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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: 17th May 2021.

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.

See how the offer works > opens in new tab

Network coverage, speeds and extras

Is coverage better on SMARTY or giffgaff?

We look at which has the best signal across the UK

Mobile signal bars with giffgaff and SMARTY logo

Overall coverage is better on giffgaff

SMARTY and giffgaff host networks

Both SMARTY and giffgaff piggyback on two different networks. SMARTY are owned by Three and use their network. giffgaff were set up by O2 and use their network. And there's pros and cons to both:

For 2G/3G basic calls and texts, it's advantage giffgaff. They've got more of the country's physical landmass coverage for these. So are more reliable if you travel around a lot or live rurally.

For 4G data and urban calls/texts there's little to split them, according to Ofcom. giffgaff should generally be better indoors too. Only giffgaff currently offer 5G, so they beat SMARTY here by default.

The most important thing when choosing a mobile provider is to check their coverage in the places you'll actually use your phone: at home, your journey to work/school etc (use SMARTY and giffgaff's maps here).

Useful link: Use both their network maps

giffgaff have beaten SMARTY to offering 5G data

SMARTY 5G is coming banner

Latest 5G news

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We'd predicted SMARTY would offer 5G first but were wrong. giffgaff are now offering 5G plans, via the O2 network. Not all goodybags have 5G though, here are the ones that come with newer technology activated:

SMARTY have had this 5G page up for over a year but they've concentrated on getting other network features like WiFi calling / 4G running first (see further down this page).

Even if SMARTY did have 5G live, Three's 192 locations might beat the 150+ on giffgaff's host O2, but we'd say O2 are doing a better job at spreading out 5G to a larger area within them.

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:

Win for giffgaff

"Across the entire UK, we'd still say giffgaff use a bigger network than SMARTY. The differences are less important in towns and cities but out in the sticks, you'll get more blackspots on SMARTY"

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 are on a faster network than giffgaff

SMARTY powered by Three banner

Read more details

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While giffgaff have the advantage for coverage, it's SMARTY that should provide faster 4G speeds on average. That's what independent network testers Opensignal and Speedtest by Ookla have found.

They've taken millions of measurements on people's smartphones via giffgaff and SMARTY's host networks and found that O2 (used by giffgaff) typically delivers 16.95 - 18.00 Mbps, behind Three on 20 Mbps.

Our own testing couldn't find any speed differences between being on SMARTY vs Three directly but we suspect giffgaff might be slower than O2 on average, so their measurements could actually be below O2's.

For basic browsing and social media, the difference shouldn't be too noticeable. More demanding stuff like big downloads and streaming are likely to be a better experience on SMARTY than giffgaff.

Useful link: SMARTY's traffic management policy

Our verdict on data speeds:

Win for SMARTY

"While both networks will sometimes beat the other for speed, overall the general picture is that data speeds are typically faster on SMARTY than giffgaff."

Compare pricing and deals

Extra network features

Which has more ways of keeping you connected?

WiFi calling symbol with SMARTY and giffgaff logos

SMARTY have WiFi calling, giffgaff don't

SMARTY WiFi calling

Check supported phones

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While giffgaff added 5G, SMARTY have concentrated on other network features. They now offer both WiFi calling and 4G calling as standard. giffgaff don't offer either.

The advantage of WiFi calling is that it lets your phone connect to SMARTY's mobile network over WiFi, if conventional phone signal is poor. You can continue using calls and SMS texts like normal.

4G calling increases the types of signal your phone can use for calls (normally it's just for data). As SMARTY's 4G is better at getting indoors than their 3G, that improves indoor calling too.

In general, giffgaff's 2G/3G is on better frequencies to get into buildings, so you could argue the features are less necessary with them. But any additional help to stay connected is welcome in our book.

Useful link: See all networks with WiFi calling

giffgaff get you more free WiFi hotspot access

giffgaff free WiFi on the Undground

How to connect

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Getting free WiFi access that logs you in automatically whenever you're in a range is a great way to keep your data usage down and could let you buy a smaller, cheaper plan than if you had to rely solely on mobile data.

SMARTY don't include any free hotspot access with their deals (even though their parent Three gets you free WiFi on the London Underground). giffgaff customers do benefit from their association with O2:

Follow giffgaff's instructions on their website here and you can access free WiFi on London's TFL network and also the O2 WiFi network, which has some 16,000 free hotspots on high streets and at transport hubs.

If you live or work in the capital, it's a useful feature on giffgaff vs SMARTY. But for the rest of the country, it's probably more just of a nice-to-have for when you run out of data. There's loads of free WiFi now anyway.

Useful link: Costs for going over data limit on SMARTY

Our verdict on network features:

Minor win for SMARTY

"Now SMARTY have WiFi calling and 4G calling, we think people will find these more useful than free hotspots. So this is now a win for SMARTY."

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 for groups and families

SMARTY group plans banner

Read full details

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giffgaff are only set up for individuals to join. You can't manage multiple plans from one account. And there's no built-in monthly discounts for family or data sharing schemes. You can earn £5 for getting them to join though.

SMARTY on the other hand are the only real low-cost network to offer Group Plans with a 10% discount for each member in the group. And you can get that for up to 8 people in one group.

It probably works best for families or people who know and trust each other really well, because the group owner becomes in charge of all the plans and payments. But you could join with friends to make savings.

There are few ins and outs about how to manage the group plans (read SMARTY's help guide here for more details) but if you're looking for value, getting a discount off already-cheap plans is a real strong point in the case for joining SMARTY vs giffgaff.

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

Earn rewards for getting people to join giffgaff

giffgaff rewards

How to earn it

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There might not be any actual group plans on giffgaff but you can get rewarded for referring other people you know to join them through their Payback scheme.

It's lets you earn £5 every time you get someone you know to join giffgaff. You either share a special tracked link they can order through, or you can order SIM cards yourself and give them out yourself.

Your friend also gets £5 free credit when they top up with a £10 or buy a £10+ goodybag (plan), so there's something in it for both of you. If you're entrepreneurial, you could end up covering the cost of your own 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 give you free months for getting people to join

SMARTY refer a friend scheme banner

How to do it

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While it's not quite as good as giffgaff giving you cold hard cash, SMARTY do have a refer-a-friend scheme that can save you a few pounds on your mobile bill every now and then.

When you join, SMARTY give you a unique tracked link that you can send out to people you know. When they order via it, you and your friend will get a free month's plan - regardless which one you're both on.

There's no upper limits on how many people you can recruit. And you don't actually have to know the people either. If you could get that many people to join, you could get a full 12 months free if you wanted.

Like we say, some sort of cash reward is always better but who would say no to free months?

Useful link: Full details and terms

Our verdict on extra perks:

Win for SMARTY

"SMARTY have definitely put more effort into offering unique benefits than giffgaff, who've not really changed anything about their basic offering in almost a decade of trading."

Compare pricing and deals

How roaming on SMARTY compares with giffgaff

Is one better than the other for going abroad?

A globe with SMARTY and giffgaff logos

giffgaff include EU roaming with all their goodybags

Roaming on giffgaff banner

See all costs

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Like every mobile network with any roaming, giffgaff let you use your UK minutes, texts and data for no extra cost while in the EU, so that's a bit of extra value you get.

You won't get 4G data in every country you go. And it's difficult to nail giffgaff down on where they offer the service. But everything does work out of the box with giffgaff.

There's no other inclusive roaming outside the EU on giffgaff and their pay as you go rates are pretty eye-watering. You wouldn't want to use your phone as normal outside Europe (see costs per country here).

Useful link: The best networks for roaming

SMARTY's roaming has to be set up manually

SMARTY activate roaming banner

How to activate it

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You get the same EU / EEA inclusive roaming on SMARTY that you do with every mobile network. But there's nothing like their parent network Three's inclusive worldwide roaming.

The main weakness with SMARTY's roaming is that you have to manually set up your phone for it to work. The SIM card doesn't configure the settings automatically. Follow the instructions here before you leave.

If you don't do this in advance, you could end up abroad without your phone working, without going onto WiFi first and finding the instructions (this happened to us when we were testing for our SMARTY review).

Elsewhere in the world, SMARTY have a top up and pay as you go system. The rates are generally cheaper than giffgaff but aren't cheap by any stretch. Both are really only meant for trips to the EU.

Useful link: SMARTY's full price guide

Our verdict on this topic:

Minor win for giffgaff

"giffgaff having 4G in some countries and the fact that roaming just works out of the box puts them slightly ahead of SMARTY, although for the occasional short hop to continent either will do."

Compare pricing and deals

You can avoid overspending on SMARTY and giffgaff

Extra costs on giffgaff and SMARTY

Example screenshot, costs may changeSee extra costs

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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

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



Three logo
ASDA logo
BT Mobile logo
EE logo
giffgaff logo
Honest logo
ID logo
IQ logo
Lebara logo
O2 logo
Plusnet logo
Sky logo
Talkmobile logo
Tesco logo
Virgin Mobile logo
Vodafone logo
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Added features

giffgaff Always On and unlimited data plans vs SMARTY's

SMARTY Unlimited data offer banner

Same price, none of the restrictionsSee full deal

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SMARTY have an 1-month unlimited data deal that goes directly in competition with giffgaff's Always On and unlimited data plans. 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 80GB works at their full 4G speeds. After that you only get 2G speeds 08:00 - 00:00.

giffgaff now do have a proper unlimited data SIM (separate from Always On) that doesn't come with the same restrictions. But as you can see below, it does come with a much larger price tag.

Compare both with SMARTY's cheaper 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.

Useful link: Full information on SMARTY's unlimited plan

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

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...

WiFi calling and 4G calling

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...

5G data

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 automatically

See free credit offer

Where to next in this article?

Other SMARTY guides

More guides about giffgaff