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Talkmobile are owned by Vodafone and use their network. So which is better, who has the better deals and are there coverage differences? We investigate. SIM Sherpa is your trusty guide. Last updated: 6th February 2020.
✔ Talkmobile are Vodafone's no-frills brand
Talkmobile are a mobile virtual network operator that uses the Vodafone network to bring its own customers signal. In fact, Vodafone directly own Talkmobile but run them as a separate no-frills brand.
Just because Talkmobile are owned by Vodafone, it doesn't mean the two providers offer exactly the same network experience.
In the next sections, we list what's the same and different about Vodafone and Talkmobile's networks.
✔ Talkmobile don't offer new 5G dataCheck your signal
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It used to be the case that Talkmobile was a 3G-only service, which resulted in coverage differences between Vodafone. Talkmobile do now offer the same 4G data as Vodafone.
The only difference now is that Talkmobile don't have the new 5G data signal that you can get in some very select places on Vodafone. Other than that Talkmobile have identical 2G/3G/4G coverage to Vodafone.
The frequencies that Vodafone/Talkmobile use for calls are particularly good for indoor call coverage. And we're impressed with the number of rural locations that get their 4G.
Either provider is a solid choice for getting a good signal, although any network varies from region to region, so definitely check everywhere you plan to use your phone before signing up to either.
As we say there's no 5G service on Talkmobile, so we can't compare those data speeds. But we have physically tested a Talkmobile SIM vs a Vodafone SIM for 4G and 3G.
We found no built-in speed differences between the two providers, when we took both SIMs to a variety of location types and did speed tests on them.
Both providers were capable of top speeds around the 58 Mbps mark (like a good home fibre broadband). And low speeds around 6 - 8 Mbps (more like non-fibre telephone line broadband).
Overall, indendent network testing experts Opensignal and Speedtest by Ookla expect typical downloads of 21.15 - 25.1 Mbps. That's very healthy and lets you do even demanding things like watching HD videos without buffering.
Useful link: What Talkmobile say about their network.
✔ You'll only get WiFi calling Vodafone
One handy network feature you get on Vodafone is WiFi calling which lets you make and take calls anywhere there's weak or no mobile signal (like underground or in buildings with thick walls).
Talkmobile don't offer this service (see which network we think has the best WiFi calling in our guide here), so it's one network difference between the two that's worth knowing.
You also don't get 4G calling on Talkmobile either, which you get on Vodafone's pay monthly deals (except Basics SIMs). This improves call coverage and audio quality.
Finally, Vodafone customers also get free WiFi on London's TFL network. This isn't something Talkmobile offer either.
Useful link: Learn more about Vodafone's WiFi calling feature
✔ SureSignal boosters only work with Vodafone-registered phone numbers
Another option for areas where there's low signal are Vodafone's SureSignal signal boosters, which plug into your WiFi and create a 3G phone signal in your home to connect your phone to for calls and texts (and data if you don't want to use the WiFi).
These aren't just like Vodafone putting an actual phone mast in your house, so TalkMobile SIMs or phones won't be able to connect to a SureSignal boost like the regular network.
That's because you need to manage your SureSignal box from a Vodafone account and register each number that can access it. Those numbers need to be registered specifically to Vodafone, not just any provider that uses their network (see Vodafone help article here).
Useful link: Learn more about Vodafone Signal boosters
Are Talkmobile always cheaper than Vodafone
Choose which networks you'd consider:
✔ Vodafone unlock any phone for free
The first thing to note is that Vodafone will unlock any phone from them for free as long as you've been on the network for at least 30 days and/or paid 3 months' bills.
If you're a Vodafone customer, here's how to get your phone unlocked. If you've bought a Vodafone-locked handset from someone else (like eBay etc), you can still get it unlocked by following Vodafone's non-customer unlock instructions here.
If for whatever reason you don't want to unlock the phone from Vodafone, *the consensus on online forums is that you can use a Talkmobile SIM in a Vodafone-locked phone but not a Vodafone SIM in a Talkmobile-locked phone.
Useful link: Find a Talkmobile SIM for a Vodafone phone