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SMARTY vs giffgaff: 5G/4G coverage, speeds and deals compared

giffgaff vs SMARTY

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We compare the important differences between the giffgaff and SMARTY mobile networks to see if it's worth switching to either. SIM Sherpa is your trusty guide. Last updated: 21st February 2022.

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.

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Network coverage, speeds and extras

Is coverage better on giffgaff or SMARTY?

We look at which has the best signal across the UK

Mobile signal bars with giffgaff and SMARTY logo

giffgaff have the overall better mix of coverage

SMARTY and giffgaff host networks

giffgaff piggyback off the O2 network, meaning they get the same coverage for call signal (3G/2G) and data signal (5G/4G) while SMARTY are owned by Three and use their network.

In terms of call signal,giffgaff have a clear advantage. Their hosts O2 have the joint-largest amount of the UK’s physical landmass covered for calls/texts, so you’re less likely to find yourself in a total blackspot.

On the other hand, 4G data and urban call signal coverage isn’t massively different between them. But giffgaff should generally have better indoor signal.

In the end, it’s more important to look at how each network’s signal is in your location rather than the national picture. You can check what signal will look like in your area by using SMARTY and giffgaff's maps here.

Useful link: Use both their network maps

5G in more locations on SMARTY

SMARTY 5G banner

Read their guide

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SMARTY have very recently introduced 5G, while giffgaff have offered it for a little while longer. On both networks, it’s offered at no extra cost on all of their plans. So, what’s the difference?

Well, SMARTY benefit greatly from being on Three’s 5G network that covers 300+ UK towns and cities. giffgaff get 5G in 190+ locations. But there’s more to it than just numbers:

5G coverage is on a street by street basis, you won’t get 5G everywhere in a covered location. But giffgaff’s hosts O2 are generally a lot better at covering their declared locations than SMARTY.

Either way, use their coverage checkers to see which network offers better 5G coverage near you. You’re more likely to be covered by SMARTY, but if you’re covered by both it’ll likely be across a wider area on giffgaff.

Useful link: All networks with 5G

Network maps

Don't just check at home but everywhere you'll use your phone


SMARTY network map

Check coverage

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giffgaff network map

Check coverage

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Our verdict on coverage:

Slight win for giffgaff

"It’s a very close run thing, but giffgaff’s better call signal and indoor coverage means you’ll find yourself in a total blackspot less often. While SMARTY cover more locations for 5G, giffgaff are better at covering their locations."

Compare pricing and deals

Is data faster on SMARTY or giffgaff?

We look at the speeds you can expect on both

Speedometer with giffgaff and SMARTY logos

SMARTY offer much faster 5G and 4G than giffgaff

SMARTY powered by Three banner

Read more details

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There might not be that much of a difference between the two in terms of coverage, but both 5G and 4G speeds are basically night and day between the two.

We take the results from independent network testers Opensignal, who measure 4G data speeds on SMARTY’s hosts at 25.2 Mbps against giffgaff’s comparatively slow 17.1 Mbps.

Looking at Opensignal and Speedtest by Ookla’s 5G speed results, we can see SMARTY’s typical 5G speeds should lie between 103.9 Mbps and 246.65 Mbps. These are much faster than giffgaff’s expected 110.9 Mbps and 127.97 Mbps.

For your basic browsing and social media needs you’ll hardly notice a difference. But heavy data users, like gamers or filesharers, might want to steer clear of giffgaff. SMARTY are much faster overall.

Useful link: SMARTY's traffic management policy

Our verdict on data speeds:

Win for SMARTY

"SMARTY are generally much faster, both in terms of peak speeds and average speeds on 4G and 5G. There’s no contest here, an easy SMARTY win."

Compare pricing and deals

Extra network features

Which has more ways of keeping you connected?

WiFi calling symbol with SMARTY and giffgaff logos

SMARTY offer WiFi calling while giffgaff don’t

SMARTY WiFi calling

Check supported phones

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While you get WiFi calling and 4G calling for free on any SMARTY plan, neither feature is available on giffgaff. It’s one of their key weaknesses that stops us giving giffgaff a better review.

WiFi calling lets your phone connect to calls and send / receive texts (on some networks) via WiFi signal instead of conventional call signal (3G/2G). This is great where WiFi is available and call signal is poor.

4G calling does essentially the same thing, but with 4G signal (which is usually just used for data). Since SMARTY’s 4G signal is better at getting through building materials than their 3G, it also helps with indoor coverage.

giffgaff’s call signal tends to be better at getting indoors anyway, but you can still be caught in a blackspot if you’re far from the mast. In this case it’s nice to have WiFi calling, but giffgaff simply don’t offer it.

Useful link: See all networks with WiFi calling

giffgaff have two ways of offering free WiFi hotspots

giffgaff free WiFi on the Undground

How to connect

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It’s nice when networks offer free WiFi hotspots as it’s a great way to save data on the go. It’s even better when they let your phone log in automatically. giffgaff offer such a scheme on all of their plans:

If you follow the instructions on their website here, you’ll see how you can access both a network of hotspots on the Underground and 8000 of O2’s hotspots all around the UK. These are usually in areas like shopping centres.

On the other hand, SMARTY don’t offer any WiFi hotspots to speak of, even though their hosts Three get you free WiFi hotspots on the London Underground.

If you’re a London commuter you’ll likely get more out of giffgaff’s scheme than anyone else. But in any case it’s a nice way to save some data. Still, free WiFi probably isn’t the deal breaker it once was.

Useful link: Costs for going over data limit on SMARTY

Our verdict on network features:

Win for SMARTY

"WiFi calling and 4G calling are much more useful to have as you’ll almost never find yourself in a total blackspot. giffgaff’s free hotspots are nice, but not as useful as having WiFi calling."

Compare pricing and deals

Where to next in this article?

Perks and benefits

Benefits on SMARTY vs giffgaff

Both are low cost, so what extras do you get with either?

giffgaff and SMARTY logos with a giftbox

SMARTY offer discounts on additional plans

SMARTY group plans banner

Read full details

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giffgaff are largely based around selling deals to individual people. You can’t manage multiple users from one account and there’s no discount for buying multiple plans. But you can get £5 free credit for getting people to join.

But SMARTY add value on top of competitively priced deals with a 10% discount on extra plans added onto your account. You can add up to 7 extra plans and get the discount on all of them (including the main account).

It works best for families and groups of close knit friends who trust each other, because the account holder is essentially in charge of the payment, adding and removal of plans.

There are a few details that you’ll need to know (read SMARTY's help guide here for more details) but if you’re looking to get your family on SIM plans and want discounts on an already cheap network, SMARTY are a good choice.

Useful link: Read SMARTY's help guide for more info

Earn money back for getting people to join giffgaff

giffgaff rewards

How to earn it

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You might not know that giffgaff actually offer what they call their “Payback scheme”. If you don’t know, it’s a reward scheme for getting your friends or family to join on giffgaff.

How it works is that if someone you know wants to join giffgaff, you’ll send them a special link which they can order their SIM through. Or you can order a SIM and give it out yourself. This gets you £5 every time you do it.

The person you got to join giffgaff will get £5 free credit for topping up with £10 for the first time, or £5 money back for buying a £10+ “goodybag”. It’s a win-win and could help you make some money back off your plan.

These kind of schemes are getting more popular with mobile networks, as it's a great way for them to recruit new customers without having to pay for advertising and SMARTY have something similar.

Useful link: Full details on giffgaff's recruiter scheme

SMARTY gift free months for every new user you get to join

SMARTY refer a friend scheme banner

How to do it

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SMARTY offer a refer-a-friend scheme, giving you and anyone you refer to SMARTY one free month. You can do this multiple times to get multiple free months.

It works similarly to giffgaff’s. If you’re a SMARTY customer you can send a special link to friends or family members and when that person joins via that link you’ll both get a free month.

There’s actually no limit to the amount of people you can refer. You don’t even have to be friends with the person you refer. So long as they join on a SMARTY plan you’ll both get a free month.

You can actually save on a whole year’s worth of plans if you do this. While you’re not getting money back, not having to spend money is essentially the same thing. And you can save a lot more with SMARTY this way.

Useful link: Full details and terms

Our verdict on extra perks:

Win for SMARTY

"SMARTY offer way more than giffgaff do. You can save money on free months and getting your family onto their own plans. giffgaff’s benefits seem tame in comparison."

Compare pricing and deals

How roaming on SMARTY compares with giffgaff

Which network is better when you’re abroad?

A globe with SMARTY and giffgaff logos

giffgaff offer free EU roaming on all their goodybags

Roaming on giffgaff banner

See all costs

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Quite a few networks have now removed EU roaming for their plans. But most smaller networks like giffgaff have kept their roaming scheme in place. However, that doesn’t mean it hasn’t been subject to change.

giffgaff still let you roam in these EU/EEA countries on every goodybag plan. You can use your calls and texts to UK and EU numbers while roaming like you would at home, but giffgaff now limit your data to 5GB while abroad.

For some users that will mean incurring extra charges for their data usage. giffgaff don’t offer data add-ons, so if you go over the limit while abroad you’ll either have to pay for data at giffgaff’s standard UK rates or stop using data.

At least their roaming works out of the box and doesn't have to be turned on manually. But the recent change has made giffgaff’s scheme quite a bit worse. And there’s no worldwide roaming, so check the rates for each worldwide destination here.

Useful link: The best networks for roaming

SMARTY’s roaming is pretty similar to giffgaff’s

SMARTY activate roaming banner

How to activate it

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SMARTY are another network that have kept their inclusive EU roaming scheme in place, even though their hosts Three have got rid of theirs. You get free roaming in these EU destinations on any plan.

The biggest differences with giffgaff are that you only get 12GB data to use abroad if your allowance is over that amount, and you’ll have to turn on roaming manually in your account settings (here’s how).

This can be very annoying if you don’t know this beforehand, as you could end up with no way to turn it on until you find some free WiFi. This is actually what happened to us when we tested SMARTY in real life.

If you’re going outside the EU, you’ll have to top up and pay as you go at some expensive rates. These are better value than giffgaff’s, but you’ll still end up spending a lot. Both networks are only really good for short trips to the EU.

Useful link: SMARTY's full price guide

Our verdict on this topic:

Win for SMARTY

"While giffgaff’s roaming doesn’t have to be set up before you leave, their scheme is now more restrictive than SMARTY’s. SMARTY let you use a good amount of data abroad and offer cheap data add-ons if you go over that. A narrow win for SMARTY."

Compare pricing and deals

Avoid accidentally overspending on SMARTY and giffgaff

Extra costs on giffgaff and SMARTY

Costs may change any timeSee extra costs

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Both giffgaff and SMARTY offer 1-month contracts where you buy your month’s worth of mins, texts and data up front. This means it’s impossible to spend more than you’re willing to pay on accident.

With other networks you set up a direct debit and get an allowance of data every month. If you go over than allowance or do anything to incur extra charges then you’ll have to pay more at the end of the month.

But since you’re not setting up a direct debit, you can only use what you’ve paid for. If you want to keep using mins, texts and data once you’ve run out you’ll have to buy extra add-ons or a new bundle.

If you pay as you go on giffgaff, however, and you top up with more credit than the cost of your plan then any extra usage will come out of your credit. It’s best not to top up with more than you need to avoid overspending.

Useful link: Compare giffgaff and SMARTY plans

Where to next in this article?

Plans and prices

SIM only plans compared on SMARTY and giffgaff

Which has better value for money SIM deals?

A SIM card with giffgaff and SMARTY logos



1p Mobile logo
Three logo
ASDA logo
BT Mobile logo
Coop Mobile logo
EE logo
giffgaff logo
Honest logo
ID logo
IQ logo
Lebara logo
Lycamobile logo
O2 logo
Plusnet logo
Sky logo
Talkmobile logo
Tesco logo
Virgin Mobile logo
Vodafone logo
VOXI logo


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Added features

giffgaff Always On / unlimited data plans vs SMARTY's

SMARTY Unlimited data offer banner

Same price, none of the restrictionsSee full deal

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SMARTY’s 1-month unlimited data plan is a market leading plan, while the closest giffgaff gets to competing with this plan is their Always On unlimited data plan. Between the two it’s easy to choose a winner.

We wouldn’t call giffgaff's Always On “unlimited” and neither do giffgaff themselves, as technically there are limits. Only the first 80GB will get you full 4G speeds. After this you get 2G speeds from 08:00 - 00:00.

While giffgaff do now offer a proper unlimited data plan that will always give you full speeds, you can see below that it’s much pricier than Always On.

Compare both with SMARTY's cheaper unlimited data plan here and you can see which one wins. With SMARTY you can use all the data you like, tether without limits and there are no speed restrictions in this country.

Useful link: Full information on SMARTY's unlimited plan

No credit checks on giffgaff SIMs or SMARTY

Credit checks on SMARTY and giffgaff

You only need a UK debit or credit card to joinHow billing works

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This might not be helpful to know for everyone, but if you have a poor credit history or if you’ve just turned 18 and don’t have a credit history, then these two are decent choices if you’ve been denied by O2 or by Three.

Neither of the two networks make you pass a credit check on their SIM only plans. Credit checks are where a network looks up your credit record, which displays whether or not you’ve kept up with payments in the past.

They do this because they need to make sure you can pay on time for your minutes, texts and data. But since you’re buying everything up front on SMARTY and giffgaff then if you can’t pay, you can’t get your plan. Simple as.

So, as long as you have a UK debit or credit card and you have enough money to pay for your monthly allowance, you can get on either network without hassle.

Useful link: How billing works on SMARTY | How it works on giffgaff

Special offers on SMARTY and giffgaff

Here's how you can get some extra value with each

Special offer ribbon with SMARTY and giffgaff logos

Where to next in this article?

Making your mind up

Tips on deciding between SMARTY and giffgaff

SMARTY vs giffgaff

Decide what you value most

On the face of it, giffgaff and SMARTY are pretty similar low-cost pre-paid SIM only providers with some overlapping benefits.

To decide between the two, take a look at the lists below and judge what's most important for you.

If it's price, use our deal finder tool above to compare their plans against each other.

SMARTY are generally better for...

Where to next in this article?

Other SMARTY guides

More guides about giffgaff