Virgin Mobile review 2021
By Dan Howdle | Tuesday, April 20th 2021
Virgin Mobile was launched to the world in 1999 as the first mobile virtual network operator, tagging onto what is now the EE network. As a result it offers the best 5G coverage currently available in the UK (along with EE), and a great selection of handsets and SIM deals to choose from.
It may surprise you to know that Virgin Media is no longer owned by Richard Branson, and hasn’t been for several years now. It is in fact owned by Liberty Global, a vast multinational telecoms company. So what does Virgin Mobile have to offer? We take a look at the details.
Tariffs and plans
Virgin Mobile offers pay monthly deals with phones as well as SIM-only deals. You have a decent choice of contracts with 24 months and 36 months for handsets, and 12 months for SIM-only deals. Unfortunately there are no one-month SIM-only options, which is odd when you consider that Virgin offers one-month deals for its broadband services. All Virgin Mobile’s contract and SIM-only tariffs come with unlimited texts and calls and a wide range of data allowances. Packages range from 1GB to unlimited.
You won’t have to pay anything upfront for Virgin’s handsets on its monthly tariffs, which means there is no flexibility to choose how much you want to pay upfront versus monthly, and no choice on contract lengths either. There is also no option to buy a phone outright, but if you want to pay off your handset, you can do so at any time, even after just one month into your contract. At this point onwards you will only be paying for your airtime plan, which you are then free to cancel at any point with one month’s notice.
All Virgin’s mobile plans are flexible in that you can choose to increase or decrease your data allowance every month and you can roll over any unused data to the next month. You also get free roaming in 43 destinations around the world. Tethering is permitted on all Virgin’s plans, up to your chosen data allowance, so you can use your phone as a hotspot should you need to.
Phone and device range
Virgin Media only offers phones from Apple, Samsung, Sony and Huawei, Fairphone, and the increasingly popular OPPO. If you are desperate to get your hands on the latest iPhone or Samsung Galaxy and it's not out yet, you can pre-order it.
As well as phones, Virgin also offers a selection of tablets available on contract, with a strong focus on the latest iPads and Samsung Galaxy models. Customers can choose from a modest range of data options and either a 24-month or 48-month contract to spread the cost.
Virgin Mobile has high customer satisfaction ratings, at least according to industry body Ofcom. The latest Ofcom ratingsfrom 2020 show 93% of its customers were satisfied with the service, in line with the sector average, and beaten only by Giffgaff with 95% satisfaction.
Only 3% of customers had a reason to complain about their service, but those that did were pretty unsatisfied with how their complaints were handled, with just 51% satisfied – well below the sector average of 58% and the lowest rating among all providers included in the survey.
Ofcom data is based on surveys of a few hundred customers, so it is also worth checking other sources. Virgin Mobile has a rating of just 1.2 stars out of five on reviews website Trustpilot based on feedback from more than 400 customers, which is comparable to other mobile providers reviewed. Complaints range from billing errors to incorrect charges. Just bear in mind that more people are likely to leave reviews if they have had a bad service than if they had a positive experience.
If issues do arise, you can call Virgin Mobile on 789 from your Virgin mobile or 0345 600 0789 from any other line. Its customer service is open between 8am and 9pm Monday to Friday, 8am-8pm on Saturday and 8am-6pm on Sunday. It also has an efficient live chat service, or you can drop the provider a line via social media on Twitter or Facebook.
Value for money
Virgin Mobile's tariffs rank well in the market and there are plenty of extras that help save money. There are no upfront costs on its handsets and its data rollover means you can keep unused data from previous months.
Customers already signed up to Virgin Media Broadband can choose to take a Family Plan with Virgin Mobile and save up to £8 per month with up to four SIMs for your family. Calls between Family SIM holders are unlimited.
Virgin Mobile users can get cashback for referring a friend, and can also trade in their old handset as cash towards a new one under the Trade Up offer. The Trade Up scheme lets monthly contract customers upgrade to a new phone and contract before the end of their current deal by trading in the value of their current phone.
The value of your old phone is put towards paying off however much is remaining on your contract. If your old phone is worth more than your remaining contract, you’ll get the extra value back. If it’s worth less, you can still upgrade early – all you need to do is pay the difference. Virgin will provide a quote for your old device, based on its condition, that is guaranteed for 14 days, and you will then receive a pack in the post in which to return your device.
Virgin Mobile customers also get access to 22,000 public wi-fi hotspots in the UK for free. These hotspots are located in bars, restaurants and highstreet shops and even on the London Underground. Having wi-fi on public transport is pretty nifty, but it only actually only works at Tube stations rather than in the tunnels, which is less useful.
Virgin Mobile uses the EE network, which has the widest 4G coverage in the UK and also the widest 5G coverage, although so far 5G is still much more limited. EE’s 4G signal covers 99% of the UK population, so wherever you are in the UK, you should be able to get a 4G signal with Virgin Mobile, but there may also be local factors such as buildings, trees or weather that could affect the quality of the signal you receive.
To find out whether you can get 5G with Virgin Mobile in your area, visit the provider’s mobile coverage checker. Simply enter your postcode and it will tell you if your area has coverage of 2G, 3G, 4G or 5G and how strong the signal is for each.
Virgin customers seem reasonably happy with the signal they get. Ofcom’s latest service quality reportfrom 2020 shows 84% of customers were happy with their Virgin Mobile phone reception – just a fraction below the sector average of 84% and, not surprisingly, on a par with EE.
Virgin Mobile customers get off to a good start as there are no upfront costs, and you can upsize or downsize your data and minutes each month. Plus, if you like to regularly upgrade to the latest device, you can either pay off your handset at any point in your contract or trade it in and put the money towards a new model.
On the downside, there are no 30-day options, which could cause problems for some. However, its prices for contract and SIM-only deals put it regularly among the best buys, and you can get cash back for referring a friend to Virgin’s mobile services.
When it comes to customer service, value for money and coverage, Virgin does well. Ofcom regularly rates Virgin highly when it comes to customer service, and tagging onto the EE network gives Virgin the benefit of the widest 4G coverage in the UK and the best 5G coverage currently available, making it a good choice of mobile provider overall.