While 24-month phone contract deals remain popular, over the years, many people have realised it is more cost-efficient to buy a phone upfront and then get a SIM-only deal.
You can normally get the best deals by committing to a 12-month contract. However, in recent years rolling monthly PAYG style contracts have become increasingly popular. This is especially true for younger people, at one point, Voxi was literally only for young people, being launched for under 25s only.
I have been a big fan of these PAYG mobile virtual network operator (MVNO) companies ever since GiffGaff launched, and since then, I have switched between Voxi and Smart frequently. I often use one when I am reviewing phones, and during quieter months, when I don’t review or travel much, I don’t bother renewing the deal.
So what are the best options available today?
Like most things in life, it is not quite black and white; each company has a tailored solution that differentiates itself from its competitors.
Black Friday Deals
Voxi has three great offers on for Black Friday:
- 50GB + Endless Social media for just £15/month
- 100GB + Endless Social media for just £20/month
- Endless Data – Unlimited data for everything for just £30
All plans include unlimited calls, texts & picture messages. They also include 20GB use in Europe
Smart has two deals on. Both of these are capped for 12 months of use, but you'd likely pick up a similar deal next Black Friday.
- Double data 100GB instead of 50GB for £15
- Unlimited data for £17
These are 4G contracts. Unlimited calls & texts. Roam like home in the EU, but they have a fair use policy of 12GB each month.
GiffGaff has bumped up the data allowance on two of the main plans:
- £10 was 10GB now 15GB
- £15 was 25GB now 30GB
These are 5G-ready, so a tenner for 15GB is a good deal. EU roaming has a 20GB fair use policy.
The first big difference is which carrier is providing the service to the MVNO. Depending on where you live, different networks offer better reception. Three used to be poor where I live, and Vodafone excellent. Nowadays, they are about even.
- Voxi uses Vodafone
- Smarty uses Three
- GiffGaff uses O2
- Lebara uses Vodafone
5G vs 4G
More recently, with the launch of 5G, we have seen another variable added to each network. If you were to buy a monthly contract from Vodafone or Three, you get 5G as standard, but this is not the same for companies using their network as the backbone.,
- Voxi has 5G on 20GB and up plans
- Smarty has no 5G options
- GiffGaff has 5G on all options
- Lebara has no 5G
Unique perks from each company
Then, some companies differentiate themselves by offering unique perks
Lebara is the only company to offer international call minutes, which has long made them a popular choice for people with family and friends overseas.
Voxi has endless social media as standard, so no data is counted when using Snapchat, Instagram, WhatsApp, Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, or Facebook Messenger. Some plan options include endless video which works the same way but for YouTube, Netflix, Amazon Prime Video, My5, TVPlayer, and UKTV Play.
The main selling point of GiffGaff is an affordable way to get a PAYG monthly 5G contract.
Smarty is just cheap.
Voxi vs Smarty vs GiffGaff vs Lebra Comparison of Plans
Based on the above, doing a like for like comparison is hard, but I have broken the option down based on data into roughly the 6 main options.
|5GB or under||N/A||£6||N/A||£5|
|10GB or under||N/A||£7||£10||£10|
|15GB or under||£10||£8||N/A||£15|
|30GB or under||£15||£10||£15||N/A|
|100GB or under||£20||£15||£20||N/A|
My personal preference already leaned towards Voxi and Smarty. I am currently on Smart just because it is the cheapest overall for data, and I have a Vodafone monthly SIM, so I didn’t want to double up on Vodafone.
Lebara isn’t competitive at all for data, but the £15pcm option provides unlimited international calls for 41 countries. If you have family/friends you speak to abroad frequently, then the other options just don’t compete.
Even though GiffGaff has 5G on all the plans, I don’t feel like they are cost efficient on the lower plans. I think most people on a £10pcm budget would be better off with more data not faster data. However, at £20pcm I’d say their deal is better than Voxi.
The Smarty pricing speaks for itself, it is 4G only, but if you just want a basic option with lots of data for your money (and you don’t mind Three), they are the best budget option.
[Original Post: 18 May 2021]
[Updated: 19 November 2021] Added Black Friday Deals