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SMARTY review 2023: faster speeds & better coverage on 4G/5G

SMARTY logo with a mobile SIM cardVisit

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

We use the latest testing data and our experience as a real-life SMARTY customer to run the rule on whether SMARTY are any good. Last updated: 10th November 2022.

Overall rating

SIM Sherpa rates SMARTY's overall package as very good
 (3.5/5, very good)

"The first thing that people will naturally see with SMARTY is their cheap prices. But it’s by no means a cheap and nasty experience with them, in fact, we now question why you’d join their parent Three over SMARTY.

According to independent testers, SMARTY customers can look forward to the fastest peak 5G speeds in the country. And their 4G data has had a recent speed boost too, putting them well clear of Vodafone/O2.

Their rural coverage for calls and data does still let SMARTY down a little. Towns and cities are no problem. And online-only customer service is a price you pay for rock-bottom plan costs.

But there’s a huge list of other things going for SMARTY: EU roaming, WiFi calling, WiFi on TFL, no credit checks, flexibility to change plans and no commitment to stay beyond a month. SMARTY are worth a go for anyone."

The 3 best bits

1) 4G/5G speed improvements
2) WiFi calling and VoLTE
3) Cheap prices and flexibility

The 3 worst bits

1) Patchy rural coverage
2) No phone-based customer service
3) Roaming pain to set up

Which network is SMARTY on?

SMARTY uses the Three network for 3G, 4G and 5G.

Is SMARTY owned by Three?

Yes but they're run as a separate sub-brand.

Can I keep my number on SMARTY?

Yes. Text the word PAC to your old provider using your old SIM to 65075 and give the PAC code to SMARTY in your online account.

Does SMARTY allow WiFi calling?

Yes. SMARTY now offer WiFi calling on all their plans. Most modern phones are supported.

Does SMARTY offer 5G?

Yes. All SMARTY plans are sold with 5G at no extra cost. It also works for all existing customers.

How do I cancel my SMARTY plan?

Simply set your plan not to renew in your online account, at any time up to the day before it normally renews.

Can I use a SMARTY SIM in a MiFi broadband device?

Yes. There are no restrictions on putting SMARTY SIMs in mobile broadband dongles, WiFi devices, tablets or iPads.

Does SMARTY allow tethering?

Yes. You can use anything up to your entire data allowance in the UK for tethering.

Does SMARTY support eSIM?

No, you can only get a traditional paper SIM card from SMARTY.

Can I use a SMARTY SIM in a Three phone?

Yes you can.

How long does it take to activate a SMARTY SIM?

In our experience it took literally a couple of minutes. But every network cautiously say it can take up to 24 hours.s

Does SMARTY have a fair usage policy?

In the UK, SMARTY's only fair usage policy is that you're using the SIM for personal (not commercial usage). While roaming, there are monthly caps on how much data you can use.

Is SMARTY owned by EE?

No. SMARTY are owned by Three.

Can you cancel SMARTY anytime?

Yes. If you've previously set your plan to auto-renew, turn that off and you're free to leave for another network.

What happens if you run out of data on SMARTY?

You will no longer be able to connect to data and you will not be charged extra. You can then manually buy a data add-on to re-activate internet on your SIM.

Information symbol We're a professional reviews website but we bought our SMARTY SIM card as a regular consumer, to test what it's actually like for real life paying customers. The contents of this review are a combination of our expert industry knowledge and what we experienced during our test.

SMARTY's mobile network

Coverage on SMARTY is good and is still improving

Screenshot of SMARTY's coverage checker map

Their coverage map is honest and accurateCheck your local area

(opens in new window)

SMARTY are a sub-brand of Three that get full access to their hosts’ 3G call signal and 4G/5G data networks. Coverage is identical between the two: where you get signal on Three, you’ll get it on SMARTY.

We’re not able to test every inch of the UK’s landmass, but we did some spot checks in our local area. We wanted to see whether SMARTY’s coverage checker was accurate, and whether their signal was the same as Three’s.

We took two identical test phones out, one with a Three SIM and the other with a SMARTY SIM.

No matter where we tested, signal strength was largely the same between both networks with only a little fluctuation, which is normal. Where we got 5G, 4G and 3G on Three, we got it on SMARTY.

The coverage checker is accurate. Our real life findings matched up well with the checker’s claims. They’re also totally honest with the location of blackspots which is good considering there are a fair few.

In terms of 3G signal, SMARTY’s coverage is pretty much in line with other networks. But they’re missing some older pre-3G signal technologies, meaning rural calling blackspots can be a bit more common.

4G data coverage is an improving picture (see 5G below). SMARTY benefit from Three’s aggressive network expansion programme. This aims to convert more 3G masts into 4G ones.

In more rural areas you’ll likely find yourself kicked down to 3G on SMARTY than on other networks. But we sometimes found SMARTY’s 3G speeds performed better than some networks’ weakest 4G signal.

Generally then, we can’t say SMARTY have excellent coverage and there aren’t better networks. But if it’s fine in the places you mostly use your phone, how important is the rest of the country? Check and see.

Useful link: Check SMARTY coverage near you now

Our rating:
★★★☆☆ (good)

4th place
(out of 4 network operators)

Not as good as:
EE, O2, Vodafone
(and providers that use them)

Same as:
Three, iD Mobile

SMARTY’s 4G data speeds have recently got faster

Maximum data speed lettering

SMARTY list their max expected speedsSee latest speeds

(opens in new window)

We've tested Three and SMARTY SIMs side-by-side and never found any built-in speed differences between them. Joining SMARTY means you benefit from Three's £2 billion network improvement programme.

And it's looking like this is massively paying off for Three/SMARTY. The latest report by independent testers OpenSignal saw their typical 4G downloads shoot up from 25 Mbps to 30.7 Mbps (see 5G below).

Just like with coverage, we can’t do speed tests all over the country. However, we did a few checks to compare speeds on SMARTY vs Three in urban and rural areas.

We didn’t find any built-in differences between the two. Though results fluctuated now and then this is normal even when testing two SIMs of the same provider, so any tiny differences can be ignored.

The lowest result we got was 9 Mbps in the suburbs, while we managed to get 4G speeds of 40 Mbps in one rural area where very few people used it.

SMARTY also provide decently fast 3G, sometimes reaching 12 Mbps, which rivals the typical speed of 4G. More often though, it hung around 4 Mbps.

That's like decent fibre-to-the-cabinet home broadband and easily let you stream HD videos. The result puts SMARTY in second place (alongside Three) for data speeds in the UK.

Our own testing has found SMARTY to be more consistent around that typical 25-30 Mbps mark than other networks. It goes below, it goes above. But you don't get the huge spikes and painful lulls we see with others.

Useful link: SMARTY's promise not to slow you down

Our 4G speed rating:
★★★★☆ (excellent)


Not as good as:
(and providers that use them)

Better than:
O2, Vodafone
(and providers that use them)

5G is a major strength on SMARTY where you can get it


5G on every plan brings multiple improvementsWhat to expect...

(opens in new window)

You'll get access to 5G data on every SMARTY plan, including the very cheapest:

And it's an area where being on the Three network is an advantage too. The latest results from independent network testers Speedtest and OpenSignal show them blowing competitors out of the water on speed.

The going rate for 5G downloads is about 228 - 248 Mbps over SMARTY's parent's network. That beats even fibre-to-the-home broadband you might have at home and is almost double that of the next-nearest provider.

They've done this by doing 5G properly. They've got the most bandwidth in the same frequency range and they're not doing the sort of re-purposing of 4G we're seeing on other networks.

You can use SMARTY's coverage checker here to check whether 5G's live in your area. Their list of live locations is bigger than any other provider. Though coverage within those is still street-by-street.

Useful link: Our rankings of the best 5G networks

Our 5G speed rating:
★★★★★ (Joint best choice)


Same as:
(and providers that use them)

Better than:
All others

WiFi calling on SMARTY knocks out indoor blackspots

SMARTY WiFi calling banner

They offer it on all plansRead blog entry

(opens in new window)

We said in our coverage section that SMARTY broadcast their 3G call signal on high-range frequencies that aren’t great for getting through building materials, meaning indoor blackspots are more common. But there’s a way around this:

SMARTY now have WiFi calling (and 4G calling) active on all their plans. The technology lets your phone switch to using WiFi (or 4G) to make/take calls and send/receive texts where normal mobile signal is weak.

In our real life testing, we found SMARTY’s feature works the same as Three’s. There have been reports of some users’ devices not being compatible. See SMARTY’s list of officially supported devices here to make sure.

Our own test phone wasn’t on that list but still worked. We think WiFi calling is basically a must-have on mobile networks nowadays (see all that do have it here). So it’s great to see low-cost SMARTY having it.

Useful link: SMARTY's WiFi calling help section

Our rating:
★★★★☆ (excellent)

Not as good as:

Same as:
BT, EE, iD

Advanced network features: a few missing on SMARTY

SMARTY logo and tethering symbol

Tether your entire data allowance if you wishRead what's allowed

(opens in new window)

Here we’ll go over all the other network features that SMARTY offer. They now offer a network of free WiFi hotspots on the Underground. We think it’s the same scheme as Three’s and it’s great for staying connected on your commute.

You can use your SMARTY SIM card for tethering (creating a personal WiFi hotspot using your phone and its mobile data connection to connect other devices). There’s no tethering fair usage policy in the UK.

SMARTY also allow call forwarding. You can see how to set it up using their helpful guide here. If you didn’t know, this feature lets you automatically direct unanswered calls to another UK phone number.

Voicemail calls are free (included in your plan). You can set up your own custom message or turn it off entirely. Visual voicemail is not supported by SMARTY though (see networks with visual voicemail here).

There’s no way to get an eSIM on SMARTY yet (here are all the networks that support eSIMs). However, SMARTY’s network hosts Three do offer eSIMs now.

Useful link: SMARTY's network feature FAQs

SMARTY’s added benefits

SMARTY still offer EU roaming at no extra cost

SMARTY no roaming

It is turned off by defaultHow to activate it

(opens in new window)

SMARTY are not among the list of UK networks that have removed EU roaming from their plans in the last few years. You can still use your unlimited calls and texts to the UK or other EU/EEA countries while roaming in these EU countries.

And you can use anything up to 12GB data abroad per month from your UK plan, if it’s that large. If you need to use more data while away, you’ll pay for usage above that by buying data add-ons.

Our first experience of SMARTY’s roaming wasn’t a positive one. We landed in the EU only to then realise that roaming is turned off by default on SMARTY. To turn it on you’ll need to follow their instructions here.

This can be a massive headache if you didn’t realise this before traveling. The only way to figure out the problem is by going online, which you won’t be able to do (without finding free WiFi or using someone else's phone).

While we were abroad, our SIM never connected to 4G. Instead we had to rely on 3G for reading maps, social media and online reviews. Their roaming works well, but it’s important to know what you’re actually getting out of it.

SMARTY don’t offer inclusive roaming beyond the EU and we wouldn’t expect them to. But you will have to top up and pay as you go at these rates. Calls can work out at decent value, but data gets to around £100 per GB in the USA!

One thing to be aware of is that you need to manually set up your phone to work abroad on SMARTY. See instructions of how to do this here. It’s a downside to an otherwise decent roaming offer on SMARTY.

Useful link: SMARTY's guide to roaming on their network

Our rating:
★★★☆☆ (good)

Joint middle
(out of 14 providers)

Worse than:
Three, EE, Vodafone, O2 & BT Mobile

Similar to:
All others

Family plans offer value on top of value with SMARTY

SMARTY Group plans banner

Get a discount on up to 7 additional plansSee Group Plans

(opens in new window)

If you want to get your kids or anyone else in your family onto one mobile network, SMARTY are a fantastic choice for this. They offer what we consider to be the best family plan scheme of all networks just for sheer value.

SMARTY call them group plans. You can set up a group with up to 8 SIMs on one account. And each additional SIM receives a discount of 10% vs joining alone. It’s 10% off already-cheap prices.

Each user also gets the flexibility to join on different deals (some networks make you take the same plan for each user). And you can add new plans whenever.

Add to that the fact the account holder can manage all the added SIMs in one place, which makes it easier to set parental restrictions and stay on top of extra costs, and this scheme just gets even better.

If there’s a downside, it’s that you’ll pay for each plan on the date it started. They don’t all get added up into one singular payment on a known date. But that aside, SMARTY’s group plans get our thumbs up.

Useful link: Full details on SMARTY's Group Plans

Our rating:
★★★★☆ (excellent)


Not as good as:

Same as:

Other added benefits of joining SMARTY

SMARTY mobile pay you back for unused data

Some plans get you money back for unused dataSee their guide

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

Here we’ll quickly list off the other benefits of joining SMARTY. Firstly, they won’t increase the cost of your deal while you’re with them. That’s great considering networks that offer contracts increase it annually with RPI (inflation). SMARTY don’t.

SMARTY’s plans sort of naturally have a spending cap on them. In order to use any services that would cost extra, you have to manually buy an add-on or credit. Don’t do that, and you can’t spend extra.

Since you’re paying for your allowance up front, SMARTY won’t make you pass a credit check to join them. And you’re not on a contract, so you’re free to leave without giving notice, just let your plan run out and don’t renew it.

There’s a small range of data discount plans on SMARTY. These pay you back the cost of any unused data as a discount off next month’s plan. It’s decent enough but SMARTY’s other plans work out better value.

If you’re looking to stay flexible and want a simple plan with no commitments, SMARTY should definitely be at the top of your list.

Useful link: Why are SMARTY so cheap?

Our rating:
★★★★☆ (best choice)

1st place
(out of 14 providers)

Way better than:
Every other provider

Everything you won’t get on SMARTY

VOXI Endless Video banner

VOXI let you stream without eating your dataRead full details

(opens in new window)

To know if SMARTY are right for you, it’s important to know what they don’t offer that other networks do. SMARTY don’t have anything like VOXI’s Unlimited Video or social media data benefits (essentially unlimited data for certain apps).

As we’ve mentioned, there’s no inclusive worldwide roaming scheme on SMARTY. There’s no data rollover where you keep unused data, although they do have limited data discounted plans we’ve mentioned.

Also they don’t offer rewards apps like O2’s Priority, Vodafone’s VeryMe or Three’s new Three+ app. Nor do they include any free trials or subscriptions to any apps or entertainment services.

It’s just not how SMARTY are set up. They’re there to be be cheap and simple - leaving out the extras so they don’t have to bake them into the cost of your plan.

Useful link: SMARTY vs VOXI guide

SMARTY Mobile deals and plans

What type of deal are you interested in?

Choose an option to skip to the right section:

Special offers running on SMARTY

Here are the latest promotions available with SMARTY today.

SIM only plans from SMARTY

Use our price comparison tool further below to find the right deal

Key facts about SMARTY's SIM only plans

Find a SIM only plan

We've pre-filtered these results for SMARTY's deals



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Three logo
ASDA logo
BT Mobile logo
Coop Mobile logo
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Honest logo
ID logo
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Added features

Phone contracts: no direct deals on SMARTY

Phone contracts

We’ll help you find the best phone dealHow it works

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SMARTY exclusively offer SIM only deals. There’s no way to get a smartphone contract with them. They did plan to introduce phone deals, but that was back in 2019 so we can’t imagine it’s a priority for them any more.

They have teamed up with a company called reboxed though to offer SMARTY's SIM only customers a £50 discount off refurbished phones. These aren't contracts though, it's an outright purchase of a handset.

There are options for phone deals using the Three network, such as iD Mobile's range here as well as Three themselves.

And you can more easily find a mobile deal that suits you by using our phone contract comparison tool. This lets you directly compare deals on different phone models across different networks. Try it out by following the link below:

Useful link: Use our phone contract comparison tool

Pay As You Go: not really what SMARTY are for

1pMobile logo1p Mobile tariff banner

1pMobile offer the cheapest tariffs in the UKGet a SIM card

at 1pMobile
(opens in new window)

Only a handful of networks still let you top up with credit and pay as you go for your minute, texts and data these days. SMARTY are not one of them. Instead you can keep your SIM active by taking a new bundle every month.

If you only occasionally use your phone, SMARTY aren't really for you. For a cheap pay as you go network we suggest 1pMobile, with rates of 1p per minute, text or MB data (take a look at them here).

Three have changed their tariff again recently, putting it up to 35p per minute, 15p per text and 10p per MB of data. We wouldn’t say they’re worth joining on pay as you go, as their rates are just too high.

If you want a good pay as you go scheme on Three’s network, iD Mobile are a good option with their 3p per min, 2p per text and 1p per MB tariff. Take a look at our guide to the cheapest pay as you go networks here.

Useful link: Read our 1p Mobile review

Mobile broadband: SMARTY data SIMs aren't always worth it

SMARTY's data SIM banner

Sometimes more expensive than SIMs with minutesCompare current plans

(opens in new window)

If you're looking for a SIM that you can put in a tablet or mobile WiFi device / dongle, it's worth knowing that there are no rules on SMARTY against using their regular phone SIMs for this.

They do offer a separate range of data-only SIMs, which are market-leading on price for 1-month plans when you compare against other data-only products with other networks.

However, because SMARTY are so cheap on their phone SIMs and you can use them in mobile broadband devices, it's worth comparing SMARTY against SMARTY on price.

That's because there are more-frequent promotions on SMARTY's phone SIMs than their data-only ones. Catch these at the right time and you'll pay less per GB, even if you never bother using the minutes or texts.

Useful link: See SMARTY's full range of mobile broadband SIMs

SMARTY Mobile customer service

Customer service: no over-the-phone help on SMARTY

Screenshot of conversation with a SMARTY customer service representative

SMARTY’s web chat is decent enoughHow to get help

Before joining SMARTY, it’s worth knowing that there’s no way to call SMARTY’s agents if you need help. Their customer service is all online. This wouldn’t be a huge problem if their online chat was super-responsive.

Unfortunately, our attempts to get through to their customer service saw us waiting up to the next day to get help. This is a worst case scenario, but it’s not ideal if you need help right away.

Just getting hold of a chat agent on SMARTY can take some time. We sent details of our issue in the middle of the day and we didn’t receive a non-automated message back until the next morning.

Once you’re through you’ll have to play a game of question and answer ping-pong before getting any actual help, which can take minutes. It’s as painful as it sounds.

There's now a handy app on SMARTY though. And if you’re tech savvy you can use your online account and their self-help resources here to get to the bottom of your issue yourself.

It’s one of the downsides of joining a budget network. They can offer such cheap deals because they don’t have to pay for call centres. It’s important to understand you won’t get premium customer service at such low prices.

Useful link: Best networks for customer service

Other SMARTY guides

Best network rankings by feature