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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. Last updated: 19th December 2022.

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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 SMARTY or giffgaff?

We go over either networks’ 3G/4G/5G signal

Mobile signal bars with giffgaff and SMARTY logo

giffgaff provide the better overall mix of signal

SMARTY and giffgaff host networks

Check their signal

at giffgaff.com
(opens in new window)

Both giffgaff and SMARTY are owned by main UK networks that they rely on to provide signal. giffgaff use O2’s network for call (2G/3G) and data (4G/5G) signal while SMARTY use Three’s network.

For calls and texts, giffgaff are clearly the stronger network. They get access to the joint-largest network for calls in the UK, so total signal blackspots in remote areas will be a lot less common on giffgaff.

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 near you 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

SMARTY have 5G live in more towns and cities

SMARTY 5G banner

Read their guide

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

Both SMARTY and giffgaff have had 5G for a while now and both offer it on all their plans at no added cost. So which network has the superior 5G coverage?

Well, SMARTY benefit greatly from being on Three’s 5G network, having 5G live in 400+ UK towns and cities. giffgaff provide 5G in 750+ locations. But there’s more to it than just numbers:

No network can cover their locations entirely, as 5G is still only on a street by street basis. giffgaff are usually better covering their declared locations, as well as having 5G live in more locations.

Use their network maps to see which network offers better 5G coverage near you. You’re more likely to have 5G in your area and stay connected to 5G as you move around 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

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


giffgaff network map

Check coverage

at giffgaff.com
(opens in new window)

Our verdict on coverage:

Win for giffgaff

“There’s not a whole lot to split the two networks on, but giffgaff’s stronger call signal and indoor coverage means you’re less likely to find yourself in a total blackspot. giffgaff have 5G live in more locations and cover these locations better than SMARTY.”

Compare pricing and deals

Is data faster on giffgaff or SMARTY?

Comparing typical 4G/5G speeds on SMARTY vs giffgaff

Speedometer with giffgaff and SMARTY logos

SMARTY outspeed giffgaff on 4G and 5G

SMARTY powered by Three banner

Read more details

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

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.

According to measurements from independent network testers Opensignal, typical 4G speeds on SMARTY should sit around 30.7 Mbps while giffgaff’s typical speeds were relatively sluggish at 16.8 Mbps.

Between Opensignal and Speedtest by Ookla’s results we can see typical 5G speeds on SMARTY sit between 228.4 Mbps and a lightning fast 248.16 Mbps. giffgaff’s host’s typical 5G speeds were between 90.61 Mbps - 92.3 Mbps.

It’s worth noting 5G on giffgaff has got slower as more people use it, while 5G speeds on SMARTY has actually increased. SMARTY are the better choice for heavy data activities like gaming and file sharing.

Useful link: SMARTY's traffic management policy

Our verdict on data speeds:

Win for SMARTY

“SMARTY offer faster typical speeds and peak speeds both over 4G and 5G. giffgaff look sluggish in comparison, so SMARTY take this one easily.”

Compare pricing and deals

Extra network features on giffgaff vs SMARTY

Which network provides more ways to keep you connected?

WiFi calling symbol with SMARTY and giffgaff logos

SMARTY include WiFi/4G calling, giffgaff don’t

SMARTY WiFi calling

Check supported phones

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

SMARTY include both WiFi calling and 4G calling at no extra cost on every deal, while giffgaff are missing both features. It’s a big downside to giffgaff that holds us back from giving them a better review.

WiFi calling lets you make calls and send / receive texts (on some networks) using WiFi signal where call signal (3G/2G) is poor. This is especially helpful indoors where call signal can struggle to reach.

4G calling does essentially the same thing, but with 4G signal (which is usually just for data). Since SMARTY’s 4G signal is better at getting into buildings 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 don’t offer it.

Useful link: See all networks with WiFi calling

giffgaff offer a good amount of free WiFi hotspots

giffgaff free WiFi on the Undground

How to connect

at giffgaff.com
(opens in new window)

We like it when networks offer free WiFi hotspots as it helps users hold onto their data. It’s especially good when they allow your phone to log in automatically. giffgaff offer lots of WiFi hotspots on all plans:

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

SMARTY recently introduced a network of free WiFi hotspots at Underground stations and ticket barriers, similar to their hosts Three’s scheme. But they still don’t offer any overground hotspots.

If you’re a London commuter then you’ll get something out of either scheme. But only giffgaff offer hotspots outside of London between the two. In any case, free WiFi isn’t as groundbreaking as it used to be.

Useful link: Costs for going over data limit on SMARTY

Our verdict on network features:

Win for SMARTY

“We’d rather have WiFi/4G calling over access to free WiFi hotspots as they’re much more helpful for avoiding signal blackspots. We appreciate giffgaff’s hotspot scheme, but it doesn’t make up for their lack of WiFi/4G calling.”

Compare pricing and deals

Where to next in this article?

Perks and benefits

Benefits on giffgaff vs SMARTY

Both networks offer low costs, but what other benefits do you get with them?

giffgaff and SMARTY logos with a giftbox

SMARTY discount extra plans added to your account

SMARTY group plans banner

Read full details

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

SMARTY help their customers get better value on their already great value deals by offering 10% off any plans added to their account. They let you add up to 7 additional plans and get all of them discounted.

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.

For the most part giffgaff are focused around selling to individuals. You can’t add extra plans to your account and they offer no multibuy discounts. But you can get £5 free credit for referring friends to them.

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

Get cashback for referring friends onto giffgaff

giffgaff rewards

How to earn it

at giffgaff.com
(opens in new window)

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.

If you know anyone looking to join giffgaff, you can send them a special link which will take them to giffgaff’s site. If they top up with at least £10 credit or take a £10+ goodybag you’ll both get £5 free credit.

That credit can then be converted to cashback. You and your friend get some money back, your friend gets a new SIM and giffgaff get a new customer. Bear in mind your friend’s top up has to be £10 or over to benefit.

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 give you a free month every time you refer a friend

SMARTY refer a friend scheme banner

How to do it

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

SMARTY have changed their old refer-a-friend scheme. You used to get a free month for every new customer you brought onto SMARTY, but now you get a £10 gift card for doing so.

You need to have a SMARTY plan. Then, like with giffgaff’s scheme, you just need to send your friend or family member a special link where they can take their plan. Doing so will earn you both a £10 gift card.

There’s actually no limit to the amount of people you can refer. You can both choose either an Amazon, John Lewis or Uber gift card and don’t have to take the same one as the person you referred.

It’s actually possible to save yourself a year’s worth of plan costs by doing this. You can potentially save a lot more money with this scheme than with giffgaff’s, even if you’re not technically getting money back.

Useful link: Full details and terms

Our verdict on extra perks:

Win for SMARTY

“SMARTY’s discounts on extra plans can save money in the long term, while their rewards cards can get you a bit of short term value. giffgaff’s benefits won’t save you quite as much.”

Compare pricing and deals

How roaming on giffgaff compares with SMARTY

Which provider is better for taking your SIM abroad?

A globe with SMARTY and giffgaff logos

giffgaff include free EU roaming as standard

Roaming on giffgaff banner

See all costs

at giffgaff.com
(opens in new window)

While most of the larger UK networks have got rid of free EU roaming, the majority of the smaller providers have kept theirs in place. But that doesn’t mean these networks haven’t made some changes to their scheme.

You can still roam in these EU/EEA destinations on every giffgaff plan and use your minds, texts and data like you would at home. But you’ll now be limited to 5GB of your data allowance while there.

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

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

Useful link: The best networks for roaming

SMARTY offer a pretty similar scheme to giffgaff’s

SMARTY activate roaming banner

How to activate it

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

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 main difference with SMARTY is that you can use 12GB of your allowance. That’s more than twice what giffgaff let you use. But you will have to turn on roaming manually before you leave (here’s how).

That can cause you some trouble if you go abroad without knowing this, as you might have to wait until you find somewhere with free WiFi to turn it on. This happened to us when we tested out SMARTY’s roaming.

If you’re going outside the EU, you’ll have to top up and pay at their pricey rates. These are cheaper than giffgaff’s, but you’ll still end up spending a lot. Both networks are only good for short trips to the EU.

Useful link: SMARTY's full price guide

Our verdict on this topic:

Win for SMARTY

“giffgaff’s roaming is a bit more convenient in that you don’t have to set it up before going abroad. But SMARTY let you use much more of your allowance while abroad and their data add-ons beyond that are very cheap. SMARTY narrowly win this one.”

Compare pricing and deals

No way to accidentally overspend on giffgaff and SMARTY

Extra costs on giffgaff and SMARTY

Example only, check for latestSee extra costs

at giffgaff.com
(opens in new window)

Both SMARTY and giffgaff offer 1-month deals where you pay up front for your monthly allowance of mins, texts and data. With these plans it’s impossible to accidentally overspend on extras outside your plan.

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.

Bear in mind, on giffgaff there’s no way to set a cap on how much credit you can use on extras. There’s nothing stopping you eating into your credit when you do anything on your phone that would usually cost extra.

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
Boshhh Mobile logo
Coop Mobile logo
EE logo
Genius logo
giffgaff logo
Honest logo
ID logo
IQ logo
Lebara logo
Lycamobile logo
O2 logo
Sky logo
spusu logo
Talkhome logo
Talkmobile logo
Tesco logo
Vodafone logo
VOXI logo


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Added features

No credit checks to join SMARTY or giffgaff

Credit checks on SMARTY and giffgaff

All you need is a UK debit or credit card to joinHow billing works

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

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.

giffgaff and SMARTY both let you join their SIM only plans without having to pass a credit check. Usually a network will look up your credit history to see whether or not you’ve made payments on time 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.

All you need to join either network is a UK debit or credit card and enough money to pay for your plan and you’ll be able to join without issue.

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

giffgaff offer flexible phone deals, SMARTY have none

What sorts of phone contracts can you get?

SMARTY and giffgaff logos with a phone

Phone options


Apple logo
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Microsoft logo
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Features box


Upfront: (Any upfront cost)

Monthly: (Any monthly cost)


Length: (6 - 36 months only)

Data: (Any)



Three logo
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giffgaff logo
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giffgaff phone contract benefits

See latest phones

at giffgaff.com
(opens in new window)

If you’re looking for a phone contract then your only choice between the two is giffgaff. But that doesn’t take anything away from giffgaff’s phone deals, which offer great value and good flexibility.

giffgaff’s phone contracts split the cost of your phone and usage plan (mins, texts, data) into separate payments. So you can change your usage plan every month or leave giffgaff while still paying for your phone.

Their contracts also tend to be some of the cheapest of all networks. However, there’s no way to change upfront costs or the length of your contract like you can on some other networks, so it’s a trade off there.

SMARTY don’t offer any phone contracts. But you can currently get £50 off a refurbished phone with SMARTY’s partners reboxed if you’re an existing SMARTY customer. But for new phones you’re out of luck.

Useful link: giffgaff's latest phone range

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