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Sky Mobile UK Review: The best choice for Sky TV customers

Written by  Mar 30, 2018

As one of the UK’s biggest brands for TV, phone and broadband, it’s only natural that Sky would push into the mobile market and go for the quadruple play. As with Sky’s broadband and fibre packages, it’s not so much about selling mobile services as about ensuring that existing Sky TV and Broadband customers stay inside the brand. 

Sky Mobile review: What do you get?

Sky has found some innovative ways to differentiate its service. You can choose to keep your existing phone or buy a new one, and if you do opt for a new handset then Sky has a choice of two interesting Swap options, where you keep the phone for either one year or two years, then return it to Sky and swap for a newer handset. You effectively buy the phone on credit and pay Sky back in the usual monthly instalments. When its time to swap, Sky buys back your old device and puts the money towards paying off the credit so you can afford a brand new phone.

The first option, Swap 12, comes with a slightly higher monthly price and upfront costs, but you can upgrade every year. The second, Swap 24 is cheaper but – you guessed it – you can only swap every two years. Buy an iPhone 8, for example, and the phone will cost you £31 a month plus £99 upfront on the one year package, £25 plus nothing if you buy in for two years. Just be aware that, either way, there are some risks. Damage your phone and you might hit a lower buy back price, leaving you with less to put towards your new phone.

The phone only makes up part of the monthly cost – and you can get a SIM if you prefer to use an existing handset. Beyond this you’ll also have to splash out between £5 and £20 for a monthly plan. What’s more, this only gives you a data allowance of 500MB to 10GB in size. Here’s where Sky gets cunning. Calls and texts are free if you’re a Sky TV subscriber, but if you’re not then you’re looking at an additional £10 a month for calls and texts or 10p per minute and 10p per text if you’d rather pay as you go. Given that £15 to £35 is daylight robbery for the overall SIM-only package, Sky Mobile works best if you subscribe to Sky TV.

Monthly tariffs compared

Data

Texts

Minutes

£5 500MB Free/£10 Unlimited/10p per text
Free/£10 Unlimited/10p per minute
£10 1GB Free/£10 Unlimited/10p per text
Free/£10 Unlimited/10p per minute
£15 5GB Free/£10 Unlimited/10p per text
Free/£10 Unlimited/10p per minute
£20 10GB Free/£10 Unlimited/10p per text
Free/£10 Unlimited/10p per minute

Sky's Swap plans aren't the only novelty. Pay for data on Sky Mobile and it rolls over from month to month, any spare MB accumulating in a piggybank where you can draw them out as and when you need them. This makes it an attractive option for anyone who needs data in big chunks sporadically but might otherwise waste their allowance. With Sky Mobile, not a MB is wasted; just save it up for when you’re on holiday or a rainy day. Tethering is also supported without any limitations, so you’re free to use your phone as a mobile hotspot and surf on your tablet or laptop.

Sky Mobile review: Family Plans

 

Sky doesn’t offer Family Plans as such, but you can buy up to five SIMs on one Sky account and change the make-up of sims and plans on a monthly basis. This has two advantages. Firstly, everyone in the family can contribute to and access data from the same piggybank, so if you have some heavy users and some light users, the lighter users can subsidise the heavyweights. Secondly, everyone in the household benefits from free texts and calls as long as there’s a Sky TV subscription. This makes Sky Mobile a reasonably affordable family option as you only pay for data, though it’s worth checking carefully against BT Mobile and its bargain-tastic family plans to see how the two would pan out for you.

Sky Mobile review: Coverage and Connection Speeds

Like Giffgaff, Sky is a virtual network running on O2’s cellular network, though Sky has claimed that a deeper level of integration with the host network gives it an advantage over other virtual operators. O2 has made some big improvements over the last 12 months, but still lagged behind EE, Three and Vodafone for speeds and reliable connectivity when RootMetrics tested the big four network operators in the second half of 2017. It’s stronger in Northern Ireland, however, matching EE for overall performance, reliability, calls and text speeds, so it’s a better option if you live there.

It’s a similar story with coverage. There are some coastal and rural areas where using Sky might leave you stuck with a 2G or 3G signal instead of 4G/LTE, and some areas in the North and Scotland where you may not get a signal at all. However, O2 has 97% outdoor population 4G coverage and in most areas of the UK getting a good high-speed connection shouldn’t be an issue.

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Sky Mobile review: Roaming

You can use your data, calls and texts allowance within 30 EU and EEA destinations at no extra cost, and Sky also has provisions in place for ten other destinations, including Australia and the US, through its Roaming Passport Plus programme. Here you pay £5 per day to use your data allowance, while calls and texts are charged at 96p and 42p respectively. Outside those areas charges vary, with call charges rising to £1.80 per minute in many cases and data charged at £1.80 per MB. If you spend a lot of time travelling to countries outside the EU and the Passport Plus programme, either buy a SIM locally or opt for a network with cheaper or more extensive roaming provisions, like Giffgaff or Three.

Sky Mobile review: Other services and spending caps

Sky’s other big selling point is its integration of TV and mobile services. For a start, Sky Go Extra is bundled in, giving you the ability to stream Sky TV and movies through the Sky Go app on up to four devices. Users of standard Sky TV services (though not currently Sky Q) can also sync recordings to their Sky Mobile phone, streaming shows while away from home over 4G or WiFi or downloading them while at home to watch later. Annoyingly, any data used in syncing is counted as part of your monthly allowance, so you can’t go crazy, but it’s a useful bonus for stalwart Sky customers.

While Sky’s contract mentions provisions for a spending cap, there’s no way to set one up at the moment, bar a £42 spending cap for data roaming while abroad. You can, however, set up alerts to give you some kind of warning that you’re about to burst through your allowance.

Sky Mobile review: Verdict

If you’re not a Sky TV customer and have no intention of becoming one, then Sky probably isn’t your ideal mobile network; you’ll get more calls, texts and data from another provider, and it’s only the data rollover and swap features that stand out. If you’re a Sky TV household, however, then Sky's mobile offering makes a whole lot of sense. You’ll get free calls and texts plus the chance to cut your data costs right back, particularly if you need to keep the whole family kitted out with contracts. Throw in the Sync features and it’s an easy choice for existing Sky customers. Otherwise, you’d be better off with BT Mobile, Three, Giffgaff or EE.

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