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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: 10th May 2021.
Is signal worse on Talkmobile than Vodafone?
Even though Talkmobile were originally set up by Carphone Warehouse way-back-when, they were actually bought by Vodafone in 2015 and use their network for signal. So is the reception the same?
In our side-by-side tests for 2G (calls), 3G (calls and data) and 4G (mainly data) of a Talkmobile SIM card and a Vodafone SIM in the same phone, we got the same signal bars on each, in different locations.
The Vodafone network’s strengths are calls - with the joint-largest amount of the country’s physical landmass covered and naturally better frequencies for indoor signal. They’re the second biggest for 4G too.
So on these technologies, we’d say joining Talkmobile is the same as Vodafone for signal, so you shouldn’t notice a difference if you switch between them. Do use a coverage checker if you’re new to them though.
Useful link: Talkmobile’s network guide page
If your phone’s got 5G data as a feature and you want to make use of it, Vodafone is your only choice out of them and Talkmobile. There’s no 5G data on Talkmobile and we don’t expect it for a long time.
You can still use a Talkmobile SIM in a 5G-ready phone. It just won’t ever register on the newer technology. Vodafone offer 5G on SIM only and phone contracts and have rolled it out within 100+ locations.
We’re a long way off 5G coverage being anywhere near as wide as 4G and older technologies. But Vodafone are achieving some exciting data speeds (averaging 166.77 Mbps).
Useful link: Vodafone’s 5G rollout latest news
Test in all the places you take your phone
using Talkmobile's official map
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using Vodafone's official map
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“On the older 4G, 3G and 2G technologies we’re confident there’s no difference between Vodafone and Talkmobile. But Vodafone having 5G data switched on is technically a signal difference between them.”
Is data faster on Vodafone than on Talkmobile
People often wonder whether joining a cheaper brand like Talkmobile instead of the network they run on, Vodafone, means that you’ll get a worse data experience and slower downloads. So we tested for real.
In identical phones with a Talkmobile and Vodafone SIM in, we went around a number of locations and tested whether the speeds were in the same range. They were. Even superfast 4G+ city centre connections.
We found on both providers in real-life you can actually go way faster (upwards of 70 Mbps, like great fibre home broadband) in urban locations and also slower in rural places (8 Mbps or so).
Useful link: Vodafone’s speed capped unlimited plans
“Obviously, with the lack of 5G on Talkmobile there will be differences if you joined Vodafone on a 5G plan with a 5G phone. But on like-for-like technologies, we can’t find any speed caps or similar on Talkmobile that made them slower than Vodafone directly.”
Are there any other network differences between them?
It’s more advanced network features where Vodafone start to have obvious advantages over Talkmobile. There’s no WiFi calling on Talkmobile, or the similar technology 4G calling (VoLTE). Vodafone have both.
It means you’ll be relying on conventional mobile signal alone on Talkmobile for calls. If you’re somewhere with poor indoor 2G/3G Vodafone signal, you could lose quality or not be able to place calls at all.
WiFi calling on Vodafone helps by letting your phone connect to their network for calls over WiFi. So if no mobile signal can get through, you’ve got a back up. 4G calling opens up more signal types to use.
You get both technologies as standard on all Vodafone pay monthly deals, apart from their cheaper Basics SIMs, which have neither. But are significantly cheaper than standard deals.
Useful link: Vodafone’s WiFi calling guide
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Getting access to a network of free public WiFi hotspots with your mobile deal is a nice benefit you get with particular networks. But neither Vodafone or Talkmobile offer anything in this department.
You used to get free WiFi on London’s Underground network with Vodafone but that’s now been withdrawn, meaning they’re the only one of the UK’s main four networks not to offer it.
Nationwide, Vodafone also don’t use their venture into home broadband to bring you any national network of hotspots either like you get on BT or O2. And Talkmobile don’t have anything either.
There’s loads of free WiFi about nowadays anyway and both networks offer large data plans. But we still think it’s worth knowing what you do and don’t get with each to help you decide.
Useful link: Our free WiFi hotspots guide
“The indoor call signal on Talkmobile/Vodafone is better than average but it’s nice to have WiFi calling as backup on Vodafone, which Talkmobile don’t have. So it’s a win for Vodafone here.”
What extras do you get on Vodafone but not Talkmobile?
Like basically every mobile network, Talkmobile and Vodafone still offer EU roaming for the same cost as using your phone in the UK (apart from on Vodafone’s Basics SIMs, which can’t be used abroad at all).
So for trips over to Europe, there’s no real difference between Vodafone and Talkmobile. Although you’ll get 5G roaming where available on Vodafone but not Talkmobile. Otherwise the main difference is long-haul.
Some Vodafone plans (their Unlimited Max) ones include Global Roaming Plus. This lets you use your phone in these 81 countries without paying extra. And the list includes popular places like the USA.
It’s an excellent benefit. But it is a premium one. It’s only on the most expensive plans. Roaming on Talkmobile outside the EU gets expensive fast (see charges). And it can on Vodafone too (see theirs).
Useful link: Our guide to the best roaming networks
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If you’re big into websites like Groupon and other voucher websites, Vodafone’s VeryMe Rewards might appeal. It works via Vodafone’s app and sends you personalised offers on retail and services.
It’s Vodafone’s own take on O2’s Priority but probably isn’t as developed. There are some genuine freebies in there but you do have to check offers are actually a decent deal. Talkmobile have nothing similar.
There’s also Vodafone’s Entertainment plans, which for a monthly extra cost, include an entertainment subscription of your choice from YouTube Premium, Spotify Premium or Amazon Prime.
Again, be cautious with these. The plans work out more expensive than their non-Entertainment equivalents, often by £5 or £6. So you could only be saving a pound or two on the services themselves.
Useful link: More about Vodafone's Entertainment plans
What’s better on Talkmobile than Vodafone?
When you take a pay monthly SIM only plan on most networks, they’ll run a credit check. This looks at your record of paying telecoms and other bills, to make sure you’ll pay for any usage you wrack up with them.
Vodafone run a credit check for theirs (apart from pay as you go). Talkmobile do not. They only run an ID check, which makes sure you are who you say you are (here’s how they check).
So if you’ve struggled to get accepted for a deal on Vodafone directly, then Talkmobile are an option to get on the network, without having to pass one. There’s even scope to upgrade to a phone contract later.
They’ve also got a decent system of spending caps that let you set a cap as £0 or anywhere upwards in £1 steps. That helps you avoid surprise bills, when Vodafone jumps in steps of £10 that could catch you out.
Useful link: Read our full Talkmobile review
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There are quite a few low-cost networks around but a lot of them keep their costs down by being “online-only”. That means, if you have a problem, you have to go through social media or webchat.
Talkmobile buck that trend and publish details of how to just ring them nice and clearly on their website. And when you do ring them, we found you get through quickly and they’re good at dealing with your queries.
That compares favourably to Vodafone, who have long been bottom of the pile with the telecoms regulator Ofcom, for the amount of complaints they receive about their customer service.
It’s one of those situations where smaller is better. Vodafone have millions of customers to deal with. Talkmobile have relatively few, so find it easier to sort out their problems.
Useful link: How to get in contact with Vodafone
“Talkmobile’s definitely a low-frills provider but they’ve got better customer service than their competitors and Vodafone. Vodafone’s benefits are a more premium option, where you pay more to get more. It depends on your priorities.”
Which offers better value on pay monthly SIMs?
Here’s what promotions each have on this month
Which offers the best phone contracts?
Out of the two, Vodafone are more set up for phone contracts than Talkmobile. They have their own range of pay monthly phones here and you can also get a Vodafone phone contract via separate retailers:
That’s companies like Carphone Warehouse, Fonehouse and ChitterChatter. They source their own phones but work with Vodafone to sell you a contract for them on their network.
Because they buy more phones than Vodafone themselves, they get better prices with manufacturers, which they pass onto you. So it’s often cheaper to buy via those retailers than direct.
We include all the ways to join Vodafone in our phone comparison tool, so definitely give it a go if you want to join Vodafone on a phone contract.
Useful link: Compare phone contracts with us
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You can’t join Talkmobile directly on a phone contract immediately. Although they do have a small range of low-cost handsets that you can upgrade onto, once you’ve been a SIM only customer for a while.
This can be a good option, if you’ve ever been declined for a phone contract before. Take a SIM only with Talkmobile, build up a good record of payment, take an upgrade and then build up more good credit.
If you want a phone contract on Talkmobile immediately, you can get one if you join via a third party retailer. Fonehouse offer Talkmobile phone contracts for new customers, without having to upgrade from SIM only.
The range of phones (which you can see here) focuses on lower-cost models but still has some iPhone and Samsung Galaxy ones. They’re decently priced too, so definitely worth a look.
Useful link: Compare all phone contracts
“If you want a high-end, latest model, Vodafone are your only option. If you’re after a cheaper handset, use our price comparisons to see if you’d be better off joining Talkmobile or Vodafone.”