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Various logos of UK mobile networks

giffgaff vs Three: how they compare for coverage, 4G speeds and benefits

Three vs giffgaff

The retailers featured on this page may compensate us when our readers follow links to their websites and make a purchase. More

We look at the differences between Three and giffgaff on pay monthly and pay as you go plans to help you decide which is best for you. SIM Sherpa is your trusty guide. Last updated: April 25th 2019.

In our giffgaff vs Three guide

Comparing their mobile networks
giffgaff vs Three mobile network

4G/3G signal across the UK
Download speeds over 4G and 3G
Extra network features like WiFi calling

giffgaff's vs Three's network

Comparing perks and benefits
giffgaff vs Three roaming and benefits

Free international roaming
Loyalty rewards and offers
Other extra benefits

giffgaff vs Three benefits

Comparing pricing and deals
giffgaff vs Three pricing and deals

SIM only plans
Special offers
Pay As You Go rates
Phone contracts

Compare giffgaff vs Three deals

Special offer notifications

giffgaff hidden £5 free credit offer

Latest giffgaff offer

Top up your new SIM with at least £10 or buy a goodybag of the same value and get £5 free credit: only when you order via our special invite page.

See how the offer works > opens in new tab

Three's 6 months half price offer

Three unlimited data SIM

Get 6 months half price on Three's 24-month unlimited data plan:

Unlimited data, mins and texts for £10 a month for 6 months, then £20 a month (24‑month SIM only contract)

See all Three's offers > (opens in new tab)

Comparing giffgaff and Three's mobile networks

Coverage compared on Three and giffgaff

Do giffgaff or Three have better signal around the country?

4G coverage is similar on giffgaff and Three

giffgaff logo
Three logo
99%
99%

giffgaff use O2's network for signal, which is roughly the same size as Three's own network when it comes to 4G in the places that people live (population coverage).

We expect giffgaff's parent O2 network to be slightly larger for geographical 4G coverage. That's reception in the countryside, on roads and rail away from residential areas.

Even if your home is likely to be covered by both, it's still worth checking both networks' signal in the places you use your phone away from home, like your route to work etc. Use the coverage checkers below.

3G coverage is also similar between Three and giffgaff

giffgaff logo
Three logo
99%
98%

Don't think 3G is irrelevant because there's so much 4G around nowadays. 3G is still used for phone calls and regular SMS text messages, so it's still important.

giffgaff on the O2 network is marginally ahead of Three on 3G (99% vs 98%) and Three don't have any 2G signal at all (long range signal used for calls when you're right out in the sticks).

Again, it's worth using both networks' network maps to see signal if you live in the country or travel through on your way to work or school.

Use their network maps

Avoid disappointment and make sure you're happy with either's reception near you

giffgaff signal map

giffgaff coverage checker

Check giffgaff signal

using their official map
(opens in new window)

Three's signal map

Three coverage map

Check Three signal

using their official map
(opens in new window)

Our verdict on coverage:

Win for giffgaff

"Using O2's network puts giffgaff at a slight advantage over Three when you look at how much of the entire country is covered - although people in urban areas will probably notice little difference between them."

Compare pricing and deals

4G speeds: giffgaff and Three downloads compared

Is 4G faster on Three or giffgaff?

4G speeds are generally faster on Three than giffgaff

Three logo
giffgaff logo
20 Mbps
16 Mbps

It's less of an advantage for giffgaff using the O2 network when it comes to 4G speeds. We predict their customers will get typical speeds of 16 Mbps vs 20 Mbps on Three's network.

It's not a huge gap. But it could make the difference when doing really demanding stuff like watching HD videos (buffering possible) or downloading large files and apps.

Useful link: Three's 5G rollout plans

We think giffgaff may be slower than O2 directly

Screenshot of giffgaff speed complaints

The above speed predictions are based on being on O2 directly vs Three, rather than being on giffgaff themselves.

There does seem to be some customer dissatisfaction among people on giffgaff that their data service is slower than when they were on O2 directly (examples here, here and here).

The consensus among their customers seems to be that giffgaff have a lower bandwidth (share of the network) than full O2, so you get a slower speed.

If this is true, you could find the average speed on giffgaff even lower than is reported above, if you spend less time on 4G and more time on slower 3G.

Useful link: Read giffgaff customer forums

Our verdict on speed:

A win for Three

"Three is generally faster than giffgaff's parent O2, plus we have doubts that giffgaff customers get the fastest possible data, which makes Three the more appealing option for people wanting reliable speeds."

Compare pricing and deals

Extra network features: Three vs giffgaff

How they keep you talking and browsing in more places.

Three have WiFi calling, 4G calling and free hotspots

Three inTouch banner

Get WiFi calling

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

The main 3G signal that Three uses to bring you phone calls and text message is on high frequencies that can sometimes struggle to get indoors if you're not near a transmitter or live in an old building with thick walls.

To make up for this, Three have two extra bits of technology to boost your signal indoors: WiFi calling and 4G calling, which Three call 4G Supervoice. giffgaff have neither of these.

What's good about Three's inTouch WiFi calling is that it supports loads of phones (check their latest list here). It also works on pay monthly and pay as you go plans.

If you travel a lot around London, Three take part in the free WiFi on the Underground scheme, which lets you log in once and automatically get free WiFi when you're travelling around the network.

Useful link: Three's network features guide

giffgaff don't have most the extra features major networks have

giffgaff free WiFi banner

How to log in

at giffgaff.com
(opens in new window)

It's a good job that the lower frequencies that giffgaff's 2G and 3G calling signal is broadcast on are better for decent indoor coverage, because they don't have any of the extras that would otherwise improve it.

There's no WiFi calling or 4G calling on giffgaff (even though their parent O2 offer both). So if you're indoors with no signal, you won't be able to make a call (unless you use WhatsApp or similar apps).

You will at least now get free WiFi access on the Underground and at 8000 O2 WiFi locations on giffgaff with all their deals. You'll have to download to the giffgaff app and play with some settings but you'll be automatically connected after that.

Overall, it's very much a low-frills experience on giffgaff. Minutes, texts and data to use on a regular mobile network, without extra features to keep your calls connected where signal can't reach.

Useful link: How to get free WiFi on giffgaff

Our verdict on extra network features:

Clear win for Three

"Joining a main network like Three brings you the benefit of more comprehensive ways to keep your phone connected for calls than smaller providers like giffgaff, whose low prices mean fewer features."

Compare pricing and deals

Comparing giffgaff and Three benefits

Roaming: how giffgaff and Three compare

Can giffgaff match Three's Go Roam?

Inclusive roaming on Three is more comprehensive

Flags of new Three roaming destinations

See all 71 countries

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

Like every network in the UK, Three offer roaming in the EU at no extra cost. That applies whether you're on pay monthly or pay as you go - SIM only or phone deal.

Three go a step further than giffgaff (and every other network) by giving you an extra 23 worldwide countries at no extra cost on all their pay monthly plans and pay as you go add-ons (see all 71 destinations here).

In those countries, you'll be able to be able to use up to 3000 minutes, 3000 texts and 19GB data out of your regular data allowance before you get charged anything extra (varies per country, see full terms here).

The only downside is that Three reserve the right to put 3G speed limitations on your data while you're abroad, which will curb your usage by making data-hungry things like video watching harder.

Useful link: Read our review of Go Roam

You'll also get free easyJet upgrades on pay monthly

Three travel swagger banner

How upgrades work

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

Three are a network full of surprising extras. And one nice touch related to roaming is their Hands Free easyJet upgrade perk that you get with all of their pay monthly deals.

When you fly from UK airports with the airline, you'll be able to check an item of hand luggage for free, get prioritised boarding and have your luggage come out the other end sooner.

The idea is to make your journey through the airport as easy as possible and the benefit would normally cost £5 per leg from easyJet. But it's free for Three pay monthly customers.

The main limitation is that it only works at UK airports (so not on your return journey abroad) and it only works for the Three customer, not everyone that's travelling with you.

Useful link: Full offer terms and conditions at Three.co.uk

There's much less inclusive roaming on giffgaff

giffgaff roaming banner with flags

Check roaming costs

at giffgaff.com
(opens in new window)

As you'd probably expect from a no-frills provider like giffgaff, they don't really go beyond the legal requirement to offer roaming in the EU at the same cost as usage in the UK.

That's nothing to sniff at. It's not like giffgaff are priced like they're giving you loads of free extras. You'll still be able to use your monthly bundle in all of the countries listed here.

You'll also get 4G speeds wherever available too. It just means that if you're going elsewhere in the world, you'll need to turn data roaming off or curb your usage.

Charges in non-EU countries can run as high as a ludicrous £5000 per GB (so check costs before you leave to avoid burning straight through your credit).

Useful link: giffgaff's roaming fair usage policy

Our verdict on this topic:

A win for Three

"Even if you take one trip to somewhere like the USA per year, being able to use your phone without paying the extortionate roaming costs on Three will be worth its weight in gold to some people. Go Roam is still our favourite roaming scheme."

Compare pricing and deals

Benefits you get on giffgaff but not Three

Advantages to joining giffgaff over Three

Earn money for getting people to join giffgaff

giffgaff's recruiter scheme

How it works

at giffgaff.com
(opens in new window)

Since launching in 2009, one of the ways giffgaff has grown so fast is through their refer a friend Payback scheme, which gives customers £5 each time they get a friend to join the network.

You can order free SIMs from giffgaff to give to your friends. If they activate it and top up with at least £10, they'll receive £5 free credit and you'll get £5 too.

You can take the £5 as free credit, as cash paid twice a year into a Paypal account, or donate it to charity. You can also earn payback for helping out on giffgaff's customer forum by answering questions.

This is a clever win-win-win arrangement, where you can earn yourself some money on the side, your friend gets free credit and giffgaff get new customers.

Useful link: Make money recruiting for giffgaff

Benefits you get on Three but not on giffgaff

Reasons you might join Three over giffgaff

Unlimited streaming data with Go Binge

Three Go Binge banner

Read Three's guide

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

Join Three on a pay monthly SIM only plan or phone contract with 12GB data or more and you'll automatically get their Go Binge benefit included with your deal.

Go Binge is essentially an unlimited data allowance in the UK to use particular streaming and social media services as much as you like, without eating into the regular data that comes with your deal.

The scheme covers big-name streaming providers like Netflix and Apple Music (see the full list of apps here), plus Snapchat. It's worth noting you don't get the subscriptions themselves free, just the data the apps use.

If you've ever put off watching videos because you're worried about the data usage, Go Binge does away with that worry. At 1GB data usage per hour to watch Netflix, the savings can add up fast for regular viewers.

Useful link: Our guide to all free streaming data schemes

Daily rewards app with Three's Wuntu app

Bursting with rewards banner

See Wuntu offers

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

Mobile networks are always looking for ways to keep us loyal as customers, and quite a few of them now have loyalty reward programmes (O2 Priority is probably the most famous).

Three have their own. And it's called Wuntu. And it's a nice little extra bit of icing on the cake, even if we don't think it's a reason to join Three on its own.

Have a look at Three's page about Wuntu here. It's kind of a mix between voucher sites like Groupon and diners clubs like TasteCard. There's discounts on food and drink, exclusive online and high-street deals and first-come-first-serve limited-number freebies.

Some people will love it, some people will never even download the app. It depends what you're into.

Useful link: See latest example offers on Wuntu

Our verdict on other benefits:

Win for Three

"Three are set up to give you lots for your money. giffgaff are set up to give you just the basics for not much money. The overall package on Three is worth more but some people will want to keep it simple with giffgaff."

Compare pricing and deals

Comparing giffgaff and Three's deals

Special offers on giffgaff and Three

What's in each network's promotions this month?

£5 free giffgaff credit with your first £10 top up

giffgaff free credit offer

Get £5 free credit

at giffgaff.com
(opens in new window)

On SIM only, giffgaff don't really tend to have big discounts or promotional plans ever. But you can get £5 of free credit when you first sign up.

Use our special order link here, top up with at least £10 (or buy a goodybag for £10 or more) and giffgaff will automatically add £5 of welcome credit to your account.

If you're after a smartphone, you can use the £5 free credit offer. See giffgaff's latest phone contract pricing here.

Useful link: Get free credit on giffgaff now

Three's 6 months half price unlimited data offer

Three unlimited data SIM

See current offer

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

Three are currently offering 6 months half price on their 24-month unlimited data plan (unknown offer end date):

Or if you don't want to commit to such a long contract, their 12-month unlimited data SIM is now £20 a month too. And there's also a huge hidden 100GB data deal:

Useful links: See all latest Three offers

SIM only: pay monthly plans on giffgaff and Three

Use our comparison tool below to see how giffgaff and Three's monthly plans compare:

Choose what you want in your deal:

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Our verdict on SIM only plans:

No clear winner

"If you're after a short 1-month deal with a moderate amount of data, giffgaff tend to be better value. If you're willing to commit to 12 months and want a bigger data deal, Three become more competitive."

Compare pricing and deals

Unlimited data options on Three and giffgaff

Is Always On as good as Three's unlimited data?

Unlimited data on Three has fewer restrictions

Three unlimited data SIM only banner

Get unlimited data

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

If you look at Three's terms and conditions for their unlimited data plans here, you'll see there is in theory a limit of 1000GB data per month before they'd get suspicious you were using your plan not just for personal use.

Three say that even if you used your phone for every minute of the day, you'd still not get to that amount. They also won't slow you down while you're in the UK. And you can even use it for tethering.

The only real restrictions apply when you take your unlimited data plan abroad. Depending on where you go, there are limits of the monthly data you can use and potentially your speed too (read more here).

You can get unlimited data on Three with a phone contract, a pay monthly SIM only deal, or even as a pay as you go add-on too (you'll sometimes see it branded as All-You-Can-Eat data).

Useful link: Read our unlimited data plan rankings

giffgaff's Always On isn't proper unlimited data

giffgaff Always On SIM only plan

Read full terms

at giffgaff.com
(opens in new window)

The closest product giffgaff has to Three's All-You-Can-Eat is their goodybag with 'Always on' data. This has an unlimited element to it because there's no upper amount of gigabytes to overshoot and be charged extra for.

It can't be described as unlimited data though (and giffgaff don't describe it as unlimited) because you don't get all data at the same speed:

Once you've used 20GB at their full 4G speeds, a speed cap is put in place that limits you to downloading at 2G speeds (384 kbps), at most times of day. Heavy data users could easily overshoot this.

But if you're just after the re-assurance that you can't be charged for going over a limit, 'Always on' offers a low-cost solution that's usually cheaper than Three (but check SMARTY's price here first though).

Useful link: Read full 'Always on' details on the giffgaff website

Our verdict on unlimited data:

A win for Three

"If you're serious about data usage on your phone, you'll find giffgaff's 2G speeds after 20GB use unworkable. On Three, you'll get it all at their best possible speeds in the UK."

Compare pricing and deals

Phone contracts: giffgaff vs Three

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giffgaff's finance-based phone deals need a good credit score

giffgaff's credit checking service

Free credit check

at giffgaff.com
(opens in new window)

All of giffgaff's phone contracts are offered on consumer credit agreements. These are essentially loans that cover the cost of your phone, which you pay back monthly over the course of your deal.

The benefit of this way of doing mobile contracts is flexibility. You can choose your contract length up front (6, 12, 18 or 24 months) and how much you're willing to pay up front.

You can also pay back the cost of your phone quicker than you originally agreed to, which leaves you free to upgrade early. And you don't even have to stay with giffgaff after your first month either.

All of that is excellent. But it's a serious decision entering into a financial credit agreement. And giffgaff's credit check will most likely be more difficult to pass than conventional deals.

You can use giffgaff's free credit checking tool before signing up. It's free of charge and only does a "soft search" on your credit file. Read their terms and conditions here before using it to make sure you're happy.

Useful link: giffgaff's full range of phones

Three's phone contracts are more straightforward

Three unlocked phones banner

See phone range

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

Unlike giffgaff, Three's phone contracts are structured in the traditional way. You'll get a 24-month contract for your phone and minutes, texts and data. And it's not based on finance.

That means Three's phone contracts don't have the same flexibility that giffgaff offer. You're tied to Three for 24 months, there are no early upgrade options and you can't pick and choose multiple contract lengths.

More often than not, Three also work out a tiny bit more expensive than giffgaff for phones, although it depends heavily on what current special offers are running on each of the networks.

We don't have any inside information on Three's credit checking procedures but we suspect that regular mobile contracts don't come with quite as stringent, hard-to-pass credit checks as ones based on loaning you money.

Useful link: See Three's latest offers on phones

Our verdict on this topic:

Win for giffgaff

"giffgaff's prices are normally cheaper than Three's for phones and their contract structure offers more flexibility too. Make sure you understand the financial agreement you're entering with giffgaff though."

Compare pricing and deals

Basic pay as you go: Three vs giffgaff

How they compare if you just want to pay per minute, text and MB data

Three's basic rates are cheaper than giffgaff's

Three's pay as you go rates

Get a free SIM

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

If you're just looking for the basic type of pay as you go deal where you top up with credit and pay for your usage out of it, Three are cheaper than giffgaff. Here are their UK rates:

Only O2's Classic Pay As You Go tariff offers the same low rates on a major network. You can get 1p per minute, text or MB data with 1pMobile though.

Three generously give their pay as you go customers some of the same benefits like WiFi calling, EU roaming at the same cost (worldwide Go Roam if you buy a bundle) and access to their Wuntu rewards app.

Useful link: Full details on Three's pay as you go SIMs

giffgaff's rates are more expensive than Three's

giffgaff's basic pay as you go rates

Order a free SIM card

at giffgaff.com
(opens in new window)

Really and truly giffgaff were set up for people to buy monthly bundles. But you can just top up and pay for your usage as you go too. But the rates are nowhere near as good as Three's:

In fact, if this is the way you prefer to pay for your deal, then it's worth looking at joining O2 directly on their Classic tariff, which is cheaper than giffgaff too:

Useful link: All pay as you go rates on giffgaff

Our verdict on this pay as you go:

Win for Three

"On a pure cost per minute, text and MB data, Three's pay as you go works out a lot cheaper than giffgaff's. It's a pretty obvious choice."

Compare pricing and deals

Don't miss these special offers

giffgaff hidden £5 free credit offer

Latest giffgaff offer

Top up your new SIM with at least £10 or buy a goodybag of the same value and get £5 free credit: only when you order via our special invite page.

See how the offer works > opens in new tab

Three's 6 months half price offer

Three unlimited data SIM

Get 6 months half price on Three's 24-month unlimited data plan:

Unlimited data, mins and texts for £10 a month for 6 months, then £20 a month (24‑month SIM only contract)

See all Three's offers > (opens in new tab)

Other Three comparisons

Comparing Three and EE

Three vs EE

Read Three vs EE guide

Comparing Three and O2

Three vs O2

Read Three vs O2 guide

Comparing Three and Vodafone

Three vs Vodafone

Read our Three vs Vodafone guide

Comparing Three and BT Mobile

Three vs BT Mobile

Read Three vs BT Mobile

Comparing Three and SMARTY

Three vs SMARTY

Read our Three vs SMARTY guide

Comparing Three and Virgin Mobile

Three vs Virgin Mobile

Read our Three vs Virgin Mobile guide

Other giffgaff comparisons

Comparing giffgaff and SMARTY

giffgaff vs SMARTY

Read giffgaff vs SMARTY guide

SIM Sherpa can help you find your next SIM only deal

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