Dan Howdle | June 29th, 2023
Sky are a relatively newcomer to the world of mobile providers, having begun offering services as recently as early 2017. And even then, they initially only offered SIM-only packages. But now they've had some time in the market, how do they look in 2024?
If there's one word that sums up Sky Mobile then we'd say that word is 'flexibility'. Sure, most providers will try to highlight how tailored their services can be, but when it comes to Sky Mobile we think it's particularly true. No other provider offers the same depth of choice, with features such as monthly data roll-overs that can be piggybanked and even shared among your family and the ability to constantly switch contracts and even the phone itself.
Sky Mobile states that this flexibility was the result of intensive market research, having interviewed tens of thousands of mobile users about their likes and dislikes. And who are we to argue with that? Apparently, Sky concluded that what people really wanted was the ability to swap and change, primarily to avoid being locked into long term deals committing them to things they might not always need. Which we think makes sense too.
So, did they pull it off? Is Sky Mobile your flexible friend? Let's dive in.
|SIM only plans
|Up to three years
Keeping things simple, Sky Mobile only offers five SIM-only deals. To give that number some perspective, Vodafone, for example, offers over 50 SIM-only choices, which feels quite bewildering in comparison. Downloads limits range from 3GB to 100GB of data a month, all with completely unlimited texts and calls. Unfortunately there's no option for unlimited downloads, so if you're going to be constantly streaming movies while you're on the go, you might hit the buffers (although there is a way round that, which we'll come to shortly). And oddly, at the time of writing the highest 100GB data limit was only available as a free upgrade to the 40GB plan, meaning it actually provides more data that the supposedly range-topping 80GB deal. Go figure.
Any unused data automatically rolls over to the next month and this is where Sky Mobile really shines. While several other providers allow unused data to roll-over (iD, Virgin Mobile, O2 and Vodafone spring to mind), it's usually just the previous month that rolls into the current one, and not a byte more. You can't go on accumulating data. But Sky Mobile has no limit on how much can roll-over, allowing customers to build up a 'piggybank' of data – up to a limit of three years worth. And the real ace card they have up their sleeve is that households can actually pool their data into a communal piggybank so anyone running a little low can just dip in when they need to. Genius.
We mentioned that there's no unlimited downloads, so it's not ideal for constantly streaming TV and movies. However, if you're an existing Sky TV customer you can take advantage of Sky Mobile Watch to stream your Sky TV apps as much as you like without it eating into your data. That includes Sky News, Sky Kids and the Sky Sports, Box Office, Sky+, Sky Go and MySky apps. So that's a whole lot of free options right there.
Although that's quite a perk, officially, there are no actual price discounts available for existing Sky TV or broadband customers. However, that's to disregard the fact that Sky Mobile reductions are occasionally offered via the Sky VIP loyalty scheme.
Another flexible feature is that with Sky Mobile you can jump between any of those five plans each month if you like. It's all easily managed online, so if you find you're just not using the data you're paying for, it's really simple to just dial your costs down a little. Or dial them up.
At the time of writing, Sky were promising 'No price rises mid-contract'. We had a look at the small print, and couldn't see any reason to disbelieve them. They do state that call charges can rise, but since unlimited calls and texts are included (at least with their SIM-only deals), that's a little academic.
Finally, they're even flexible on the phones themselves. You can swap your phone whenever you like (well, after the first 31 days), and, other than paying for new phone, there are no additional charges. And you can trade in your previous phone too. A similar scheme is offered for Sky Mobile tablets, but you are limited to swapping every one, two or three years. You can even use any unused data in your piggybank as part-payment, effectively giving you the ability to sell your unused data back to Sky.
Sky, perhaps because it's still relatively new as a provider, has a fairly limited range of brands to choose from. It currently offers phones from Apple, Doro, Fairphone, Nokia, Oppo and Samsung along with Spacetalk children's smart watches. Not a Huawei, Motorola or Nokia to be had.
There are also iPads from Apple and Chromebooks from Samsung, both avaiable with the SIM-only plan of your choice, but do remember there's no unlimited data plan. We think it's easy to get carried away streaming when you've got a bigger screen to play with.
And, just to add, all 5G ready handsets can access Sky Mobile's 5G services, as you'd expect.
Sky as a whole has a fantastic reputation for customer service. While Ofcom's latest consumer satisfaction figures don't cover Sky Mobile, most customers seem more than happy with the service they receive. And with Sky scoring high for satisfaction in the broadband, landline and pay TV categories, it's a fair bet that the company's mobile customers can expect the same great level of service too.
With special offers only occasionally available to existing Sky TV and broadband customers, you can take Sky Mobile’s offerings at face value when it comes to assessing value for money. They are what they are.
Sky justifiably flaunts it monthly data roll-over, although some would say that's no longer particularly unique. But we think the combination of being able to accumulate data for up to three years in a virtual 'piggybank', share that data with family or household members, or even use it as credit towards a new phone or tablet is quite special.
Using Sky's Mobile Swap, Swap12, Swap24 or Swap24 schemes means you can swap handsets (after just 31 days) or tablets (every one to three years), but other providers do offer similar schemes (see O2's Refresh and Tesco Mobile's Anytime Upgrade, for example). However, we think it's Sky's trade-in facility which tips the balance. Especially when you consider that you can make at least some of the payment with your own unused data. Again, a good value proposition.
unfortunately, the same can't really be said of the actual package pricing, particularly when it comes to the higher-end SIM-only plans. Most other providers undercut them, some quite considerably – and while also offering that holy grail, unlimited data (within fair usage limits, of course). However, lower-end packages are a bit more competitive.
Data-sharing is a fairly unique feature which, if your whole household are Sky Mobile customers (and enouraging that was presumably the intention), means you can all dip into a mutual 'piggybank' of unused data. It's a great way to save money if you're in the situation where some family members use much more data than others. You can do this with up to seven different SIMs, so most households will be able to take advantage and make savings that way.
Also, we're now in a world where mobile providers can make additional charges for using your phone in the European Union. Despite earlier assurances that wouldn't be the case. In the case of Sky Mobile, they offer the Passport Plus for £2 day, which essentially allows you to use your phone as you did at home. We think the Passport Plus name could get a little confusing, but the idea seems reasonable. Phone use from more long-haul destinations will, of course, incur higher (and more varied) charges. Be sure that you check Sky Mobile's website for details before you travel.
Sky Mobile is what's know as a mobile virtual network operator (MVNO) – meaning it doesn't actually own or maintain its own network, but uses that of a more established provider, in this case O2. That means rock solid 4G coverage, with well over 99% of the UK population being able to access it. And of course O2's 5G network is growing all the time. All Sky's SIM-only deals will give you access to 5G services, but don't forget that's also handset-dependent.
According to Ofcom's latest customer satisfaction figures O2 scored roughly average, by most measures of customer satisfaction, with an 85% overall satisfaction score. Although only 9% of users felt they had any cause for complaint, which is very much on the low end, relative to competitors.
All that said, don't take anything for granted when it comes to network coverage. Make sure you'll be happy with the level of service you'll receive by using Sky Mobile's availability checker. And maybe ask around in your area. Nothing is more trustworthy than people who've actually experienced the service day-to-day.
Sky Mobile has a relatively limited spread of SIM-only deals, and doesn't offer phones from that many manufacturers. They're certainly not cheap, and don't offer unlimited data – perhaps their Achilles' heel.
However, that's not the whole story. We think that the combination of the ability to constantly roll-over any unused data, collectively build up a piggybank of data allowance which can be shared amongst family members, jump from contract to contract each month, and easily trade up to get a newer phone or tablet, makes Sky Mobile a strong contender. Perhaps no other provider offers that kind of flexibility. And if you navigate that carefully (and preferably if your whole household are Sky Mobile customers), you should be able to get pretty good value from a Sky Mobile plan, despite a higher monthly cost.