As I’ve had reception problems with my mobile phone recently, it was time to look for another network and it was giffgaff that caught my eye.
I have used Three Mobile Network for the past few years, mainly because they allow calls and data in European countries to be used as part of your normal monthly quota, and as I spend about four weeks a year in France, that was attractive – no additional costs for using my phone over there.
However when I was in France recently I could hardly ever get reception from one of the Three network partners, so my phone was practically useless for the whole trip.
Our children, who were using Tesco Mobile, and were also getting free usage in France, could get strong signals almost everywhere. As Tesco Mobile uses the O2 network, it made me think about switching to switching to a provider that uses O2, as giffgaff do.
In fact, it is not well known that giffgaff was setup by Telefonica who own O2 to create a community focussed brand separate to their O2 brand.
This decision was also driven by the fact that I could never get a strong signal in our local town using Three – I had put up with that problem for years and finally realised that enough was enough. I must be a slow learner!
So I ordered a free Sim from giffgaff, which arrived the next day….
I prefer Sim only deals
Before I continue with this story, I’ll digress slightly to say that I much prefer sim only deals, particularly if I can avoid contracts. I feel that this gives far more flexibility and allows you to change phones whenever you want, or not at all if you are happy with your current phone.
Why lock yourself into a 24 month contract when so much can happen in that time?
Of course there are often considerable cost savings too, which is always attractive!
The giffgaff offer of monthly renewable sims on the O2 network looked great, although they do not have free European usage like Three and Tesco do, which is a shame.
I think the giffgaff plans are very competitive, particularly when you consider that you are not tied into a contract. Monthly termination periods are generally more expensive than the equivalent monthly costs for a 12 or 24 month contract. I chose their £15 plan which gives 4GB data, 1000 call minutes and unlimited texts each month.
Their Goodybags (their name for plans) start at £5 which gives you 150MB data, 125 call minutes and 500 texts, which won’t suit many users unless they hardly use their phones. The most expensive GoodyBag costs £20 which gives you unlimited calls and texts and “Always on” data access, which provides 6GB of data and then rate limits further data access over the rest of the month.
Three battled to keep me as a customer
When I phoned Three to give them the bad news about leaving them, and to get the vital Pac code that allows you to take your phone number with you, they pulled out all the stops to retain me as a customer.
I was already on a great deal with Three, as I had considered moving away from them a year ago and let them persuade me to stay with a stonking deal, but their retention team offered even better prices. A sim only deal with 4GB data, unlimited calls and texts for £8 per month with no contract!
Although tempted, there is no point in having unlimited calls if you haven’t got the reception to make them, so to their immense disappointment, I received the pac code and finally moved out of the clutches of Three.
I can only think that we customers must be hugely profitable to the networks and even if they are only earning £8 per month from you, they must be making a profit, which is why their retention teams work so hard to keep our custom.
Back to the switch to giffgaff
Anyway, back to the switch to giffgaff.
They make it very easy to activate your sim card, which does involve paying for the first month of usage, of course, and it is simple to use your pac code to initiate your number transfer to them, although that did take several days in the transfer queue.
What I didn’t anticipate was the terrible call quality when using the giffgaff sim in my phone.
As I mentioned above, our children use the O2 network via Tesco Mobile so I knew what reception for that network in our home was like. I could hardly hear them when I tried calling them in the next room, the giffgaff call quality was so bad.
giffgaff community to the rescue
I’d heard about how supportive the giffgaff community is, not least because people get rewarded with points that can be converted into cash when they contribute to the forums on giffgaff.com.
So I created a new thread in the forum to see if anybody else had experienced these call problems. Within a couple of minutes, I had received some ideas from community members and I entered into dicussions to try and get to the bottom of the problem, which wasn’t going away no matter what I tried.
Feeling that I had made a terrible mistake in switching to giffgaff, I contacted one of the support agents to cancel my account and try and get the forthcoming number transfer stopped.
The agent soon replied and offered to cancel, and even refund, my sim and told me how to get another pac code from them so that I could return back to my original network.
What a contrast to Three who tried everything to get me to stay with them!
Crucially, almost as an afterthought, she said she would love to try and resolve the issues that I had experienced with call quality and made some helpful suggestions.
After a few more support messages with the agent, we finally determined that the sim must not be working properly and I receievd a replacement sim in the post the next day along with instructions about swapping the sim once my number transfer had completed.
I followed the simple instructions to swap sims and voila, I could make and receive calls again!
My verdict so far
I am impressed with giffgaff and have decided to stay with them. They seem to do a lot right – their prices are competitive and I found the community based support, backed up by their agent support teams, to be amazing.
Your phone must be unlocked before switching to them, but an increasing number are now supplied unlocked, so this is not as much of a problem as it used to be. It is usually quite simple to unlock your phone via your network anyway.
So if you are looking for a new mobile phone network, I recommend that you give giffgaff a try. If it works out, great, but if not then it seems that they don’t place any barriers in the way if you want to leave.
Update 1st September 2016
Since writing this article I have come across reviews that indicate other people have experienced similar call quality and data transfer rate issues and I am now coming to the conclusion that giffgaff customers are probably suffering bandwidth constraints on the O2 network.