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SMARTY vs Talkmobile: comparing the two cheap networks

Talkmobile vs SMARTY

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Are you better off on Talkmobile or SMARTY? We compare their coverage, 4G/5G data speeds and other features to help you decide. Last updated: 21st December 2023.

In our Talkmobile vs SMARTY guide

Latest offer news

Mobile networks: Talkmobile vs SMARTY

Do Talkmobile or SMARTY have better coverage?

We compare both networks on their 5G/4G/3G coverage

Talkmobile and SMARTY logos with mobile signal bars

Talkmobile have better call and 4G data signal than SMARTY

Talkmobile 3G switchoff

What this means

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

Both Talkmobile and SMARTY are smaller providers that piggyback off a larger network for signal. Talkmobile use Vodafone’s network while SMARTY are a sub-brand of Three and use their network.

As such, Talkmobile hold the advantage for call signal (3G/2G) as their hosts provide the joint-best coverage for calls of all networks. And their call signal is better at getting into buildings than SMARTY’s.

4G data coverage is closer between the two. Traditionally, Talkmobile have held a big advantage for 4G, but SMARTY’s hosts have made huge improvements to their network and have closed the gap somewhat.

Still, Talkmobile come out ahead for call signal and 4G data signal. However, it is worth checking both networks’ signal maps to see which one provides better signal in your area.

Useful link: Check Talkmobile’s map | Check SMARTY’s map

5G is much more widespread on SMARTY than Talkmobile

SMARTY 5G data

Read about 5G

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

While SMARTY aren’t a standout network when it comes to 4G and call signal coverage, their excellent 5G coverage helps make up for this. In comparison, Talkmobile seem to lag behind them.

You get 5G in 580+ UK towns and cities on SMARTY and in 160+ locations on Talkmobile. So, you’re much more likely to get 5G near you on SMARTY, but how well do either network cover their locations?

Well, SMARTY come out ahead again as they tend to provide widespread 5G signal in their covered locations, while on Talkmobile 5G is largely restricted to popular areas like transport hubs, stadiums and so on.

While SMARTY hold the clear advantage here, you still have a chance of getting 5G in your location on one rather than the other. So use both networks’ coverage maps below to check 5G near you.

Useful link: Read SMARTY’s guide to their 5G

Use a coverage checker before you join

Check signal at home and other places you'll use your mobile

SMARTY's signal checker

SMARTY coverage checker

Use SMARTY's map

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

Talkmobile map

Talkmobile coverage checker

Check Talkmobile signal

using Talkmobile's official map
(opens in new window)

Alternative coverage checkers

Independent coverage checkers

Use OpenSignal checker
Use Ofcom checker

Our verdict on coverage:

Win for Talkmobile

“Since you’ll probably be on 4G more often than 5G, we consider Talkmobile’s more widespread 4G to be more important than SMARTY’s 5G advantage. And Talkmobile’s better call and indoor signal is also a huge advantage. Talkmobile take this one.”

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Data speeds on Talkmobile or SMARTY

Which network provides the faster 4G/5G speeds?

Talkmobile and SMARTY logos with speedometer icon

4G data speeds are typically faster on SMARTY

5G at Talkmobile banner

Read about upgrades

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

When we reviewed both SMARTY and Talkmobile, we found that neither provider have built in speed limits vs being on their hosts directly. So we can apply their hosts’ speed results when comparing them.

Independent network testers Opensignal measured typical 4G data speeds of 34.5 Mbps on SMARTY’s hosts and 27.9 Mbps on Talkmobile’s hosts. That’s a reasonable difference, but what does it mean in real life?

Well, when we tested both networks we got 4G speeds up to 70 Mbps on SMARTY and around 110+ Mbps on Talkmobile in the city centre. In urban areas speeds went down to 7 Mbps on SMARTY and 5 Mbps on Talkmobile.

So, while you can get faster peak 4G speeds on Talkmobile, we found speeds tended to be more consistent on SMARTY, meaning you’re less likely to encounter buffering and slowdown. SMARTY just take this one.

Useful link: Our full SMARTY network review

5G speeds are a huge advantage for SMARTY

5G ready on SMARTY

See their 5G guide

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

Both networks benefit massively from getting full access to their hosts’ superfast 5G networks. But the speed results from Opensignal and Speedtest show a huge gap between the two networks.

Typical 5G speeds sat between 114.3 Mbps - 146.19 Mbps on Talkmobile’s hosts with peak speeds of 315.35 Mbps. Speeds on SMARTY’s hosts were between 205.5 Mbps - 286.27 Mbps with peaks of a blistering 696.73 Mbps.

That’s a pretty huge difference between them. It’s all the more impressive considering Talkmobile actually sit in second place for 5G speeds. SMARTY are the obvious choice if you want the fastest speeds possible.

It makes sense, since SMARTY’s parents, Three, have made investing in their 5G network a big priority. Talkmobile’s speeds are starting to improve, however, so we could see them catching up in the future.

Useful link: Our guide to the best 5G networks

Our verdict on download speeds:

SMARTY win easily

"SMARTY leave all the other networks in the dust when it comes to the best 5G speeds, while also providing healthier 4G speeds than Talkmobile. SMARTY take this one easily."

Compare pricing and deals

Extra network features on Talkmobile vs SMARTY

What other features do either network offer to keep you connected?

Talkmobile and SMARTY logos with phone

SMARTY have more and better network features

WiFi calling SMARTY banner

Read their guide

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

Both networks offer WiFi calling and 4G calling, which are features that let you connect to calls over WiFi and 4G signal respectively. But of the two, we think SMARTY’s scheme is implemented a bit better.

Talkmobile say you just need a device that supports WiFi calling and the latest software update for, but we have struggled to get it to work on Android devices. When we tested SMARTY it worked on all their listed devices.

On top of that, SMARTY also offer free access to lots of Underground WiFi hotspots. This helps you stay connected where you’d usually get no signal and pairs well with their WiFi calling. Talkmobile don’t have this.

Both networks include call forwarding and tethering as features. They do miss out on visual voicemail and eSIMs, but it’s mostly just the bigger networks that have these anyway. In all, SMARTY offer a lot more here.

Useful link: Our guide to the best WiFi calling networks

Our verdict on network features:

Win for SMARTY

“SMARTY ‘s WiFi calling is a much more reliable feature than Talkmobile’s as you can be sure which devices it works with. And their WiFi hotspot scheme is a nice little extra on top. A good win for SMARTY here.”

Compare pricing and deals

Added benefits compared

Inclusive roaming on Talkmobile vs SMARTY

Which network is better for taking your SIM abroad?

Talkmobile and SMARTY logos with a globe

Talkmobile have brought back their EU roaming scheme

Talkmobile EU countries

Check destinations

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

Talkmobile have brought their inclusive EU roaming back after having removed it for some time. That means you can roam at no added cost in these 41 EU/EEA destinations on all their plans.

However, they have reduced their fair usage limit to 5GB down from 15GB, meaning you’re a bit more restricted while you’re abroad. Still, that is enough for most people on a short trip, so it’s not a huge downside.

They also don’t offer any inclusive worldwide roaming. So you’ll have to pay for your usage per min, text and MB of data if you go beyond the EU, which can get expensive fast so keep an eye on your usage.

Talkmobile are still a good network for taking your SIM to the EU and it’s great that it comes on such good value plans. But if they hadn’t changed their fair usage limit they would have beat SMARTY here.

Useful link: Read Talkmobile’s full EU roaming guide

SMARTY also offer inclusive EU roaming on all plans

SMARTY travelling in the EU

Read their guide

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

While many of the bigger networks have removed inclusive EU roaming, SMARTY have kept theirs in place. That means you can still use your UK mins, texts and data in these 34 EU/EEA destinations at no added cost.

You can use 12GB of data abroad. That’s more than on some networks and should be more than enough for a short trip. If you hit the limit, SMARTY offer cheap data add-ons to tide you over till you get back.

SMARTY don’t offer any inclusive roaming destinations beyond the EU. So if you want to go further afield you’ll have to pay for your usage at these rates. But that is what we’d expect from a budget network.

In all, SMARTY are one of the best choices for EU roaming. It’s great to get it on such great value plans, especially since it’s increasingly becoming a trade off of good roaming for higher prices on other networks.

Useful link: How to turn on roaming before you go abroad

Our verdict on roaming:

Minor win for SMARTY

“Both networks are really good options for using your SIM in the EU. SMARTY only just take this one as they let you use a bit more data while abroad, but most users will be happy on either.”

Compare pricing and deals

Flexible plans on SMARTY and Talkmobile

Which network offers more flexibility on their plans?

Talkmobile and SMARTY logos with phone streaming

SMARTY offer very flexible 1-month deals

SMARTY no credit checks

See all plans

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

SMARTY offer some of the most flexible plans of all networks. All their plans come on 1-month deals with no contracts, so you can switch up or down or leave altogether each month with no need to give notice.

Since you pay for your mins, texts and data up front you also don’t have to pass a credit check. That makes SMARTY an excellent choice if you’ve been rejected for a contract by Three (or any other network).

Their plans also essentially have overspending caps built in as you can only use extras by topping up with credit. That means you don’t have to worry about racking up a huge bill on things outside of your plan.

In all, SMARTY don’t make you choose between getting a flexible plan and a great value plan. They give you both. This means you’ll never be stuck on a plan that doesn’t suit your needs.

Useful link: Read SMARTY’s guide to their flexible plans

Talkmobile offer decently flexible 1-month contracts

Talkmobile ID check

Read their terms

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

Talkmobile offer a range of flexible 1-month contracts on pretty good value deals. These let you switch plans or leave Talkmobile altogether at the end of the month as long as you give them 30 days notice.

And you don’t need to pass a credit check to join any of their plans. You only have to put in some personal information so they know who you are and as long as you put in everything correctly you won’t be rejected.

However, we put them below SMARTY as Talkmobile’s 12-month contracts are a lot less flexible. You can’t move your plan down on these and there’s no way to leave early if it’s not working for you.

The fact that it’s a trade off of flexibility and lower costs means they just fall behind SMARTY who offer both. In fact, SMARTY tend to offer similar or even better value than Talkmobile’s 12-month contracts.

Useful link: Talkmobile’s terms and conditions for buying online

Our verdict on flexible plans:

Win for SMARTY

“SMARTY offer much more flexibility on their 1-month plans than Talkmobile while also matching Talkmobile’s longer contracts on price. You get the best of both on SMARTY.”

Compare pricing and deals

Better benefits on Talkmobile

What do Talkmobile offer that SMARTY don’t?

Talkmobile and SMARTY logos with globe

Talkmobile have much better customer service

Talkmobile customer service options

How to contact them

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

Typically, smaller networks can offer such low costs by stripping away parts of their customer service like call centres. But Talkmobile don’t do this. They’re one of the few budget networks to let you call them.

When we tried it, we were put through to a call agent fairly quickly and they were efficient at resolving our issue. While they don’t show up in Ofcom’s report, we can say their customer service is pretty good.

Their call centres are open between 8am - 10pm on weekdays, 9am - 6pm on Saturdays and 10am - 5pm. Those hours are flexible enough to fit around most work schedules, making it easier to get help.

And if you’d rather not call you can use their online chat on their website. And Talkmobile have an app to help you manage your account. SMARTY don’t have over-the-phone services, so Talkmobile win this one.

Useful link: Our guide to the best customer service networks

Better benefits on SMARTY

What do you get on SMARTY that you don’t on Talkmobile?

SMARTY and Talkmobile logos with a greater than symbol

SMARTY offer generous family plan discounts

SMARTY group plans

How it works

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

If you want to put your kids on their own plans or have a close knit friend group, you can set up a group plan on SMARTY by adding multiple SIMs to your account. SMARTY give you extra benefits for doing this.

The first is a generous 10% discount on every plan added to your account. That saves you a bit of money on what are already some of the best value deals around. And you can get that discount on up to 7 extra plans.

On top of that, each user on your account can choose their own plan. That’s not always the case on other networks and it means each user has a plan that suits their needs, which helps avoid overspending.

One potential downside is that the payment for each plan comes out on the date you took them. They’re not billed together. But it’s still nice to have all your plans in one place as well as all the benefits above.

Useful link: Our guide to SMARTY’s family plans

SMARTY won’t up the cost of your plan while you’re on it

See their guide

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

If you’re looking to join either SMARTY or Talkmobile, it’s likely because you’re looking for the best value deal possible. But not only do SMARTY offer low cost plans, but they won’t increase the cost of your deal.

So you get the same great value as long as you stay on your plan. The only exception is their time-limited discounts such as half-price for 12 months. After the discount is over it can feel like a price increase.

Talkmobile do increase the cost of your plan while you’re with them. In 2023, Talkmobile users saw their plan’s cost go up by 14% on both SIM only and phone contracts. That’s a pretty massive price hike.

For those looking for the best value deals for the long term, SMARTY are the obvious choice.

Useful link: Our guide to the networks without price increases

Our verdict on extra benefits:

Depends what you like

“SMARTY are ideal for those who really don’t want to spend a lot on their plan, but Talkmobile’s better customer service can make them a better choice for some. It really depends on what you prefer here.”

Compare pricing and deals

Pricing and deals

SIM only plans on Talkmobile vs SMARTY

Which network offers the better value SIM only plans?

Talkmobile and SMARTY logos with SIM card



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