SMARTY mobile review 2021
By Dan Howdle | Tuesday, May 4th 2021
SMARTY is a SIM-only mobile network that promises to be simple, transparent and good value. It is owned directly by Three, and operates on the Three network. It is one of several mobile virtual network operators (MVNOs) in the UK that use one of the ‘big four’ networks – EE, O2, Three and Vodafone – to deliver their services.
But what does it bring to the UK market, how is it different from Three, and is it worth taking a look? Let's take a look at the details.
Tariffs and plans
For an operator that trades on its simplicity, it’s no shock to learn that SMARTY has just six plans – 4GB, 8GB, 12GB, 30GB, 50GB, and unlimited data. All plans offer unlimited calls and texts under the usual conditions attached.
All plans are available on a rolling monthly (30-day) basis rather than tying you in for 12 months, so there’s no minimum term, and you can use your entire allowance for tethering if you so desire. This means you can connect a tablet or PC to your mobile data connection by creating a personal wi-fi hotspot on your smartphone. And because you pay in advance, SMARTY doesn’t require a credit check.
SMARTY also offers three extra plans, known as Data Discount Plans, that offer money back on any unused data. These plans come with three small allowances – choose from 1GB, 2GB or 3GB. For every GB not used, you can receive £1 back.
Families can benefit from signing up to the Group Plan. Buy one SIM and then get a 10% discount on every SIM you add to the main account, up to a maximum of eight in total. You can choose to add SIMs for tablets as well as phones.
Phone and device range
SMARTY doesn't offer any phones/handsets at all so you will need to have one already. If you want to keep your existing phone number, you can – you'll just need to get a PAC code from your current provider in order to do so.
SMARTY’s customer service team is available seven days a week from 8am to 8pm (except for Bank Holidays), but this is limited to online chat and email only as, ironically for a mobile phone network, there isn’t a telephone number to call. There’s also a database of frequently asked questions to consult, should you need something simple answered.
Being a relatively new, and minor, operator means SMARTY doesn’t feature in Ofcom’s complaints figures, nor in its customer satisfaction rankings (although host network Three does). As ever, online reviews should be taken with a pinch of salt as customers tend to report negative experiences more frequently than positive, but from the limited sample on TrustPilot, SMARTY has a very good rating of 4.2 including a large number of rave reviews.
Of the few complaints visible, they are largely concerning poor signal quality and coverage, or negative communication experiences with the customer service staff via live chat.
Value for money
SMARTY’s price plans certainly compare favourably with the competition, especially when you take into account the absence of a minimum term contract. But in line with its no-frills approach, there are no added perks to speak of. What’s really unique about SMARTY is how it handles your data allowance. Several operators now offer ‘data rollover’, which means any unused gigabytes can be used the following month. SMARTY does things differently and actually gives you a discount on your next bill with three specific Data Discount plans.
This is limited to just the data portion of your bundle as calls and texts are unlimited, so is a great way to make sure you’re not paying too much for data. If you have the opposite problem, you can add extra data, costing just £1 per 1GB, which never expires.
There’s also the possibility of getting a free month’s allowance. If you refer a friend to SMARTY, you’ll both get a free month. This can be done for multiple friends, so if you get 12 friends to sign up (the maximum allowed), you’ll get a whole year free.
Because SMARTY uses Three’s network, you should be in good hands. Its 4G network covers 99.8 per cent of the UK population and the operator has been rolling out new spectrum over the past few years to spread coverage even further, especially indoors.
Like the other major networks, Three is also now rolling out its 5G network, and claims it will be the fastest in the UK. However, SMARTY does not yet offer 5G with its SIM-only plans so if you know you can get 5G in your area, you will be better off looking at a plan from parent company Three.
According to the most recent tests from independent benchmark firm RootMetrics, Three ranks third in the UK behind EE and Vodafone for overall performance and third in the reliability, data and speed categories.
It’s worth pointing out that because Three doesn’t have a 2G network, there is no 2G coverage. So if you were planning on using a really old mobile phone, you can’t. However, SMARTY has now launched Voice over LTE (VoLTE), also known as HD Calling, providing for ultra-clear voice calls over 4G.
SMARTY’s pitch to be the first choice for consumers who just want a no-frills SIM card is a compelling one. Having a small selection of plans without any minimum term really does simplify matters, and the ability to get a discount on your bill for unused data is unique.
Generous data allowances and unlimited calls and texts do separate SMARTY from the competition at the price points at which it competes. Plus, free roaming in the EU and a pay-as-you-go system for anyone travelling outside the EU will keep many customers happy. However, the absence of an actual phone number for customers to call as the first point of contact will be a dealbreaker for some.
iD Mobile offers some similarly priced deals, but it lacks the appealing option to get cash back for unused data or get a whole year free by referring friends. Plus, with 1GB of extra data costing £7 rather than £1, things could soon get expensive if you ran out of data.
SMARTY could eventually become the operator to beat in the cheap SIM-only market, and if you're looking for something well-priced and straightforward, it's well worth a look.