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SMARTY vs EE: how their 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. SIM Sherpa is your trusty guideLast updated: 18th June 2021

Special offer news

Mobile network quality

How coverage compares

Will you get a better signal on EE or SMARTY?

EE and SMARTY logo with signal bars

EE’s network is bigger than SMARTY’s

The UK’s best network 5 years running lettering

Read why

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

EE own and run their own mobile network (they’re owned by BT). SMARTY were set up as a low-cost brand by Three, so they use their 3G/4G network to bring their customers signal.

For basic calls and texts, 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 definitely have an advantage for 4G data nationally. It’s better in smaller towns. And it’s much better rurally. If you travel around a lot EE is noticeably better. If you live in a big city, the difference is small.

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: Read about SMARTY’s network improvements

5G is only available on EE out of the two

5G yippee! banner

See latest news

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

If you’re dead set on having 5G today, then only EE is an option out of them and SMARTY. SMARTY have been saying for a while now that 5G is coming but have prioritised other network improvements first.

Even if EE’s list of 160 locations where 5G is live is slightly shorter than SMARTY’s host Three’s 192, but we’d say EE are doing a better job.

While some networks only put 5G live in a few streets (in the busiest parts of town) and then report it as a 5G-ready location, EE are doing a more thorough job and installing it in larger areas of those places.

So when they declare somewhere as 5G-ready, something like 50% of that place can get the faster technology. We’d say EE are the overall best 5G network for coverage.

Useful link: EE’s 5G rollout news

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

“As well as being the only one out of the two with 5G, EE’s 4G data and calls coverage is better than SMARTY’s too nationally. It’s your choice whether that’s something worth paying more for.”

Compare pricing and deals

Data speeds: 4G on SMARTY vs EE

Is SMARTY’s 4G as fast as EE’s?

EE and SMARTY logo's with speedometer

EE are still the champions of speed

Screenshot of a speed test on EE’s network

Read speed claims

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

For our review of SMARTY, we actively went out and about with a Three and SMARTY SIM card to check there’s no inbuilt speed differences (other than the lack of 5G). We couldn’t find any.

So we think it’s fine to look at Three’s speed results from independent network testers Speedtest and OpenSignal to compare with EE. They take millions of measurements to find what you can typically expect.

On EE, they expect typical 4G downloads of 32.99 Mbps, depending which you ask. On Three, it’s a little slower at 20 Mbps. EE’s is like decent home fibre broadband. Three/SMARTY’s is like lower-end fibre.

EE are also capable of much, much higher in big cities (2x-4x), whereas Three rarely beats their average by 2x). Even 10 Mbps lets you stream YouTube in HD with no buffering, so both networks are viable choices.

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

Our verdict on data speeds

Win for EE

“There’s no real question which network is faster. EE is a premium network experience at a premium price. SMARTY are cheaper but still offer capable speeds.”

Compare pricing and deals

Extra network features on EE vs SMARTY

What else do they have to keep you connected?

EE and SMARTY logo's with phone

Both EE and SMARTY have WiFi calling and 4G calling

Big news - WiFi calling is here banner

Check supported phones

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

Neither SMARTY or EE broadcast their call signal on optimal frequencies to get through building materials indoors, so they’re at a slight disadvantage to O2/Vodafone. So it’s good EE and SMARTY have extra help:

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 works by letting your phone connect to a mobile network in the usual way but via WiFi, instead of 2G/3G. That improves your indoor call signal. But it’s worth checking each network supports your phone.

EE’s list of supported devices is bigger than SMARTY’s here, which seems a little defensive and is way small 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

EE get you free WiFi on the Underground

WiFi on the Underground wording

How to connect

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

Despite being owned by BT, EE don’t actually make any real use of BT’s broadband expertise. We think it’d be good if you got access to BT WiFi as an EE customer but you don’t.

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 take part in the free WiFi on the Underground scheme in London and the TFL network, meaning free and unlimited WiFi for pay monthly customers and pay as you go ones with an active bundle.

SMARTY don’t have anything to offer in this department, despite Three also taking part in the same scheme for London. It’s a premium network feature you don’t get on a budget network.

Useful link: Our free WiFi hotspots guide

Our verdict on network features

Win for EE

“WiFi calling and 4G calling are more settled on EE. Their schemes have been running longer and their settings are on more makes and models of phone. They’ve also got an edge with free WiFi on the Underground.”

Compare pricing and deals

Added benefits with plans

EE Flex plans vs SMARTY

Which is best for no-contract plans?

EE and SMARTY logo's with flexible arrows

SMARTY’s built to be flexible on all plans

Simple SIM only plans. No credit checks banner

Read full details

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

Three set up SMARTY to be an all SIM only provider, offering exclusively 1-month plans, with no contract or credit check. So how does that work?

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.

If you want to spend extra on things not included in your plan (like premium rate numbers, calling abroad, roaming etc), you top up with credit - just like old fashioned pay as you go. You’re then billed for that.

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 Flex plans offer a similar type of deal

EE Flex plan banner with twisted phone

How they work

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

It’s fair to say EE are mostly geared towards pay monthly contracts. But they do offer something called Flex plans, which are very similar to SMARTY: a sort of blend between pay monthly and pay as you go.

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.

Here’s how EE’s Flex compare with SMARTY on price

They’re usually the cheapest, most flexible way to join EE on a plan with a medium amount of data. But they do strip out some network features: you don’t get WiFi calling or 4G calling with Flex.

They also don’t support 5G. And the 4G is limited to a maximum of 60 Mbps (which is double the expected average on EE anyway). If you want a commitment-free way to join EE, Flex is it.

Useful link: Our full Flex plan review

Our verdict on flexible plans

Win for SMARTY

“If EE Flex didn’t strip out some of the benefits of pay monthly deals on EE, we’d make this a draw. But SMARTY gives you all the flexibility AND their best network features in the same deal. It’s not a compromise.”

Compare pricing and deals

Roaming on SMARTY vs EE

Is international travel better on EE or SMARTY?

EE and SMARTY logo's with globe

You can get some worldwide roaming on EE

World flags and EE branded aeroplane icon

See extra destinations

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

For the most part, the standard roaming you get with EE’s pay monthly or pay as you go bundles is the same as practically every other network: use your UK minutes, texts and data in the EU for no extra cost.

But EE do have an option for some extended inclusive roaming in some further flung destinations. You get this with their Roam Further pass, which you can either buy or get included with your plan.

Those let you use your UK allowances in these five extra countries, which includes the USA. If you choose a more-premium Smart Plan, you can choose the pass as one of your included Smart benefits.

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

Roaming is always 4G wherever it’s available. And everything just works automatically when you get abroad, which isn’t the same on SMARTY (read below).

Useful link: All roaming costs on EE

SMARTY’s inclusive roaming is EU only

EU flag and travelling in the EU lettering

How to activate it

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

Roaming on SMARTY is a pretty standard affair. You’ll be able take your plan with you when you travel to any EU countries and not pay to use your regular minutes, texts and data.

Where you do have to be careful is to activate SMARTY’s roaming settings on your phone before you leave. They’ve got step-by-step instructions on how to do this here.

For our full SMARTY network review, we genuinely got stuck without data abroad, because we didn’t know about this in advance. So it’s a bit of a downside to SMARTY. But if you know in advance, you can sort it.

Otherwise, we’ve found you do spend more time on 3G abroad with SMARTY than EE. But that may be just the networks they’ve partnered with. For quick trips to the continent, it’s absolutely fine.

Useful link: SMARTY’s full roaming guide

Our verdict on roaming

Win for EE

“Again it’s a case that the premium provider has a premium roaming service, while on SMARTY it’s more low-frills but reflected in the cheap and cheerful pricing”

Compare pricing and deals

EE’s better benefits

What’s better on EE than on SMARTY?

EE > SMARTY

Free trials and premium add-ons with EE

Entertainment subscriptions on EE

See all choices

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

As long as you join EE on pay monthly (not pay as you go or Flex), they’ll throw in some free trials to entertainment services for 3 to 6 months for nothing, which you can claim at any point.

The services include Apple Music, Britbox, BT Sport Ultimate 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.

If you choose a Smart plan, you can also get one of these included for the length of your contract. Or choose other things like extra roaming or unlimited video data with loads of apps (see all choices here).

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’s better on SMARTY than EE?

SMARTY > EE

Get money back for unused data on some plans

SMARTY discount for unused data

How it works

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

On EE’s pay as you go and Flex Plans, you get data rollover (keep unused data for next month). But some SMARTY’s plans take it one step further and pay back what the data cost to buy, as discount off 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 was SMARTY’s main benefit when they first launched. But they’ve now made it so only a few of their plans pay you back. They now have options with more data for similar prices that don’t pay you back.

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

Networks

Providers:

Three logo
ASDA logo
BT Mobile logo
EE logo
giffgaff logo
Honest logo
ID logo
IQ logo
Lebara logo
O2 logo
Plusnet logo
Sky logo
SMARTY logo
Talkmobile logo
Tesco logo
Virgin Mobile logo
Vodafone logo
VOXI logo

Plan

Data: (0MB+)

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Contract

Maximum length: (Any)

Added features

Special offers on SMARTY and EE

Here’s what promotions each have on this month

EE and SMARTY logos with a special offer ribbon

More guides about SMARTY

Other articles about EE

Individual network reviews