I’ve been with 3 (Three) for just under 6 months, so I feel it’s about time I do a full review. There’s much argument on the internet as to whether 3 is really a good company or whether it isn’t to be used. I have summed up most of the features available on 3 and how well they compare to other mobile operators in the UK.
Bare in mind, this review is based on pay as you go usage, but some categories (such as Coverage) apply to both PAYG and Pay Monthly.
Mobile coverage on 3 is really good. 3G coverage is almost constant (especially in larger cities) and 3 are constantly adding new 3G signal masts into more rural areas. When you aren’t in 3G coverage, 2G coverage is also very good. 3 share 2G signal masts with Orange, which means you can either get 2G or 3G coverage everywhere. There are very few “blackout” areas where you can’t get signal with 3. I’m really impressed with mobile network coverage on 3 – it’s the best I’ve had in any mobile operator I’ve tested.
Internet access (without seperate modem)
I use the internet a lot when I’m on the move. I use it both directly on the phone and also for my laptop when I’m away.
I can easily connect my phone to my PC via bluetooth and I can immediately start accessing the internet. Cheap internet addons are great for this. For 50p I can get 120MB of data to use in 1 day, £2.50 gives me 500MB to use in a week and £5.00 gives me 2GB to use within a month. All of 3’s phones are 3G capable meaning that I can get usable internet on my PC. Typically, 3G will give me file download speeds of 20-40kbps, but internet browsing is fine and online games are playable with ease.
On my phone, I use 3’s internet regularly. 3 offer free Windows Live Messenger and Skype on pay as you go, which is fantastic and I use both regularly. Planet3 is also a very useful site to have on your phone. I can handle my balance, top-ups and addons all from Planet 3. Also, I can use the 3 music store (which sadly isn’t DRM free, but they have recently reduced their music prices) which I’ll explain later.
Overall, the internet features on 3 are very good.
Sadly, I haven’t tried 3’s mobile broadband with a USB modem as yet, so I am not going to review it right now, but I might review it in the near future.
Calls and texts
Calls and texts are, well, as you’d expect them. However, they are extremely cheap on 3 Pay as you Go. Texts are 12p each, which admittedly isn’t the best. But all calls to UK landlines and mobiles (on any network) are just 12p per minute which is extremely cheap for mobile networks. Call quality is good and no worse than any other network.
Bundles and addons
The choice of bundles and addons is really good on 3. You can choose from bundles on texts, internet and mobile TV addons and most of them are really good value. If you want to know about addons and availability, I suggest you take a look at 3’s Price Guide (page 9) and check the addons section. There’s a list there of all the types of addons available.
You can also get a service called ‘Stretch’ which enables the user to pay a certain amount of their top up (minimum £10) to get a split of texts and calls which is better value than the standard top up. Personally, I don’t use this feature, but if you do large topups and like to get good value calls and texts, this may be useful to you.
You can also join “clubs” such as the 3Games club which gives you offers and discounts on games. Sadly, they do send you a large amount of texts which can annoy you after a while, but if you are an avid mobile gamer this may appeal.
The 3 Music Store is generally good, if a little expensive. Songs cost between 99p and £1.29. You can download the songs you purchase to both your phone and PC, but sadly the songs aren’t DRM free (yet).
You can also get Music Videos from the Planet3 store, and these cost £1.69 each (in general).
Realtones cost £3.49 each which I feel is a little expensive, but I don’t use realtones so it is not much of a concern to me.
The 3 store does not currently sell albums – you have to by each song separately. This is annoying, but when you think about it, trying to download 12 songs over a 30kbps connection is going to take a long time.
3 also offer a “club” which costs £5.00 per month and gives you access to unlimited streaming radio direct from 3. There are no advertisements and you can choose between a range of stations. You can also get this service for 49p per day which can be handy if you are on a long car trip. To listen to streaming radio (and on that matter, browse the internet on your mobile) you must be within a 3G connection.
Despite the fact that the whole of 3’s customer service is controlled and handled by foreign countries, the customer service is generally good. All customer service is free from a 3 phone (by calling 333, pressing 3 after entering mobile number, and then 2 to speak to advisor) and I’m pretty sure their customer service is available 24 hours a day. It was even open when I called at 8pm on Christmas Day which was handy.
The advisers are always very polite, despite the fact it is sometime quite difficult to recognise their accent. They are good English speakers most of the time.
Their knowledge is generally good and most of the time they give me helpful information. Sometimes they aren’t 100% accurate but most of the time they know what they are talking about.
Top ups are generally easy to do. They will accept debit and credit cards both over the phone and on their online My3 service. Also, you can get top up vouchers from most supermarkets, general stores and post offices. The minimum top up on both credit/debit cards and vouchers is £10. Topping up is quick and credit is applied immediately.
Checking your balance and account status
This is easy thanks to the two free services 3 provides. If you are on your phone, you can call 444 free from your PAYG phone and press 1. This will tell you your account balance and the status of your addons.
You can also use My3, both on your computer and on Planet3. On your computer just go to www.three.co.uk/my3 and log in. Or, on your mobile, just hit the Planet3 button and head over to the My3 section. Simple.
I’m really happy with 3 at the moment. It’s simple and easy to use, plus there are some handy features to use when you want them. The PAYG tariff is really good value, the addons are cheap and useful, and the customer service is really helpful. Network coverage is really good as well.
I hope to stay on 3 for a long time to come, and maybe I’ll move to contract in a few months. But if you are looking at moving, I give you every recommendation. Especially if you want PAYG.