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Various logos of UK mobile networks

Unlimited streaming and social media: the UK's best free data schemes

Free data for social media and streaming

We rank the UK mobile networks offering free data for streaming or using social media as much as you like, to find which is best. SIM Sherpa is your trusty guide. Last updated: 17th April 2019

Free streaming data and social media explained

Some networks have stopped charging for some data usage

A taxi meter

It's like turning off the meter in a taxi

Mobile networks are forever trying to find more and more clever ways to lure in new customers. And they know that one of the things we’re most concerned about is how much data we use. And what that costs.

So a few of them have changed the way their deals work, so that some of the activities you do on your phone no longer eat into your main data allowance.

Not many providers are doing this yet. But the ones that do, tend to let you do either of the following as much as you like:

Green number 1 Streaming video and music

Green number 2 Social media and messaging apps

In this guide, we compare each network’s scheme and look for any potential restrictions and catches.

Free video and music streaming data schemes

Free streaming data is the most valuable type of scheme

Music and video streaming

Video and music streaming normally use lots of data

Most people know from experience that watching video is one of the most data-hungry activities we do on our phones. We estimate an hour of video on your phone in standard definition uses up 1GB of data.

Music and audio streaming can also use a fair chunk. We'd estimate an hour of music uses 70MB, which can quickly add up over the course of a month. Both estimates vary depending on provider and quality.

If you're into these things, your only choices used to be:

Green number 1 Buy an expensive plan with a huge monthly data allowance

Green number 2 Watch fewer videos and listen to less music than you wanted

Below, we look at the mobile networks you could join to avoid having to do either.

1st: Sky Mobile give you unlimited Sky TV streaming data

Sky Mobile logoSky Mobile Watch banner

Watch as much Sky TV as you likeRead the benefits

at Sky.com
(opens in new window)

What we like:
Green plus sign 12 Sky TV apps won't use up your data
Green plus sign Works on SIM only plans and phone contracts
Green plus sign Even comes on the very cheapest deals

What we don't like:
Red minus sign Data to play adverts may still be charged
Red minus sign Only useful if you have Sky TV subscription

We've long said that Sky should be doing more for their mobile customers using their TV entertainment expertise. And now they are, with the launch of their new Sky Mobile Watch benefit:

Join on any SIM only or phone contract and you'll now be able to watch any of these 12 Sky TV apps on your phone, without it eating into your monthly data allowance (includes Sky Go, Sky Cinema and more).

Sky have been particularly generous here, because video streaming is practically the most data-hungry activity you can do on your phone. And you get the benefit with every plan, even ones with barely any regular data.

The main snags are you'll obviously need a Sky TV subscription to be able to watch anything, data used to play adverts may still come out of your allowance, and you'll need at least 50MB data left for it to keep working.

Useful link: Full Watch details and terms and conditions

Our ranking:
1st

Get free streaming data with:
All phone contracts, All SIM only plans

Restrictions:
Must have some regular data left

2nd: Three’s ‘Go Binge’ free video and music streaming

Three logoThree Go Binge unlimited streaming

Stream selected services without using dataSee all benefits

at Three.co.uk
(opens in new window)

What we like:
Green plus sign Works with 6 different streaming apps
Green plus sign Stream as much as you like, even in HD
Green plus sign Also includes unlimited Snapchat too

What we don't like:
Red minus sign You still have to pay for the subscriptions
Red minus sign Only on Advanced plans above 12GB

It was Three who kicked off the trend of mobile networks giving you free data for streaming with their excellent Go Binge service. And it's only narrowly been beaten to the top spot in our rankings.

Go Binge lets you watch as much video as you like either on the Netflix app or Dave/History on the TV Player app without eating into your data allowance. You can now even watch in HD where it's supported.

Unlike Sky, it also covers unlimited music streaming on the Apple Music, Deezer and SoundCloud apps, without using your data. You still have to buy the subscriptions for all apps mentioned.

You can even keep on streaming for free if you're roaming in one of the 71 worldwide inclusive destinations that all Go Binge plans also include.

To get Go Binge, just order any new pay monthly SIM only, phone or mobile broadband plan that comes with 12GB data or more. You'll need to have some of your regular data left for the service to stay active.

Useful link: Full details and terms and conditions

Our ranking:
2nd

Content you can stream:
Video: Netflix & TV Player
Audio: Apple Music, Deezer & SoundCloud
Social media: Snapchat

Restrictions:
Must have some regular data left

3rd: EE offer some free data for streaming certain services

EE logoEE entertainment subscriptions and streaming data

Free data plus the subscriptionHow to get it

at EE.co.uk
(opens in new window)

What we like:
Green plus sign Includes free subscriptions too
Green plus sign Stream as much as you like
Green plus sign All pay monthly customers get it

What we don't like:
Red minus sign Free data is time-limited
Red minus sign Subscription fees become payable later

For a while now, every new and existing pay monthly customer has been able to claim a free 6-month subscription to Apple Music. EE also don’t charge you for the data used by the app in the 6-month period.

But now they’ve added three more entertainment offers. EE customers can get 6 months of Amazon Prime Video and MTV Play subscriptions, as well as 3 months access to BT Sport, all with free data usage.

You can even cast most of the video content to your TV (exceptions apply). The downside is that the offer is time-limited. Failing to cancel will add fees to your bill and the data used will start coming out of your allowance.

The free video streaming will save you a lot of your regular mobile data. It's just a shame it’s only temporary, unlike Three's Go Binge scheme, which lets you stream freely for as long as you remain on a plan with 12GB or more.

Useful link: How to get EE entertainment offers

Our ranking:
3rd

Get free streaming data with:
Phone contracts, SIM only plans

Content you can stream:
Video: Amazon Prime Video, MTV Play, BT Sport
Music: Apple Music

Restrictions:
Must have some regular data left, only lasts 3-6 months

4th: VOXI offer streaming passes for an extra charge

VOXI logoVOXI Endless streaming passes

The passes add money to your billSee latest prices

at VOXI.co.uk
(opens in new window)

What we like:
Green plus sign Covers largest number of apps
Green plus sign Watch/listen as much as you like
Green plus sign Social media already included

What we don't like:
Red minus sign Passes cost extra per month

If you've not heard of them, read our review of VOXI here. They're a new network from Vodafone, originally aimed at people 29 years old and under, but now open to people of all ages.

VOXI don't give you any free streaming included as standard with your plan but they do offer options to add it to your account for a fixed monthly cost. See the latest streaming Pass prices here.

Once you've bought either the Endless Video Pass or Endless Music Pass, you'll be able to stream without it using your data on a bigger list of apps than any other UK mobile network.

But because you're paying extra for the pass, we'd question their value unless you know you'll use more data than VOXI's top-whack plan gives you. You might find it cheaper to buy a larger basic plan than the pass.

That said, you only ever have to commit to a pass for 30 days at a time, so you could easily see what happens with or without one, and see if you truly need it or not.

Useful link: VOXI's streaming pass guide

5th: Vodafone extra cost passes no longer available

Vodafone logoVodafone streaming passes

New customers can't buy themSee old passes

at vodafone.co.uk
(opens in new window)

What we liked:
Green plus sign Covered largest number of services
Green plus sign No restrictions on how much you can watch/listen

What we didn't like:
Red minus sign Passes cost extra (up to £7 at last check)
Red minus sign You still had to pay for the subscriptions
Red minus sign Video streaming limited to standard definition

Vodafone responded to Three's Go Binge, with a range of Passes that let you stream selected video and music apps without eating into your normal data allowance. These are no longer available to new customers though.

The video pass covered more services than Three's Go Binge, including Netflix, YouTube, Amazon Prime Video, DisneyLife, My5, UKTV Play and Vevo.

And the music pass covered more too, including Spotify, Apple Music, TIDAL, Deezer, Amazon Prime Music, Amazon Music Unlimited, SoundCloud and Napster.

But the more-comprehensive range of apps came with a price tag. On Vodafone, you had to pay £7 a month for a video pass and an extra £5 a month for a music pass.

So they were not a free benefit. And we started to question whether you'd just be better of buying a bigger regular data plan to cover your usage, rather than stumping up £12 on top of your regular deal.

Useful links: Terms and conditions for Vodafone's Passes | Latest Vodafone offers

Unlimited social media and messaging

Social media and messaging use less data, but more often

Unlimited social media data

Social media uses less data than videos/music

The second type of free data scheme lets you either use social media apps without using up data or effectively gives you an unlimited data allowance for sending messages on selected chat services.

These activities don’t consume as much data per hour as watching videos or music, so it’s less generous for networks to write off. But we do use social media more frequently so the data savings are still valuable.

Think about how many times a day you check your status or send messages and it quickly becomes clear.

So far, there are three mobile networks who offer this type of scheme free and what you get varies between them. Read the details on each and how we think they stack up against each other.

1st: VOXI's Endless Social Media is the most comprehensive

VOXI logoEndless social media data

It's a benefit included with all VOXI plansHow it works

at VOXI.co.uk
(opens in new window)

What we like:
Green plus sign Widest range of most popular social media apps
Green plus sign No sneaky limits on how much you can use it

What we don't like:
Red minus sign Only includes social media

Our favourite of the three comes from Vodafone’s new youth-friendly network VOXI. They’re the first network to make a serious offer of ‘endless social data’ - social media that doesn’t come out for your data allowance.

On VOXI, you can use the Snapchat, WhatsApp, Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Viber, Pinterest and Facebook Messenger apps as much as you like and you won’t be charged for the data consumed.

This means your plan only needs enough data for everything else (compare VOXI SIM only plan prices).

There is only one small catch. You’ll need some of your regular data allowance left over for endless social data to work (we think for net neutrality reasons).

Useful links: See all VOXI benefits | Compare VOXI’s deals

Our ranking:
1st

Get free social media with:
SIM only plans

Restrictions:
Must have some regular data left

2nd: Virgin Mobile’s data-free messaging saves less data

Virgin Mobile logoUnlimited WhatsApp, Facebook Messenger and Twitter

Virgin's scheme focusses on messaging appsFull details

at virginmedia.com
(opens in new window)

What we like:
Green plus sign Message as much as you like
Green plus sign Combine with other useful benefits

What we don't like:
Red minus sign Doesn't cover many social media apps
Red minus sign Smaller data savings

Virgin Mobile’s perk for free data in social media apps is quite a step down from VOXI. It’ll save you a little bit of data but isn’t their most important feature.

Their data-free messaging scheme effectively gives you unlimited tweets, messages, pictures and videos on Facebook Messenger, Twitter and WhatsApp.

For the data used to be free, you have to use these services in their dedicated apps (not your browser). Voice or video calls aren’t included, and neither is live video streaming. If social media is key for you, we’d recommend reading the fine print before choosing Virgin.

On the plus side, each of their well-priced SIM only or smartphone contracts includes the data-free messaging. And it comes on top of existing benefits like data rollover.

Useful link: Learn how it works at virginmedia.com

Our ranking:
2nd

Get free social media with:
Phone contracts, SIM only plans

Social media apps you can use data-free:
WhatsApp, Facebook Messenger, Twitter

Restrictions:
Must have some regular data left, voice calls and video streaming within apps not included.

3rd: Three have added unlimited Snapchat to Go Binge

Three logoUnlimited Snapchat on Three

Use Snapchat without using up dataRead Three's guide

at three.co.uk
(opens in new window)

What we like:
Green plus sign In addition to free video / audio streaming
Green plus sign Works abroad in Feel At Home destinations

What we don't like:
Red minus sign Other networks cover more social media apps

We've already covered Three's Go Binge in the section above that deals with free audio and video streaming, but now Three have added some social media to the scheme too:

New and existing Three customers on an Advanced plan with over 12GB data can now use the Snapchat messaging app on their phones without eating into their regular mobile data allowance.

What's good is you can also use Snapchat abroad in selected countries without using your data, thanks to Three's Feel At Home scheme.

Three only have one social media app on Go Binge, which is less than VOXI and Virgin, so those could be a better choice if social's your thing.

Useful link: Three's guide to unlimited Snapchat

Our ranking:
3rd

Get free social media with:
Phone contracts
SIM only plans

Social media apps you can use data-free:
Snapchat

Restrictions:
Must have some regular data left

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