By Dan Howdle | Friday, February 7th 2020
Sky came rather late to the party with the launch of Sky Mobile: it only started providing phone services at the beginning of 2017, and at first only offered SIM-only plans. But how does it fare in 2020?
Sky Mobile promotes itself on being unusually flexible, with features such as the ability to roll over data from month to month and store it for up to three years, as well as the option of changing your plan at will. You can even swap your phone for a different model halfway through a two-year contract.
The company says it came up with its flexible service offerings after interviewing tens of thousands of people about what they liked and disliked about existing mobile phone plans. And the conclusion, says Sky, is that customers wanted to be able to adjust their plans at will and avoid paying for things they don't need. So did the company get it right? Is Sky Mobile all it's cracked up to be? Let's take a look.
Sky Mobile offers five SIM-only deals: 1GB, 3GB, 10GB, 15GB or 25GB of data a month. You can add to this data in increments of 1GB at a time for an extra monthly cost. There are also family plans for up to five SIMs, whereby you can pool all your unused data together and dish it out to whoever needs it the most. You won't get a family discount though.
All the company's plans work in the same way, with that much-touted flexibility. While it's now fairly commonplace for providers to allow customers to roll over unused data at the end of the month, most won't let you keep it for longer than a month. In contrast, with Sky Mobile you can 'piggy-bank' all your unused data for up to three years - a feature that the company reckons saves its customers an average of £50 a year.
You can change your plan to suit yourself on a month-by-month basis, as long as you give 30 days' notice. For example, if you realise you're using up too much data but making very few phone calls, you can tweak it to give yourself more of the former and less of the latter.
If you go for a handset deal with Sky Mobile, you can also enjoy flexibility with the phone itself, with the option to sign up for a two-year contract and take your pick of two monthly prices. With Swap24, you change your phone at the end of the term as usual; but with Swap12, you can change models a year into the contract in return for paying a slightly higher monthly price.
Either way, all you have to do is pick your new phone and send your current one back; your new model will be delivered to your door.
If you're a Sky TV customer you get a big perk if you sign up to Sky Mobile: unlimited free calls and texts within the UK. And with each household able to register up to five SIMs, this can add up to an annual saving of a whopping £600 a year. Non-Sky customers can choose to pay-as-you-go or pay a monthly fee for the free UK calls.
Another nice little feature available to Sky TV customers is the ability to sync Sky+ recordings with their phone, either via 4G or wi-fi, to create their own personal playlist to watch wherever they are. The service is free for people who have a Sky TV subscription.
Sky TV customers also get Sky Go Extra – which normally costs £60 a year – for free, allowing them to watch content on up to four devices around the house.
Sky Mobile is a mobile virtual network operator (MVNO), and its services run on the O2 network. There's good 4G coverage, with Ofcom recently confirming that O2 can now provide 4G mobile data coverage to 98% of premises across the UK.
According to Ofcom's latest customer satisfaction figures , O2 has one of the lowest levels of complaints of any mobile operator, at just two per 10,000 customers. An impressive 86% of O2 users say they're happy with their signal coverage, making O2 the joint top performer with Vodafone.
Of course, in order to be certain that you'll get decent coverage in your own home, you'll need to use Sky Mobile's availability checker and it's not a bad idea to ask around amongst your neighbours as well.
Sky Mobile only started offering handsets in 2017, and it's still pretty selective in terms of the models it offers - you'll look in vain for HTC or LG phones, for example. Instead, the company sticks to phones from Apple, Samsung, Sony, Huawei, Nokia, Fairphone and Spacetalk.
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 top 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.
Whether or not you regard Sky Mobile as good value for money will depend in part on whether you're an existing Sky TV customer. The ability to sync your TV viewing isn't much use if you don't have any Sky TV content in the first place.
Similarly, UK calls and texts to any network are only free for existing Sky TV customers. Everybody else will either have to pay as they go for each call and text, or fork out a tenner a month – a pretty high price to pay.
Otherwise, the company's lower-end packages are pretty much par for the course in terms of price. But its top-end plan, with 25GB of data, is really quite expensive compared with much of the competition.
It's also worth mentioning Sky Mobile's swap plans. Some time ago, consumer watchdog Which? looked into these Sky deals and found that they weren't as good value as they might at first appear. Add up the total cost over 12 or 24 months, said Which?, and it could be way higher than the competition.
Obviously, the company's monthly tariffs vary from phone to phone and prices regularly change. But if you're considering a particular handset, it may be worth checking the total cost over the course of the contract - any upfront charge, plus the monthly tariffs for the first and second years - and making sure you're not paying over the odds.
However, the ability to roll over data and share it with other family members represents a considerable saving. Sky Mobile claims that, during its first year of operation, the data rollover feature has saved its customers £20 million worth of data that would otherwise have been lost.
Most people tend to get a bigger data allowance than they usually need, just to make sure they don't get caught short; and this ability to bank your data means you can cut things rather finer when working out how much you'll need.
If you're already a Sky TV customer, there's no question about it: Sky Mobile's deals make a lot of sense, with several free services thrown in. If you're not, though, things aren't so clear.
For a start, the hardware options are limited compared with those on offer from most other providers: if you want a handset from anyone other than Apple, Samsung or Sony, you'll be out of luck. And really data-hungry users might also want to look elsewhere, as the company's top-end offering is just 25B a month, meaning you'll have to pay an extra top-up fee if you want more.
However, the service's much-vaunted flexibility really is a big advantage for many. If you find the amount of data that you use varies a lot from month to month, this could be a really useful feature; and one that could be a life-saver for families with social media-mad teenagers.