Welcome to my 2019 Giffgaff Review. This article aims to be the fairest and most comprehensive review of the experience, from sign up to everyday use. I started using Giffgaff in 2009, and have used them ever since. I've had the chance to try nearly everything they have to offer. Recently they rebuilt the network foundation switching platforms and this felt like the perfect time for an in-depth review. 

Giffgaff is a UK Mobile Virtual Network Operator (MVNO) that launched on 25 November 2009. The network takes its name from an old Gaelic word meaning “mutual giving” . This set out the principles outlined in the manifesto, of being member-run, always listening and rewarding people for their involvement. 

This is unique to Giffgaff – its customers are its cornerstone and everyone has the opportunity to help each other. From customer service, sales and marketing to competitions and key decisions, everything takes place through the community. GiffGaff members are rewarded on a regular basis with offers, community points and optionally cash.

Giffgaff a history.

A cell phone in a hand with the giffgaff website landing page on it

Founded by Gav Thompson in 2008 after studying businesses in San Francisco, the simple idea was a community-based network. As a result of its innovation during the first year of operation it won two top industry awards. The Most Innovative Community Award and the Forrester Groundswell Award.

Giffgaff runs on the O2 network which gives it the same signal quality, data speeds and coverage. Giffgaff differentiates itself through its community concept. By outsourcing support to its members it keeps its costs low and as such offers cheaper deals.

Joining Giffgaff process review

A mobile phone in a hand with the giffgaff your details website on it

Like most people, I heard about Giffgaff before actually trying it out. Despite my friends rave review, the nuisance of...

  1. ordering a SIM,
  2. waiting for it to arrive,
  3. topping it up and doing a network switch

...didn’t seem worth it. Even though it seemed that it might save me some money.

Worries before joining, contracts and credit

At the time (2009) barely any information about Giffgaff was available. There were few reviews online and I only knew one person on the network. I worried that after getting it all set up it would turn out to be too good to be true.

With more research I found out that Giffgaff is a subsidiary of O2 (who I later ended up working for). Had some great minds, an established brand footprint and some relatively deep pockets behind it. 

Another worry I had back then was moving from a contract to a Pay As You Go network. I feared forgetting to top up, or the pain of constantly buying vouchers from the corner shop. Giffgaff had this fixed from the outset with two great features:

Auto top-up: Where if your balance falls below £10 it will automatically top itself up from your card (like Oyster cards do) 

Recurring bundles: like a monthly allowance for a contract, but with the option switch between or turn it off entirely (more on these later). 

A mobile phone in a hand with the giffgaff settings page to recur a goodybag or set auto top up on it

What convinced me to switch?

High data costs on Three and signal trouble in Loughborough (I was going to study) eventually convinced me to switch. When I called up Three to cancel I hoped they would at least match Giffgaff’s offer. However, they couldn’t match the prices available and instead insisted they would install a new mast for me. I'm not entirely sure they would have been able to follow through on that promise. Annoyingly, Three auto renewed, so I had to call up again and cancel within the 14 day cooling off period.

After all that and a few months after hearing about Giffgaff from a friend, I made the switch. If you're thinking about it, why not order a SIM card now just in case? There’s no obligation, it’s free and if you use this link you get £5 free credit to get you started.

Initial setup process and review

A mobile phone in a hand with the giffgaff sim activation website shown on it.

After the SIM arrives in the post, you’ll need a phone to put it in. Any phone from Tesco mobile, O2 or unlocked will work. If your phone is locked to a different network Giffgaff has a handy community-sourced unlockapedia

Before putting your sim into your phone you'll need to activate it. Head over to the activation page and type in the 6 digit code printed on the SIM card. Once that's done, you'll be guided through a £10 top up. With the free bonus credit you get from my link, you’ll end up with £15 airtime credit after activation. 

Mobile data settings (APN)

Your phone should now be Giffgaff-ed and ready to use, occasionally mobile data and MMS doesn't set up automatically. If you're having trouble getting access to the internet from your phone try manually putting in these settings

A mobile phone in a hand with the giffgaff internet APN network settings website shown on it.

Keeping your old number

If you want to keep your old number when you move to Giffgaff (and let's face it most people do). It takes 24 hours maximum and there's a useful guide on the community with step by step instructions. I scheduled my number to move on a Monday, leaving plenty of time to sort out any issues. After a short wait, the old number lost signal and Giffgaff was up and running by 11 am.

Pay as you go price review on Giffgaff

A mobile phone in a hand with the giffgaff pay as you go pricing shown on it.

So what’s so good about Giffgaff? In two words: the price! Switching to them was one of the best decisions I ever made and could save you lots of money on your phone bill.

It's astonishingly cheap when compared to other UK PAYG mobile networks. With networks like EE or Three you can easily be spending 25p/minute for calls and 10p per text. Giffgaff only charges 15p/minute for UK calls and 5p a text

It also has one of the cheapest mobile data rates going at 5p per MB. This is perfect for the occasional web search or route on Citymapper. Voicemail is also very cheap at just 8p per call. 

Even better, they have a super low MMS price of just 16p. And unlike many other networks, 0800 numbers are completely free to call. Top tip: You can find an 0800 alternatives using saynoto0870 (which can save you a lot in the long run).

Review of International rates on Giffgaff PAYG

A mobile phone in a hand with the giffgaff international calling information shown on it.

Calls and texts to numbers outside the UK do cost more money. For example, calling or texting Europe or North America is 8p per minute or 8p per text message.

PAYG roaming in the EU is now included at the UK prices listed above. Giffgaff have made it easy to check your destinations charges before you go, using their roaming with Giffgaff page. 

Outside the EU, using your phone is always expensive (with the exception of Three's roam like home). You’re probably better off getting a local SIM card or just not using your phone at all (especially in Japan). 

Friends and family already on Giffgaff?

A mobile phone in a hand with the giffgaff free calls and text information highlighted on it.

Arguably the best feature of PAYG on Giffgaff is a pricing model that they invented. 100% free calls and texts to other Giffgaff users. If you’ve topped up in the last three months, all calls and texts to other Giffgaffers are completely free. So, once your friends and family join, you can quickly cut down your mobile bill. 

Right now, there are a few slightly cheaper networks in the UK. However once you factor in free 0800 numbers and free Giffgaff communications it will likely save you a pretty penny.

Review of giffgaff Goodybags (and what on earth they are?)

A mobile phone in a hand with the giffgaff goodybag options shown on it.

Goodybags are the cheapest and probably the best way to enjoy the giffgaff network. They're especially great if you’re used to being on a contract. The easiest way to describe Goodybags is monthly fixed-price bundles. They include data, texts and minutes, can be set to auto-renew, cancelled at any time and originated from Giffgaffs customers on the community forum.

The offers are updated and reviewed quite often and offer great value for money. You simply can’t find contracts that give you so much with such flexibility, for so little. I switch between Goodybags depending on how much I'm travelling (I tend to use more when I'm away from home). The process is as simple as two clicks.

4G and 5G

All of the Goodybags include the full 4G LTE service and provide superfast mobile internet for all members. With 99% coverage of 4G in the UK, O2 and Giffgaff have a very good network.

As for 5G, Giffgaff hasn't really laid out its plans beyond initial investigations. More information and updates on 5G can be found in the community.

Review giffgaff Goodybag options:

£6 goodybag image from giffgaff
£6 Goodybag:

Despite only costing £6 you get a decent combination of calls, texts and even data. This Goodybag (that's great for people like my mum) includes:

  • 300 minutes of UK calls to any network.
  • 500 texts (16 a day)
  • 500MB of data. 

If you were to use all of that on their PAYG pricing tier that would be over £48.75.

£8 goodybag image from giffgaff
£8 Goodybag:

The £8 Goodybag is another great budget choice (and the one I use most often). It offers really good value for money for smartphone users with moderate monthly usage and includes:

  • 500 minutes of UK calls to any network.
  • Unlimited texts
  • 2GB of data. 

It's a pretty big step up from the £6 offering.

£10 goodybag image from giffgaff
£10 Goodybag:

The £10 Goodybag is where things start to get really competitive. It includes:

  • Unlimited minutes of UK calls to any network.
  • Unlimited texts
  • 6GB of data (plus 1 bonus GB every month if you go over)

and also allows tethering to other devices when you're out and about as do all of the Goodybags below.

£12 goodybag image from giffgaff
£12 Goodybag:

Probably the most popular choice and the one I had for years while I was a student the £12 Goodybag offers exceptional value and includes:

  • Unlimited minutes of UK calls to any network.
  • Unlimited texts
  • 10GB of data (plus 1 bonus GB every month if you go over)
£15 goodybag image from giffgaff
£15 Goodybag:

The £15 Goodybag is another step up and includes:

  • Unlimited minutes of UK calls to any network.
  • Unlimited texts
  • 15GB of data (plus 1 bonus GB every month if you go over)

Thats basically £1 a GB if you use the data alone, I don't know of any other network offering prices this good.

£20 goodybag image from giffgaff
£20 Goodybag:

Next up we have the £20 Goodybag, which basically covers you for phone addiction and includes:

  • Unlimited minutes of UK calls to any network.
  • Unlimited texts
  • 40GB of data (only 20GB can be used when abroad in the EU)

That's a lot of data for that price!

£25 goodybag image from giffgaff
£25 Goodybag:

Finally there's the colossal £25 Goodybag that if you use more than 40Gb of data a month is perfect for you, it includes:

  • Unlimited minutes of UK calls to any network.
  • Unlimited texts
  • Always on data

That's a lot of data for that price!

There are a whole host of benefits that goodybags offer, as they are monthly, you can switch up or even cancel a goodybag altogether at any time. So if you go away for a month or two, you don’t have to keep paying. Also if you know you have a busy month or two coming up, you can simply set a more expensive goodybag for your renewal.

It used to be better to err on the side of caution with Goodybags and buy a more expensive option to make sure you didn't go over. Giffgaff has fixed that though. If you buy a cheaper goodybag and underestimate your needs you can simply buy another bundle before the month is up.

As I mentioned briefly before another great feature of goodybags is that they can be “set and forget”. Your account includes the option to easily set them to auto-renew each month. You can cancel your auto-renewal at any time so you’re not locked in.

A mobile phone in a hand with the giffgaff data calculator page shown on it.
Still not sure which Goodybag is for you?

Giffgaff has created a handy page to help you calculate your data needs, here's the link.

What about the free phone I got with my old contract?

Giffgaff has partnered with Ratesetter to offer lower-cost loans on many mobile phones. As with anything credit related it’s worth looking up the total cost of ownership. If for example, you get a "free" phone worth £500 with a contract at £45/month for two years you'll end up paying £1080 plus any additional charges.

In contrast, using Giffgaff you can buy the £500 phone upfront and a £15 goodybag every month for two years and your total cost will only be £860. Saving you £220 and giving you the freedom to change your goodybag or handset before the two years are up. That doesn't factor in how much cheaper second-hand phones are these days either.

You could also use the unlockapedia to work out how to unlock your old phone and save yourself even more money. 

Review of giffgaff key features

Online top ups:

Simple to do online on a one-off basis via the website or app. As discussed giffgaff top ups can be treated like a contract by setting up auto-renew.

You can also top-up anyone else’s Giffgaff account if you want to. Perfect for managing how much the kids are spending, or helping a friend out in an emergency.

Free social media updates:

Giffgaff also has a free feature that enables you to update your Twitter timeline or Facebook status by SMS from your phone, not something I ever really use anymore, but still nice to have.

Call waiting and call forwarding:

The network also allows free use of advanced features like call waiting and call forwarding which are easy to set up and rather useful if you get called a lot or want to use a different voicemail service.

Video calls:

Video calls are enabled on Giffgaff and even more amazingly, just like minutes and texts they are totally free between Giffgaff users.

A monthly plan recommendation:

This is a great feature that really shows how transparent Giffgaff are, each month as an active member you receive an email that allows you to review your usage. It details information such as your most contacted phone numbers and how much you’ve saved with free calls. While also letting you know what the best goodybag is for you based upon your usage, so if you're paying too much, you'll soon know about it.

A three in one sim:

Giffgaff SIMs are by default compatible with all the latest handsets as their sim cards pop out to support regular, micro and nano sims. It makes it super easy to share the network with friends and family and reduces waste plus it's had a great review. Order your sim card here and get £5 free credit when you activate.

Service quality

No self-proclaimed in-depth review is complete without an analysis of the network service. As someone who's been using the network for years, a concern I often hear is around the network quality and the perception that as an MVNO Giffgaff customers get second class treatment. In fact, Giffgaff runs on the same network infrastructure as O2.

Giffgaff have also publicly confirmed that the service they provide is identical to that of the O2 network (and not at all second class). In some instances, Giffgaff customers can also access bandwidth that O2 PAYG customers can't, which means that Giffgaff's PAYG service is better than O2's PAYG! 

Data speed wise I've found the 4G to be excellent on my iPhone and the 3G to be just as expected. I never seem to have signal dropouts when I travel the UK anymore and there doesn't appear to be any noticeable variance in speed throughout the day. 

I've never had a problem with call quality at all, in fact, it's much better than I experienced with Three. As with any phone network, the coverage does depend on where you’re using your phone. But O2 and Giffgaff provide a handy coverage checker thats worth a review. 

Giffgaff and 5g? 

That's still TBD, giffgaff has a thread with updates on it that you can find here. It seems like it's currently being investigated. O2 will be rolling out its 5G network in 2020 and it's unknown as to whether Giffgaff customers will be granted access. 

Giffgaff UK Coverage Summary

2G coverage: 99% 

3G coverage: 98% 

4G coverage: 99% 

5G coverage: TBD 2020?

Review of the giffgaff community and support

A mobile phone in a hand with the new giffgaff community page shown on it.

Possibly the cornerstone of Giffgaff is its community. Giffgaff 's business model was originally based upon the idea of using its members as the first tier of support. By doing this a lot of money is saved and these savings keep the network charges low. 

Giffgaff is basically crowdsourcing its customer service centre. What this means for you is that the average wait for an answer from the community is 90 seconds. Compare that to other networks where you’re often on hold for a long while before getting through to a call centre and you can see a clear winner.

When an issue is not something the Giffgaff community can help with (such as those that include private information) there is also a team of Giffgaff employees on hand who reply within 24h. To contact them you use a page called "ask an agent" where there are a series of questions that help get you to the right person. I have noticed a bit of a slowdown in agent responses since the switch to the new platform and believe that's likely to be down to people getting in touch about the new community. 

The Giffgaff model isn’t perfect and it isn’t for everyone. While you do get a quick response by posting on the community forums, you regularly get too many responses. Sometimes these are even useless copies of each other or even wrong solutions by people who don’t know what they are talking about. While you occasionally need to review and ignore the useless replies, it usually doesn't take much effort to do. I've found that the community reviews and resolves 99% of my issues quickly.

One of my favourite aspects of the community forums is giffgaffs transparency. Every day they review the giffgaff community and report an average response time and problems solved. Giffgaff also still involves the community in almost every decision. Giffgaff’s members can review and have a say in everything from the pricing plans to new features. Anyone is able to make a new suggestion through the community labs pages and review other great giffgaff ideas.

Giffgaff review round up

In conclusion here's a review of some of the key pros and cons of Giffgaff.

Disadvantages
  •  You have to buy your own phone. 
  • There is no support number to call directly. You have to use the online community to get help and there can be wait times to get a reply from an agent. 
  •  Itemised billing isn’t available.
Advantages
  • Some of. the cheapest PAYG prices the UK has to offer.
  • Free calls and. texts to other GG members.
  • Free calls to 03 and 0800 numbers.
  • Truly unlimited data available for £25 a month.
  • Great call quality and signal from O2.
  • A community of 24h support with a super quick reply time.
  • The ability to earn cash by taking part.
  • The ability to earn cash by sharing GG with others.
  • No contracts and no lock in.
  • GG Goodybags mean you know exactly how much your phone bill will be each month
  • Giffgaff review your usage each month and recommend a better deal for you if its available.
  • £5 free credit with this link.

Thankyou for reading my review of the Giffgaff network. I hope it's given you a deeper understanding of what it has to offer. If it sounds tempting to you, don’t waste any more time and order a SIM today. It’s completely free and you’ll get £5 free credit.

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