Smarty hasn’t repeated last year’s success in the awards but, with fantastic customer feedback, it’s still a no-frills winner
- Excellent cheap data deals
- Great 5G performance
- Free EU roaming
- Strong customer satisfaction scores
- Customer service scores dropped since last year
- Data plans don’t make much sense
Last year, Smarty came out of nowhere to win Best Mobile Network in the 2022 Expert Reviews Mobile Network Awards. Owned and operated by Hutchison 3G, the same company as Three, it received good ratings across the board and stellar scores for reliability and value. More than 92% of the Smarty users we surveyed said they would recommend it to a friend.
Smarty hasn’t done quite so well this year but, thanks to some very competitive prices, good performance and high scores for reliability and customer service, it’s still one of the strongest no-frills mobile networks. Nor does it go away empty-handed, as Smarty grabs the award for Best 5G Services, along with a Highly Commended in the Value category. With impressive results elsewhere, it also wins Highly Commended overall. It’s no wonder Smarty’s users are so enthusiastic, with nearly 93% telling our survey they would recommend the network, and over 58% saying they were very likely to do so.
Smarty review: What do you get?
Smarty keeps things simple by only selling SIM-only plans on a 30-day rolling contract, with a choice of voice plans for those who want calls and texts, and data-only plans for those who just want data. Voice plans start at £6 for a 5GB plan and go all the way to a £20 unlimited data plan, with some good deals in the middle, too. You’ll certainly struggle to find 150GB of data for just £15 per month elsewhere, not to mention 200GB for £17.
Weirdly, the data-only plans aren’t such great value, offering you 2GB for £5 where the Voice plan gives you 5GB, or 15GB for £9 when you could have 16GB for £8 with a Voice plan. Finally, Smarty also sells Data Discount plans where you get money back at the end of the month for unused data. Since they give you less data than the Voice plans for the same amount of cash, you need to be pretty confident that you’ll use hardly any data before it’s worth signing up.
Smarty has one great feature if you find you temporarily need more data: Unlimited Data Passes. These come in one-day, three-day, seven-day and 30-day flavours, and give you unlimited data for that period for between £3 and £17.
The Voice plans are your best bet and, at those prices, you’re getting excellent value. Smarty’s users think so, too: over 95% of those we surveyed said that they were satisfied with the network’s value for money, with over two-thirds (68%) very satisfied.
Smarty review: Customer service
Scores for customer service are generally down in this year’s Mobile Network Awards, and Smarty’s scores aren’t quite as high as they were in 2022, where 81% of users described themselves as satisfied. This year, 42% of users surveyed said they were very satisfied with the network’s customer service, while a further 21% were fairly satisfied. That’s better than many of the big networks, including O2, Vodafone, ID Mobile and Three, but below Tesco Mobile and Sky Mobile.
Smarty review: Coverage, reliability and speed
Smarty uses Three as its host network, which has seen some big improvements in the past 12 months. For a start, its 5G services now reach over 60% of the UK population, making it EE’s biggest competitor for 5G services. Second, this growth, combined with high speeds in urban areas, has helped Three pass Vodafone and become the second-fastest UK network, with a median download speed of 34.7Mbits/sec.
That’s still lagging a good 30Mbits/sec behind EE’s median download speed of 65.1Mbits/sec, but it’s impressive nonetheless. What’s more, Three is the only network to have reached median 5G download speeds over 100Mbits/sec in all 16 cities where RootMetrics runs its 5G tests, and is the only network to pass the 200Mbits/sec mark in nine of them. If you live in a major city and want the fastest 5G signal, Three might be the best network to get it from.
As a result, Smarty users definitely seem pleased with the speed of their connections. Nearly 74% said it was always or often fast enough for web browsing, while over 58% said it was usually fast enough for audio streaming. The news isn’t quite so good with video streaming, where only 38% thought their connection was always or often capable of handling it, but Smarty’s hardly the only provider where that’s the case.
Meanwhile, signal strength seems solid, with 74% of users satisfied, and an impressive 77% of Smarty’s 5G customers told us they were happy with the speed of the firm’s 5G performance. This helped Smarty grab its only Mobile Network Award this year for the Best 5G category.
Smarty review: Roaming
Smarty includes free EU roaming on its plans, subject to a 12GB limit. If you need to go over that, you have two choices: You can buy a data add-on, costing between £1 and 15 and giving you between 1GB and 15GB of data that you can use in the UK or the EU. Or you can buy a 1-day or 3-day EU Roaming Data Pass, which allows you to use your full allowance while abroad, subject to their fair usage policy.
Outside the EU, you’ll need to pay extra for an add-on, giving you between £5 and £15 of credit for your phone which you then use to pay for calls, texts and data, with prices between 50p and £2.50 per minute for calls, 10p to 40p per text and 2p to £5 per MB, depending where you’re visiting.
Smarty review: Other features, services and spending caps
Smarty doesn’t offer much in the way of extra features. There are no spending caps, for instance, although you can’t use more than your paid-for allowance without buying an add-on for extra credit, and eSIMS are also off the menu. One feature you do get is Wi-Fi calling, with the phone using a local network for calls if a mobile signal isn’t steady or available.
Smarty review: Verdict
While it only wins one award this year – along with two Highly Commendeds – Smart is still a fantastic no-frills option, with straightforward plans that give you lots of data for your money. It’s clear that customers are happy with the service and feel they’re getting great value for money, so why spend more on an expensive and inflexible monthly contract?