price  
125 - unlimited Unlimited 100MB - unlimited 4G From £5 Buy Now

Choose a goodybag SIM to accompany your new phone

Giffgaff has a range of other handsets to pick from as well as those from Apple, including phones from Samsung, Sony and Nokia. All handsets can be bought outright or paid off over a period of time. All phones come unlocked and with a choice of goodybag, giving you an allowance of minutes, data and texts.

Flexible payment plans on all handsets

One of the draws of giffgaff’s mobile phone deals is the flexibility of its payment plans. Once you’ve chosen your handset and goodybag plan, you can either pay for the handset outright or stretch the payment over six, 12, 18 or 24 months. You can also make a one-off initial payment, lowering both your monthly costs and the overall total of the package.

The majority of handsets are 4G-ready

Giffgaff runs on the O2 network, which clocked in at 18Mbps in a recent Ofcom speed test, so browsing, streaming and downloading will be much quicker than on 3G. To access 4G, you’ll need one of giffgaff’s 4G goodybags and to be within its 4G network area. You can find out if you’re covered by putting your postcode into the online coverage checker.

Only a limited number of handsets available

Those making the move from one of the major mobile providers might be slightly put off by the limited range of handsets on offer from giffgaff. Despite not having the widest variety, giffgaff does tick a lot of boxes, with popular handsets like the Samsung Galaxy S6 and the HTC One.

Giffgaff handset deals

Giffgaff data SIMs for tablets

While giffgaff does not sell tablets or mobile broadband devices, it does have a small range of data-only SIMs with plans called gigabags, which provide a specific amount of data for mobile broadband users.

The SIMs can be used in a wide range of devices. All plans last 30 days – they’re quite flexible, but those with high data needs might find them too restrictive.

Gigabags

Data Minutes Texts Speed Price  
500MB - 1GB     4G £5 - £7.50 Buy Now

Gigabags are relatively cheap and flexible

If you only need a small amount of data for your tablet or mobile internet dongle, giffgaff’s gigabags might be a smart option. They run for 30 days, meaning you can cancel – or extend – your deal whenever you want. If you think these data limits will be enough you’ll be hard pushed to find a cheaper deal that’s this flexible.

No solid cap on data

If you do find yourself bumping into the data limit on your gigabag, giffgaff won’t charge you the earth by way of punishment. Instead, giffgaff will notify you and give you an additional 50MB buffer for free. If you go through that, each additional MB will cost you just 2p.

Limited choice and small data allowances

A major drawback with the gigabags is the lack of choice. Giffgaff’s data limits are also decidedly paltry when compared to larger mobile providers, such as EE or Vodafone, where limits on data-only SIMs can reach up to 25GB. It’s also worth noting that giffgaff does not sell any dongles or MiFi devices.

Giffgaff Gigabags

Frequently asked questions

How do I switch to giffgaff?

Make sure you’re out of your current contract

Before you switch to giffgaff from your current operator, make sure you’re out of contract, to avoid any unwanted termination charges. If you’re unsure when your contract ends, the information should be on your bill, or you can ask giffgaff directly.

Make sure you can get a signal from O2

Another thing to check before you switch to giffgaff is whether you can get a signal. Giffgaff is on the O2 network. If you’re moving from O2 you will already know the limitations of the signal; otherwise you can check giffgaff’s coverage on its website, but bear in mind that 4G coverage is generally not as good as 3G.

Sign up online

Giffgaff doesn’t have any stores on the high street, so if you want to join, you’ll have to do it online. If you order a deal that includes a handset, it will be sent to you the day after you order. Other than that, giffgaff will send you a free SIM in the post for use with a new goodybag or new pay-as-you-go deal. Postage usually takes a couple of days.

Can I get 4G on giffgaff?

Giffgaff has a range of dedicated 4G SIMs

You can get 4G on giffgaff and it's available across all its SIM plans. Giffgaff also offers a plan with unlimited data (Always On UK data), although traffic flow applies. Your download speed will be restricted after 6GB of data usage.

Make sure you can get a 4G signal

Giffgaff operates on O2’s network, and its 4G coverage is not as widespread as its 3G coverage. Before you pick which package you want, have a look to see if your area is covered by heading to giffgaff’s website to use the coverage checker.

Not all handsets are 4G-ready

If you’re picking up a handset from giffgaff, and you want to run it on a 4G network, make sure it’s 4G-ready. The majority of handsets on offer from giffgaff are 4G-ready and are clearly indicated on the website.

What does giffgaff do if you exceed your allowances?

Giffgaff is quite transparent with its pricing structure, and goes into some depth explaining its financing packages, but there are still some charges that need exploring.

Usage Cost
Calls, texts and video calls to other giffgaff users free
Calls to UK mobiles and landlines 10p per minute
Texts to UK mobiles 6p per text
Voice mail 8p per call
Mobile internet (up to 20MB) 20p per day
Video calls 50p per minute
Usage
Cost
Calls, texts and video calls to other giffgaff users
free
Calls to UK mobiles and landlines
10p per minute
Texts to UK mobiles
6p per text
Voice mail
8p per call
Mobile internet (up to 20MB)
20p per day
Video calls
50p per minute

You will be charged for running outside of your allowances

If you do exceed your allowances, you’ll be charged these additional rates for calls texts and data. If you find yourself exceeding your allowance repeatedly, you might want to consider getting a more accommodating goodybag. One of the benefits of giffgaff’s system is that goodybags can be chopped and changed at the end of each month.

All plans include free calls to other giffgaff users

All giffgaff customers can call other giffgaff customers for free, which is a great incentive to get all your friends and family on board – a practice giffgaff both encourages and rewards. However, if you don’t add a goodybag or top-up to your account for three months you will lose this privilege.

How does community-driven customer service work?

In lieu of more traditional customer service, giffgaff encourages its members to become part of the giffgaff community and help each other out. This can lead to rewards in the form of free data or charitable contributions.

Sign up to giffgaff’s community

If you have a question regarding giffgaff’s services, handsets or charges, head directly to the online forums. This is filled with helpful guides and giffgaff experts who are on hand to answer your questions. The need to sign up to its forums, read through some of the guides, and say hello to your fellow ‘giffgaffers’.

Good community members receive rewards for their help

Good members of the giffgaff community (those who give good advice on the forums or encourage other people to sign up to giffgaff) receive rewards in the form of cash back, airtime credit or donations to charities of your choice.

Assistance from giffgaff itself is limited

While speaking to the community is easy, getting in contact with giffgaff itself is not quite as simple. Giffgaff doesn’t have any branches on the high street, and although there are agents you can speak to online once you’re a member, there is no number to call.

Can I tether on giffgaff?

Giffgaff allows tethering on most of its plans

Tethering is when you use your mobile phone as a mobile broadband router, to get other wireless devices connected to the internet. Giffgaff allows tethering on all its goodybags and gigabags.

However, there is a 6GB limit on tethering. Even on the £20 goodybag with Always On UK data, you are only allowed to tether for the first 6GB, after that you can't.

Unauthorised tethering may result in your account being suspended

If you’re found to be tethering after the 6GB limit your account will be temporarily suspended. It can be reinstated, but if repeated attempts to tether are detected, you can be suspended for longer periods of time and may need to contact an agent to get it reinstated.

Visit Giffgaff

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