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SMARTY review 2024: faster speeds & better 4G/5G coverage

SMARTY logo with a mobile SIM cardVisit SMARTY.co.uk

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 July 2024.

Overall rating

SIM Sherpa rates SMARTY's overall package as excellent
 (4/5, excellent)

“We’ve tested SMARTY a couple of times in the last few years and this most recent test has seen a big improvement in their 4G coverage and we’ve found their 5G in the right places can be unbeatably fast.

Add in the fact you’ve got WiFi calling and 4G calling to help boost call signal and we’re starting to wonder why you’d join their parent company Three instead. There’s certainly no speed disadvantage on SMARTY.

And SMARTY aren’t even that no-frills. You get EU roaming included as standard and families/friends can pocket discounts on already cheap plans with SMARTY’s excellent Group Plans.

It’s not perfect. Rural coverage can be lacking. Customer service is all online. But the flexibility, the low prices, the lack of a credit credit check make SMARTY incredibly popular. We’re still using them ourselves!”

The 3 best bits

1) 4G & 5G have both got better
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 has improved over the years

Screenshot of SMARTY's coverage checker map

Our tests have found their map accurateCheck in your area

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

SMARTY were set up as a sub-brand of Three, so they share their parent company’s 4G/5G network. You get identical coverage between the two. We’ve found no disadvantage for being on SMARTY vs Three.

Rural 4G data signal (see 5G here) has been a weakness in the past for SMARTY. But during our recent tests we’ve been pleasantly surprised to see how much their signal has improved, thanks to Three’s huge network investments.

It wouldn’t be possible to test signal all over the country. We were able to check signal in various locations to see if their coverage map is accurate to the signal you get in real life and is the same as on Three.

We loaded a Three SIM in one and a SMARTY SIM into two separate but identical test phones and went out to test coverage.

Everywhere we checked we got essentially identical signal between the two providers. While it fluctuated, there was no clear advantage on either. We got 4G and 5G in the same locations on Three and SMARTY.

What we found lined up well with what their coverage map showed. And they’re also totally honest with the location of blackspots which is good considering there are a fair few out in the countryside.

If you’ve previously ruled out joining a network on Three, now’s the time to re-check their coverage in your area. There are still some holes in coverage, but the overall picture has improved massively.

It’s a similar story for calls. SMARTY’s national coverage is great, but indoor blackspots can be a problem if your phone doesn’t support 4G calls. And you’re still more likely to lose call signal than on the other networks.

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

4G data speeds are a strength on SMARTY

Maximum data speed lettering

SMARTY publish speed predictionsSee latest speeds

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

We have never found any built-in speed differences when testing out a Three vs a SMARTY SIM side-by-side. So, you get all the benefits of Three’s £2 billion network investment on SMARTY.

These network improvements have had a noticeable effect when looking at their typical 4G speed results, now at 35.4 Mbps according to independent network testers Opensignal’s report (see 5G speeds here).

Just like we can’t test every inch of the UK for coverage, we can’t do speed tests everywhere. But, we checked speeds on SMARTY vs Three directly in the same urban and rural locations.

There were no in-built speed differences between the two. While speeds weren’t always identical, that’s what you’d expect when testing two SIMs on the same network directly against each other.

In the suburbs we got our lowest result of 7 Mbps, while we got as high as 40 Mbps over 4G in a rural area where there was no signal congestion. In the city centre we got speeds as high as 70 Mbps.

SMARTY also get access to good speeds over 3G. Speeds went up to 12 Mbps over 3G signal, which is faster than their slowest 4G speeds. But speeds over 3G more often sat around 4 Mbps.

That’s similar to what you’d get over mid-range fibre home broadband, letting you stream HD videos smoothly. Their result puts SMARTY in joint second place (alongside Three) for 4G data speeds across all UK networks.

In our tests we tended to stay around the 25 - 30 Mbps mark more consistently on SMARTY than on other networks. Speeds can be faster or slower than that, but rarely do you go hugely above or below that.

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

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

Joint 2nd

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

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

5G speeds can be genuinely impressive


Get superfast 5G on all plansWhat to expect...

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

Getting access to Three’s 5G network is one of the best parts of joining SMARTY. Speedtest and Opensignal’s speed results show that they’re way ahead of any other network for 5G speeds.

Both testers’ latest reports show typical 5G speeds between 205.5 Mbps - 246.89 Mbps on SMARTY’s host network. And peak speeds can get up to 625.87 Mbps, which is over twice as fast as the next fastest network.

Like on all networks, our real-life testing of SMARTY’s 5G produces varying results. Sometimes, you’ll be on 5G and see absolutely no advantage over 4G. Other times, the 5G speed advantage is staggering.

You’ll get 5G in 484+ UK towns and cities on SMARTY. While they don’t have the largest number of locations, you’ve still got a good chance of getting 5G near you. And they tend to cover their locations very well.

Useful link: Our rankings of the best 5G networks

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

Joint 1st

Same as:
Three, EE
(and providers that use them)

Better than:
All others

WiFi calling works well in our experience

SMARTY WiFi calling banner

Included on every deal at no added costRead blog entry

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

You may be more likely to run into indoor calling blackspots on SMARTY due to their 3G being broadcast on high-range frequencies that aren’t good at getting into buildings. But SMARTY provide a solution:

They now provide both WiFi calling and 4G calling on every plan. These features let your phone connect to calls and texts over WiFi or 4G signal where regular 3G call signal is weak.

We did some tests and found that SMARTY’s WiFi calling works exactly the same as Three’s. But some users have said it didn’t work on their phone, so make sure yours is on SMARTY’s list of supported devices here.

The test phone we used wasn’t listed but worked just fine. We think WiFi calling is basically a must-have on mobile networks nowadays (see all that do have it here), so it’s fantastic that SMARTY offer it.

Useful link: SMARTY's WiFi calling help section

Our rating:
★★★★☆ (excellent)


Not as good as:
Three, 1pMobile, EE

Better than:
All others

Free WiFi hotspots are only other extra network feature

SMARTY logo and tethering symbol

Use all your data for tetheringRead what's allowed

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

Here we’ll go over the other network features that SMARTY offer. They offer an identical scheme to Three’s WiFi hotspot benefit, letting you stay connected to WiFi hotspots on the Underground at no added cost.

You can tether other devices to your data signal on SMARTY (essentially turning your phone into a personal hotspot). And SMARTY don’t limit how much of your allowance you can use for tethering in the UK.

SMARTY also offer call forwarding which lets you divert incoming calls to a different phone number if you want to leave one line free from calls. You can read their handy guide to setting it up here.

But visual voicemail is not supported on SMARTY, which usually lets you sort through your voicemails one by one. And you can’t take an eSIM on SMARTY either, which is something you can do on Three.

Useful link: SMARTY's network feature FAQs

SMARTY’s added benefits

EU roaming is a welcome benefit people will enjoy

SMARTY no roaming

You have to turn it on before leavingHow to activate it

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

Lots of other UK providers have removed inclusive EU roaming from their deals. But SMARTY still let you use data and your unlimited calls and texts to UK and EU numbers in these 42 EU destinations at no added cost.

You can use up to 12GB of your allowance each month while abroad. If you hit that limit you’ll have to pay for extra data. Thankfully, SMARTY’s extra data add-ons are the cheapest of all networks.

When we first tested SMARTY’s roaming, we didn’t know we had to turn it on manually beforehand. This was a bit of a headache, so make sure to follow SMARTY’s guide to turning on roaming here.

Our SMARTY SIM connected right away to 4G while abroad, but you can’t connect to 5G abroad. We don’t see it as a huge loss, but you won’t be able to get the fastest speeds possible while roaming.

We got 4G almost everywhere while there which let us read maps, online review and access social media with decent speeds. SMARTY’s roaming is excellent overall, just remember to turn it on before leaving.

There are no inclusive roaming destinations beyond the EU, but we wouldn’t expect that from them. If you’re going further afield you’ll pay at these rates, which can get very expensive (£100 per GB in the USA!).

It’s important to remember you have to turn on roaming manually before taking your SMARTY SIM abroad. Use their guide here to do it. It’s an annoying downside to an overall good EU roaming scheme.

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

Our rating:
★★★★☆ (excellent)

Joint 5th
(out of 18 providers)

Worse than:
Lebara, O2

Better than:
All others

Their group plans are our best choice for family discounts

SMARTY Group plans banner

10% discount on up to 7 added plansSee Group Plans

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

If you’re looking to get your kids or other family members onto their own SIM only plans, SMARTY are a brilliant option. They have our favourite family plan scheme of all networks thanks to the value they give you.

With SMARTY’s group plans you can add up to 7 extra SIMs onto your existing SMARTY account, with each added SIM getting 10% off the original cost. That’s 10% off already great value deals.

Each user can choose their own plan and you can add new plans whenever. And there’s the added convenience of managing your SIMs in one place, making it easier to set parental controls and manage extra spending.

The only real drawback is that the billing date for each plan is on the same day you took it out when it’s more convenient to have your plans billed on the same date. But SMARTY’s family plans are excellent overall.

Useful link: Full details on SMARTY's Group Plans

Our family plan rating:
★★★★☆ (excellent)


Not as good as:

Better than:
All others

There are a few other handy benefits on SMARTY as well

No annual price rise on SMARTY banner

Your plan’s cost won’t go upSee their guide

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

There are a few other benefits of joining SMARTY as well. First of all, they won’t up the cost of your plan if you stay on it. Many other networks hike up your bill with RPI (inflation), but SMARTY don’t do this.

SMARTY’s deals naturally have spending caps on them. If you want to use any features that would cost extra, you must first to top up with credit or buy an add-on. If you don’t, you can’t accidentally overspend.

And you don’t need to pass a credit check to join SMARTY since you pay for your plan up front instead of joining on a contract. This also leaves you free to leave your plan at any point by not renewing your plan.

A few of SMARTY’s plans have a special data discount benefit, giving you back the value of your unused data as a discount off your next month’s deal. But these are worse value than SMARTY’s other plans anyway.

Useful link: Why are SMARTY so cheap?

Our no price increase rating:
★★★☆☆ (good)

(out of 18 providers)

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Refurbished phones via a third partyHow it works

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

SMARTY are solely a SIM only provider. There’s no way to join them on a phone deal directly. They have promised to bring some in, but that was in 2019. And there’s no sign that they’ll introduce these any time soon.

But, as an existing SMARTY SIM only customer you can get £50 off the cost of a refurbished phone via a third party called reboxed. But these aren’t on contracts, you have to pay the whole cost of the phone outright.

If you still want to join a phone deal while getting access to Three’s network, iD’s range of good value phone deals are a good choice or you can join Three directly.

You can compare phone deals on all networks using our comparison tool here. This lets you find the best deal on the phone model you want. Follow the link below to try it out:

Useful link: Use our phone contract comparison tool

There’s no traditional Pay As You Go on SMARTY either

1pMobile logo1p Mobile tariff banner

The lowest UK PAYG rates on 1pMobileGet a SIM card

at 1pMobile
(opens in new window)

There are only a few UK networks that still let you top up with credit and pay as you go per min, text and MB of data. SMARTY aren’t one of them. You have to renew your plan each month to keep your SIM active.

If you only use your phone for a few calls or texts now and again, SMARTY aren’t a great choice. Instead, we’d look at 1pMobile who offer rates of 1p per min, text and MB data (read full details here).

Three charge 35p per min, 15p per text and 10p per MB, so they’re really not a good choice for paying as you go. But if you want to stay on Three’s network while paying as you go, there are no better choices.

But if you’re a frequent phone user, then you might find you’d spend less on a SMARTY SIM only deal than constantly topping up and paying for your usage. But infrequent users will be better on these networks.

Useful link: Read our 1p Mobile review

SMARTY Mobile customer service

Online chat is useful but customer service is thin on ground

Screenshot of conversation with a SMARTY customer service representative

Contact real people to solve your issueHow to get help

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

As a budget network, SMARTY have to cut costs on certain things to keep prices low. One of those things is over-the-phone service. You can get help with their online chat, but it’s not always very responsive.

When we’ve recently tried to get help we were put through to an agent quite quickly. However, this will depend on the time of day and we’ve also had experiences where they didn’t get back to us for a long time.

We’ve found that response times on SMARTY’s online chat have got faster. You still have to sort through an automated options menu, but you’ll be put through to a real person if this doesn’t resolve your issue.

When we tried we were put in touch with an agent within a few minutes. Once you get through there is a bit of back and forth before they answer your question, which can take a while. But they did resolve our issue.

Overall, we think their chat agent is very handy and good at resolving issues, but isn’t quite as good as some other networks. Still, it’s pretty good considering SMARTY’s low-frills set up.

You can also contact their online agents through SMARTY’s app. Or you can log into your online account and use their self-help guides here to sort out your issue by yourself if you’re a bit more tech-savvy.

While SMARTY’s customer service is reliable, they don’t offer as many ways to get help as other networks do. In all, you are getting an overall inferior customer service experience in exchange for lower costs.

Useful link: Best networks for customer service

Our customer service rating:
★★☆☆☆ (average)

(out of 19 providers)

Better than:
giffgaff, VOXI

Other SMARTY guides

Best network rankings by feature