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Talkmobile vs giffgaff: how the two budget networks compare

Talkmobile vs giffgaff

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We compare giffgaff and Talkmobile head-to-head to see which offers the best 4G/5G coverage, data speeds and benefits. Last updated: 18th December 2023.

In our Talkmobile vs giffgaff guide

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Network differences on giffgaff vs Talkmobile

Do Talkmobile or giffgaff provide better coverage?

Which network has the more widespread 5G/4G/3G/2G network?

giffgaff and Talkmobile logo with mobile signal bars

4G/3G/2G coverage is close between the two networks

Screenshot of network FAQs

See all changes

at talkmobile.co.uk
(opens in new window)

Talkmobile and giffgaff are smaller providers that piggyback off a larger network to provide signal. Talkmobile use Vodafone’s network, while giffgaff are partly owned by O2 and as such use their network.

For call signal, there’s not much to split them on. They both cover a similar percentage of the UK’s landmass for calls, putting them both in joint-first place for call signal across all networks.

In urban areas you shouldn’t notice a big difference between the two networks for 4G data coverage (see 5G below). But Talkmobile tend to provide more widespread 4G in rural areas than giffgaff.

But overall, it’s important to use both networks’ coverage maps to check signal in your area before you join either of them. The national picture is less important than which one gives you the best coverage locally.

Useful link: How Talkmobile have upgraded their network

giffgaff’s 5G coverage is a lot better than Talkmobile’s

5g now available on giffgaff banner

Read their guide

at giffgaff.com
(opens in new window)

Both giffgaff and Talkmobile have offered access to their hosts’ full 5G networks for a while now. As time has gone on, more information about each networks’ 5G has come out, so we can say for certain which has the better 5G signal.

Last time we checked, giffgaff had 5G live in a massive 2000+ UK towns and cities while Talkmobile only had it live in 160+ locations. That’s a huge difference, but how good is coverage in these locations?

You’ll still only get 5G on a street-by-street basis on both. But in our research we found that giffgaff were the better network when it came to covering their 5G locations than Talkmobile.

So you’re both more likely to get 5G in your area on giffgaff than Talkmobile and you’re more likely to stay on 5G as you move around in places where both networks have it. But, again, it’s worth checking their maps before you buy.

Useful link: Our guide to the best 5G networks

Use a coverage checker before you join

Check signal at home and other places you'll use your mobile

Talkmobile signal checker

Talkmobile coverage checker

See coverage map

at talkmobile.co.uk
(opens in new window)

giffgaff signal checker

giffgaff coverage checker

Use giffgaff’s map

at giffgaff.com
(opens in new window)

Alternative coverage checkers

Independent coverage checkers

Use OpenSignal checker
Use Ofcom checker

Our verdict on coverage:

A close draw

“We couldn’t split these networks on call signal. And while Talkmobile benefit from more widespread 4G, their 5G coverage falls behind giffgaff’s. Your choice will depend on which one provides better coverage for each technology in your area.”

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Data speeds: giffgaff and Talkmobile compared

Which provider offers the faster 4G and 5G data speeds?

Talkmobile and giffgaff logos with speedometer icon

Talkmobile’s 4G data speeds are typically faster

Now with 4G signal Talkmobile banner

Read more

at talkmobile.co.uk
(opens in new window)

Talkmobile’s hosts Vodafone have put a lot of effort into improving data speeds and it definitely shows. giffgaff’s hosts O2 have consistently been the slowest network for 4G for a long time and that’s still the case.

We use Opensignal’s reports to check typical 4G data speeds on all networks. They measured typical downloads of 27.9 Mbps on Talkmobile’s hosts and 20.9 Mbps on giffgaff’s hosts in their latest report.

Only giffgaff have any speed caps on their Always On plans, so Talkmobile come out as the better choice for 4G speeds. In our real life tests we got top speeds up to 110+ Mbps on Talkmobile and around 90 Mbps on giffgaff.

Both networks’ typical speeds have improved and both are still fast enough to watch HD videos without buffering. But Talkmobile will be noticeably faster for more data-heavy activities like big downloads.

Useful link: Our Talkmobile review | Our giffgaff review

5G speeds are much healthier on Talkmobile

Talkmobile's network upgrades

Read about upgrades

at talkmobile.co.uk
(opens in new window)

We use results from independent network testers Opensignal and Speedtest to see which networks have the fastest 5G data speeds. Their latest reports show Talkmobile in second place and giffgaff in dead last.

Typical speeds on Talkmobile’s hosts sit between 114.3 Mbps - 146.19 Mbps, with peak speeds up to an impressive 315.35 Mbps. On giffgaff’s hosts, speeds sit between 77.0 Mbps - 78.88 Mbps with peaks of 208.14 Mbps.

It’s clear to see which network you’ll prefer if getting the fastest speeds is a priority for you. Both networks’ speed results are starting to improve, but we don’t see giffgaff overtaking Talkmobile any time soon.

Talkmobile are the clear winners here. But they’re still not the fastest of all 5G networks (read our guide to find out more), but as they’re in second place we can recommend them if fast speeds are a necessity for you.

Useful link: Our guide to the best 5G networks

Our verdict on data speeds:

Win for Talkmobile

“Talkmobile benefit greatly by being on Vodafone’s network when it comes to 4G and 5G data speeds, while giffgaff are stuck in the unenviable position of last place for both. Talkmobile take this one easily.”

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Extra network features

How do giffgaff and Talkmobile help you stay connected?

Talkmobile and giffgaff logos with phone

Talkmobile include WiFi/4G calling, giffgaff don’t

WiFi calling Talkmobile banner

Read their guide

at talkmobile.co.uk
(opens in new window)

WiFi calling is a very important feature when it comes to making calls indoors. This is because call signal can sometimes struggle to get into buildings, so being able to connect to calls with WiFi signal can often come in handy.

Between the two networks, only Talkmobile offer WiFi calling. They also include 4G calling which lets you connect to calls using 4G signal. If you can’t get call signal at home on giffgaff, there’s not much you can do.

giffgaff do offer access to 8000+ free WiFi hotspots on the Underground and overground. This can help you save a bit of data on the go and stay connected where you’d otherwise get no signal. Talkmobile offer none.

Outside of that, both Talkmobile and giffgaff offer call forwarding and tethering. But we’d say it’s more important to have WiFi calling to eliminate indoor blackspots, so we give Talkmobile the nod for this one.

Useful link: Our guide to the best WiFi calling networks

Our verdict on network features:

Win for Talkmobile

“Having WiFi calling is more important than any other network feature as it can be crucial if you can’t get call signal in your home. It’s a big gap in giffgaff’s network experience that their free WiFi hotspots simply don’t make up for. Talkmobile take this one.”

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Added benefits on giffgaff vs Talkmobile

Roaming on Talkmobile vs giffgaff

Which network is better for using your SIM abroad?

Talkmobile and giffgaff logos with a globe

Talkmobile are a bit better for EU roaming

Talkmobile EU countries

See countries list

at talkmobile.co.uk
(opens in new window)

Talkmobile have brought their inclusive EU roaming back, letting you roam in these 41 EU/EEA countries at no extra cost on all plans. We’re glad to see this as many networks have removed their inclusive EU roaming.

In the EU you can use your mins and texts to UK numbers, even if you are limited to 5GB of data. That should easily be enough for short trips. Go over that and you’ll have to buy a Euro Holiday Booster.

You’ll even get 5G while abroad, which helps expand data coverage and gives you the best speeds wherever possible. Overall, Talkmobile are an excellent value choice for roaming in the EU.

You don’t get inclusive roaming beyond the EU. Instead you’ll pay for your usage per min, text and MB at these rates. This can get expensive quickly (1GB = £150!) but you can set a cap to prevent overspending.

Useful link: Our guide to the best EU roaming networks

giffgaff are also a good choice for EU roaming

Inclusive roaming on EE

See all countries

at giffgaff.com
(opens in new window)

giffgaff also include EU roaming on all of their plans, letting you use your SIM in these 38 EU/EEA destinations at no extra cost. You can use all your minutes and texts to UK numbers and a decent amount of data.

You can use 5GB of data allowance in the EU (same as on Talkmobile). That should be enough for most users on a short trip. If you do hit that limit then you’ll have to pay for your usage at these rates.

There is no inclusive worldwide roaming, so to use your SIM beyond the EU you’ll have to top up and pay at these rates. You’ll eat through your credit quickly (1GB = £200 in the USA), so keep an eye on your usage.

Finally, you don’t get 5G abroad. giffgaff are still a very good choice for going to the EU.

Useful link: Check giffgaff’s out of plan roaming rates

Our verdict on roaming:

Small win for Talkmobile

“Both networks include EU roaming on all their plans and let you use the same amount of data while you’re there. The only thing we can really split them on is the fact that Talkmobile offer 5G abroad, so they just take this one.”

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How Talkmobile and giffgaff compare for flexibility

Which provider offers the more flexible deals?

Talkmobile and giffgaff logos with phone streaming

giffgaff offer no-contract SIMs on excellent value deals

giffgaff benefits banner

Read About Us

at giffgaff.com
(opens in new window)

giffgaff offer a range of super flexible 1-month SIM only deals that let you switch your plan up or down or leave giffgaff entirely at the end of the month. There are no early termination fees for doing so.

On top of this, you don’t need to pass a credit check to join on SIM only. So giffgaff are a great choice if you’ve been rejected for a credit check by O2, on top of them already being a better value alternative.

But if you want better value out of your plan and don’t mind signing up to a longer contract, you can take an 18-month contract on giffgaff. These also let you join without credit checks and switch plans each month.

giffgaff offer a great deal of flexibility on their plans, meaning you should never be stuck on a plan that doesn’t suit your budget or needs. That can save you money on top of giffgaff’s already low prices.

Useful link: See all SIM only plans on giffgaff

Talkmobile have flexible plans with no credit checks

Collage of EE's different plan types

Read their terms

at talkmobile.co.uk
(opens in new window)

Talkmobile don’t require you to pass a credit check to join one of their 1-month or 12-month SIM only contracts. You will have to put in some personal details, but this is just so they know who you are.

As long as you put in your details correctly you shouldn’t be stopped from joining them. They also give you the flexibility to switch your plan up or down on their 1-month contracts. So, what are the downsides?

Well, Talkmobile’s 1-month deals are still technically on contracts. That means you have to give 30 days notice before you can leave. So if you forget to do that, you’ll have to stick it out for another month.

And you can’t switch your plan for free on their 12-month contracts like on giffgaff’s 18-month contracts. It’s more of a trade off between better prices and flexibility, while giffgaff give you a bit of both.

Useful link: Our guide to the best 30-day rolling plans

Our verdict on flexibility:

Slight win for giffgaff

“Ultimately, giffgaff offer more flexibility both on their 1-month deals and their longer contracts than Talkmobile. giffgaff are one of the best choices for users who want to leave their options open.”

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Other benefits on Talkmobile vs giffgaff

What other benefits do either network offer?

Talkmobile and giffgaff logos with globe

Talkmobile’s customer service is noticeably better

Screenshot of Talkmobile customer service methods

How to get help

at talkmobile.co.uk
(opens in new window)

Usually, budget networks keep their costs down by not having call centres, meaning you’re unable to call them to get help. But this isn’t the case with Talkmobile, who offer over-the-phone and online customer service.

They’re too small to show up in government regulator Ofcom’s report, but from our experience we’ve found their call agents were very efficient at helping us and resolved our issues very quickly.

If you prefer you can get in touch with their online chat agents. We’ve found it quick and easy to get in contact and their agents were good at resolving any issue we have. They also have an online help section.

Their call centres and webchat are open for long hours, so you can usually get help no matter your schedule. On the other hand, giffgaff only have an online help section with no call centres or chat agents.

Useful link: Our guide to the best customer service networks

giffgaff offer nice rewards for bringing on your friends

giffgaff payback banner

How to get it

at giffgaff.com
(opens in new window)

Part of the reason why giffgaff’s user base has grown so fast over the years is due to them rewarding their users for bringing their friends onto their network.

The way it works is that, as an existing giffgaff user, you can send a special link to a friend where they can take a giffgaff SIM and either take a goodybag (SIM only plan) or top it up with credit.

If they take a goodybag worth £10 or more or top up with at least £10 of credit then you both get £5 free credit. You can put this into a PayPal account twice a year, give it to charity or just keep it as credit.

giffgaff even give you free credit for helping other users in their help forum. It’s handy to get a bit of extra value out of your giffgaff plan and it helps giffgaff grow as a network. It’s a true win-win scenario.

Useful link: The best loyalty reward schemes of all networks

Our verdict on benefits:

Depends on what you want

“Whether you prefer the better customer service of Talkmobile or better customer rewards of giffgaff depends on what you want out of your plan.”

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Comparing pricing, offers and deals

SIM only on Talkmobile and giffgaff

How do the two networks compare for SIM only prices and flexibility?

giffgaff and Talkmobile logos with SIM card



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Phone contracts on Talkmobile vs giffgaff

We go over the kinds of contracts and prices either network offer

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giffgaff offer excellent flexibility on their phone contracts

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Read more

at giffgaff.com
(opens in new window)

giffgaff’s base most of their phone contracts on finance agreements (basically loans) with the cost of your phone and your usage plan (mins, texts, data) split into two bills that make up your monthly payment.

That means you can still switch or leave your usage plan just like you can on SIM only. And you can pay off your phone at any point during your contract to upgrade to a new phone if you wish.

They don’t let you set a different contract length (24-month contracts only) or change your upfront cost, but overall they offer great flexibility on their phone contracts.

giffgaff’s phone contracts are quite competitive on cost, especially as their usage plans are so cheap. You will need a good credit score to get one, but if that’s not an issue then giffgaff are an excellent choice.

Useful link: See giffgaff’s full range of phone contracts

Better value deals on Talkmobile deals via resellers

Lyca Mobile Klarna phone contract options

See phone range

at talkmobile.co.uk
(opens in new window)

Talkmobile don’t let you take a phone contract directly from them. Instead you have to stay on a SIM only contract until they decide you can upgrade to a phone contract. This is only really meant for people with poor credit history.

However, you can get a Talkmobile phone contract from a third party reseller such as Fonehouse. These tend to be better value than giffgaff’s as these resellers buy lots of phones in bulk.

If you do get upgraded to a Talkmobile phone contract or if you join via a reseller you’ll be put onto a 24-month contract with no finance options, no early upgrades and no way to leave your usage contract early.

In all, phone contracts are not a strength of Talkmobile who seem to be more focused around selling SIM only plans. The resellers can be a good option if you don’t mind trading flexibility for a lower price.

Useful link: See Talkmobile phone contracts at Fonehouse

Our verdict on phone contracts:

Win for giffgaff

“At the end of the day, only giffgaff let you join directly on a phone contract. And they’re one of the best value and most flexible choices of all networks. You can get better value via a reseller, but we can’t give Talkmobile credit for what another party offers. giffgaff win this one easily.”

Compare pricing and deals

More Talkmobile guides

Other giffgaff guides