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Vodafone SIM-only review

Vodafone is a trusted mobile phone provider with a range of generous SIM-only deals starting from £9.50 per month. 4G comes as standard and there are some useful extra features to choose, plus the option of short and long-term contracts.

However, customer satisfaction has slipped recently and Vodafone isn’t the cheapest provider around so expect to pay more than with some rival brands. Could Vodafone have the SIM-only deal for you? Here’s everything you need to know to make up your mind.

Cable.co.uk overall rating
3.4

Vodafone’s SIM-only plans offer a good range of data limits up to 20GB, as well as valuable extras with selected deals. However, 3G and 4G coverage can sometimes be patchy, customer satisfaction has dropped recently, and there are cheaper deals elsewhere.

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Coverage & data speed

Rating

3

Vodafone 4G coverage currently stands at around 95% of UK homes and businesses, with more locations being added all the time. Its 2G network is widespread so you’ll be able to call and text almost anywhere. Vodafone’s 3G service, although extensive, can be patchy and the 4G network is still rolling out, so internet access will depend on your location and is some way behind EE in terms of coverage.

So if you can access the internet with Vodafone, how fast can you expect it to be? Pretty swift, according to Ofcom’s mobile broadband speed report, which found Vodafone’s 3G and 4G services to be above the industry average at 7Mbps and 20Mbps respectively. In reality, Vodafone’s average mobile broadband speeds mean you’ll be able to download an album in around one minute on 3G and just 20 seconds on 4G.

3G coverage
96%
4G coverage
95%
Average 3G speed*
7Mbps
Average 4G speed*
20Mbps
Call allowance
300 - unlimited
Text allowance
Unlimited
Data allowance
250MB to 20GB
Minimum contract
30 days
*According to Ofcom
Prices from
3G coverage 96%
4G coverage 95%
Average 3G speed* 7Mbps
Average 4G speed* 20Mbps
Call allowance 300 - unlimited
Text allowance Unlimited
Data allowance 250MB to 20GB
Minimum contract 30 days
Prices from £9.50 per month
*According to Ofcom
Info

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Data usage

Rating

4

Vodafone offers a wide choice of data limits but not the highest on the market. The options range from 250MB, which is adequate for occasional browsing, up to 20GB, which is more suited to those who video chat, play online games and stream music, TV and movies regularly throughout the month. It's also worth noting that there are no unlimited data plans. Vodafone contracts are available on 30-day or 12-month terms.

Using your phone as a personal wi-fi hotspot to get other devices online – known as tethering – is permitted on all Vodafone SIM-only plans. The only potential restriction is your device, as not all phones have a tethering function. If you run out of data, internet access won’t stop and you’ll be charged £6.50 automatically for another 250MB of data, plus the same fee for each 250MB after that. Alternatively, you can buy a 2GB Vodafone Boost for £10 per month.

Calls & texts

Rating

3

All Vodafone SIM plans include unlimited text messages. As with many providers, multimedia messages (MMS) cost extra and you’ll pay 40p for sending pictures and 62p for videos. You can avoid these charges by using a third-party internet messaging service, such as iMessage or WhatsApp, which will use your data allowance instead (or wi-fi if you’re connected).

Inclusive monthly call options include 300, 900 or unlimited minutes to standard UK landlines (starting 01, 02, 03), UK mobiles (any network) and your Vodafone voicemail. Freefone numbers starting 0800, 0808 and 0500 cost 20.4p per minute, whereas those starting 0844 and 0871 cost 40p per minute. Video calling costs 36p per minute to Vodafone numbers and 57p to other networks. Using a third-party service such as Skype or FaceTime will avoid these costs and utilise your data allowance instead, or a local wi-fi connection if available. Rates to international destinations vary from country to country.

Extra features

Rating

4

Vodafone offers some useful extras, which goes some way to make up for the higher prices. First, your choice of Entertainment Pack: a free six- or 12-month subscription to Now TV Entertainment, Spotify Premium or Sky Sports Mobile TV is available with selected 4G SIM-only plans on 12-month contracts. Second, Vodafone’s EuroTraveller feature allows you to use the calls, texts and data in your allowance within Euzo Zone countries for £3 per day to help avoid roaming charges. Travelling further afield? The same feature is £5 per day within Vodafone’s WorldTraveller Zone.

Freephone numbers aren’t included in your call allowance at Vodafone, so charges can quickly rack up if you call these numbers frequently. Alternatively, you can get 300 minutes for calls to 0800, 0845 and 0870 numbers for £2.50 per month. Finally, Vodafone customers in the capital get unlimited free wi-fi in London Underground stations through a partnership with Virgin Media, which provides broadband on the Tube network.

Value for money

Rating

3

Vodafone sits towards the top end of the market in terms of cost. It’s cheaper than EE but a little more expensive than O2 and considerably more than Three, giffgaff and some of the less mainstream providers. If you’re looking for a short-term 30-day SIM deal, expect to pay more and find less choice than with the 12-month plans. As covered in the extras section, you get some nice features at Vodafone but if all you’re looking for is a low-cost SIM bundle to call, text and get online, there are cheaper deals elsewhere.

Customer satisfaction at Vodafone stands at 69% this year, compared to the sector average of 67%.

Overall Rating

3.4

Vodafone is a popular choice with customers looking for a good value SIM-only plan with a choice of data limits up a generous 20GB per month. The biggest bundles come with a free entertainment plan of Sky Sports, Now TV or Spotify, and all SIM deals include unlimited free wi-fi on the London Underground and affordable add-ons to use your phone abroad.

The drawbacks are reports of patchy coverage, higher than average prices and a recent slip in customer satisfaction, according to Ofcom’s annual report. However, if coverage is good in your area and Vodafone offers the right bundle of usage within your budget, it could be the provider for you.

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