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Three mobile review 2021

By Dan Howdle | Tuesday, April 20th 2021

4/5

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. But is it any good?

With a host of 5G-ready tariffs available – including some well-priced unlimited data packs – and a range of phones that includes some of the more niche interest handsets as well as the premium brands, Three has plenty to offer. We take a look at the details.

Tariffs and plans

One of Three's main selling points is its unlimited data plans. However, unlimited data is no longer unique for Three. Three had its own way in this respect for a good few years, but other providers have caught on and you'll find unlimited data from a number of other providers now. It's not even particularly expensive.

If you want a pay monthly deal, Three has a number to choose from, with a good selection of data options ranging from 1GB to unlimited, with contract lengths of one month, 12 months or 24 months.

The majority come with 5G ready at no extra cost, the option to create a personal hotspot and Three’s Go Roam, which allows you to use your data at no extra cost in 71 destinations around the world. These tariffs are available to those who are looking for a new device, as well as to those customers who want a SIM-only deal. Most pay monthly deals with a handset are subject to the usual two-year contract.

If you’re looking at a pay-as-you-go deal, then Three offers both handset deals and SIM-only deals for you to choose from. It’s Pay-as-you-go option involves either topping up your SIM card with credit or buying a data pack. The data packs last for one month and come with unlimited texts and minutes as standard. If you choose to just top up your credit instead, you will be charged 5p per MB used, 10p per text and 10p per minute for calls.

Data packs are available in 6GB, 20GB, 50GB and Unlimited and offer extremely good value for money for PAYG customers. You can either buy adata pack when you need it or set it up to renew every month.If you don’t want to order a data pack, Three also offers an array of Add-ons which enable you to bolt on extra minutes, texts or data via the Three App.

It’s worth bearing in mind that Three manages its data traffic with a system called TrafficSense, which means you could see some throttling (slower download speeds) when you’re trying to use its network at peak times – typically between 3pm and midnight.

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Phone and device range

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 an alternative. Away from the usual choices, you'll find phones from Huawei, OnePlus and Xiaomi too.

There are also a number tablets available on 24-month contracts with unlimited data thrown in as standard. You will find a selection of iPads, on offer, as well as devices from the Samsung Galaxy range, along with the Microsoft Surface and the Lenovo Smart Tab.

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Customer service

Like most companies, Three has a comprehensive online support system. It has a very efficient Live Chat, which is how Three would prefer you to get in touch. If you would rather pick up the phone, Three does have staff waiting to take your call. The customer service number is 0333 338 1001 (333 from your Three handset) and is available 8am-8pm Monday to Friday and 9am to 6pm at the weekend. You can also get in touch via social media by sending a message on Twitter or Facebook.

As for a general customer service rating,in industry regulator Ofcom’s most recent survey in customer satisfaction, Three came bottom out of the other ranked providers (including EE, Giffgaff, O2, Tesco Mobile, Virgin Mobile and Vodafone) with a score of 89%, below the sector average of 93%. More concerningly, only 75% of customers were satisfied with the signal they received, a drop of 20% below the sector average of 85%.

Three scores a ‘poor’ rating on Trustpilot, with a score of 1.8 with a number of customers complaining about bad customer service. For the sake of comparison, at the time of writing EE scores 2 on Trustpilot and O2 just 1.5, putting Three pretty much average when it comes to mobile provider ratings. Of course, these ratings are to be taken with a pinch of salt, since disgruntled customers are always more likely to rate their experience than contented customers.

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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.

Value for money

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 unlimited data bundles since they are some of the cheapest around. If you lead a data-hungry life, then Three’s tariffs could be ideal for you.

When it comes to PAYG, Three offers excellent value with its Data Packs, some of which offer even better value for money per GB than the comparable one-month SIM-only options. However, if you choose to just top up your data and rely on data Add-ons when you need them, it will soon get expensive.

Three network coverage

Three's 4G coverage covers 99.8% of the UK population with 2G, 3G and 4G. Three is slowly rolling out its 5G network and claims that it will be the fastest in the UK. All Three's SIMs are 5G-ready and pretty much any new phone you fancy will also now be 5G-ready. However, Three’s 5G coverage is still very patchy and it’s definitely worth using the provider’s coverage checker to see what it’s like in your area before you get your hopes up.

Three covers most of the country

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.

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Conclusion

Three allows unlimited tethering, cost-effective unlimited data deals and a good range of handsets. The included roaming options 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, as is the limited 5G access, but all-in-all, Three offers some great packages, with something to suit everyone.

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