Why choose Virgin Mobile?
Did you know, Virgin Media started life as Virgin Mobile? That means Virgin Mobile has been around for a very long time. Unsurprising, considering all that experience, it’s become rather good at this mobile deals caper.
- Limited range of handsets, but at very good prices
- 4G is standard on all Virgin Mobile plans
- On EE’s network for the best coverage and fastest data
- Great SIM-only bargains if you don’t need a handset
- Cut-priced and enhanced-feature SIMs for Virgin Media customers
- Free wifi at 2 million hotspots
- 43 ‘roam like home’ destinations worldwide
- Data rollover lets you accumulate unused allowance
- Free data on WhatsApp, Facebook Messenger and Twitter
Limited range of handsets, but at very good prices
There isn’t a provider out there that’ll stock every phone available in the UK. Still, by the standards of most UK mobile providers it would be fair to say that Virgin Mobile’s range is fairly limited. Apple, Samsung and Sony are in there for the masses, along with Nokia and Doro for you hipsters out there.
But, much like a bistro with a limited menu there are economies of scale here – a narrower range does seem to have allowed Virgin Mobile to offer many of its handsets at some of the lowest prices in the UK. Virgin Mobile was the UK’s cheapest provider of iPhone Xs when they first arrived last year, for example. Virgin Mobile also has a habit of lumping generous free gifts in with its pay monthly handset deals.
For example, at the time of writing, either a £100 retail voucher and a 32” Smart TV were being thrown in with various Virgin Mobile pay monthly deals. If you’re not dead-set on a specific handset and you like free stuff (who doesn’t?) it’s worth keeping your eyes peeled as you pore through Virgin’s range.
4G is standard on all Virgin Mobile plans
To be fair, this is quite the standard across the board these days. There are in fact no mobile deals in the UK as far as we know that offer 3G as standard. Gone are those days. But there are a few noteworthy features to Virgin Mobile’s 4G offering worth talking about briefly.
Virgin Mobile is on the EE network. There are actually only four actual mobile networks in the UK – those owned by EE, Vodafone, O2 and Three. All the rest are mobile virtual network operators (MVNOs), who piggyback onto the infrastructure of masts and cables offered by one of those four. As you’ll find out in the very next section, if you’re going to be piggybacking anyone, EE is the best choice.
One final note on 4G to bear in mind is that you will still drop to 3G, 2G or even the much-maligned ‘E’ or ‘gprs’ in areas with poor signal. 4G as standard in its mobile plans doesn’t guarantee you’re going to get it whenever and wherever you are.
On EE’s network for the best coverage and fastest data
Now, about that EE network thing. Virgin Mobile piggybacks the EE network. That means Virgin Mobile customers have access to the fastest data download and upload speeds in the UK, as well as the best coverage – EE covers more homes and landmass with its network than any other network provider.
Great SIM-only bargains if you don’t need a handset
If you don’t need a new handset and are just after a SIM, Virgin Mobile is also a solid choice. In fact, some of its SIMs are so cheap they sound too good to be true. For example, at the time of writing (mid-May 2018), Virgin Mobile was offering a 2GB SIM with 2500 free minutes and unlimited texts for a frankly ridiculous £6 per month.
At the other end of the features spectrum it was offering a 45GB SIM with 5,000 minutes and unlimited texts for just £18 per month. Of course, that’s just what was on when we looked – right now things may be a little more expensive, or even a little cheaper. Virgin Mobile SIMs vary in price and features as time goes on, but hopefully that offers a small glimpse of just how cheap it’s possible to go.
Cut-priced and enhanced-feature SIMs for Virgin Media customers
You may or may not be aware that Three is the only network provider in the UK to offer totally unlimited data tariffs in the form of pay monthly handsets and SIM-only deals. Well, now you are, and while that’s true in the sense that it’s the only provider you can go to to get such a deal with no pre-conditions, it’s less true in the broader sense.
Virgin Mobile offers a SIM with no data limit too, except there’s a catch: You have to be a Virgin Media broadband/TV/both customer in order to be able to get it. Honestly, though, if you can get Virgin Media’s other services – available to around 60% of UK households at the time of writing – you really have no excuses not to be doing so.
Virgin Media’s broadband is faster and more reliable than any other provider in the UK. More than four times faster at the top end, in fact, while its TV offering is easily on a par with that of Sky, without the disadvantage of having a satellite dish bolted to your home. Is it worth signing up to Virgin Media broadband and TV just to get the unlimited data deal? Probably not, but it is worth doing that to, you know, get Virgin Media.
Free wifi at 2 million hotspots
To help you go a little easier on your data allowance, Virgin Mobile has sprinkled the UK with over two million free wi-fi hotspots. Log in once and that’s it whenever your phone is in range of one it’ll start sipping data from that rather than from the nearest mast. Of course, how useful this will be to you depends a lot both on how much data you use and where you live.
Virgin Mobile actually offers a ‘wifi app’, which will show you the Virgin Mobile wifi hotspots that are nearby. As a general rule, Virgin Mobile has concentrated these in cafes and bistros like Wagamama, Nero and Pret A Manger, as well as in and around some retailers such as WHSmith and Superdrug. You can even get wifi reception with Virgin Mobile on the London Underground.
It’ll still probably be a pain going and deliberately finding them, though, which is what Virgin Mobile wants you to do (getting you into those businesses where you might buy something) so if you do sign up to Virgin Mobile it’s probably best not to rely too much on it. You also might be somewhere out in the sticks (AKA not London) – in which case you’re going to happen across these less often anyway.
43 ‘roam like home’ destinations worldwide
Three is the leader in the roaming space, offering 71 countries where you’ll not pay a penny over your normal calling, text and data rates either calling out or receiving calls. However, it must be said that Virgin Mobile is no slouch. It currently offers 43 countries in which you’ll not be paying a bean over your normal rates (with certain restrictions applying).
Those countries are: Austria, Gibraltar, Malta, Slovenia, Belgium, Greece, Martinique, Spain, Bulgaria, Guadeloupe, Mayotte, Sweden, Canary Islands, Hungary, Monaco, The Czech Republic, Croatia, Iceland, Norway, The Netherlands, Cyprus, Ireland, Poland, The French Antilles, Denmark, Italy, Portugal, Vatican City (Italy), Estonia, Liechtenstein, Reunion Islands, Finland, Latvia, Romania, France, Lithuania, Saint Barthelemy, French Guiana, Luxembourg, San Marino, Germany, Madeira, Slovakia.
Before you get too excited and go crazy making calls in The Vatican, however, you’ll need to check the fine print as to how the roaming rules apply to the particular country you’re visiting as these can vary.
Data rollover lets you accumulate unused allowance
If you bought the right tariff you’ll likely have some data allowance spare at the end of each month. With Virgin Mobile you can use your leftovers in the following month. It only rolls over for one month, though, so you can’t stockpile it for years and download the whole internet. It’s also likely to be something that you’re not altogether aware of, happening in the background.