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SMARTY vs giffgaff: how their coverage, 4G speeds & deals compare

giffgaff vs SMARTY

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

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: 7th February 2019.

Special offer notifications

SMARTY's record-breaking value

SMARTY 100GB for £15 offer banner

SMARTY's new prices offer genuinely astounding value:

30GB for £10 a month

50GB 100GB for £15 a month

Unlimited data for £20 a month

See all deals (opens in new tab)

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

In our head-to-head comparison

Networks compared

Coverage across UK
Download speeds over 4G
WiFi calling & free hotspots

Skip to: Network coverage & speeds

Perks and benefits

Credit checking
Avoiding overspending
SMARTY advantages
giffgaff advantages

Skip to: Perks & benefits

SIM only plans compared

Always On vs unlimited data
1-month contracts
How prices compare

Skip to: SIM only plans

Making your mind up

How to decide between them
Pros and cons of each

Skip to: Deciding

Network coverage, speeds and extras

Coverage: expect slightly better on giffgaff than SMARTY

giffgaff 4G coverageSMARTY 4G coverage
4G 99%
4G 99%
3G 99%
3G 98%

Both giffgaff and SMARTY use other providers’ networks to bring their customers signal. giffgaff use the O2 network and SMARTY use Three’s.

Latest coverage statistics for the UK population put O2 narrowly ahead of Three for 4G and 3G. And O2 have a more extensive network in places away from where people live like roads and rail.

We’d say these stats are decent indicator of coverage for each network as a whole across the country. But the most important thing is a networks’ reception where you actually use your phone.

Use the official coverage checkers below to check each providers’ signal where you live, where you work and places you often travel to. That’ll give you an impression on who is better to join.

SMARTY coverage checker
SMARTY network map

Check SMARTY signal

(opens in new window)

giffgaff coverage checker
giffgaff network map

Check giffgaff signal

using their official map
(opens in new window)

4G download speeds: we’d expect SMARTY to be faster

O2 4G speeds
giffgaff 4G speeds
16 Mbps
Three 4G speeds
SMARTY 4G speeds
20 Mbps

We know from customer forums that many giffgaff users complain about the slow speeds they’re getting on the giffgaff network and that they suspect they’re getting a slower speed than O2 direct.

We’ve approached giffgaff for comment but they’ve not confirmed whether this is the case.

Overall, to find out the expected 4G speeds on SMARTY vs giffgaff, we need to look at what the Three and O2 networks they use deliver typically to customers.

On the Three network, we'd expect average speeds around the 20 Mbps mark, compared to 16 Mbps on O2. And that’s ignoring suspicions that giffgaff is slower than O2.

Overall, we’d expect faster speeds on SMARTY than giffgaff.

Useful link: What SMARTY say about their 4G

Network extras: no WiFi calling or free hotspots on either

No Wifi calling on SMARTY or giffgaff

No WiFi calling or free hotspots on SMARTY or giffgaff

Both giffgaff and SMARTY are low-cost no-frills networks, so you don’t get any of the handy extras you’d expect from a pricier provider that help you stay connected on your phone.

Notably there’s no WiFi calling on giffgaff or SMARTY (see best rated WiFi calling networks here). WiFi calling lets you make and take calls over a WiFi signal if you’re somewhere mobile reception doesn’t reach.

You’re also not going to get any access to free WiFi hotspots on SMARTY or giffgaff. Some networks like O2, Sky Mobile, Virgin Mobile or BT Mobile provide free WiFi on the high street to their customers.

In terms of network extras there’s very little to split giffgaff and SMARTY.

Useful link: Is WiFi calling coming to SMARTY?

Where to next in this article?

Perks and benefits

There’s no credit check 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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For many this will be completely irrelevant because you’ll get accepted onto most networks anyway. But if you’re only just 18, have just come to the UK or have been declined elsewhere listen up:

Neither giffgaff or SMARTY require you to pass a credit check on SIM only. This is when a mobile network looks at your record of paying other telecoms or utilities providers and judges if you’re likely to pay your bills.

That’s because you buy your plan of minutes, texts and data up front on SMARTY and giffgaff, using a UK credit or debit card. So there’s no direct debit to set up and no risk of people not paying.

In short, as long as you’ve got a UK credit/debit card, there’s no reason you’ll be blocked from joining SMARTY or giffgaff.

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

You can avoid overspending on SMARTY and giffgaff

Extra costs on giffgaff and SMARTY

Unlimited streaming with selected plans & servicesSee extra costs

(opens in new window)

There’s an added benefit to buying your monthly plan of minutes, texts and data up front each month, which is what you do on SMARTY and giffgaff: you can avoid accidentally overspending.

On other networks' pay monthly plans, you set up a direct debit and if you use any extra premium services or go over your limits for minutes, texts or data, you’ll be charged extra at the end of the month.

On SMARTY and giffgaff, you don’t have to set up a direct debit. So if you run out of minutes, texts or data, you just won’t be able to use that service until you buy an add-on or new bundle.

Note: on giffgaff if you have topped up with more credit than your plan costs, any extra usage WILL be taken from that credit. So if you’re worried about overspending, don’t top up more than you plan to use.

Useful link: Compare giffgaff and SMARTY plans using our deal finder tool

SMARTY offer a unique benefit you don’t get on giffgaff

SMARTY advantages over Three

Get a discount of your next bill for unused dataSee the discounts

(opens in new window)

SMARTY’s headline unique selling point is their system that effectively pays you back for any data that you haven’t used. It’s similar to these data rollover plans but you get cash instead of keeping data.

For every 1GB you don’t use on SMARTY, you’ll get a £1 discount of your next month’s plan. Your discount is calculated per MB (1/1000th of a GB) so you’re paid back for every little bit of data.

Price-wise, you could sign up for SMARTY’s 4GB data plan, even if you don't usually use that much, as you'll never lose out against the cheaper plans if you don't use the data.

This benefit comes on SMARTY's smaller plans, not on their unlimited data SIM (you can't get paid back unlimited pounds!). As it stands, giffgaff don’t offer anything similar to this.

Useful link: How SMARTY's unused data discount works from their help guide.

giffgaff offer some things you won’t get on SMARTY though

giffgaff payback scheme

Earn £5 for getting your friends to join tooHow payback works

While SMARTY’s money back scheme for unused data is excellent, there are still some benefits you’ll need to join giffgaff to get:

Like giffgaff’s payback scheme that earns you money for helping to recruit more members (customers) to giffgaff and for helping customers with problems in their online forum.

Recruit new customers to join giffgaff and you’ll earn at least £5 per activation with their recruiter scheme. If you take it really seriously, you could easily earn enough to cover even the full cost of your plan!

All your recruits will get £5 free credit too, so it’s a mutually beneficial scheme.

Useful link: How giffgaff recruiter rewards work

Roaming on SMARTY and giffgaff is similar

SMARTY no roaming

There's now roaming with SMARTY's dealsRead full guide

If you didn't know, mobile networks all have to let you use your regular minutes, texts and data for no extra cost while you're abroad in an EU country.

So both giffgaff and SMARTY now effectively have free roaming in the EU, which is a good thing considering how cheap their plans are in the first place.

If you want to go further afield on either SMARTY or giffgaff, you'll need to have topped up with credit first. You'll then be charged per minute, text and MB data you use while you're there.

You can compare each of the networks' lastest roaming costs using the two useful links below:

Useful link: All SMARTY roaming costs | All giffgaff roaming costs

Where to next in this article?

SIM only deals

Both giffgaff and SMARTY offer 30-day SIM only plans

SIM cards

The two providers specialise in short-term 30-day plans, which means you’re only ever tied in for one month at a time. You’re free to leave at short notice or change to a different plan each month.

Their plans are generally similarly priced so you best bet is to use our comparison tool below to choose the minutes, texts and data you want in your plan. It’ll show you the available plans and prices.

Deal options >
Mins, texts and data >
Data speed (4G or 5G) >
Max contract length >

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Choose which networks you'd consider:

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giffgaff Always On plans vs SMARTY's unlimited data SIMs

SMARTY Unlimited data offer banner

Same price, none of the restrictionsSee full deal

(opens in new window)

If you hadn't seen, SMARTY have launched an unlimited data plan on a 1-month contract that goes directly in competition with giffgaff's Always On plan. We think there's a cut and dry winner.

giffgaff's Always On is hard to call unlimited data (and giffgaff don't), because there actually limits on it. Only your first 40GB works at their full 4G speeds. After that you only get 2G speeds 08:00 - 00:00.

Compare that with SMARTY's new unlimited data plan here and the winner becomes clear. You can use as much data as you like in the UK, tether your phone and there's no speed restrictions in this country.

And when you consider you're getting all that for the same price as giffgaff's Always On, SMARTY's unlimited plan comes out as the way more competitive option. We'll have to see how giffgaff respond!

Useful link: Full information on SMARTY's unlimited plan

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...

Flexibility and fairness if your data usage changes each month

If you live in an area with better coverage than giffgaff

Faster expected 4G download speeds

Unlimited plans without limits

Jump to

giffgaff are generally better for...

You want £5 free credit when you join

If you live in an area with better coverage than SMARTY

You want to be able to use your phone abroad

See free credit offer

Where to next in this article?

Don't forget these offers

SMARTY's record-breaking value

SMARTY 100GB for £15 offer banner

SMARTY's new prices offer genuinely astounding value:

30GB for £10 a month

50GB 100GB for £15 a month

Unlimited data for £20 a month

See all deals (opens in new tab)

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

SIM Sherpa can help you find your next SIM only deal

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