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SMARTY vs EE: how the coverage, speeds and benefits compare

We compare EE with SMARTY

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We compare joining EE against SMARTY for a SIM only plan, looking at their 4G/5G networks, speeds and added extras. Last updated: 15th September 2022

Special offer news

Mobile network quality

Comparing network coverage

Do EE or SMARTY cover more of the UK’s geography?

EE and SMARTY logo with signal bars

EE operate the largest 4G network in the UK

The UK’s best network 5 years running lettering

Read why

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

EE are one of the main UK networks, and so operate their own network (they are owned by BT Group) while SMARTY were set up and are owned by Three and piggyback off their network for 3G/4G/5G signal.

For basic calls and text signal, there’s not much of a difference between the networks. They’ve got similar amounts of the country covered. Our own experience says there’s more rural blackspots on SMARTY though.

EE have the strongest 4G network for total geographical coverage. You’ll usually get better 4G signal in small towns and in rural areas than SMARTY. But in the city ,the difference between the two networks becomes pretty negligible.

It’s not a total slam dunk for EE. And if you have got good SMARTY coverage where you use your phone, that’s all that really matters (and you’ll benefit from cheaper prices). So check both network maps here.

Useful link: EE’s 5G rollout news

SMARTY’s 5G is in more locations than EE’s

5G SMARTY banner

Read more

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

When looking at the number of locations covered by each, we can see SMARTY is ahead with 300+ towns and cities covered vs EE’s 160+ towns and cities. So SMARTY wins, right? Not quite.

SMARTY list more locations than EE, but this may be because EE only claim to cover a location once 5G is live in 50% of that location’s area. They could have far more places with partial 5G coverage that they just haven’t declared yet.

Having half a location’s area covered by 5G is pretty impressive. With SMARTY you might only get 5G on certain streets or popular areas. It’s best to use both networks’ coverage checkers to see how 5G coverage is in your area.

Your choice will depend more on how good 5G is in your area, rather than on how good 5G coverage is nationwide. So while EE have fewer declared locations, they’re still our number one pick for the best network for 5G.

Useful link: Read about SMARTY’s network improvements

Coverage checkers for SMARTY and EE

Test in all the places you take your phone

SMARTY’s network map

SMARTY coverage map

Check SMARTY signal

using their official map
(opens in new window)

EE network map

EE coverage map

Check EE signal

using their official map
(opens in new window)

Our verdict on coverage

Win for EE

“While SMARTY cover more locations for 5G, realistically you’ll spend more time on 4G on both networks and EE have significantly better 4G coverage, better call signal and better 5G coverage in their declared locations.”

Compare pricing and deals

Data speeds: 4G/5G on EE vs SMARTY

Which network has the fastest 4G/5G speeds?

EE and SMARTY logo's with speedometer

EE are still in first place for 4G data speeds

Screenshot of a speed test on EE’s network

Read speed claims

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

Using results from independent network testers Opensignal, we can compare EE’s typical 4G speeds of 44.0 Mbps against SMARTY’s 25.2 Mbps (which is the same as their hosts Three in our own testing).

That’s a noticeable difference. For social media and internet browsing you won’t notice it all too much, but streaming HD video or downloading big files will go much more smoothly on EE vs SMARTY.

We tested both in real life. The fastest speeds we got on EE’s 4G were between 70 - 110 Mbps, whereas on SMARTY we got about 45 Mbps. We’d say SMARTY’s 4G speeds are more consistent around that mark, EE’s can be much higher but also lower.

This all depends on your location. If you’re not happy with the speeds you’re getting, both networks offer a 14 day returns period if you buy online.

Useful link: SMARTY’s promise not to slow you down

SMARTY’s 5G is typically quite a bit faster

Read more details

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

EE may sit atop the throne for 4G speeds, but SMARTY hold a clear advantage when it comes to 5G data speeds. Their hosts Three have the fastest 5G speeds in the country, and SMARTY get access to the same speeds.

Results from independent network testers Opensignal and Speedtest by Ookla’s show 5G speeds between 131.9 Mbps - 158.30 Mbps on EE and between 103.9 Mbps and a blistering 246.65 Mbps on SMARTY’s host.

While there’s a bit more variation in SMARTY’s speeds, we think you’re currently more likely to get super fast 5G on SMARTY than on EE. If you’re downloading films or other big files you could notice the difference.

We still think 4G speeds are more important, however. You’ll be on 4G more often than on 5G, and for most people, having the fastest 5G speeds actually won’t make much of a difference. Still, 5G is a strength of SMARTY.

Useful link: SMARTY's traffic management policy

Our verdict on data speeds

Win for EE

“If you’re a bit of a 5G speed junkie and in the right place, then SMARTY might be the better choice. But you’ll be on 4G more often than 5G, and for that EE offer much faster speeds. And EE’s 5G is fast in and of itself as well.”

Compare pricing and deals

Extra network features on EE vs SMARTY

How do each network help users stay connected?

EE and SMARTY logo's with phone

WiFi calling and 4G calling available on SMARTY and EE

Big news - WiFi calling is here banner

Check supported phones

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

Both EE and SMARTY broadcast their 3G/2G call signals on frequencies that aren’t great at getting into buildings, in contrast to O2/Vodafone. But both EE and SMARTY have a way around this:

You’ll get WiFi calling and 4G calling as standard on EE’s pay monthly plans (not pay as you go or Flex though) and every SMARTY plan. And their schemes both support SMS texts too.

WiFi calling is where your phone connects to a call using WiFi signal instead of conventional call signal. It’s great if you get poor call signal inside, but reliable WiFi. Just make sure either network supports your device.

EE’s list of supported devices is bigger than SMARTY’s here, which seems a little defensive and is way smaller than Three’s (we’ve had SMARTY WiFi calling work on a device not listed there, a Moto G 5G Plus).

Useful link: Our guide to the best WiFi calling networks

Both networks now offer free WiFi on the Underground

WiFi on the Underground wording

How to connect

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

While EE are owned by BT, they don’t get access to BT’s massive network of WiFi hotspots across the UK. It’s a bit of a wasted opportunity in our eyes, but that’s how it is.

Free WiFi access from your mobile provider is a nice little extra only a few of them offer. It helps you stay connected in busy, hard to reach places for mobile signal. And it helps you stay in control of data usage.

EE do offer free WiFi on the London Underground and TFL network. It’s free to access on any EE pay monthly or pay as you go plan, and gives you unlimited WiFi with decent speeds. But it doesn’t give you WiFi in the trains.

SMARTY have recently introduced something similar and we suspect their scheme is largely a copy of Three’s. Since we ranked EE’s hotspot scheme the same as Three’s, we say the two are about equal for WiFi hotspots.

Useful link: Our free WiFi hotspots guide

Our verdict on network features

Slight win for EE

“The only advantage EE have over SMARTY is that their WiFi and 4G calling features are better established and support more phones. Otherwise the two aren’t all that different.”

Compare pricing and deals

Added benefits with plans

No contract deals on EE vs SMARTY

Which network offers the best value no-contract deals?

EE and SMARTY logo's with flexible arrows

SMARTY’s plans are built around flexibility

Simple SIM only plans. No credit checks banner

Read full details

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

SMARTY were set up by Three as a low cost, highly flexible alternative offering 1-month deals with no credit checks and no contracts. So what does that mean in real terms?

You pay for you plan up front each month. You register a debit/credit card with SMARTY and if you choose your plan to renew automatically each month, it will be charged without you doing anything.

Extras that aren’t included in your allowance (calling abroad, roaming beyond their destinations and calling premium numbers) will have to be paid for with credit you top up with and are billed for.

All of which means, there’s no credit check to join SMARTY. And it’s ultra flexible: you can choose to change plans each month, delay buying a plan if you don’t need it or leave altogether with no notice period.

Useful link: Our guide to the best roaming networks

EE offer flexible monthly bundles of mins, texts and data

EE Jam Packed PAYG banner

See PAYG packs

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

EE are certainly more focused around selling pay monthly contracts. With their Flex plans now a thing of the past, the only way to get a flexible deal with no contract on EE is to take a monthly bundle.

Like on SMARTY, they offer no credit check, no contract, plus the ability to change plans once a month if your needs change. They also include data rollover, where you‘ll keep unused data to use next month.

But you get worse overall value per GB with these bundles than on EE’s already pricey pay monthly contracts, and you won’t get any Smart Benefits included either. The main upside is that you can change plans every month.

Here’s how EE’s Pay As You Go bundles compare with SMARTY’s SIM only deals:

And you don’t get access to EE’s brilliant 5G network. If you want to stay on EE for a long time then we’d recommend taking one of their pay monthly plans. Otherwise we don’t think they’re really worth it.

Useful link: See their full range of PAYG plans

Our verdict on flexible plans

Win for SMARTY

“Flexibility is a major selling point of SMARTY, so no surprise they win this one. SMARTY give you better flexibility and all their network features on all of their plans, where EE make you choose between them.”

Compare pricing and deals

Roaming on EE vs SMARTY

Which network is better for going abroad?

EE and SMARTY logo's with globe

SMARTY still offer free roaming in the EU

World flags and EE branded aeroplane icon

How to activate it

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

While a few networks have got rid of their EU roaming policies, SMARTY have kept theirs in place. When you’re abroad in one of their 34 EU destinations you can use your minutes, texts and data like at home.

We do appreciate when networks offer free EU roaming, as it’s becoming more rare. But there’s a couple of downsides to their policy. First, roaming isn’t turned on by default. Here’s how to activate it.

Also, you can only use up to 12GB while you’re abroad per month if you have a data allowance over than amount. It’s still a decent amount for a short trip, but some networks let you use more.

And finally we were stuck on 3G data speeds while abroad more often on SMARTY than EE, but this will depend on location. SMARTY don’t have the very best scheme, but at least EU roaming is included.

Useful link: SMARTY’s full roaming guide

EU roaming is no longer included as standard on EE

EU flag and travelling in the EU lettering

See extra destinations

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

Like most other main networks, EE have got rid of EU roaming as a standard feature on all plans. Now you’ll have to either pay a daily fee to roam in their covered destinations or a premium plan to roam in the EU.

EE will charge you £2 a day while in their EU destinations. That is unless you take their Roam Abroad pass as a Smart Benefit included on their premium Smart Plans, or as an add-on for £10 a month).

Choose the Roam Further pass with any of these SIM only plans:

But, one big upside is that this Roam Abroad pass also lets you roam in 5 extra worldwide destinations. Or you can buy add-ons for roaming, in certain worldwide destinations. While abroad you can use up to 50GB.

It’s a case of paying more to get more on EE. But we really don’t like that EU roaming is no longer offered as standard. EE offer some decent worldwide roaming options, but it doesn’t make up for what they’ve lost.

Useful link: All roaming costs on EE

Our verdict on roaming

Win for SMARTY

“SMARTY is the cheaper option if you’re looking to go to the EU. While EE offer some decent worldwide roaming options, most people will want to travel to the EU. For that, SMARTY is the better overall choice.”

Compare pricing and deals

EE’s better benefits

What do EE offer that SMARTY don’t?


Entertainment trials and premium extras on EE

Entertainment subscriptions on EE

See all choices

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

Joining any of EE’s pay monthly plans will get you a free trials to a few entertainment services. These trials are either 3 or 6 months long and you can take them at any point during your contract.

The services include Apple Music, Britbox, Apple TV+ and others and you can watch them as much as you like, as EE won’t charge you for the data. They do become payable after your trial is up though.

Taking a premium Smart plan means you can get subscriptions included in your contract. There are also a few extra benefits you can choose, like their Roam Abroad and Video Data passes. You can choose only one of these.

It’s worth saying the Smart plans do cost more on phone contracts and SIM only than their non-Smart equivalents. So definitely check you can’t just get those subscriptions cheaper separately.

Useful link: More about EE’s Smart plans

SMARTY’s better benefits

What exclusive benefits do you get on SMARTY but not EE?


Unused data gets you money off your next month on some plans

SMARTY discount for unused data

How it works

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

You don’t get proper data rollover on SMARTY, but they do have a unique benefit on certain plans that turn the data you don’t get through in one month into a discount on your next month.

On their data discount plans, each 1GB costs £1. For any you don’t use, SMARTY discount next month’s plan by that amount. So 500MB unused would be 50p or 2GB would be £2, calculated to the MB/penny.

This used to be standard across all of SMARTY’s plans, but it’s now only available on a select range of plans. These tend to give you less data per pound than their regular range of SIM only plans.

But if one of them is right for you and your usage varies, it’s still a nice benefit that is unique to SMARTY and you can’t get on EE.

Useful link: Our review of SMARTY’s data discount

Comparing their prices and deals

SIM only plans on SMARTY vs EE

Which offers better value on pay monthly SIMs?

Comparing EE and SMARTY SIM only plans



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Added features

Special offers on SMARTY and EE

Here’s what promotions each have on this month

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