It's war out there in the mobile market, but as one of the UK's four network providers, Three is able to bring some seriously big guns to the fight.
You could say this of most major providers, especially those with their own networks (Three, EE, Vodafone and O2), but Three really does have a tremendous range of handsets on offer at any given time.
All the usual suspects are present and correct from Apple, Samsung, Sony, Huawei and more. And while you won't find any phones from hipster choices like Google, OnePlus or Xaomi, you will find the 'gamer's delight' Razer Phone exclusively on Three, along with a solid selection of budget handsets from the likes of Honor and Alcatel.
Three also offers a great range of SIM-only deals if you're not in the market for a handset, some of which even offering unlimited data – referred to by Three as 'all-you-can-eat'.
You'd think, wouldn't you, that we'd be in a position by 2018 where unlimited 4G data was sort of a given. Unfortunately that's not yet the case. Many providers right now are offering silly-high data limits (100GB, anybody?) that realistically equate to unlimited unless all you do on your phone is watch movies on it out of range of wifi.
Then there's giffgaff which technically does offer unlimited data deals, but which throttles your download speed after your first few GBs. Virgin Mobile also offers unlimited data, but only to Virgin Media broadband and TV customers. This leaves Three as the only provider to offer truly unlimited data deals that don't either throttle your download speed or demand you sign up to other services.
And the great thing about all-you-can-eat data from Three is that, relatively speaking, these pay-monthly and SIM-only deals aren't really all that expensive – not when you consider you could basically stream data 24/7. Mind you, you'd best have a good reason for needing unlimited data, and you'd best bear in mind that you won't be able to tether all your home devices to it and use it as your main broadband connection. Three won't allow that, and has in place sensible tethering limits to prevent this sort of misuse.
No, that doesn't mean you get to make calls for free when you're abroad, it just means you won't be charged more than your regular call rate by making calls in certain foreign countries. Three refers to these countries as 'Feel At Home' destinations – yes, with the weird capitalisation there.
Countries included in 'Feel At Home' are (brace yourselves): Chile, Colombia, Costa Rica, El Salvador, Guatemala, Nicaragua, Panama, Peru, Uruguay, Vietnam, Åland Islands, Australia, Austria, Azores, Balearic Islands, Belgium, Brazil, Bulgaria, Canary Islands, Channel Islands, Croatia, Cyprus, Czech Republic, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, France, French Guinea, French West Indies, Germany, Gibraltar, Greece, Guadeloupe, Guernsey, Hong Kong, Hungary and Iceland.
We're not done yet: Indonesia, Isle of Man, Israel, Italy, Jersey, Latvia, Liechtenstein, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Macau, Madeira, Malta, Martinique, Netherlands, New Zealand, Norway, Poland, Portugal, Puerto Rico, Republic of Ireland, Reunion, Romania, Saint Barthelemy, Saint Martin, San Marino, Singapore, Slovakia, Slovenia, Spain, Sri Lanka, Sweden Switzerland, US Virgin Islands, United States and Vatican City.
This is by far and away the most generous standard roaming package of any provider. There are similar offerings from others, but in most cases you will have to pay a bit extra to get them or take out a specialist SIM deal that's great abroad, but simply not competitive for general use at home. Some Ts and Cs apply to some countries in that list, and some types of usage, so do make sure you check exactly what the score is with your destination before taking the plunge.
We're already covered the fact that Three is the only provider in the UK to offer all-you-can-eat data. However, the vast majority of Three pay-monthly and SIM-only deals do come with some sort of data limit. Three's 'Go Binge' feature, then, can come in extremely useful for those packages.
What Go Binge does is make certain normally data-intensive apps free – they won't count towards your data allowance. These are: Snapchat, Netflix, Apple Music, Deezer, tvplayer, Dave, History Channel, Lifetime and Soundcloud. Of course, for some of these (for example Netflix) you will still need a separate subscription.
Still that's incredibly generous. You can, for example, literally watch as much Netflix as your battery will permit, no matter where you are, and not have to worry about eating into your data limits. No one but Three offers this.
Three has two apps. The other one, the main 'Three app' is described further down the page, the other is the 'Wuntu' app. Confusingly named it most certainly is – the name offering no real clue as to what it actually does. We're going to offer you two descriptions of this app, and you can choose the one you feel most appropriate.
The first description is how Three would want you to look at it. Wuntu alerts you to freebies and offers relevant to you in your local area as part of your mobile contract. Some of the better offers might include a free coffee at Costa or a free pizza somewhere near you. Wuntu will alert you as and when new offers become available.
Realistically, and this is the cynical bit, Wuntu is an advertising platform. Yes, you'll get free stuff from time to time, but in return you'll be inviting a chirping, slightly invasive ad-streamer into your life. Whether or not you're fine with that is really down to you.
A lot of providers offer wifi calling. We believe EE was the first to offer it and after a time, with its customers finding it so useful, most other network providers have followed suit. Despite the rather complete-looking coverage maps presented by most providers, mobile coverage indoors can differ dramatically from outside.
Mobile signal hates walls, buildings, hills and other obstacles, especially if they contain metal of some kind. Wifi calling, then, pretty much guarantees a great reception at home (or anywhere you can get on the wifi). It's really very, very useful.
Three reckons its 4G signal operates at special frequencies that find it easier to make it through walls. We cannot verify whether or not this is true – such things are notoriously difficult to test. What we can tell you is that mobile signal travels in electromagnetic waves and the longer these waves are (the wavelength) the harder it is to stop them with solid matter.
If you want to experience this effect for your self, play some music in one room of your house and move through the an adjoining room. What can you hear? It's going to be mostly bass (low sounds) with very little detail in the high sounds. This is because higher frequencies struggle to pass through matter, where lower (longer wavelengths) can pass through it with little bother.
Three claim its lower 4G frequencies give it an advantage indoors. All we can confirm for sure is that, scientifically, that would make sense.
Fairly common to most mobile network providers these days is the app. With it you can monitor your monthly usage, check your recent bills, edit account details – the usual. There's really not a lot here you can't do on Three's own website, but in the form of the Three app it all looks slicker, shinier and is a whole lot easier to use on your actual phone.