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Mobile by Sainsbury’s SIM-only review

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Mobile by Sainsbury’s no longer operates as a mobile provider. New customers may want to ponder Asda Mobile as an alternative.

Sainsbury’s range of deals has been kept simple – with just three bundles to choose from – and Sainsbury’s is upfront about what you’ll pay if you exceed your allowance. Is it the right network for you? Here’s everything you need to know...

Cable.co.uk overall rating
2.6

Mobile by Sainsbury’s is aimed predominantly at existing Sainsbury’s supermarket customers. While its rolling bundle range offers fairly good value for money, it’s not a main contender in the mobile network arena. To reap the bulk of rewards that are offered by the provider, you need to be a loyal Sainsbury’s shopper. If that’s you, it’s worth a look.

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Coverage & data speed

Rating

3

Sainsbury’s is a 3G service that boasts coverage of 99% of the UK population, even though this actually relates to the availability of its 2G services. For sending text messages and making calls, 2G is adequate but if you plan to get online with your phone, it’s no good. Sainsbury’s 3G coverage, which is designed for mobile internet, should cover around 96% of UK premises. This is what Ofcom estimates for Vodafone – the network that Mobile from Sainsbury’s runs on. Actual coverage can vary significantly and some of our readers have expressed dissatisfaction with their coverage.

Despite operating on the Vodafone network, Sainsbury’s mobile customers don’t get 4G. Ofcom's official measurements show the average download speed achievable on 3G with the Vodafone network is 7Mbps. However, there’s no specific data available for Sainsbury’s and no guarantees of the speeds you’ll achieve. With 3G, videos on websites such as YouTube may not play instantly and could be interrupted part-way through while the remainder loads (buffering). Webpages should open fairly quickly but response times may be slower if they feature a number of design elements (pictures, graphics, videos etc.).

3G coverage
96%*
4G coverage
N/A
Average 3G speed*
Unavailable
Average 4G speed*
Unavailable
Call allowance
300 - 800
Text allowance
5000
Data allowance
500MB - 2GB
Minimum contract
30 days
*According to Ofcom findings for Vodafone
Prices from
3G coverage 96%*
4G coverage N/A
Average 3G speed* Unavailable
Average 4G speed* Unavailable
Call allowance 300 - 800
Text allowance 5000
Data allowance 500MB - 2GB
Minimum contract 30 days
Prices from £8 per month
*According to Ofcom findings for Vodafone
Info

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Data usage

Rating

2

You can get 500MB, 1GB or 2GB of data per month with Mobile by Sainsbury’s. For the occasional web browser, a 500MB allowance is likely to be sufficient. However, the maximum monthly data allowance is 2GB and there is no 4G service on offer so Mobile by Sainsbury’s may not be suitable for the more intensive smartphone user. Downloading, streaming media and web browsing daily is sure to exhaust an allowance of this size before the month is up, at which point you’re subject to Sainsbury’s standard charge of 50p per 25MB.

Sainsbury’s operates a traffic management policy across its entire mobile network. This means you’re likely to experience slower internet speeds at peak times (usually in the evenings and at weekends), which may impede your use. You’re not allowed to share your phone’s internet data with other devices (tethering) or make voice calls over the internet with applications such as FaceTime or Skype. Attempting either could see your internet access blocked or your speed reduced significantly.

Calls & texts

Rating

3

Sainsbury’s says that texting on all its mobile bundles is unlimited. However, it actually operates a fair usage policy that restricts customers to 5,000 messages per month. While the average user is unlikely to come close to surpassing this limit, the fact remains that it is not a truly unlimited allowance. Bear in mind that the allowance does not include picture messaging (that goes for emojis too), which are charged at 25p per message.

The entry-level bundle includes 300 minutes of talk time. You can have up to 800 minutes on the £12 per month plan. Bundle minutes are valid for calls to UK mobiles, voicemail and standard landlines starting 01, 02, and 03. Outside of the bundled minutes, calls are charged at 8p per minute with no minimum call charge.

Extra features

Rating

2

If you shop at Sainsbury’s you may be familiar with Nectar points. Nectar is a loyalty card scheme that rewards you with points when you shop. When you have collected enough points, they can be converted into money that can be spent at participating retailers and online stores. Linking your Mobile by Sainsbury’s number to your Nectar card lets you collect double Nectar points on top-ups, your Sainsbury’s shopping, and fuel.

You can link up to 10 Sainsbury’s mobile numbers to your Nectar card to collect double points when each one is topped up. With 10 linked phone numbers, you can earn up to 11 times as many points when you do your shopping at Sainsbury’s.

Value for money

Rating

3

The rolling bundles are competitively priced, saving 20% on the cost of their standard counterparts. Prices start at £8 for 300 minutes, 500MB of data and unlimited texts. For an extra £4 you can get more than double the minutes and quadruple the data. To put that into perspective, £12.50 per month with Tesco Mobile will get you half as much data (although it is 4G-ready) and £10 with Asda Mobile will get you 500MB. So, Mobile by Sainsbury’s is the more generous of the three when it comes to data allowances.

To get the most from the network you need to shop at Sainsbury’s and collect Nectar points. Based on a £50 weekly shop, registering your mobile number with your Nectar card could earn you over 10,000 points in a year. That equates to around £50 to spend at Sainsbury’s or other participating retailers. You could earn even more points if you get your fuel from Sainsbury’s or if you register more Mobile by Sainsbury’s numbers (up to 10).

Overall Rating

2.6

Mobile by Sainsbury’s doesn’t overcomplicate its bundle tariffs. Its 3G-only network can’t compete with the faster internet speeds of 4G offered by some providers, and its data allowances would not go far for a smartphone user who regularly downloads and streams content. Instead, its affordable prices and integrated loyalty scheme gear the network more toward the budget-conscious customer or those with little interest in going online frequently.

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