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Vodafone mobile review 2017

by Luke Thompson
Monday, January 9th 2017

Vodafone offers 4G services, a strong highstreet presence and a commitment to not increase prices during a contract. It also gives its customers some nice extras, like the choice of free Spotify, Sky Sports Mobile, or Now TV subscriptions.

Vodafone’s deals tend to be a little more expensive than those from competitors, so be aware that you will pay a little extra for that excellent customer service, fast 4G speeds and those juicy ‘free’ extras. Vodafone’s pedigree means it has many loyal customers, but it still pays to know exactly what you’re buying into...

Our review

Giffgaff Mobile Cable.co.uk
  • Tariffs & plans
    3/5
  • Phone & device range
    5/5
  • Customer service
    3/5
  • Value for money
    2/5
  • Coverage
    3/5
  • Overall
    3/5

Is Vodafone any good?

All mobile providers have their good and bad points, and Vodafone is no different. On the plus side, its average 4G speed is fast, it offers several extras with its SIM-only plans, and its highstreet shops mean you can get help in person.

On the negative side, there are no unlimited data plans, excess charges are high, and it’s generally pricier than the competition. But once all these points are weighed, is Vodafone any good? Here’s the answer…

Pros

  • High average 4G speeds
  • A strong highstreet presence
  • Red Plan SIMs have juicy extras
  • The monthly price is fixed
  • Network trial for 30 days

Cons

  • There are no unlimited data plans
  • 4G coverage is limited
  • Excess data charges are high
  • You have to pay to unlock your mobile
  • Plans generally cost more than the competition

What we like

High average 4G speeds

A fast 4G speed will mean web pages load faster, while apps and software also download more quickly. Vodafone’s 4G speeds are measured in megabits per second (Mbps). Ofcom rates Vodafone’s average 4G speeds as 20Mbps, which is fast enough for practically everything you could ever want to do online, from browsing to video streaming.

A strong highstreet presence

Customer service helplines are helpful, but are often a poor substitute for face-to-face communication when you have a problem with your mobile handset. Many town and city centres have a Vodafone shop, where you can talk to an expert and get your issue resolved.

Red Plan SIMs have several extras

When you join a Vodafone Red Plan you get a choice of extra features. You can choose from a Now TV Entertainment pass, a free subscription to Spotify Premium, or unlimited access to Sky Sports Mobile TV. The service is offered free on either a six or 12-month basis, after which you may have to pay to continue using it.

The monthly price is fixed

Vodafone promises to keep the monthly price you pay for its SIM-only deals the same for the full length of your contract. Unless, that is, you go over your monthly allowances, at which point you’ll be charged extra. If you stay within the bounds of your contract the fixed price promise means you won’t have to worry about unexpected price hikes.

Network trial for 30 days

When you join Vodafone or start a new plan, you’ll get to trial the network. Vodafone calls this period the Network Satisfaction Guarantee. It will allow you to test the network and if you aren't happy, you can cancel your contract within 30 days of upgrading or joining Vodafone.

Visit Vodafone

What we don’t like

There are no unlimited data plans

Vodafone has no unlimited data plans. All plans, whether SIM-only or pay monthly contracts, come with a predetermined data allowance. Vodafone has a range of data allowances, and most users will find a satisfactory amount; however, heavy users (those who like to download lots of files or stream video every day) may prefer to look elsewhere for an unlimited plan.

4G mobile coverage is not the best

Although Vodafone's 3G coverage is on a par with other networks, it's 4G coverage is not as extensive as that of EE – the leader in 4G UK coverage. Vodafone is continuing rollout across the UK, but if you're concerned, Vodafone offers its 30-day Network Guarantee. This means that if you find coverage isn't good enough in your area, within a month, you can cancel your contract without penalty.

Charges are high if you exceed your data limit

Because Vodafone has no unlimited data plan, there is a risk that you could surpass your monthly data allowance at some point. If you do, you’ll be subject to an additional charge for every 250MB of data. If you’re not careful this can soon add up to a considerable cost.

You have to pay to unlock your mobile

If you’ve purchased your mobile handset from Vodafone and want to leave for another provider, you’ll have to ask Vodafone to unlock your phone. This may take from anywhere between 48 hours and 10 days to complete. However, if you’ve been with Vodafone for over a year on a pay monthly contract, your phone will be unlocked for free.

Plans generally cost more than the competition

Vodafone’s plans aren’t quite as cheap as those offered by competing providers. Generally, you’ll pay more for the same allowances. While this means you may be better off financially by choosing a cheaper provider, if you decide to go elsewhere you’ll miss out on many of Vodafone’s benefits, such as 4G and the extra features included with its Red Plans.

Coverage

Vodafone's network is expanding, but some areas will be unable to get 4G for some time. To find out if you’re covered where you are, take a look at Vodafone’s coverage map.

Check coverage

Vodafone SIM-only

A SIM-only deal is the right choice if you’re happy with your current mobile handset but want to switch to Vodafone. Several plans are available. Most come with unlimited texts and minutes, are 4G compatible, and include a free Now TV Pass, a subscription to Spotify, or a Sky Sports Mobile TV subscription.

But it’s not all good news. Vodafone has no unlimited data plans, and its 4G network, while providing fast internet, is only available to around half the UK. Here are the deals…

12-month SIM-only deals

Minutes Texts Data speed Monthly cost  
250 - Unlimited Unlimited 250MB - 25GB £9.50 - £37 See deal
Vodafone 12-month SIM-only deals - 4G
Minutes
250 - Unlimited
Texts
Unlimited
Data
250MB - 25GB
Monthly cost
£9.50 - £37

A 12-month contract is a cheap option

A 12-month contract is the cheapest way to get a SIM-only plan from Vodafone. You’ll pay less per month, and there are more options to choose from. There are a couple of drawbacks: you’ll be tied in to a contract for at least a year, and if you attempt to leave early, you may be struck with early cancellation fees.

12-month Red Plans come with extras

All of Vodafone’s 12-month 4G Red Plans (except Standard and Red) come with a choice of extras. You can choose a Now TV Entertainment Pass, a subscription to Spotify Premium, or a Sky Sports Mobile TV subscription. The subscription lasts for six or 12 months, depending on the plan. Many 12-month Red Plan SIMs come with unlimited minutes and texts.

30-day SIM-only deals

Minutes Texts Data Monthly cost  
250 - Unlimited Unlimited 250MB - 10GB £11.50 - £29 See deal
Vodafone 30-day SIM-only deals - 4G
Minutes
250 - Unlimited
Texts
Unlimited
Data
250MB - 10GB
Monthly cost
£11.50 - £29

A 30-day contract is more flexible

Vodafone’s 30-day SIM-only plans are more flexible than the 12-month options, but cost more as a result. The jump in price between the two options isn’t astronomical – just a couple of pounds more – but all those extra pounds will add up over a full year.

Vodafone’s 30-day Red Plans do not come with extras

Extra features may not be the main reason for choosing a 30-day 4G Red Plan, but they can make quite a nice addition. Vodafone’s 30-day SIM-only plans don’t come with the extras available on 12-month plans, and only a handful of plans come with unlimited minutes and texts.

Vodafone pay-as-you-go plans

Vodafone pay-as-you-go (PAYG) plans provide minutes, texts, and data without a contract. This makes them flexible options that you can alter from month to month. The SIM cards themselves are provided free, and Vodafone gives you reward points every time you top up your allowances.

Overall, a PAYG plan is more flexible but will cost more than a pay-monthly plan, so a pay-monthly plan may be a better option if you intend to stay with Vodafone for the long haul. Here’s everything you need to know to make that choice…

Several PAYG plans are available

Not all PAYG plans are the same. Some focus on minutes. Others, on texts or mobile data. The plan that’s best for you will depend on your own usage. However, as Vodafone pay-as-you-go SIMs are provided free (you only pay for the top ups) you can chop and change as your circumstances and usage habits dictate.

PAYG SIMs are 4G

If you choose a data-focused pay-as-you-go SIM, such as the Freebie Data SIM, you can browse the web using 4G. Vodafone’s 4G network covers more than half the UK, and provides far faster download and upload speeds than the older technology, 3G. To get 4G, you need to top up at least £20 per month.

Collect reward points

Reward points come with your PAYG top-ups. If you top up with £5 or more, Vodafone will give you 10% of the value of you top-up in points. You can then use these points to claim rewards online. Example rewards include bonus data, an Amazon Gift Card and Bluetooth speakers.

PAYG phones are also available

You can buy a pay-as-you-go phone if you need a new handset but don’t want to pay for a monthly contract. Vodafone has several models available. These range from the brand new iPhone 6s to the budget Samsung E1200. Modern models cost more than older ones. All Vodafone pay-as-you-go phones work with Vodafone SIMs.

See PAYG deals

Vodafone mobile phones

It might be time to upgrade to a new model if your old handset is looking a little creaky. Vodafone has a wide selection of mobile phones, including the iPhone 6s, the Samsung Galaxy Note Edge, and the business traveller’s friend, the Blackberry.

If these new handsets are out of your price range Vodafone offers pre-owned alternatives. These are significantly cheaper than the brand new versions, but as they’re second-hand, they carry a small degree of risk. Here’s what’s available…

24-month phone contracts

Minutes Texts Data Data speed Monthly cost  
500 - unlimited Unlimited 500MB - 30GB 4G From £32 See deal
24-month phone contracts - 4G
Minutes
500 - unlimited
Texts
Unlimited
Data
500MB - 30GB
Data speed
4G
Monthly cost
From £32

A 24-month contract is a long commitment

It’s not quite a marriage, but it’s still a long time to stay within contract, and if you cancel early you’ll be hit with cancellation fees. These can be expensive, so if you’re looking to join a 24-month plan be certain that you’re happy to be tied in.

Samsung Galaxy S7 edge and iPhone 7 plans are available

The Samsung Galaxy S7 and the iPhone 7 are two of the premium handsets currently around. Vodafone sells both on a 24-month contract, along with a wide selection of other handsets. If new phones are a little beyond your price range, you can choose a pre-owned phone instead.

Vodafone’s second-hand models have all been returned within 14 days of sale, so shouldn’t be in bad nick. They also come with a warranty.

See handset deals

Vodafone data SIMs for tablets

Tablets can’t make phone calls or send text messages (unless they’re phablets), so choosing a normal SIM is a waste. Data SIMs are the solution. They provide a set amount of mobile data to use within a month.

The lack of minutes and text allowances means that if you do make a call or send a text, you’ll be charged. This will only be a problem on phablets. Furthermore, you’ll have to pay for any excess usage. Here are Vodafone’s options…

12-month data SIMs

Data speed Minutes Texts Data speed Monthly cost  
1GB - 10GB     4G £10 - £20 See deals
12-month data SIMs
Data
1GB - 10GB
Minutes
  •  
Texts
  •  
Data speed
4G
Monthly cost
£10 - £20

A 12-month data SIM is just that – data only

Data SIMs get you online with your tablet, iPad, or other internet-enabled gadget, and don’t come with minutes or text allowances. This will only be an issue if you have a phablet, which can be used to make calls and send texts. If you do either with a data SIM you’ll be charged Vodafone’s standard call and text rates (55p per minute and 35p per text).

You can tether and add extra data

Tethering (using your smartphone or tablet’s data to connect your laptop or computer to the internet) is allowed on all Vodafone data plans. It’s useful for travellers who have no guarantee of a wi-fi connection, and it’s free to do.

You’ll still be tied to your standard data allowance, however. If you go over you’ll be charged for every additional 250MB, but you can get around this by choosing a Vodafone Boost, which gives you an extra 2GB of data.

Free wi-fi in London Underground stations

It may only be of use to Londoners and those who commute to the UK capital, but free wi-fi on the London Underground is included with all Vodafone 12-month data SIMs. Sign in with your account when you’re at a station or in the ticket hall and you can get online. However, you won’t be able to browse the web while you’re in a tunnel or between stations.

30-day data SIMs

Data Minutes Texts Data speed Monthly cost  
1GB - 20GB     4G £10 - £20 See deals
30-day data SIMs
Data
1GB - 20GB
Minutes
  •  
Texts
  •  
Data speed
4G
Monthly cost
£10 - £20

A 30-day data SIM has no minutes or texts

A 30-day data SIM is designed to get you online with your tablet. It isn’t designed to let you make calls or send texts, and if you do, you’ll be charged Vodafone’s standard rates. At 45p per minute for a call, this can soon add up, so if you think you may need to make calls it’s better to choose a standard SIM-only plan.

Vodafone Extras give you more data to use

If you’re worried about going over your limit with your 30-day contract and don’t want to pay the penalty fees for excess use, for £10 you can get an extra 2GB of data, which should be more than enough to tide you over until the following month.

You can tether and go online at London Underground stations

Tethering can be very useful when you’re away from home and need to get online with your laptop. Tethering is free with Vodafone: you just use the standard data included with your data SIM.

A further bonus is the ability to get online using public wi-fi when you’re in London, travelling around the capital through the London Underground system. The free wi-fi isn’t available between stations however, or in tunnels, just in stations.

Visit Vodafone

Frequently asked questions

How do I switch to Vodafone?

Cancel your current mobile plan

To switch to Vodafone, you first need to check that you’re out of contract with your current provider. (If you cancel within contract, you’ll be charged for early cancellation, which can be expensive.) Next you need to tell your current provider you are leaving. If you want to keep your phone number, make sure you ask for your PAC (porting authorisation code) number.

Unlock your handset if necessary

When you buy a mobile handset from a provider it will often be locked to that provider’s network. In this case, you need to get your phone unlocked before you move to Vodafone. Often your previous provider will be able to do this for you – for a fee. Alternatively, you can take your handset to a highstreet mobile phone shop that offers unlocking services.

Choose a plan and sign up online

Once your phone is unlocked and you’ve cancelled with your previous provider, you need to choose a Vodafone plan. Make sure you pick the right amount of data, minutes, and texts. After sign-up, you can ask Vodafone to transfer your old number across to your new SIM. You may have to call Vodafone customer services to provide your PAC number.

Does Vodafone offer 4G?

The majority of Vodafone plans are 4G

Nearly all Vodafone’s SIM-only plans are 4G. If you can’t get it in your area just yet, and you purchase a 4G plan, you’ll be bumped down to 3G until it becomes available. There are several 3G plans available for both pay monthly contracts and for Vodafone’s mobile broadband plans, and 3G remains a popular choice for pay-as-you-go SIMs.

What if I can’t get 4G?

It can be frustrating if you’re in one of the many locations without 4G coverage. If that’s the case, you can either stick with 3G and simply wait for 4G to come to your area, or take a look at other providers to see if you can get 4G coverage from them instead.

How much does Vodafone charge on its pay-as-you-go tariff?

Usage Standard tariff charges
Calls to any Vodafone UK mobile, standard UK landline, and UK voicemail 30p per minute
Calls to any Channel Islands and Isle of Man mobile and landline 45p per minute
Calls to other UK mobile networks 30p per minute
Standard UK text message 14p per text
Standard UK picture message 45p per message
Standard UK video message 45p per message
Video calling to any Vodafone UK mobile 45p per minute
Video calling to other UK mobile networks 45p per minute
Usage
Standard tariff charges
Calls to any Vodafone UK mobile, standard UK landline, and UK voicemail
30p per minute
Calls to any Channel Islands and Isle of Man mobile and landline
45p per minute
Calls to other UK mobile networks
30p per minute
Standard UK text message
14p per text
Standard UK picture message
45p per message
Standard UK video message
45p per message
Video calling to any Vodafone UK mobile
45p per minute
Video calling to other UK mobile networks
45p per minute

How good is Vodafone’s customer service?

Ofcom’s latest report found that Vodafone’s customer service scored 69% on customer satisfaction against the average rating of 72%. Of the main mobile networks, EE scored 66% satisfaction, Three scored 69%, O2 scored 80% and Virgin Media achieved 78%.

What is Vodafone’s customer service number?

If you’re already a Vodafone customer, you can call customer services by dialling 191 from your mobile. Alternatively, you can ring from a landline or other mobile on 0333 304 0191. Vodafone’s customer service department is open 8am to 9pm, Monday to Friday. Calls to 191 are free from a pay monthly phone, but cost 25p per call from a PAYG handset.

How fast is 4G on Vodafone?

This table shows how Vodafone compares to the other Mobile providers on speed.

  EE O2 Vodafone Three
Average 4G download speed 33Mbps 18Mbps 20Mbps 17Mbps
Average 4G upload speed 17.6Mbps 9Mbps 13.1Mbps 9.4Mbps
Average time taken to load a webpage 0.77 sec 0.71 sec 0.76 sec 0.63 sec
  Go Go Go Go
EE
Average 4G download speed
33Mbps
Average 4G upload speed
17.6Mbps
Average time taken to load a webpage
0.77 sec
O2
Average 4G download speed
18Mbps
Average 4G upload speed
9Mbps
Average time taken to load a webpage
0.71 sec
Vodafone
Average 4G download speed
20Mbps
Average 4G upload speed
13.1Mbps
Average time taken to load a webpage
0.76sec
Three
Average 4G download speed
17Mbps
Average 4G upload speed
9.4Mbps
Average time taken to load a webpage
0.63 sec

Source: Ofcom

Does Vodafone allow tethering?

Tethering is permitted on all Vodafone pay monthly plans

No matter what pay monthly plan you’re on, whether it’s a 4G SIM-only tariff or a 24-month contract with the iPhone 6s, you can tether with Vodafone. Just remember that the data you’re using on your tethered device or gadget (such as laptop or tablet) will come out of your monthly allowance. If you go over it, you’ll incur excess usage charges.

How can I improve my Vodafone mobile signal?

Get a Vodafone Sure Signal adaptor to create localised 3G

If you live in a signal blackspot (an area with no 3G or 4G coverage) you can create a localised area of 3G for your home or office with a Vodafone Sure Signal adaptor. This is a small, white box that plugs directly into a wall socket and uses your home or business broadband connection to generate a bubble of 3G for up to eight separate devices.

There are a couple of caveats, however; you need a minimum broadband speed of 4.13Mbps, and satellite broadband isn’t compatible.

Rural communities can apply for a Vodafone Open Sure Signal

If your entire community occupies a 3G blackspot, you can apply for a Vodafone Open Sure Signal. These work in a similar way to the Sure Signal adaptors mentioned above, but instead of creating a small bubble of 3G, it provides 3G to the entire local area, working in much the same way as a traditional telecoms mast.

Applying for a Vodafone Open Sure Signal isn’t easy. You need support from your local parish council or MP and you need to nominate a village champion (someone happy to have the box installed on their house). You can find out more here.

What kind of SIMs can I get with Vodafone?

All major SIM types are available

Vodafone supplies SIMs in all major formats. This includes mini, micro, and nano. The nano SIM is mostly used in the latest models, such as the iPhone 6s. When buying a SIM-only plan Vodafone asks you to enter your phone’s model type first to ensure that you receive the right SIM card for your handset.

Vodafone’s Red Plan SIMs have extra features

When you purchase a Vodafone Red Plan SIM, whether as a SIM-only option or as part of your handset contract, you’ll be able to choose from a subscription to Spotify Premium, a Sky Sports Mobile TV subscription, or a Now TV Entertainment Pass. These extra features last either six or 12 months, depending on which plan you choose.

Pay-as-you-go SIMs are also available

If you don’t use your smartphone 24 hours a day, and just want a pool of minutes, texts, and data to use as and when, a pay-as-you-go option is your best bet. Vodafone has several pay-as-you-go SIMs, each one with a different specialisation.

Freebie International SIMs give you 60 international call minutes every time you top up £10. Data SIMs give you 500MB of data when you top up £10. And Big Value Bundle SIM cards give you unlimited UK texts, 150 minutes, and 500MB of data for £10. Top-up vouchers can be purchased online, over the counter, or through your Vodafone mobile by calling 2345.

You can upgrade to a new SIM plan once your contract ends

You’ll be able to upgrade to a new handset or SIM plan (or both) from 30 days before the end of your contract if you’re an existing Vodafone customer. All the offers for existing customers are the same as those for new customers. To upgrade, you need to log in to your Vodafone account, which will tell you what options are available.

Visit Vodafone

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