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iD Mobile vs SMARTY: two cheap networks on Three compared

SMARTY and iD Mobile logos

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Both SMARTY and iD Mobile use the Three network. But which offers the best all-round experience and benefits with their plans? Last updated: 26th April 2023.

In our SMARTY vs iD Mobile guide

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SMARTY's vs iD Mobile's networks

Do iD Mobile and SMARTY provide identical coverage?

We’ll go over whether there are any differences in signal between these networks

Mobile signal bars with iD and SMARTY logos

4G/3G is the same on SMARTY and iD Mobile

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What this means...

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

iD Mobile and SMARTY both piggyback off Three’s network. SMARTY themselves are actually owned by Three and iD are owned by Carphone Warehouse. You get access to Three’s 4G/3G signal on both (there is no 2G).

Three is unfortunately the smallest major UK network. But they still get their 4G to 97% of UK residences and their 3G call signal to 99% and are expanding day by day both indoors and out.

We tested an iD SIM directly against a SMARTY SIM and a Three one in different locations. Between the three networks we couldn’t find any difference in the number of signal bars we got.

You may have issues with signal coverage outside of the big towns and cities. We recommend checking signal with either network here before signing up to check if there's 4G/3G in the places you plan to go.

Useful links: Our full SMARTY review | Our full iD Mobile review

5G is live on both networks

iD 5G banner

Check supported phones

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

Now that SMARTY have 5G, iD no longer hold an advantage over them for this. The two are now identical in terms of 5G coverage.

That means both networks have 5G live in the same 484+ UK towns and cities as their hosts. That’s excellent, considering Three have the second highest number of 5G-live locations of all networks.

5G connection is still on a street by street basis, meaning you won’t get it all over a covered location. You can check 5G coverage using either networks’ coverage checkers below.

Bear in mind iD only support a limited number of devices for 5G as their software needs to be preloaded onto the phone. On SMARTY this isn’t an issue, as they support the same models as Three.

Useful link: Our guide to the best 5G networks

Check signal with either provider

Don't just test coverage where you live - but everywhere you'll take your phone

SMARTY's network map

SMARTY coverage checker screenshot

Check SMARTY signal

using their coverage checker
(opens in new window)

iD's network map

iD Mobile coverage checker screenshot

Check iD signal

using their coverage checker
(opens in new window)

Our verdict on coverage:

Very slight win for SMARTY

"There is no difference between them in terms of coverage for data or call signal. But it can be harder to get 5G working on iD Mobile if you didn’t buy your device from them directly."

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Download speeds on iD Mobile vs SMARTY

Are there any speed differences between the two?

iD Mobile and SMARTY logos with a speedometer

Data speeds are identical on iD and SMARTY

SMARTY 5G news banner

Read latest 5G news

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

We use results from independent network testers Opensignal to see what download speeds look like on each network. Neither iD nor SMARTY are speed-capped, so you’ll get the same typical 4G speeds of 30.7 Mbps as on Three.

That’s around what you’d get over mid-range home broadband and lets you stream HD video without buffering. We found speeds went as low as 7 Mbps in the suburbs and as high as 70 Mbps in the city centre.

According to Opensignal and Speedtest by Ookla, typical 5G speeds on both networks are between 228.4 Mbps - 248.16 Mbps. And peak speeds were measured at 687.13 Mbps on both networks.

With those sorts of speeds you can download HD movies in seconds. It’s great that both iD and SMARTY have full access to the UK’s fastest 5G network despite being budget networks.

Useful link: SMARTY’s 5G guide

Our verdict on data speeds:


"It is easier to get 5G working on SMARTY than on iD, but for this section we’re assuming you have access to both kinds of signal on both networks. In that case there’s nothing to split them on here."

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Extra network features on SMARTY vs iD Mobile

Which network provides better features for keeping you connected?

Gears icon with SMARTY and iD Mobile logos

WiFi/4G calling included on both iD and SMARTY

SMARTY WiFi calling banner

Check supported phones

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

You may struggle to get call signal indoors on any network, but especially on providers that use Three’s network as their 3G isn’t great at getting into buildings. This is where WiFi/4G calling come in handy.

Both SMARTY and iD include WiFi calling and 4G calling (VoLTE) on all plans at no extra cost. And there’s no difference in terms of how the feature works on either network.

WiFi calling lets you use WiFi to make/take calls and send/receive messages if there's poor indoor signal. And 4G calling improves the quality of your call and increases coverage where there’s 4G but no 3G.

Where you will find a difference is in what phones are supported. Check yours is on iD Mobile's list here and/or SMARTY's list here. We think more phones will work with SMARTY’s WiFi calling than are listed.

Useful link: See all networks with WiFi calling

SMARTY offer free WiFi on the London Underground

SMARTY WiFi hotspot FAQ

Read the FAQs

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

WiFi hotspot access is a great feature to help users hold onto their data, especially those with smaller data plans. We rate hotspots highly as a great network feature to have.

Of the two networks, only SMARTY offer free WiFi hotspots on the London Underground. It’s basically the same as Three’s hotspot scheme. This lets you stay connected at Underground stations and ticket barriers.

You don’t get free WiFi in the trains themselves when going through the tube. But it lets you stay connected in areas where you’d otherwise be totally without connection (and it pairs well with their WiFi calling).

iD don’t offer anything of the sort. But free WiFi is available in most places these days anyway. And if going over your limit is a concern, both networks have some incredibly competitive unlimited plans:

Useful link: SMARTY's hint they may offer it in future

Our verdict on network extras:


"Both networks have basically identical WiFi calling schemes, but the fact that SMARTY give you extra WiFi hotspots on the Underground where iD don’t gives them the edge here.”

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Benefits on SMARTY vs iD Mobile

Unused data schemes: SMARTY vs iD

Which provider is better for letting you hold onto your unused data?

Arrows in circle with SMARTY and iD Mobile logos

iD give you another month to use your leftover data

iD Mobile data rollover banner

Read full guide

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

The tricky thing about monthly data plans is knowing how much you’ll need. If you buy too much you’re wasting money on data you don’t need. Buy too little and you’ll get charged extra for going over.

So it’s great that iD offer data rollover. If you don’t use up all your data in one month it’s added to your next month’s allowance (after that it goes away). There are a few other networks that have similar schemes.

This makes choosing a plan a bit less stressful. Say you know you’ll use 1GB a month at most. You can take a 1GB deal and if you use 800MB one month, you'll have 1.2GB to use next month.

It works best if you’re on a smaller data plan as you’re more likely to stop yourself going over your allowance if your needs change. It’s also included on every plan which gives them an advantage over SMARTY.

Useful link: Full guide and FAQs on iD's data rollover scheme

Get money back for unused data on some SMARTY plans

SMARTY discount for unused data

How it works

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

SMARTY’s initial selling point was that they’d pay you back any data you didn't manage to use, at the same rate as you bought it for - so you'd never waste a penny.

You can still get this benefit, but only on certain SMARTY plans that give you a discount on your next month’s plan based on how much unused data you have. But these plans are more expensive than their regular ones:

These all pay you back for unused data:

SMARTY will discount your next month £1 per GB of unused data. They even give you back your unused MB as pennies to make sure you’re getting everything back that you would expect.

It’s a great unused data scheme in terms of how it works. But the fact it’s only offered on select plans that are pricier than their regular ones is a letdown. You’d likely just be better off on a bigger plan.

Useful link: Read our full data discount review

Our verdict on unused data:

iD Mobile win

"SMARTY’s scheme would easily be one of the best if it was included on all their plans. But the fact it’s only included on pricier plans defeats the purpose of the scheme trying to save you money. iD’s scheme is better in our eyes.”

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Roaming compared on iD Mobile and SMARTY

Which provider is better for taking your SIM abroad?

A globe with SMARTY and iD Mobile logos

SMARTY’s EU roaming scheme is easy to understand

SMARTY free roaming banner

Full roaming costs

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

You can use your SMARTY SIM in these EU/EEA destinations. While there you can use your unlimited mins and texts, plus 12GB of data (or your regular allowance if it’s smaller than that) at no extra cost.

It’s a bit frustrating to have your data usage limited abroad, but we think most users won’t get through 12GB on a short trip anyway. You also now get 4G abroad on SMARTY, but not 5G as of yet.

You will have to turn on roaming manually in your account settings too (here's how you do it). This can become a big problem if you didn’t do this before leaving the UK.

Roaming outside their EU destinations will get very expensive very fast. You’ll have to top up with credit, to pay for your usage at these rates while away. Very few networks give worldwide roaming these days, so this isn’t a death blow.

Useful link: SMARTY's guide to roaming on their network

iD have an overly complicated fair usage policy

iD roaming fair usage policy

Read fair usage policy

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

iD Mobile’s EU roaming is functionally the same as SMARTY’s. You get to use your UK minutes, texts and data abroad at no added cost and you’ll get 4G/3G signal where available (but no 5G).

But unlike SMARTY, iD have an overly complicated fair usage policy that restricts how much data you can use abroad based on the cost of your plan. Every plan is restricted abroad, even iD’s smallest ones.

Beyond the EU, iD do offer a few more countries for roaming. But unless you’re planning on going to Azerbaijan, North Macedonia, Belarus or Kazakhstan this shouldn’t make too much of a difference.

At the very least, roaming just works as it should on iD without having to fiddle around with your account settings. You’ll just have to weigh up ease of use vs ease of working out your fair use limit.

Useful link: All roaming costs on iD Mobile

Our verdict on roaming:


"We appreciate that both networks have kept their EU roaming in place. But the fact that iD put restrictions on data usage on all their plans, while SMARTY only limit plans over 12GB puts SMARTY well ahead in our eyes."

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Spending caps: iD Mobile vs SMARTY

Which has the best ways of stopping you overspending?

Wallet with SMARTY and iD Mobile logos

iD’s spending caps offer great flexibility

iD spending cap banner

Learn more

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

All networks now have to offer you optional caps on your spending to stop you paying more than you want on your mobile bill. But iD offered theirs before this rule came into effect.

You can use their Capping scheme on any of their phone contracts or SIM only plans. You can set your limit between £0 and £25 at £1 increments. iD have some of the most flexible spending caps of all UK networks.

Once you’ve hit your cap, iD will automatically prevent your phone from doing anything that would cost you extra, such as calls to premium numbers. This way you’ll never rack up unexpected bills.

And if that happens you’ll still be able to use your plan’s mins, texts and data and anything else that doesn’t cost you extra. And you can change your cap up or down when you like if your needs change.

Useful link: Costs for extra usage on iD Mobile

SMARTY’s plans stop you from accidentally overspending

SMARTY no more unexpected bills banner

Read why

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

SMARTY also stop you from overspending. But they’re different from iD as you’ll pay for everything you’ll use up front. So it’s impossible to accidentally overspend.

When buying a SMARTY SIM only plan you’ll pay for your mins, texts and data with your debit or credit card. To use anything outside of your pan you’ll have to top up with credit to do so (like using Pay As You Go).

So you’ll never accidentally spend more than you want if you never top up. But if you do that you won’t have any credit to use for extras when you need them.

There’s no way to set a cap and get your extra usage charged to your bill. If you want to use more extras you’ll have to top up. And you can’t set a cap on how much of your added credit you can use each month.

Useful link: More about billing on SMARTY

Our verdict on spending caps:

Minor win for iD Mobile

"If you don’t want to pay for extras at all then you’ll be happy with either network. But if you do then you’ll prefer the fact that iD let you use extras without having to top up and actually have a proper cap on your extra spending, unlike SMARTY."

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Customer service: differences between SMARTY and iD

Which provider is better at resolving their customers’ issues?

Customer service headset with SMARTY and iD Mobile logos

iD now offer online-only customer service

iD explaining their move to online only support

Read report

at ofcom.org.uk
(opens in new window)

iD Mobile no longer let you call them up to get your issues resolved. They used to be one of the only small networks to let you call them, but now you have to use their online chat or their app.

Thankfully, their app is very handy and lets you manage most aspects of your plan. You can see your bills, manage your spending cap, access their community help articles and use their online help chat.

In our experience we found it can be difficult to get through to an actual person using their online chat, and you can be stuck answering questions for a while before you actually get your problem resolved.

Tech-savvy users can use their online help articles and fix the issue themselves, but otherwise you can end up stuck with iD’s customer service. That’s ultimately a trade off for the lower prices you get on iD.

Useful link: All ways to contact iD Mobile

SMARTY only offer help via their website

SMARTY mobile online chat screenshot

How to get help

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

SMARTY are able to offer such low-cost deals by hiring the smallest number of employees as they can. As such they don’t have call centres to allow customers to contact them over the phone.

So if you’ve run into an issue with your plan you’ll have to contact SMARTY’s agents on their website using their online chat. This is slower than calling and can leave you waiting a whole day for a response.

We think there’s very little to complain about with SMARTY, but for those less confident with self-serving the lack of over-the-phone help can become frustrating.

It’s night and day when comparing iD and SMARTY on customer service.

Useful link: How to get help on SMARTY

Our verdict on customer service:

Neither of them win

"Neither network offers over-the-phone services and only let you contact them online or using their apps. It’s ultimately the trade off you get for joining a budget network."

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Prices and plans compared

Special offers on SMARTY and iD Mobile

Here's what's currently running on the two networks

iD Mobile and SMARTY logos with a special offer tag

SIM only deals on iD Mobile vs SMARTY

Compare latest prices on their SIM only plans below

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iD's SIM only contracts require a credit check to join

iD Mobile order process

What gets checked

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

To join any of iD Mobile’s pay monthly SIM only contracts you’ll have to pass a credit check in the checkout (read iD’s guide to their credit checks here).

That's because they need to make sure that you will be a reliable bill payer. And that you're not someone who will rack up big bills and then refuse to pay.

Basically every network that offers pay monthly contracts does this. Most customers shouldn’t run into issues with this. But if you’ve missed payments in the past it might be difficult to join on an iD contract.

Their pay as you go SIMs do not have a credit check, because all your usage is paid for up front. Compare all no credit check SIM only plans here.

Useful link: Full guide to iD Mobile's credit checks

SMARTY’s plans don’t require a credit check to join

SMARTY no credit checks banner

How billing works

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

It’s much easier to join SMARTY’s SIM only plans, since there are no credit checks to pass. All you need is a UK debit or credit card and enough money to take out your plan.

You then register your payment card and the cost of your plan is charged onto it. To use extras outside of your plan you’ll have to top-up with credit and use that or buy an add-on.

This system means that SMARTY can never get into the situation where someone racks up a bill and then refuses to pay.

The result of that is that they don't need to run a credit check on new customers. So if you've been declined before, SMARTY may be a better choice than iD Mobile.

Useful link: SMARTY's guide to billing on their network

Our verdict on SIM only plans:

Depends on current offers

"In terms of sheer value there’s very little to split the two networks. SMARTY do offer their best value plans without the need to pass a credit check, but we think most customers will be able to join iD without much issue anyway. We’d say this one is a draw."

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Phone contracts on SMARTY and iD Mobile

Do either network offer smartphone contracts?

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iD are the only network between them to offer phone deals

Screenshot of iD Mobile phone range

Compare phone contracts

at simsherpa.com
(opens in new window)

SMARTY were set up to provide cheap and cheerful SIM only plans and don’t offer phone contracts themselves. But they do offer discounts on refurbished phones via a third party called reboxed.

On the other hand, iD have a massive range of phones, including the Apple and Samsung models you'd expect. Their general pricing is lower than average, which is likely due to them being owned by Carphone Warehouse.

iD offer all their phone deals on simple 24-month contracts. There’s no complicated financing involved, you just pay a monthly cost for your mins, texts, data and your device over that 24 months.

If you want a simple, low-priced phone deal with all the benefits we've described in all the other sections of this page, you could do worse than consider iD Mobile.

Useful link: See iD's range of phone contracts

Our verdict on phone contracts:

Automatic win for iD

"iD take this one by default as they’re the only network between them offering phone contracts."

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More iD Mobile guides

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