Looking to switch to a new mobile network? We outline some of the extras you can get from each of the UK’s major mobile providers.
Choosing a mobile network can be a daunting experience at the best of times.
Each offers its own set of unique perks and extras to attract you - from the generous data plans of Three to pre-sale tickets to events from O2 to courtesy phones from Vodafone if yours needs repairing.
While it's easy to compare prices, working out what extras each offers can be a dizzying experience. With that in mind, we've pulled out the selling points for each of the UK's major mobile networks to help you decide which appeals to you.
What can you get from Smarty?
You can get 30-day SIM-only deals. There are no handsets available from Smarty - it deals just in flexible SIM plans.
Right now, there are three to choose from, aptly named Small, Medium, and Large, so picking the best one for you is easy.
The main advantage of choosing Smarty is that if you don't use up all your data allowance in the month, the network will buy back what you didn't use - at a rate of £1.25 per GB. That's great if your mobile use is a bit erratic month-to-month.
What's Smarty coverage like?
Smarty uses Three's network to reach you. That means 99% of the population can get signal to call or send a text, around 97% can connect to 3G, and about 90% can use fast 4G.
Why choose Smarty?
- 'Sell' any data you don't use
- Simple, straightforward plans
- Good coverage
- Good value add-ons if you run out of allowance
- 30-day SIMs that can be changed or cancelled at any time
Discount on unused data!
30 day contract
What can you get from O2?
O2 has a wide choice of phones, including iPhones, Samsung Galaxy models, HTC Ones, and more. You can pick between new and refurbished models, and there's plenty of low-cost options if you're on a tight budget. Or, if you already have a phone, it has a broad selection of SIM-only plans too.
A plan with O2 is also brimming with perks, like O2 Priority that lets you nab tickets to events before they go on general sale.
What's O2 coverage like?
O2 has wide coverage across the UK, with 3G available to 99% of the population. O2 4G covers around 75% - you'll find it mainly around large towns and cities - but O2's pledged to bring 4G to at least 98% of the indoor population, so it's spreading fast.
To see if O2's available in your area, check out our guide to mobile phone coverage.
Why choose O2?
- O2 Refresh allows you to upgrade your phone at any time, provided you pay off the cost of your old one
- Easy-to-understand bills that separates calls, texts and data from the cost of your phone - so when you've paid off your phone, your monthly bill goes down
- Rolling Pay & Go plans give you more calls and data over time
- Priority Tickets - get tickets for some of the hottest music, sport and entertainment events up to 48 hours before they go on sale to people who aren't on O2
- Priority Moments - exclusive discounts and special offers for various companies, such as WH Smith, Halfords and Odeon
- Free access to O2 public Wi-Fi hotspots
Our recommended O2 deals
20GB of 4G data
£20.00 a month
12 month contract
What can you get from Three?
Three lets you choose popular phones from the likes of Apple, BlackBerry, HTC, LG, Nokia/Microsoft, Samsung, Sony and more. That means you get quite the range of options - from all singing and dancing uberphones like the iPhone X or Samsung Galaxy S8 to cheap 'n' cheerful budget devices like the Motorola Moto C.
One great thing about Three is that its phones are all sold unlocked, so if you want to switch networks, you can.
What's Three coverage like?
Three's 3G network covers 98% of the UK population. Its 4G coverage is far more limited - it's primarily found around large cities like London, but expanding rapidly.
Check out our guide for more about Three coverage.
Why choose Three?
- Has a reputation for reliability
- Unlimited data plans available - Three's the only major UK network to offer unlimited 4G
- Allows you to use your phone abroad at no extra cost - on certain plans you can use your calls, texts and data in 60+ countries, including Australia, Brazil, the US, and more
- Huge choice of Android and iOS phones
- Traditionally, Three has relatively low upfront costs for iPhones. If you want Apple's latest wonder-slab without having to shell out loads at once, it's a good choice - although you'll have pay for it through higher than average monthly charges
- Phones sold unlocked as standard, so you can use them on any network
Our recommended Three deals
£14.00 per month
12 month contract
What can you get from BT Mobile?
BT Mobile offers both SIM-only and pay monthly plans to suit all sort of types of user. The SIM-only options range from a low-cost 500MB plan to one with a hefty 20GB. If you already have a handset you like, or want to buy one outright, there's plenty of choice with BT.
BT also now offers new handsets on pay monthly contracts. It's a well-curated selection that include flagships like the latest iPhone and Samsung phone, as well as more affordable devices from Samsung, Sony and more. Different plans are available that range from a modest 500MB data month to 15GB, so there's a plan to suit most types of user.
What's BT Mobile coverage like?
BT recently acquired EE, so its mobile coverage is very good - with the widest 4G coverage in the UK, in fact. A huge 75% of the UK population can access 4G on BT, and 99% can get 3G.
To see if it's available where you are, check out our guide to mobile network coverage.
Why choose BT?
- Brilliant network coverage
- High-quality handsets available on pay monthly contracts
- All plans come with 4G
- £5 per month discount on any plan if you already have BT broadband
- Unlimited access to BT's 5 million public Wi-Fi hotspots
- Free BT Sport app with top-end plans, so you can watch sports including Premier League matches
- Free voicemail on all plans
- Get up to five SIMs on one monthly bill
Recommended BT deals
What can you get from Sky Mobile?
With Sky Mobile, you can get a SIM-only plan with a choice of four data allowances: 1GB, 2GB, 5GB, or 10GB per month. Onto that, you can either add unlimited calls and texts for an extra monthly fee, or choose to just use them on a pay-as-you-go basis. Or, if you've got Sky TV, you can get unlimited calls and texts included free. Oh, and you're not stuck with your allowance - you can change it whenever you like.
One pretty neat feature of Sky Mobile plans is that you can roll any data you don't use over to the next month. It'll get stored in your 'piggybank' to take out and use whenever you need it.
What's Sky Mobile coverage like?
It's O2, so it's good - 99% of the population get signal, and about 75% can get 4G too.
Why choose Sky Mobile?
- Roll over data
- Lots of extras and goodies if you've got sky TV
- Option to get calls and texts on PAYG only
- Change allowance whenever you want
What can you get from EE?
If you're looking for a new phone, you'll find no shortage of choice from EE. You'll find a wide variety, including iPhones, the latest HTC One, Samsung Galaxys and more.
EE specialises in 4G - impressively fast mobile internet - and offers the fastest on the market, with speeds up to 90Mb in some cases. Amazing coverage also means you can be sure you'll be able to connect to the faster service almost anywhere.
What's EE coverage like?
EE has impressively wide 3G coverage, catering to the majority of the country's population, and it also has the widest 4G coverage of all networks, covering more than 80% of the population.
To see if EE's available in the areas you frequent, check out our guide to mobile coverage.
Why choose EE?
- Widest UK 4G coverage - more than 80% population can get it
- Fastest 4G in the UK
- Free trials on services like BT Sport and Apple Music
- Wide choice of phones, including the latest iPhones
- Exclusive EE low-cost phones and tablets available
What can you get from iD Mobile?
Carphone Warehouse's network iD Mobile may be a fairly new kid on the block, but it's already making an impact with some of the most affordable 4G plans around. Its deals are built around basic value, flexibility, and simplicity, with a few little extras like capped plans and data rollover to let you save even more money.
The network's focus on simplicity means there aren't many bells and whistles - you won't find priority tickets, free BT Sport, or Netflix subscriptions here - but that just means a much, much lower price for you.
What's iD Mobile coverage like?
Since iD Mobile uses Three's, coverage ain't half bad - 97% of the UK population can connect to its 3G alone. 4G coverage is far more limited; it's primarily found around large cities like London, but expanding rapidly.
To see if iD Mobile is available in the areas you frequent, check out our guide to mobile coverage.
Why choose iD Mobile?
- Affordable, flexible 4G plans that don't cost a bomb
- Simple tariffs that don't hide behind jargon
- Can roll your unused data over to the next month
- Can set a monthly cap on plans to prevent overspending
- Great if you go abroad - can use your allowance in the EU and EEA
- SIM plans available on flexible 30-day terms
- Decent range of handsets available, including iPhone X, Samsung Galaxy S8, and Sony Xperia Z5
What can you get from Vodafone?
What can't you get? Vodafone has one of the widest choices of phones of any major UK mobile network, including iPhones, high-end HTC and Samsung phones and mid-range classics like the Motorola Moto G.
It's far from the cheapest option, but if you're looking for lots of choice, you won't find much better.
What's Vodafone coverage like?
Vodafone's 3G coverage reaches 90% of the UK population. As you'd expect, Vodafone's 4G coverage is less extensive, especially compared to EE, but Vodafone is expanding it city by city, so if it's not available where you live, it may be in the coming months.
To find out if you can get Vodafone in the areas you hang out in check out our guide to mobile phone coverage.
Why choose Vodafone?
- Incredibly wide choice of phones and plans
- Unlimited calls and texts on Vodafone Red plans
- Upgrade phones up to 60 days before the end of your contract with some Vodafone plans
- Free NOW TV, Spotify Premium or Sky Sports Mobile TV - Vodafone Red 4G plans come with up to 24-month subscriptions to Sky entertainment channels via NOW TV, Spotify Premium, or Sky Sports Mobile TV
Recommended Vodafone deals
£10.00 a month
12 month contract
What can you get from Virgin Mobile?
Virgin Mobile doesn't have the biggest choice of phones, but it does have most of the ones you'd expect to see from a major network. iPhones, Samsung Galaxies, and Sony Xperias are all present and correct. There's also mid-range goodness and a few budget options, along with a tablet or two. They're available on regular contracts or on Freestyle, which separates your bill into the handset cost and tariff cost.
As for SIM-only deals, you're in luck. Virgin Mobile offers a very nice range of plans, all on 'Flexible Freestyle' so you can upgrade or downgrade your allowance whenever you want. There's also the classic pay-as-you-go option if you don't want to commit.
What's Virgin Mobile coverage like?
Virgin Media is a virtual mobile network, which basically means that it uses another network to deliver its services - specifically EE. That means it shares the same 98% 3G and 80% 4G coverage.
For more information, check our guide to mobile phone coverage.
Why choose Virgin Mobile?
- Uses EE's network, so coverage is widespread
- Using WhatsApp and Messenger doesn't count towards your data usage
- Wide choice of handsets, including iPhones
- Plans with lots of data available
- Data rollover: any data in your allowance you don't use will roll over to the next month
- Free calls to other Virgin Mobile numbers for Virgin Media TV and broadband customers
- Flexible Freestyle plans let you change your calls, texts and data - and what you pay - each month according to your requirements
£9.00 per month
12 month contract
What can you get from TPO Mobile?
TPO Mobile, also known as The People's Operator, offers a range of SIM deals for your mobile and tablet. It specialises in great value and charitable giving - 10% of your bill each month goes to a charity of your choice, and the company donates a full 25% of its profits to good causes too.
Its pay-monthly SIMs come in tariffs of up to 8GB per month, and they're all 30-day plans so there's no need to commit long-term. Pay-as-you-go SIMs are available as well, but, alas, TPO Mobile doesn't offer handsets.
What's TPO Mobile's coverage like?
TPO doesn't have its own mobile network, so it uses EE's instead. And EE has the widest coverage in the country: over 99% of the population can get signal, and most of us can connect to its 4G too. OpenSignal estimates that EE users have 4G signal about 80% of the time - so you should be able to use mobile internet in most areas.
Why choose TPO Mobile?
- Excellent value
- Great coverage, thanks to EE
- 10% of what you pay goes straight to charity
- All pay-monthly plans are on 30-day terms
- No credit checks
£9.99 per month
30 day contract
What can you get from Tesco Mobile?
Despite being a relatively small network, Tesco Mobile does the lot. You can get phone contracts on a decent range of handsets, including everything from the latest iPhones to cheap mobiles; and a nice spread of SIM-only plans. That includes 12-month deals, 30-day rolling ones, and PAYG - though you get more choice and better value if you pick a 12-month plan.
Tesco Mobile's dedicated to being budget-friendly, and along with low-cost deals, it offers plenty of extra ways to keep your bill down too.
What's Tesco Mobile's coverage like?
It uses O2's network, which has 99% population coverage, with 3G coverage only a couple of percentage points behind. 4G's a bit lower, though according to OpenSignal users can connect to it around 75% of the time.
Why choose Tesco Mobile?
- Good value
- Lots of choice
- Get Clubcard points for every £1 you spend
- Up to 30GB data per month
- Family members can get extra allowance or discounts if you add them to your plan
- Upgrade your phone whenever you want with Anytime Upgrade
£19.50 per month
12 month contract
What can you get from VOXI?
VOXI's the millennial arm of Vodafone - it's only available for people aged 25 and under to sign up to, and has something a little different on offer.
All its plans are 30-day rolling SIM-only deals - you can't get handset contracts from VOXI - and, best of all, you can use some of the most popular social media apps free of charge. Eight apps are covered, including Facebook, Messenger, Twitter, and WhatsApp, and using them won't use up any of your monthly data allowance.
Unlimited calls and texts are included in every plan too.
What's VOXI coverage like?
Since it comes from Vodafone, VOXI's coverage is pretty good. You can get signal to call or text pretty much anywhere you need to, and can connect to 3G most of the time as well. 4G coverage is less extensive, reaching around 80% of the population, but rest assured you can get online and use your apps the majority of the time.
Why choose VOXI?
- Flexible 30-day SIMs
- Free use of social media apps that doesn't come out your allowance
- Low price
- Unlimited calls and texts with all plans
- Chance to get extra goodies and freebies
Endless social data!
£10 a month
30 day contract
What can you get from Lebara Mobile?
Lebara deals in SIM-only plans. It works as a pay-as-you-go system, only you can use your credit to buy bundles of calls, texts, and data that last either seven days or a month. Best of all, the bundles you can get include ones with minutes and texts to numbers in countries around the world. It's a great way to phone friends and family abroad nice and cheaply.
Its SIMs work in any unlocked phone, and you can get minutes to call countries like China, Pakistan, Nigeria, and countries in the EU - as well as plenty to use at home too.
What's Lebara Mobile coverage like?
It uses Vodafone's network, so coverage for calls and texts reaches around 90% of the population, with 3G coverage not far behind. There's no 4G on Lebara right now though - only 3G.
Why choose Lebara Mobile?
- Excellent value for calling international numbers
- Super flexible plans
- Free calls and texts to other Lebara Mobile numbers
- Doesn't require a credit check
Unlimited UK minutes + 100 international minutes
£8.00 a month
30 day contract
What can you get from Plusnet Mobile?
Plusnet Mobile only does one thing, but it does it well - and that's SIM-only deals. The smallest has 500MB of data a month and a wonderfully low price, while the largest has 4GB with unlimited calls and texts.
In its bid to help you save money on your mobile plan, each deal is great value, and you can set a Smart Cap so you don't spend too much over your monthly allowance. You'll also get an added discount if you're already a Plusnet broadband customer, along with all the benefits of the company's award-winning customer service.
What's Plusnet Mobile coverage like?
It uses EE's network, so coverage is very good - even 3G reaches over 99% of the UK population, and 4G reaches 97%.
For more info, check out our guide to mobile coverage.
Why choose Plusnet Mobile?
- Good value SIM-only plans
- Fantastic nationwide coverage
- Plans are all 30-day, so you change your tariff around whenever you want
- Smart Caps to eliminate bill shock, and extra discounts for Plusnet broadband customers
- UK-based call centres and award-winning customer service
£10.00 a month
30 day contract
What can you get from giffgaff?
giffgaff doesn't have the widest selection of phones, but it offers a fair selection of 3G and 4G handsets.
There are the big hitters like the iPhone X and Samsung Galaxy Note8, but there are plenty of older models and affordable phones too.
You can buy handsets outright, or pay monthly, alongside one giffgaff's rolling data plans - or 'goodybags' as it calls them.
What's giffgaff coverage like?
giffgaff uses O2's network, so it shares the same 99% 3G coverage. giffgaff now has 4G too, and although coverage is less widespread than that of EE, it's expanding rapidly.
Find out more in our guide to mobile coverage.
Why choose giffgaff?
- Owned by O2 and uses O2's network, so has near-total 3G coverage
- Decent choice of phones, including iPhones and Samsung Galaxies
- Flexible payment options for phones
- Choose from rolling monthly 'goodybags', comprising call, texts and data, which are flexible, so you can chop and change as you like
- Low-cost calls, texts, and data
- No high street shops and no customer service, which keeps costs low - most support is provided by the giffgaff community
- Payback - if you participate in the giffgaff community, doing stuff like promoting the network on social media, introducing friends or answering queries in forums, you'll earn Payback points which you can use to get cashback, more calls or make donations to charity
£15 a month
30 day contract