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EE plans compared – Essential vs Smart

10th September 2021

EE Smart vs Essential Plans

Whether you want to Pay Monthly (aka get a new phone on contract) or go SIM Only, EE currently offers two different plan types for you to choose from, namely Essential Plans and Smart Plans.

In this article we’ll talk you through all the differences between the two plan types, so you can decide which is the best choice for your needs.

What are Essential Plans?

  • Up to unlimited data
  • Access to 5G
  • Unlimited minutes and texts
  • Free European roaming (until January 2022)
  • Stay connected if your data runs out

Essential Plans are the most basic of EE’s current plans. That said, they’re not what we’d usually consider basic, as they can still come with up to unlimited data.

They also come with unlimited minutes and texts , as well as 5G, and EE will make sure you stay connected if you run out of data, just your speeds will drop to 0.5Mbps until your plan refreshes or you buy a Data Boost. If you have multiple plans on your account then you can also share data between them.

Until January 2022 these plans also include free roaming in numerous European destinations, but after that EE is bringing in a £2 daily charge to use your allowances abroad in previously free locations.

What are Smart Plans?

  • Up to unlimited data
  • Access to 5G
  • Unlimited minutes and texts
  • Free European roaming (until January 2022)
  • Smart Benefits
  • Upgrade your phone any time
  • Stay connected if your data runs out

Like Essential Plans, Smart Plans come with unlimited minutes and texts, and up to unlimited 5G data.

You can also stay connected (at reduced speeds) if your data runs out, share your data with other plans on your account, and until January 2022 you get free European roaming (after which there’s a £2 daily charge).

So that’s all the same as Essential Plans. The main way that Smart Plans differ is that you also get access to between one and three Smart Benefits.

These include a subscription to Netflix, BT Sport Ultimate, Apple Music, Apple TV Plus, or Apple Arcade. Or you can get a Video Data Pass (which lets you use data for select video streaming services without it affecting your data allowance), or get a Roam Abroad Pass, which gives you free roaming in the EU (once this becomes chargeable in January), as well as free roaming in the US, Canada, Mexico, Australia and New Zealand.

Note that not all of these options are available on all Smart Plans. If you choose an iPhone plan, or a SIM Only plan with three Smart Benefits, then you’ll be able to choose from Apple Music, Apple TV Plus, Apple Arcade, BT Sport Ultimate, and Roam Abroad, while other Smart Plans let you choose between Apple Music, Netflix, BT Sport Ultimate and Roam Abroad.

Finally, Smart Plans with a handset let you upgrade your phone at any time – though in the first 12 months you’ll need to pay an upgrade fee to do so.

How do Essential Plans and Smart Plans compare?

  Essential Plans Smart Plans
Max data Unlimited Unlimited
Max minutes and texts Unlimited Unlimited
Max speed 5G 5G
Free EU roaming? Until January 2022 Until January 2022, or beyond with Roam Abroad benefit
Free roaming beyond EU? No Yes, with Roam Abroad benefit
Other perks Stay connected, data sharing Smart Benefits, upgrade anytime, stay connected, data sharing

The main reason to pick a Smart Plan over an Essential Plan then is if you want access to Smart Benefits. Since one of those benefits also allows for free roaming beyond January 2022 and beyond Europe, Smart Plans are also great for frequent travellers.

Beyond that, the core plans are very similar, though you can also upgrade your phone whenever you want with a Smart Plan.

Whether it’s worth picking a Smart Plan for those extras is subjective. The Smart Benefits are a great perk for some people, but you might find that none appeal to you, or that you don’t think they present good value.

In that case, you can’t go wrong with an Essential Plan. But if you’re happy to pay then a Smart Plan is one of the most full-featured and flexible options available in the UK.

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