Impressive value and reliability, with some brilliant budget plans
- Great low-cost plans
- Free EU roaming
- Good scores for reliability and customer satisfaction
- Performance limited by host network
- Low data cap for EU roaming on most plans
Giffgaff was one of the first wave of no-frills mobile networks, combining the convenience of a monthly SIM-only contract with freedom from long-term commitments. That basic model hasn’t changed much: Giffgaff still offers a range of £6 to £35 “Goodybags” that give you a package of minutes, texts and data on a 30-day rolling contract that you can cancel or switch at any time. However, it’s expanded to sell phones on payment plans, along with offering longer-term, 18-month contracts that can give you more data for your money.
Giffgaff’s approach has won it plenty of fans, along with spawning a wave of imitators: iD Mobile launched soon after Giffgaff with its take on the same idea, while Vodafone and Three started their own no-frills networks – Voxi and Smarty, respectively.
The popularity of these young upstarts saw Giffgaff frozen out of the prizes in last year’s Expert Reviews Mobile Network Awards, but this year’s survey sees it return as a serious contender, winning three Highly Commended awards. Giffgaff remains a hit with its customers, with over half of the users in our survey saying they were very likely to recommend it, and a further 41% fairly likely. Only Smarty and Voxi enjoyed better feedback.
Giffgaff review: What do you get?
Giffgaff’s Goodybags are still great value, particularly if you’re looking for a cheap month-by-month plan. These start at just £6 with 2GB of data and rise to £35 for the brand’s Unlimited deal. Or, for a bigger commitment, £20/mth will buy you 100GB or 120GB on an 18-month contract – undercutting the more traditional networks, even if iD Mobile and Smarty are cheaper still.
Giffgaff also offers an intriguing “Always On” plan, where you effectively have all-you-can-eat data, but speeds are limited once you chomp through the first 100 to 120GB. Meanwhile, Giffgaff has a habit of throwing out bonuses to attract new customers, sometimes adding extra data for the first six months.
|Monthly charge||Data (1-month rolling)||Data (18-month contract)||Texts|
|£10 Goodybag||£10||20GB||25GB (40GB for first six months)||Unlimited|
|£25 Goodybag||£25||100GB Always On||120GB Always On||Unlimited|
Giffgaff’s customers certainly feel that the network gives them good value for money: over 60% told our survey they were very satisfied with the value of their service, with another 33% fairly satisfied. That puts Giffgaff ahead of iD Mobile and Tesco Mobile, and although Smarty and Voxi took the prizes in this year’s Value category with even higher scores, it was only by a small margin, so Giffgaff is clearly still delivering the right stuff at the right prices.
All the same, it’s stronger on its SIM-only deals than it is on selling smartphones. You can buy them up front or over 24 monthly payments, but the prices aren’t any lower than at Amazon or Carphone Warehouse. On the plus side, you’re not paying extra to spread the payment, as Giffgaff effectively provides interest-free credit on your plan through Klarna.
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Giffgaff review: Customer service
Giffgaff’s customer support is a little unorthodox in that it’s primarily community-led and based around the Giffgaff website and its forums. However, agents are available if you have an issue with your account or your device, with a response within 24 hours.
Giffgaff’s scores for customer service have slipped a little since last year’s survey – last year 41% of users said they were very satisfied and 38% were fairly satisfied, but the 2023 figures have dropped to 33% and 30%. That’s still not a bad result, but Tesco Mobile and Smarty are doing significantly better, with over 40% of their customers very satisfied.
Ofcom’s latest figures for mobile customer service paint a slightly rosier picture for Giffgaff, equalling Tesco Mobile on overall satisfaction. And while Giffgaff has more customers with a reason to complain, the numbers are still below the industry average. Ofcom also places Giffgaff as one of the top networks for perceived value for money.
Giffgaff review: Coverage, reliability and speed
Like Tesco Mobile, Giffgaff is a virtual mobile network running on O2’s core network. Unfortunately for Giffgaff, RootMetrics’ most recent performance tests place O2 fourth of the big four networks, with a UK-wide median download speed of 15.5Mbits/sec – far behind Vodafone, placed third with 29.4Mbits/sec, let alone EE’s 65.1Mbits/sec. However, RootMetrics notes that O2’s performance is improving, and there’s evidence that speeds and coverage will get better as its 5G network continues to roll out. O2 showed improved 5G availability in 12 of the 16 cities where RootMetrics runs its detailed 5G tests, and increased median download speeds in ten of those.
What’s more, our survey shows that Giffgaff’s users don’t feel disappointed with its reliability or speed. Nearly 80% said they were satisfied with their signal strength, and a similar percentage said they always or often had fast enough speeds to browse the web. The scores for audio streaming and video streaming were also comfortably above the average – nearly half of those surveyed said that their connection was always or often fast enough for video. These results were good enough to earn Giffgaff a Highly Commended for reliability.
There’s more good news for Giffgaff in the Best 5G category. Smarty won the award with 77% of its 5G users either very satisfied or satisfied with their 5G connectivity, but Giffgaff came second with 60%. While the network appears to have fewer 5G customers than EE, Voxi or Vodafone, it scored higher levels of satisfaction from those it does have.
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Giffgaff review: Roaming
Giffgaff still offers free EU roaming, so you can use your minutes, texts and data as at home. However, Giffgaff has a slightly tougher fair usage policy for roaming, which means your data allowance may be limited after the first 5GB, and you may be charged 10p per MB over that 5GB on most plans. If you’re a frequent traveller and a heavy data user, Giffgaff might not be the network for you.
Beyond that, roaming charges aren’t horrific. Typically, you’ll be looking at £1/min while abroad, with texts costing 30p to send and nothing to receive, and data charged at 20p per MB. You’re still better off with a plan that bundles inclusive roaming in the territory you’re visiting or that offers it as an add-on, but Giffgaff never looks like it’s trying to stitch you up.
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Giffgaff review: Other features, services and spending caps
If you use Giffgaff’s monthly or 18-month Goodybags, there’s no reason to have a spending cap. If you’re down to the last 100MB of data, you can simply start your next Goodybag early. EU roaming charges are a little different, though, and if you use up your 5GB of data you can pay for another 5GB or pay 10p per MB with a £45 spending cap.
Giffgaff review: Verdict
Giffgaff’s appeal has always rested in its straightforward, no-nonsense approach and its sensible prices, and that hasn’t changed since the network started selling phones or offering longer-term contracts. True, you won’t get the deals or extras offered by the major networks, but you’re also not paying extra for features that you’ll probably never use.
All the same, it’s facing stiff competition from the likes of Voxi, Smarty and Lebara, where it’s still in the game for customer satisfaction, but not always for customer support. Much as we like the way Giffgaff does business, it’s worth checking that its rivals aren’t offering an even better deal.