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Vodafone vs EE: coverage, 4G/5G speeds and benefits compared

Vodafone and EE logos and VS text

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We compare EE and Vodafone head-to-head to see which has the better mobile network, extra perks and pricing on SIM only and phone contracts. SIM Sherpa is your trusty guide. Last updated: 2nd June 2021

In our head-to-head guide

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Mobile network quality: EE vs Vodafone

Mobile coverage compared on Vodafone and EE

Do EE or Vodafone have the best reception?

Vodafone and EE logos and mobile signal bars

EE and Vodafone are the two best networks for coverage

Countryside dotted with 4G indictors

See coverage target

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

Vodafone and EE are both main network operators. They operate their own mobile networks, free from other companies (EE is owned by BT). There's advantages and disadvantages to both.

We'd say Vodafone lead on basic calls and texts (indoors and out) over EE. They've got more of the UK's physical landmass covered, if you live rurally or travel a lot. In villages, towns and cities, the difference is tiny.

For 4G data (see 5G below), it's the opposite. EE are dominant and have it in more rural locations than Vodafone. But again, in towns and cities, there's no major disadvantage to EE.

When choosing between the two, the key is to check their signal in all the places you'll regularly take your phone. Don't just check your home postcode. Here are their network maps.

Useful link: EE's geographical 4G expansion plans

5G is live and ready to use on both Vodafone and EE

Vodafone best network banner

Latest 5G news

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

If your phone's got 5G or you're thinking of getting one that does, both EE and Vodafone are suitable networks to join. They've both got their 5G networks live, though you'll have to specifically choose a 5G-ready plan.

EE's list of 125+ UK 5G locations is slightly bigger than Vodafone's 100+ places but we'd say EE are doing a better job of getting larger areas within the towns and cities covered with the faster technology.

Our own experience with 5G suggests you need to be in a strong coverage area for the technology to have any speed benefit over 4G. On the edge of coverage zones, it quickly becomes slower than 4G!

So if you definitely want the technology, it's once again a good idea to check street-by-street using the networks' maps below.

Useful link: How Vodafone have been improving their network

Use their coverage checkers

Don't just check at home, test everywhere you'll take your phone

Vodafone coverage map

Vodafone coverage checker

Check Vodafone signal

using their official checker
(opens in new window)

EE coverage map

EE coverage checker

Check EE signal

using their official checker
(opens in new window)

Our verdict on coverage:

A close win for EE

"We think anything EE lack on calls coverage can be made up with WiFi/4G calling, so their superiority for 4G and 5G data puts them at an advantage over Vodafone overall."

Compare pricing and deals

How 4G speeds compare on EE vs Vodafone

Are EE's downloads still faster than Vodafone's?

EE and Vodafone logos with a speedometer

EE's 4G downloads faster on average than Vodafone

EE 5G locations on map of United Kingdom

See future 5G cities

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

On either network, you'll still spend most of your time on a 4G connection while 5G is rolled out. And all independent network testing points towards EE being the fastest overall network, ahead of Vodafone.

OpenSignal and Speedtest put EE's typical 4G downloads in the range of 32.99 - 35.9 Mbps (depending which you ask), whereas Vodafone's is reported at 21.15 - 25.1 Mbps. So on average, EE are almost 50% faster.

Where we've found this more noticeable is in smaller towns and countryside. Vodafone's 4G dips to below 10 Mbps, while EE can hold up towards 20 Mbps. In cities, both are capable of 70+ Mbps.

Again, a lot depends on where you mostly use your phone. Even Vodafone's typical speeds will let you do stuff like stream in HD without buffering. But we've found overall general usage is just that little bit nippier on EE.

Useful link: About EE's faster 4G+ service

5G early test data puts Vodafone ahead

Vodafone 5G locations map

Read 5G rollout news

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

Realistically, you'll still probably spend most your time on a 4G data connection, so we'd argue that's still more important. But for 5G speeds, there is some early testing data for EE and Vodafone.

Speedtest found that Vodafone's typical 5G downloads measured at 166.77 Mbps and could peak at 288.17 Mbps. EE's averaged at 142.86 Mbps and peaked at 245.73 Mbps.

Both look to put even home broadband to shame and will start to open up new technologies on our phones beyond streaming, browsing and games.

But we'd still say the main advantage of 5G over 4G is the greater number of people who can get a reliable data connection in the same place simultaneously, meaning better data in busy places.

Useful link: EE's 5G vs 4G guide

Our verdict on 5G/4G speeds:

Win for EE

"EE customers can expect to have faster network speeds than than Vodafone. If having the fastest speeds is important to you, the choice at the moment is still pretty simple."

Compare pricing and deals

WiFi calling / 4G calling on Vodafone vs EE

Which has the best network features to keep you connected?

Vodafone and EE logos and some gears

EE's WiFi calling supports calls and SMS

EE WiFi calling

Check device support

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

Every pay monthly plan on EE includes WiFi calling and 4G calling (Flex and pay as you go deals do not include them). These help you to keep making calls, even where mobile signal can't reach.

WiFi calling lets your phone connect to WiFi instead of regular mobile signal for making and taking calls without using an app. EE's scheme also supports SMS texts too (Vodafone's does too).

4G Calling is similar and lets your phone use 4G signal for calls, which are normally only carried on 2G/3G. This means you've got a better chance of having a signal (more frequencies) and the audio quality is better too.

The only real issues with both on EE are whether your phone is supported. iPhone models with the feature should work automatically. But Android phones, bought from other networks might not connect.

Useful link: EE's help guide on WiFi calling

Vodafone also have both technologies on select plans

Vodafone WiFi calling scheme

See supported phones

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

Like EE, Vodafone restrict the WiFi calling functionality to their pay monthly plans and only selected ones too: join on a Basics or pay as you go plan and you won't get access to it.

These strip out any roaming, WiFi calling or 4G calling but are much cheaper than Vodafone's main set of SIM only deals:

Vodafone's scheme now supports SMS text messages (though we've not yet tested it). And there's the same issue as EE around Android phones not being guaranteed to be supported if they were bought from other mobile network providers.

If you're joining on SIM only and are really keen on the feature. It's worth testing as soon as your SIM arrives, so you can return it within 14 days if you can't get it to work.

If you're taking a phone contract with Vodafone, WiFi calling works on any model that's listed as having it as a feature (check specifications pages on each model).

Useful link: Vodafone's WiFi calling info page

Our verdict on WiFi calling:

Narrow win for EE

"EE have had WiFi calling the longest and their list of supported phones is bigger, so we'd say you've got a better chance of it working with EE than Vodafone. The functionality itself is basically the same though."

Compare pricing and deals

Perks and benefits on EE vs Vodafone

How roaming compares on Vodafone and EE

Every network now has to offer free EU roaming, but what about further afield?

Branded roaming icons from EE and Vodafone

Vodafone offer inclusive worldwide roaming on select plans

Vodafone Global Roaming

What you can get

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

The number of inclusive roaming destinations you get on Vodafone depends on which plan you sign up to. Most pay monthly deals include only EU destinations at no extra cost (see country list here).

But you can get an extra 29 inclusive worldwide countries, by choosing a plan that comes with Global Roaming Plus. That's now currently only their Unlimited Max plans.

These deals give you the full 81 countries:

Like EE, Vodafone give you 4G data (and now 5G if your plan includes) wherever the technologies are available in the country you're travelling to.

We rate the scheme higher than EE's equivalent at the moment, although we still think Three's Go Roam scheme with free roaming in 71 destinations still beats both for simplicity and being genuinely no extra cost.

Useful link: All roaming costs on Vodafone

EE have way less worldwide inclusive roaming options

Free EU roaming on EE

See latest destinations

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

Like Vodafone, most of the plans on EE only get you inclusive roaming within the EU (here's their list of countries). Also like Vodafone, you'll need to pay extra to get more worldwide deestinations included on EE.

On EE, it's only a five extra destinations you can access by choosing a Roam Further Pass as a Smart Benefit or paying for it separately for a fixed monthly cost.

Choose extra roaming as a Smart Benefit with any of these:

Otherwise, EE operate roaming in a more conventional way, where you either pay just for what you use abroad or buy travel passes that get you chunks of data to use in select countries (read EE's full roaming guide here).

Whether this matters to you will depend on where you tend to travel and how often. In general though, we'd say EE have fallen behind Vodafone for roaming.

Useful link: All other roaming costs on EE

Our verdict on roaming:

Vodafone win

"If you mainly travel to EU countries, there's basically no difference between the two. Vodafone do have more options for inclusive worldwide roaming that will appeal to frequent travellers."

Compare pricing and deals

Extra benefits compared on Vodafone and EE

Do EE or Vodafone's plans come with better additional perks?

EE and Vodafone benefit icons

EE offer entertainment trials and Smart benefits

EE Smart Benefits banner

How they work

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

On top of a free trial to four different streaming services (and free data to use them) that every EE pay monthly customer is entitled to claim, some plans now include a set number of Smart Benefits too.

The benefits include a video data pass (unlimited data for using these apps), a Roam Further pass (extra destinations), Apple Music, BT Sport Ultimate, BritBox and Amazon Prime Video.

All these lets you choose at least one Smart Benefit:

There is a premium for taking a Smart plan that includes one of these vs taking a plan without. But it's usually the case you'll save against buying the benefit separately. But do check.

Useful link: EE's guide to their Smart Benefits

Vodafone are light on added extras

VeryMe banner

See example offers

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

Even though the basic cost of Vodafone's plans are at the higher end, you don't actually get an awful lot of standout unique benefits to make it worth paying the premium (unlike their cheaper sub-brand VOXI).

Vodafone do offer Entertainment Plans with an included subscription to one of four services. But we'd point out these typically cost £6 extra per month vs plans with the same data but no subscriptions (so it's not a freebie).

Pick an inclusive subscription with any of these SIM only deals:

Every pay monthly Vodafone customer also gets access to Vodafone's VeryMe Rewards within the MyVodafone app. This serves you freebies, offers and discounts on online and high-street shopping, food and drink and experiences.

If you're and deal-hunter and are motivated enough to sit and scroll, you can find some decent offers in there. But we expect many people will barely look at them, never mind actually ever benefit from them.

Useful link: Read our full Vodafone review

Our verdict on extra benefits:

EE win

"Even if you don't bother paying more for a plan with Smart Benefits on EE, you can at least get some free trial subscriptions thrown in, while all Vodafone's extras cost extra."

Compare pricing and deals

Vodafone and EE deals and pricing

Comparing SIM only plans on Vodafone and EE

Are EE or Vodafone's SIM only deals cheaper?

Vodafone and EE SIM cards

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Our verdict on SIM only pricing:

No clear winner

"Both Vodafone and EE are a little more expensive than their no-frills rivals for SIM only, and evenly matched between themselves for value. Look out for their promotional plans, particularly on big data plans."

Compare pricing and deals

Special offers running on Vodafone and EE

A quick look at the promotions running on both networks this month

Special offers logos in Vodafone and EE branding

Comparing phone contracts on EE and Vodafone

Are you better off taking a pay monthly handset from Vodafone or EE?

EE and Vodafone logos with a generic white phone

Vodafone and EE offer similar contracts at similar prices

Compare phone contract prices

Use phone deal finder

at simsherpa.com
(opens in new window)

There's two ways to join both EE and Vodafone. You sign up directly with the network themselves, or they sell via re-sellers like Carphone Warehouse, Fonehouse, Chitter Chatter and more (here's how that works).

However you join, you'll get what we'd call a standard mobile contract. One where you pay monthly for your usage and the device as one - usually last 24 months, rather than finance-based deals.

Like Vodafone, EE offer an annual upgrade programme on their top-end phone models, which lets you upgrade your phone after just 12 months. But you do have to trade it in with EE/Vodafone for cash (you don't get to keep the old phone). Read their guide to how it works here to see if you think it's worth it.

Their ranges of handsets are similar, with all the Apple and Samsung Galaxy models you'd expect and cheaper mid-range Android too. If we had to generalise, we'd say Vodafone are priced very slightly lower than EE.

In terms of extras and benefits, take a look at our comparison in the section further up the page here. This will come to down to personal preference but in our view neither Vodafone nor EE have any killer benefits that massively trump the other on phone contracts.

Useful link: Use our phone contract comparison tool

Our verdict on phone contracts:

Little to split them

"While Vodafone's phone contracts might be a smidge cheaper than EE's, there's little to split them for benefits. Their network in your local area and which of their perks you like best might be the deal clincher."

Compare phone prices

More Vodafone guides

More articles about EE