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Various logos of UK mobile networks

Plusnet Mobile vs SMARTY: the battle of the low-cost SIM only networks

SMARTY vs Plusnet Mobile

We find out if you're better off joining SMARTY or Plusnet Mobile by comparing each network's 4G coverage, prices and benefits. SIM Sherpa is your trusty guide. Last updated: 17th July 2018.

What we've compared

Mobile networks

4G and 3G coverage
Expected download speeds
WiFi calling & tethering

Skip to: Networks

Perks and benefits

Inclusive free roaming
Unused data schemes
Avoiding overspending

Skip to: Perks & benefits

Deals and offers

SIM only plan prices
Credit checks
Special offers

Skip to: Prices & offers

Making your mind up

How to decide between them
Pros and cons of each

Skip to: Deciding

News on special offers

Free month on any SMARTY plan

A free month on SMARTY

Pay for the first month of your plan, get the second one free - only when you use this exclusive link to SMARTY's hidden offer on their 1GB to 8GB plans.

Or get unlimited data, mins and texts for £25 a month with a free second month too (not exclusive to SIM Sherpa readers). Terms apply to both.

Get your free month > (opens in new tab)

£40 Reward Cards on Plusnet Mobile

Plusnet Mobile Reward Card offer

Join Plusnet Mobile on a qualifying 12-month SIM only plan to get a pre-paid Mastercard with £40 on it.

See qualifying plans > (opens in new tab)

How do their networks compare?

UK mobile coverage on Plusnet Mobile vs SMARTY

They use different networks, so which gets you better 4G and 3G signal?

Coverage on SMARTY vs Plusnet Mobile

Expect better 4G coverage on Plusnet Mobile than SMARTY

Plusnet Mobile 4G coverage
SMARTY 4G coverage
99%
99%

Plusnet use the EE network (the UK’s biggest). Whereas SMARTY use the Three network (the smallest).

In terms of 4G, more than 99% of the population is covered by Plusnet, which is slightly ahead of SMARTY, who bring 4G to a flat 99%. So there’s a better chance you’ll get Plusnet statistically.

Use the coverage checkers below to check you’re definitely in a 4G area with either networks before you sign up, to make sure you’ll have reception where you use your phone.

3G is more equal on SMARTY and Plusnet Mobile

Plusnet Mobile 3G coverage
SMARTY 3G coverage
98%
98%

While Plusnet Mobile have the advantage for 4G signal, 3G is more even. And we still think it’s important, because you’ll use it when you don’t 4G and for making calls and sending texts.

Plusnet Mobile’s 3G coverage is 98% of the population, compared to SMARTY with roughly the same 98%.

Again, use the network maps below to make sure you’ll get it where you use your phone.

Coverage checkers: test Plusnet and SMARTY signal near you

Coverage statistics are one thing. But it's more important to check in your actual area

Plusnet Mobile coverage

Plusnet Mobile coverage checker

Check Plusnet signal

(opens in new window)

SMARTY coverage

SMARTY coverage checker

Check SMARTY signal

(opens in new window)

Note: if you use an alternative coverage checker, you'll need to look for EE's result for Plusnet, and Three's result for SMARTY.

Our verdict on coverage:

A win for Plusnet Mobile

"Using the EE network instead of Three is a big advantage for Plusnet Mobile over SMARTY nationally. But use the maps above to check for differences between them in your area, as that could be the deciding factor."

Compare pricing and deals

4G speeds on SMARTY vs Plusnet Mobile

We look at which network to expect faster download speeds on

Coverage on SMARTY vs Plusnet Mobile

Plusnet’s host network’s 4G is faster than SMARTY’s

Plusnet Mobile 4G coverage
SMARTY 4G coverage
31 Mbps
(EE's 4G downloads)
20 Mbps
(Three's 4G downloads)

On the face of it, Plusnet's host network EE is basically around 50% faster than SMARTY's host Three for the typical customer. But it's not so simple to say the same is true of Plusnet and SMARTY:

We'd expect SMARTY customers to get identical speeds on average to being on Three direct, around the 20 Mbps mark. But we wouldn't say Plusnet customers can expect to average exactly EE's speeds of 31 Mbps.

That's because Plusnet Mobile don't yet support EE's extra speed 4G, which means you'll never hit the dizzying heights of 90 Mbps you can enjoy directly on EE. The question is whether that's actually a problem.

Even if Plusnet's speeds topped out at 25 Mbps and SMARTY's averaged 20 Mbps, these are both comfortable for streaming HD videos without buffering and web pages like the one you're on would load in less than a second (depending on your phone).

3G speed differences unlikely to be noticeable

Plusnet Mobile 3G coverage
SMARTY 3G coverage
7 Mbps
8 Mbps

When it comes to 3G, we expect SMARTY and Plusnet’s hosts to deliver similar speeds to each other:

8 Mbps on SMARTY’s host Three. And 7 Mbps on Plusnet’s host EE.

Neither speed is enough to support buffer-free HD video watching but are both fast enough that loading general internet pages won’t be painfully slow when you’re not in a 4G area.

Our verdict on download speeds:

Expected minor win for Plusnet Mobile

"The 4G speed performance of Plusnet’s host network EE should see them delivering faster speeds than SMARTY. But the difference may not be huge if Plusnet’s speeds are limited by not having 4G+."

Compare pricing and deals

Extra network features on SMARTY and Plusnet Mobile

What other differences are there between Plusnet and SMARTY’s mobile networks?

There’s no WiFi calling on either Plusnet or SMARTY

Three's WiFi calling scheme

Read our guide

to the best WiFi calling schemes
(opens in new window)

On any network, there are certain buildings and locations (like underground) where conventional mobile signal can’t reach, so normally you wouldn’t be able to make calls or send texts.

Some of the larger mobile providers (and low-cost rival iD Mobile) now offer WiFi calling (read our guide to the UK networks who have it here).

This lets your phone use WiFi signal instead of mobile signal to make/take calls and send/receive SMS text messages. It puts an end to indoor blackspots.

Unfortunately, it’s not something you’ll get on Plusnet Mobile or SMARTY. Although SMARTY do seem to hint here that WiFi calling and 4G calling may be coming in future.

Useful link: Read our guide to the best WiFi calling networks

Tethering is allowed on both SMARTY and Plusnet Mobile

SMARTY tethering

(Click a network above to learn more)

It’s not for everyone but it’s good to know whether tethering is allowed on a mobile network before you sign up. And the good news is you can do it on SMARTY and Plusnet.

Tethering is when you use the mobile data on your mobile phone to create a small WiFi hotspot around you. If you have laptops or tablets, you can then connect these to the internet.

It’s a handy feature, which some of the other cheaper networks like iD Mobile and Virgin Mobile don’t allow. But SMARTY and Plusnet do (read their tethering policies here and here).

One thing to note is that tethering can use your data up more quickly because the connected devices are often used for more data-heavy activities, so make sure you’re comfortable with the amount of data in your plan and costs for going over limits.

Useful links: SMARTY extra data costs | Plusnet extra data costs

Our verdict on extra network features:

No difference between Plusnet and SMARTY

"Both allow tethering. Neither have WiFi calling. So it’s honours even when it comes to the extra network features on SMARTY and Plusnet Mobile."

Compare pricing and deals

Where to next in this article?

 

How do their benefits compare?

Roaming on Plusnet Mobile vs SMARTY

Do you get more free roaming on SMARTY or Plusnet?

Plusnet’s Roam Like Home offers free EU roaming

Free roaming on Plusnet

See free countries

at Plus.net
(opens in new window)

If you didn’t already know, every mobile provider in the UK now has to let you use any minutes, texts and data in your plan for no extra costs while you’re abroad in the EU (effectively free roaming).

And Plusnet Mobile are no exception. They call it Roam Like Home and it lets you use your plan’s allowance in all these EU countries without paying extra.

If you’re going somewhere else, Plusnet operate what we’d call a traditional roaming scheme, where you pay per minute, text or MB data used (check you're happy with the rates here).

It’s not the greatest inclusive roaming scheme (we rate all networks’ roaming here). But if you’re going on the occasional holiday in the EU, you’re in a good place with Plusnet Mobile.

Useful link: Plusnet's own guide to roaming from their help section

There’s now free EU roaming on SMARTY too

No roaming on SMARTY

Read full guide

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

When SMARTY first launched they didn't offer any roaming whatsoever. That meant if you were going abroad, Plusnet Mobile were the clear winner. Now SMARTY offer roaming too.

You can now use your plan's regular allowance of minutes, texts and data for no extra cost while you're in any of these EU countries on SMARTY.

You can also take your phone outside Europe and pay per minute, text and MB data out. You'll need to add credit before and the costs vary per country (see SMARTY's full price guide here).

Just like Plusnet, SMARTY's inclusive roaming isn't world-beating but low-cost means low-frills.

Useful link: SMARTY's full guide to roaming and costs

Our verdict on inclusive roaming:

No clear winner

"Both networks have free EU roaming with all their plans and don't offer any other inclusive worldwide roaming. Given the basic low cost of both their SIMs, we'd say that's fair enough."

Compare pricing and deals

Unused data schemes on SMARTY vs Plusnet Mobile

You might not use all your data each month. Do Plusnet or SMARTY have data rollover plans?

SMARTY’s have the UK’s fairest policy on unused data

SMARTY data payback scheme

How it works

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

This is the first major advantage that SMARTY have over Plusnet Mobile. And it’s all to do with what happens when you don’t use all of the data in your monthly plan, something practically everyone will do.

On most networks, you'll lose that data. Some let you keep it for later with data rollover schemes. SMARTY go much further and pay you back the money that data cost, in the form of a discount on your next bill.

And because the data’s paid back at the same cost as you paid for it in the first place, you really can’t lose. You could take SMARTY’s biggest 8GB plan and even if you don’t use it all, you’ll never be out of pocket compared to taking a smaller plan.

It’s SMARTY’s main selling point. And Plusnet don’t offer anything similar.

Useful link: How SMARTY's data discount works at SMARTY.co.uk

You’ll lose data you haven’t used on Plusnet Mobile

See the award

at Plus.net
(opens in new window)

This is one area that Plusnet probably underachieve on compared to their lower-cost rivals. iD Mobile, SMARTY, Sky and Virgin Mobile all have schemes that let you keep your unused data.

On Plusnet Mobile, any data you don’t use is gone at the end of the month, just like practically every other mobile network in the UK.

So it’s best you join on a plan that doesn’t come with massively more data than you need (else you’ll end up paying for data you won’t be using).

The good thing though is Plusnet's SIMs are all on 30-day contracts, which means you can switch easily between plans month-to-month to find the right one for your needs.

Useful link: How changing plans works on Plusnet

Our verdict on unused data schemes:

A clear win for SMARTY

"Their data discount is SMARTY’s main selling point and there’s no other network in the UK offering anything as honest and fair, including Plusnet Mobile. An excellent benefit for value seekers"

Compare pricing and deals

Avoiding overspending on Plusnet Mobile vs SMARTY

Both networks offer spending caps. So how do they compare?

Plusnet Mobile’s flexible Smart Caps stop you overspending

Smart Caps on Plusnet Mobile

How it works

from Plusnet's help section
(opens in new window)

On any network, there are extra charges that you’ll pay if you go over your monthly plan’s limits for minutes, texts or data. Or use other chargeable services like premium numbers or roaming.

If you’re not careful, you can end up with a bill for more than you expected if you use these. But every Plusnet Mobile SIM only plan comes with what’s called a Smart Cap (read Plusnet’s guide here).

These set a limit on how much extra you can spend above and beyond your normal monthly charge befo. When you first join this is set at £10 but it can be changed down to £2. But not £0.

If you hit the cap, any services that would cause you to spend more will be blocked. But anything that won’t cost you extra will continue to work as normal.

Useful link: Plusnet's Smart Caps explained in full at Plus.net

SMARTY’s deals are effectively capped at £0 extra spend

How billing works

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

While Plusnet's SIMs are classic pay monthly ones, where you set up a direct debit and pay at the end of the month for your plan and any extras, SMARTY's work a bit differently:

You pay for just your plan at the beginning of the month (you register a credit / debit card for this). To use anything not included in your plan (like more data or premium services), you have to buy credit or add-ons first.

This means it's impossible to spend extra on SMARTY accidentally, without actively purchasing your extra usage upfront (here's how much you'll pay for extras on SMARTY).

It's basically a cap at £0.

Useful link: How to buy add-ons for extra usage at SMARTY.co.uk

Our verdict on avoiding overspending:

A score draw

"It's impossible to set your cap to £0 on Plusnet Mobile but you can on SMARTY. But then it could be a massive pain to keep buying add-ons on SMARTY when they'd just be added to your bill on Plusnet. It'll come down to personal preference."

Compare pricing and deals

Where to next in this article?

 

How do their deals and offers compare?

SIM only compared on Plusnet Mobile and SMARTY

Is it cheaper to join SMARTY or Plusnet Mobile on SIM only?

Both networks are set up for cheap 30-day deals

SIM only plans on Plusnet vs SMARTY

We'd say both networks are consistently among the cheapest in the UK.

And they both offer exclusively 30-day plans, which gives you flexibility to chop and change whenever you feel like it.

Use our price comparison tool below to find the cheapest deal with the minutes, texts and data you want:

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There's no credit check on SMARTY but there is on Plusnet

If you've not lived in the UK long, or you have been declined for mobile contracts before, you might want to think about which mobile network is most likely to accept you for a deal.

Plusnet's SIMs are on pay monthly deals, which means you set up a direct debit with your bank and are charged for usage in a monthly bill. This means there is a credit check to pass.

We have no information on how hard this is. If you've had pay monthly contracts with other networks, it'd be unusual if Plusnet didn't accept you.

SMARTY's deals come with no credit check, because you're paying for all your usage up front with a debit/credit card. So as long as you have one of those, you're good to join SMARTY.

Useful link: Billing on Plusnet | Billing on SMARTY

Our verdict on SIM only pricing:

Minor win for SMARTY

"Both SMARTY and Plusnet Mobile offer extremely good value SIM only plans at low prices. The unlimited minutes and texts means you normally get more for your money on SMARTY. But check latest pricing and promotions."

Compare pricing and deals

Special offers on SMARTY and Plusnet Mobile

A quick look at the promotions running on each this month

Get a free month of SMARTY's new unlimited data SIM

A free month on SMARTY

See free month offer

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

To celebrate launching the UK's best-priced 1-month unlimited data SIM, SMARTY have just made their £25 a month deal even better:

Pay for your first month, and the second month is free (unlimited plan only).

And if you play your cards right, you can use SMARTY's Refer a Friend scheme to get even more free months later. It pays you back the cost of one month's plan if you get someone you know to join SMARTY too.

Your friend will also receive free credit once they've been with SMARTY for at least 14 days too.

Useful link: Full details on SMARTY's refer a friend promotion at SMARTY.co.uk

Pre-paid Reward Cards worth up to £40

Plusnet Mobile Reward Card

See the deal

at Plus.net
(opens in new window)

Plusnet Mobile have just started offering 12-month SIM only contracts that normally come in slightly cheaper vs their 30-day equivalents to reward you for committing to a longer deal.

On one of the 12-month plans, you can currently get a pre-paid Mastercard loaded with up to £40, which you can spend practically anywhere cards are accepted.

Order the £12 plan with 6GB data to get the £40 pre-paid Mastercard (order by 22nd March).

One word of caution though is that you'll need to claim the Reward yourself. Plusnet will email you after 30 days and you'll need to log in to get the pre-paid card delivered.

Useful links: Our guide to Plusnet Mobile reward cards

Where to next in this article?

 

Deciding between the two

Key differences between SMARTY and Plusnet Mobile

Here are a few things to think about when deciding between them:

Plusnet Mobile could be best for you if...

They have better coverage near you (check here)

You want inclusive EU roaming in these countries

You want flexible spending caps to avoid overspending

The plan you want is cheaper with them (compare here)

Read our full Plusnet Mobile review

SMARTY could be best for you if...

Their 4G/3G signal is stronger near you (check here)

You want money back for unused data

You don't want to pass a credit check

The plan you want is cheaper with them (compare here)

Read our full SMARTY review

Don't miss these offers

Free month on any SMARTY plan

A free month on SMARTY

Pay for the first month of your plan, get the second one free - only when you use this exclusive link to SMARTY's hidden offer on their 1GB to 8GB plans.

Or get unlimited data, mins and texts for £25 a month with a free second month too (not exclusive to SIM Sherpa readers). Terms apply to both.

Get your free month > (opens in new tab)

£40 Reward Cards on Plusnet Mobile

Plusnet Mobile Reward Card offer

Join Plusnet Mobile on a qualifying 12-month SIM only plan to get a pre-paid Mastercard with £40 on it.

See qualifying plans > (opens in new tab)

Other articles about SMARTY

SMARTY vs Three

SMARTY vs Three

Read SMARTY vs Three

SMARTY vs giffgaff

SMARTY vs Three

Read SMARTY vs giffgaff

Network review

SMARTY review

Read full SMARTY review

SIM Sherpa can help you find your next SIM only deal

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