Dan Howdle | November 29th, 2023
SMARTY is a UK-based mobile network, whose focus is simplicity and honesty when it comes to your mobile supply. SMARTY is one of a growing range of Mobile Virtual Network Operators (or MVNOs) in the UK, alongside the likes of VOXI, ID Mobile and giffgaff. These providers, typically independent companies, have leases with major network operators to access their supply, which they then pass on to customers.
SMARTY, wholly owned by Three, is a SIM-only network, offering a straightforward range of rolling monthly plans with different levels of data allowance. Targeted at those who already have a handset and don’t need a new fixed term contract, SMARTYs contract-free plans, especially its unlimited data plan, offer the benefits of Three’s 5G network at competitive prices.
Here’s what you need to know up front when considering an unlimited data SIM with SMARTY.
|£20 per month
|3G, 4G, 5G
|Monthly data usage
|Roaming data usage
|12GB (Unlimited day passes from £3)
|1 month plan, cancel anytime
|99% of the UK population
|Unlimited in the UK
With SMARTY, your data allowance is truly unlimited. No hidden download caps tucked away in a fair use policy, as with some other suppliers. Plus, its unlimited data plans enjoy the fastest speeds possible. Uncapped speeds, with 5G coverage where available, and unlimited calls and texts too, with no fixed term make SMARTY’S plans ideal for anyone looking for a straightforward and cost-effective SIM-only solution.
SMARTY also offers WiFi Calling and unrestricted tethering. Whether you’re working on the move, or find yourself without wifi at home, you can use your mobile data to create a personal hotspot, providing your laptop, tablet or whatever else with broadband-quality wifi speeds. There is, however, a 12GB data usage limit when you are roaming, which makes tethering abroad a problem.
SMARTY occasionally runs promotional offers on its bundles too. Savvy customers may be able to shave a few pounds off their monthly bill with some shopping around, bringing SMARTY’s competitive pricing down even lower.
SMARTY operates on the same network as Three, its parent company. Three’s network reportedly reaches 99% of the UK population on both 3G and 4G. Geographically, that coverage is just below 80%, according to Ofcom. This means that although coverage is strong in densely populated areas, it may be patchy in more rural parts of the country. This is not unique to Three and SMARTY however, and coverage is roughly on par with that of competitors.
SMARTY’S 5G coverage is currently around 54% of the population on Three’s network, and growing. To check what your signal connection would be like, SMARTY has a dedicated coverage checker on its website.
Recent tests show that the Three network currently has the fastest average 5G speeds in areas where 5G coverage is strongest. Coming in at a whopping 204.3Mbps, this is almost double the offering of the second fastest competitor, EE, according to Opensignal. SMARTY offers uncapped speeds, so customers can expect superfast streaming, hotspotting and more when in range of 5G.
4G speeds on Three’s network are a fair bit slower, averaging 25.2Mbps. In recent rankings, this comes second against EE’s average of 44Mbps, but still tracks ahead of competitors like O2 and Vodafone. For SMARTY users, these speeds will also be perfectly suitable for functions like FaceTime, Youtube and Spotify, but you may want to connect to wifi for watching streaming TV in high quality.
SMARTY customers can roam in the EU totally free, with a fair usage cap of 12GB of mobile data for the duration of your travel. This is a very nice perk, beating even parent company Three, which charges £2 per day for EU roaming.
With a 12GB data limit in place whilst roaming, we wouldn’t encourage hotspotting for any duration whilst abroad as tethering will quickly eat up your allowance. Customers can purchase a one-day or three-day pass, which will temporarily allow you to use all your UK data allowance whilst abroad, and this might be a reasonable compromise for those who don’t want to worry about their data during a weekend away.
Users can roam outside the EU too, but you have to buy an out-of-plan credit top-up. Pay-as-you-go applies to all texts, calls and data usage outside the EU. SMARTY’s site has a breakdown of costs per country, so you can see exactly what your usage will cost you, and can pay for top-ups accordingly. Add-on credit doesn’t expire, so you can hold onto any you don’t use for future travel, or it can be returned to your account balance as credit, for your next month’s payment. With SMARTY, you don’t lose a penny.
SMARTY’s offering and pricing plan is pretty straightforward, so there’s not much in the way of extra features. SMARTY’s message is simplicity, and its prices speak for themselves. Let’s recap the top selling points.
Unlimited data deals are increasingly popular as apps and services consume higher amounts of data. All major UK networks (Vodafone, O2 and EE) offer unlimited data deals, and plenty of MVNOs are now competing with their own unlimited SIM deals. If you’re in the market for an unlimited data SIM, you have plenty of choices.
iD Mobile is another MVNO which operates on the Three network, but is instead owned by Currys. Offering the same roaming perks and uncapped speeds as SMARTY, iD Mobile is probably its closest competitor. iD Mobile offers its unlimited monthly rolling deal for the same price as SMARTY. However, for a 12-month fixed term contract, ID shaves a few quid off your monthly cost. iD Mobile is also known to run promotions on its SIM-only deals, so you may be able to improve on SMARTY’s monthly rolling prices with a seasonal deal.
Three itself will often have deals on unlimited SIM packages, with some of the cheapest contracts on the market. These may come with a fixed-term contract length, however, so may not be suitable for those after a short term fix.
For those less concerned about speed, ASDA Mobile prices its unlimited data SIM deals competitively. ASDA Mobile runs on Vodafone’s network, and offers unlimited 4G data at a good price. Its 5G unlimited plans come with a choice of download speeds to suit all budgets.
SMARTY’s no-frills approach plays a big part in its low package prices. Customers shopping for deals with perks will find that these bundles are often more expensive, especially if they come with free or discounted subscriptions to premium services. These bundles can come in at almost double the cost of the cheapest deals on the market, which shoppers should bear in mind. Just how free are these freebies if they push your monthly cost up?
EE, known for its leading 5G coverage, allows customers to gift data to other users on the same billing account which is an interesting new perk. Customers on fixed term contracts can also access a range of Smart Benefits, which feature subscriptions to services like Apple Music, BT Sport and Netflix, as well as Xbox Games Pass. These smart benefits are not available to customers on monthly rolling contracts; you’ll need to commit to at least a 12-month contract to get these perks.
A bit of a wildcard in the mix is VOXI by Vodafone. VOXI’s flagship feature is unlimited social media and video streaming on most of its SIM deals, meaning any data used by apps like Whatsapp, Snapchat, Youtube or Amazon Prime Video don’t count towards your overall data allowance. Its truly unlimited data deal doesn’t hold a candle to SMARTY in terms of price point but, depending on your usage habits, you might find that a bundle with a lower overall data allowance plus the unlimited social & streaming perks on offer suits your lifestyle, and could save you a few pounds too.
Vodafone itself is unusual in that its unlimited data packages are priced according to available download speed. You can get a cheaper deal if you are less concerned with having a fast connection, and more concerned about not hitting any usage caps. If uncapped 5G speeds are desirable, however, you will be paying more for your package, especially if you opt for a one-month, contract-free plan.
Vodafone customers do, however, benefit from the VeryMe rewards scheme. As well as discounts on eating out, subscribers receive free Costa coffees and a free weekly cinema ticket to use at Vue cinemas. Certain packages also come with Xtras: additional bonuses which include free roaming, device care, and two-year free subscriptions to Spotify, Amazon Prime or Youtube Premium.