Samba Mobile was first founded in 2009 and has since secured about £1 million in angel funding. It’s a free ad-supported mobile broadband service. What this means is that users watch adverts to earn a free a mobile data allowance on their phone or tablet. The network first launched in July 2012 and as of the beginning of 2013 it had over 10,000 users and had logged over 3 million advert views.
Although there have previously been attempted to run ad-supported mobile and internet services in the UK, Samba claims to be the country’s first free mobile broadband provider. It has already signed up many brands as advertising partners such as Waitrose, Gilette, Xbox, Intel and Canon. Samba Mobile runs on the 3 mobile network
Samba Mobile review
Samba Mobile is an attractive option for those on a budget. As far as pricing goes, you can’t do much better than free 🙂
Having said that, it’s not quite so simple. After all, you do have to do something to earn your free download credits and if you go overdrawn, Samba cut off your internet access.
Samba have a variety of adverts available to watch which are usually between about 30 seconds and a minute and a half long each. You get credit for each ad you watch of about 3.5 MB. Unfortunately, this isn’t much and that 3.5 MB can be used up even quicker that it took to earn. Don’t assume you’ll be streaming videos or doing heavy web browsing with your free credit – it might not last as long as you hope.
However, Samba do claim that it’s usable. They estimate you’ll get about 500 MB of data a month just by watching less than 3 minutes of adverts a day. That’s a normal-length TV commercial break qualifying you for enough internet bandwidth to satisfy the average user.
Our experience wasn’t quite so simple though. It has to be said that an issue that they’ve had since the start is getting enough advertisers on board. As there’s a limit to the number of times you can watch each advert and there’s only so many available to you, it seems that quite often you’ll run out of adverts to watch.
In practice, this puts a limit of the data allowance you’re able to earn. When this occurs there’s nothing to do but wait a day or two for more adverts to become available. Issues like this make Samba impractical for heavy internet users and that’s not mentioning the amount of time it takes to watch the adverts. With many mobile networks now offering mobile data on PAYG at a reasonable rate, it’s for you to decide whether you really need free or whether it’s worth forking out a few quid a month for a greater amount of bandwidth and avoiding the hassle of having to deal with the adverts.
Samba must be commended for bringing a service like this to the UK. We’re also very glad that they decided to go with 3 which offers a very strong 3G service and in fact has been hailed by Ofcom as the country’s best mobile network for data. We had no issue earning credit and tested Samba’s adverts on a variety of browsers including Firefox, Chrome and Safari. We also found it easy to use on a smartphone as well as in tablets and laptops using a dongle. One snag is that Samba currently does not support roaming (presumably because of the very high costs).
We can’t see it lasting, however. There’s a good reason why previous attempts to offer a service similar this have all failed. Even if savvy users don’t find a loophole to avoid actually watching the ads, any on-the-ball advertising agency will soon noticed very poor conversion rates from Samba users and pull their content or refuse to pay enough to balance the books. Even if Samba hope to gain additional income from selling user information (they admit that they track browsing habits), it’s hard to see this being economically viable for the long term.
Having said that, we may well be proved wrong and there’s no reason not to give it a go while you can. If you don’t want to fork out for an expensive mobile broadband contract, it’s certainly one of the easiest and cheapest ways to get online when out and about. The main warning we would give is that it’s mainly appropriate for low-volume internet users. It works much better if you just want to browse some sites and RSS feeds and check your email and Facebook rather than download games and videos or listen to music. However, after all, you can’t complain that much about a free service.
While Samba is a free ad-supported service, it’s not completely free. You have to pay a nominal free to order your SIM in the first place. At the moment, the price is £4.99 + £2.50 P&P. This is relatively cheap since you get a decent amount of mobile data free once you start watching the adverts but we’d prefer it if they used this cash to give you some included starter credit to begin with. It would also be good if they didn’t overcharge so much on postage.
In addition to earning data allowance by watching the adverts, it’s also possible to buy data bundles that last for 30 day each. There are two options available – 250 MB for £3.50 or 500 MB for £5.00. Compared to the mainstream networks this is a very favourable price point and it’s about as good as you can expect for :pay: mobile data.
Another thing is that Samba run a referral scheme. This allows you to earn credit or internet allowance when your friends and family join. For each new user you recommend you can chose between £2.50 credit or 250 MB of mobile broadband usage. This is a nice bonus to have.
Samba Mobile runs on 3 and has very strong and broad coverage throughout the UK. Our tests also show that the download speeds are usually excellent. Please see the our Samba Mobile coverage page to learn the network coverage in your area. For more information, compare it with other mobile phone networks’ coverage.
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