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Various logos of UK mobile networks

SMARTY review 2019: nice benefits but some essentials missing

SMARTY logo with a mobile SIM card

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

We rate SMARTY's 4G network coverage and speeds, their benefits and deals to see if there's more to them than just cheap SIMs. SIM Sherpa is your trusty guide. Last updated: October 24th 2019.

Overall rating

SIM Sherpa rates SMARTY as a good network to join ★★★☆☆ (3/5, good)

SMARTY have got the art of a no-frill low-cost mobile network down to a tee, with cheap and flexible SIM only plans, decent coverage and a killer unique selling point in buying back your unused data.

But with any cheap provider, there are sacrifices you make, compared to pricier operators. And SMARTY’s lack of WiFi calling, hotspots and telephone customer service could be too no-frills for some.

Our full article further down this page guides you through exactly what you do and don’t get with SMARTY.

The 3 best bits

1) Get money back for unused data
2) Free months for getting friends to join
3) Short deals with no credit checks

The 3 worst bits

1) Patchy rural coverage
2) No WiFi calling or 4G calling
3) No phone-based customer service

In our SMARTY Mobile review

Overall rating

Our verdict

Overall rating

Network review

Network

4G and 3G coverage
Data speeds
Call quality
Tethering
Free WiFi hotspots
WiFi calling

Perks review

Benefits & features

Data buyback scheme
Spending caps
Inclusive EU roaming
Refer a friend rewards
Free entertainment content
Unlimited streaming on capped plans
Shared data / family plans

Deal review

Deals & plans

Special offers
SIM only plans
Unlimited data with no restrictions
Phone contracts
Pay As You Go
Mobile broadband

Customer service review

Customer service

Online-only help

SMARTY's network

Coverage: SMARTY uses Three's masts for 4G/3G signal

Screenshot of SMARTY's coverage checker map

Enter your postcode and see if SMARTY covers itUse coverage checker

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

Unlike some of the other low-cost virtual mobile networks, SMARTY is actually owned directly by Three, who run their own 3G and 4G network, independent of EE, O2 and Vodafone.

For SMARTY customers, that means you'll benefit from Three's ever-growing 4G coverage for data (reaching 99% of the UK population) as well as their 3G coverage (99% of the UK population).

Outside of large towns and cities, 4G coverage on SMARTY can become patchy - and sometimes 3G too. So think about everywhere you take your phone and use their coverage checker for those places.

Joining SMARTY vs Three directly isn't a second class experience in terms of signal. If you've been on Three before, you'll find coverage to be exactly the same on SMARTY (although 4G calling will be different).

Useful link: Check SMARTY coverage near you now using their official checker

Our rating:
★★★☆☆ (good)

Rank:
4th place
(out of 4 network operators)

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

Same as:
Three, iD Mobile

Speeds: SMARTY customers benefit from Three's fast 4G

5G is coming banner

SMARTY will be getting 5G dataRead 5G updates

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

If you look at the measurements made by independent network testers Opensignal and Speedtest by Ookla, you'll see that Three come in third place out of the four main mobile networks, narrowly behind Vodafone.

They put typical 4G downloads at18.2 Mbps(Opensignal) and 20.39 Mbps (Speedtest). That's about the same as a basic fibre home broadband connection, so will support things like HD videos comfortably.

We'd actually expect downloads to top out around 45 Mbps on SMARTY but also go as low as 10 Mbps, depending on where you currently are. There's no speed cap on SMARTY vs being on Three directly.

For what is essentially a cheap and cheerful no-frills SIM only plan, we find the speeds on SMARTY to be totally satisfactory. We doubt their customers are looking for all guns blazing speeds like EE provide.

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

Our rating:
★★★☆☆ (poor)

Rank:
3rd

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

Better than:
O2
(and providers that use them)

Call technology: SMARTY lack WiFi calling or 4G calling

SMARTY call quality logo and phone symbol

Their low-cost rivals iD Mobile have bothCheck phone support

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

No matter which network you're on, you will get the problem of poor indoor coverage for calls - just because signal often struggles to get through building materials to your phone.

The 3G signal SMARTY use for calls is broadcast on frequencies that particularly struggle with this - so it's a weakness for SMARTY that you don't get 4G Calling or WiFi Calling, even though their parent Three has both.

WiFi calling lets your phone make / take calls over WiFi when there's no mobile signal. And 4G calling increases call coverage, because you can use 4G as well as normal 3G to make calls.

Having neither on SMARTY means you're more likely to suffer from indoor blackspots for calls. It's one of their advantages of joining iD Mobile vs SMARTY, because their low-cost rivals do have the technology activated.

Useful link: Read full test report by P3 on each network's call quality

Our rating:
★☆☆☆☆ (poor)

Same as:
All others

Free WiFi hotspots: currently no free access with SMARTY

Free WiFi hotspots coming to SMARTY?

SMARTY's website hints about free future WiFiRead the article

from SMARTY's own article
(opens in new window)

Another benefit you'll only really find you get when you join one of the major providers is a subscription to a network of free WiFi hotspots that you can tap into instead of using mobile data.

You'll find the best examples of this on BT Mobile and Virgin Mobile, or more-limited schemes on Sky Mobile, O2, Three and EE. These schemes save you data for when you're truly away from civilisation.

SMARTY don't offer this. And again, it's something you'll have to decide if you'd miss or not, given the overall cheapness of their mobile deals in the first place.

There are plenty of free WiFi services available now through The Cloud and O2 WiFI, as well as individual business' hotspots. So you might find this is something you can easily do without from SMARTY.

Useful link: Is free WiFi hotspot access coming to SMARTY?

Tethering: SMARTY say data is yours to use how you like

SMARTY logo and tethering symbol

Tethering's included with SMARTY's plansRead what's allowed

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

SMARTY say they've been set up to offer simple, honest mobile and this applies to their tethering policy:

They say it's your data to use how you like. And so they let you use anything up to your full allowance for tethering (creating a personal hotspot with your phone to connect other devices to). This even includes SMARTY's unlimited data plan

This puts SMARTY up there with the best for tethering policy because there are very few restrictions.

It's also worth remembering that tethering can burn through data quicker than just using your phone. SMARTY have a fair system where extra data costs the same per GB as in your basic plan (see latest pricing here).

Useful link: How tethering works on SMARTY

Our rating:
★★★★★ (joint best choice)

Rank:
Joint 1st

As good as:
EE, Vodafone, O2 & most others

Better than:
Three, iD Mobile, Virgin Mobile

SMARTY Mobile benefits

Data rollover: data discount is SMARTY's best benefit

SMARTY mobile pay you back for unused data

Get paid back for data you've not usedHow it works

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

Losing data you've not managed to use at the end of the month is annoying if you're looking for the best possible value in your mobile. That's why some networks offer data rollover where you get to keep it.

But SMARTY have an even better system. They'll pay you back what the data originally cost to buy, in the form of a discount off the cost next month's plan (at a rate of £1.25 per GB).

This works on their Small, Medium and Large plans, not Mini or Unlimited. And they calculate the discount to the MB, so you get back every single penny the data cost. SMARTY message you each month with your discount.

It really is the main reason to join SMARTY. Your plan already starts off cheap. And if your data usage is lower than expected, it gets even cheaper. We think value seekers and casual data users are going to absolutely love SMARTY for this.

Useful link: SMARTY's guide to their data discount scheme

Our rating:
★★★★★ (best choice)

Rank:
1st place
(out of 14 providers)

Way better than:
Every other provider

Spending caps: SMARTY's plans are naturally capped

SMARTY mobile capped contracts

You can only spend extra by topping upRead why

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

If you've had a pay monthly deal before, you'll know that your bill can vary each month if you've used extras like roaming, premium numbers or gone over one of your minutes, texts or data allowances.

For some this is ok, but others might want more predictability. And if you're taking a plan out for someone else like one of your kids, it's good to know they can't rack up unexpectedly large bills that you're on the hook for.

The solution is capped contracts. Ones that let you set an amount you're prepared to pay over your usual amount and will stop you doing anything on your phone that will cause you to overshoot this.

SMARTY effectively offer this service. You pay for your basic plan upfront. But to use anything else like premium numbers or extra data, you'll need to manually buy an add-on (here's how much they cost).

This system puts you in control of what you spend, and avoids nasty surprises at the end of the month.

Useful link: How SMARTY's add-on system avoids you overspending

Our rating:
★★★★☆ (excellent)

Rank:
Joint 2nd
(out of 14 providers)

Not as good as:
Tesco Mobile

Same as:
iD Mobile, Plusnet, giffgaff

Roaming: use your regular plan in EU countries

SMARTY no roaming

Check costs per country before you travelFull roaming costs

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

Roaming used to be one of SMARTY's biggest weaknesses, because they didn't offer it at all (here's how we rate each network for roaming). But fortunately that's all changed now:

They offer the same inclusive EU roaming as every other network. That means you'll pay no extra to use your plan's regular mins, texts and data while you're in any of these countries.

You can use your whole data allowance while you're there too, except if you take SMARTY's unlimited data plan, which has a limit of 19GB usage while you're abroad (that's a lot for trip).

If you want to go further afield, SMARTY operate a pay as you go system, where you'll pay per minute, text or MB data used. The rates depend on where you are. See a breakdown of SMARTY's costs per country here.

With low-cost plans, we'd say it's unrealistic to expect SMARTY to offer anything like Three's Feel At Home inclusive worldwide roaming. Overall, SMARTY's roaming is as good as it should be.

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

Our rating:
★★★☆☆ (good)

Rank:
Joint middle
(out of 14 providers)

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

Similar to:
All others

Customer rewards: a free month if you refer a friend

A free month for you and a friend of SMARTY

You and your friend get a month's plan cost freeHow to refer a friend

from SMARTY's official guide
(opens in new window)

In this category we look at how networks look after existing customers. SMARTY have a pretty useful refer a friend scheme that you can really use to your advantage if you play your cards right.

Get a member of your family or a friend to join SMARTY too, and they'll credit your account with the cost of your regular monthly plan AND do the same for your friend (basically a free month for you and your friend).

As usual, there are some terms and conditions that you can read in full here. Your friend will need to follow a special tracked order link that you send them (so follow these referral instructions carefully).

You'll also need to be an existing SMARTY customer and your friend will need to have been with them for 14 days before either of you get the reward. And the rewards aren't applied immediately.

But all in all, it's a good scheme with real rewards that you don't have to jump through too many hoops to get.

Useful link: Read SMARTY's FAQs about their refer-a-friend scheme

Our rating:
★★★☆☆ (good)

Rank:
4th place
(out of 14 providers)

As good as:
BT Mobile, Tesco Mobile, Vodafone, EE, Three, O2

Better than:
All others

Entertainment subscriptions: no extras on SMARTY

Other networks with free content

Free content on selected networks

As we've said, their cheap monthly plans means you're pretty much just getting some minutes, texts and data to use with SMARTY, there's none of the other bells and whistles that can make more-expensive providers appealing.

That's true for getting 'free' subscriptions to entertainment services you get elsewhere like free Apple Music and BT Sport app with EE, Vodafone's NOW TV, Sky Sports Mobile TV or Spotify Premium.

We say 'free', because it's again the case that the basic mobile deal will probably work out more expensive with this type of provider compared to SMARTY, so overall you're still paying a premium for those extras.

Use our SIM only deals comparison tool to see how SMARTY stack up against the competition in terms of price and the extra benefits you'll get with your SIM card.

Our rating:
★☆☆☆☆ (poor)

Rank:
Joint last

Not as good as:
EE, BT Mobile, Vodafone

Same as:
All others

Free streaming or social media data: SMARTY aren't the answer

Three's Go Binge unlimited streaming scheme

Unlimited data for streaming selected appsHow Go Binge works

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

In each of our reviews, we look for networks that offer services that you can use without using up data. It's one of the more recent developments in the mobile world, so you might not knows who's offering it.

Our guide to free streaming data and social media tells you all the details but essentially some networks have stopped charging you for data you use on your phone for particular activities.

On Three and EE, it's data for selected streaming services like Netflix on Three or Apple Music on EE. Use them infinitely without using up your monthly allowance of mobile data.

On Virgin Mobile and VOXI, they've focussed on messaging apps (Virgin) or social media apps (VOXI).

SMARTY don't offer anything similar to this on their capped data plans. However, if you take their unlimited data plan, this isn't something you need to worry about as you have as much data as you like.

Useful link: Free social media and streaming data schemes

Our rating:
★☆☆☆☆ (poor)

Rank:
Joint last

Not as good as:
Three, EE, VOXI, Virgin

Same as:
All others

Family plans and shared data: no discounts on SMARTY

BT Mobile's Family SIM promotional banner

We rate BT Mobile's Family SIMsSee BT Family SIMs

at BT.com
(opens in new window)

If you're a parent and you've got a few people in your family, who've now got separate mobile deals that you're paying, you might find the idea of a shared plan between everyone useful.

Before you get too excited, SMARTY don't offer any of these types of plans. But we have written a guide to the networks that do offer family plans.

Providers like BT Mobile give you a discount on every extra Family SIM you add to your main deal with them. And Tesco Mobile have some nice 'Family Perks' on extra contracts.

If you're just buying for yourself, this is no reason not to consider SMARTY. If you're tempted by the idea, you might want to consider some of the networks in our guide.

Useful link: Our guide to the best family and shared data plans

Our rating:
★☆☆☆☆ (poor)

Rank:
Joint last

Not as good as:
BT Mobile, Vodafone, EE, O2

Same as:
All others

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.

Get 45GB for the price of 8GB on SMARTY

Supercharge your large banner

See full offer

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

Order by 17th December to benefit from SMARTY's Supercharge Your Large offer that gets you 45GB for the price of 8GB on a 1-month plan. And you can get up to £10 of payback a month for unused data on this plan:

The extra data lasts for 12 months before returning to 8GB (you can still leave at any point though).

For Black Friday SMARTY have also launched a 100GB Mega Plan (order by 3rd Dec):

And SMARTY have even reduced their unlimited data plan for your first 12 months too by a useful £3 a month:

Useful link: Full offer terms and conditions at SMARTY.co.uk

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

Number of plans available:
Price range: £ - £ a month
Contract lengths:
SIM card sizes: Standard, Micro, Nano

Minutes allowances:
Texts allowances:
Data allowances:
Data speed: 4G on all plans

Find a SIM only plan

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You can change your plan or pause it completely

Changing plans on SMARTY mobile

Managing your plan

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

One of the nice things about SMARTY's SIM only plans is how flexible they are:

You pay for your plan up front. And you can choose whether to do this automatically or not.

If you know you'll just want the same plan each month, you set your plan to 'auto-renew' and it will just renew each month until you say stop. There's nothing extra to do.

But if your monthly usage changes regularly, you can choose not to auto-renew. This lets you manually buy your plan each month, giving you the flexibility to move up and down to find the right one.

Or if you want to take a break entirely because you know you don't need to use your phone, you can just opt not to buy a plan at all, and SMARTY will keep your SIM active for up to 6 months.

Useful link: How to manage your SMARTY plan from their help section

There's no credit check to pass on SMARTY

SMARTY mobile no credit check banner

How billing works

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

Another thing we like about SMARTY's SIM only plans is that they're open to practically anyone.

Other pay monthly networks need you to set up a direct debit from your bank account. This pays for the monthly cost of your plan and any extra money you spend on other services or going over your limits

With SMARTY it's different:

Instead of setting a direct debit, you register a debit or credit card with SMARTY and pay for your plan up front. To use any extra services you'll need to buy credit or an add-on with the same card up front too.

Because they're not having to trust customers not to rack up huge bills and then cancel their direct debit, SMARTY can accept anyone with an active debit/card, whether or not you have bad credit history.

Useful link: How billing works on SMARTY from their help section

Phone contracts: SMARTY don't offer handset deals

Phone contracts

We can help you compare phone contractsUse phone deal finder

at simsherpa.com
(opens in new window)

Simply put, SMARTY have been set up as a provider offering exclusively SIM only plans. They don't offer smartphone contracts. But this blog post suggests phone contracts are coming down the line.

If you're interested in a cheap handset deal today with a provider that uses the Three network, we'd recommend taking a look at iD Mobile's range here as well as Three themselves.

We've also made a new phone contract comparison tool that you can use to find the best deals among multiple networks and handset models. Follow the link below:

Useful link: Use our phone contract comparison tool

Pay As You Go: it's not what SMARTY are set up for

1pMobile logo1p Mobile tariff banner

1p Mobile have the cheapest ratesGet a SIM card

at 1pMobile
(opens in new window)

Even though you do pay for your plan and usage up front with SMARTY, they're not strictly a Pay As You Go network in the old sense of the word:

By PAYG, we mean deals where you top up with credit, and then the minutes, texts and data that you use our charged at a set rate and come out of your credit.

That sort of deal benefits people who barely ever use their phones and don't need a monthly plan.

We'd argue the best value PAYG deals are 1pMobile's 1p per minute, text or MB data plan here, who use EE's 4G network. Or Three's 321 plan here (3p per minute, 2p per text and 1p per MB data).

Useful link: Read our 1p Mobile review

Mobile broadband: SMARTY let you use their SIMs in any 3G / 4G-enabled device

A mobile broadband device

No mobile broadband devices

We always include this section, even if the network we're reviewing don't specifically offer mobile broadband devices or data-only SIMs.

That's because some networks let you use their phone SIMs in tablets or dongles to use just the data part of your deal (this will often be more expensive paying for mins and texts you won't use though).

A chat with a SMARTY representative and this page here confirm that you are allowed to use your SIM card in a 3G/4G-enabled tablet or dongle but they don't guarantee compatibility.

This could be particularly useful if you take SMARTY's unlimited data plan here. It's extremely rare to get data SIMs that don't have a fixed cap.

Useful link: SMARTY's tablet SIM page

SMARTY Mobile customer service

Customer service: it's online-only with SMARTY

Screenshot of conversation with a SMARTY customer service representative

Use SMARTY's online customer service chatHow to get help

One point that's really worth noting is that you can only contact SMARTY online if you have a problem. There's no phone number to ring or stores to visit (you can't visit a Three store).

The point of this is to keep the costs of SMARTY's plans down by keeping their own admin costs down. But if you're someone who wants the comfort of having someone on the end of a phone line, SMARTY aren't for you.

Instead SMARTY offer an ever-growing collection of help articles and a chat facility on their website that, at our last check, was open 7 days a week from 8AM to 8PM. It can take a while to get through to them though.

We normally look at Ofcom complaints data as a measure of how good customer services are but as SMARTY are still new and have fewer than 500,000 customers, they do not yet appear in Ofcom's reports.

Useful link: See how Ofcom rate other networks

Compare SMARTY with other networks

Comparing giffgaff and SMARTY

SMARTY vs giffgaff

Read giffgaff vs SMARTY guide

Comparing Three and SMARTY

SMARTY vs Three

Differences between SMARTY and Three

Comparing Plusnet and SMARTY

SMARTY vs Plusnet

Read Plusnet vs SMARTY guide

SIM Sherpa can help you find your next SIM only deal

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