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Talkmobile review 2020: we find out if their network's any good

Talkmobile logo with a SIM card

The retailers featured on this page may compensate us when our readers follow links to their websites and make a purchase. More

We joined Talkmobile as a real-life customer to put their mobile network coverage, 4G speeds and other benefits to the test. Here are the results. SIM Sherpa is your trusty guide. Last updated: January 23rd 2020.

Overall rating

Talkmobile are a good option to get on the Vodafone network
 (3/5)

"Talkmobile will suit anyone who wants an affordable SIM only plan with a small amount of data that uses the Vodafone network, but doesn't want to commit to a long-term deal or pass a credit check.

You get some basic minutes, texts and data to use on a network with excellent coverage. Talkmobile is no-frills and that's kind of the point. There are no extra benefits adding to the cost. But the basics are covered."

The 3 best bits

1) No credit check to pass
2) Cheap unlimited calls
3) Quality mobile coverage

The 3 worst bits

1) No WiFi calling
2) Large data plans less competitive
3) No other extra benefits

Information symbol We're a professional reviews website but we bought our Talkmobile SIM card as a regular consumer, to test what it's actually like for real-life paying customers. The contents of this review are a combination of our expert industry knowledge and what we experienced during our test.

In our 2020 review of Talkmobile

Overall rating

Our verdict

Overall rating

Network review

Network

4G, 3G and 2G coverage
Data speeds
WiFi calling
Tethering
Free WiFi hotspots

Perks review

Benefits & features

No credit check
Spending caps
Inclusive EU roaming
Data rollover
Freebies
Shared / family plans

Deal review

Deals & plans

Special offers
SIM only plans
Phone contracts
Pay As You Go
Mobile broadband

Customer service review

Customer service

Ofcom data

Talkmobile's mobile network

Coverage: Talkmobile use Vodafone's 4G, 3G and 2G network

Talkmobile network map

Lookup everywhere you'll use your phoneCheck signal here

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

If you didn't know, Talkmobile are actually owned directly by Vodafone. But they're run as a separate brand. So naturally, that's the network Talkmobile runs on. They're not related at all to the broadband company TalkTalk!

You'll get full access to 4G, 3G and 2G signal. Our test Talkmobile SIM had the same number of bars as being on Vodafone themselves. There's no 5G on Talkmobile. And we don't expect there to be for a very long time.

It's hard to do a particularly comprehensive test of any network's coverage, because it varies from postcode to postcode. But we did take our Talkmobile SIM out to do some spot tests.

Larger cities and towns had excellent 4G and 4G+ signal across them. Even in rural places, it seems like Vodafone have got long-range 4G sorted. And 2G/3G for calls is very hard to get away from.

Compared to our Vodafone test SIM, the Talkmobile one had exactly the same number of bars anywhere we went. We couldn't find any evidence of a difference in priority for reception between the two.

Overall, we were impressed Talkmobile's coverage. It's really important to check where you use your phone up front though.

Coverage statistics say 99% of the UK population can get their 4G and 3G at home. That doesn't mean 99% of the UK's landmass, so it's important to check signal everywhere you'll use your phone, not just at home.

Talkmobile's phone call signal is broadcast on frequencies that should find it easier to get into buildings, meaning you've got a better chance of good indoor coverage (although depends on your nearest masts).

Useful link: What Talkmobile say about their network

Coverage rating:
★★★★☆ (excellent)

Rank:
Joint 2nd
(out of 4 places)

Not as good as:
EE
(and all providers that use them)

Similar to:
O2
(and all providers that use them)

4G speeds: Talkmobile offer impressive downloads

Talkmobile 4G data banner

Talkmobile now have 4G data as standardRead more

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

If you've read anywhere that Talkmobile only offer 3G and don't have 4G, you can now safely ignore that. They now offer 4G as standard with any of their new SIM only plans. And we rate it pretty highly.

Just because Talkmobile are cheap, it doesn't mean you get an inferior experience. Our own tests found you get the same speeds on Talkmobile as being on Vodafone directly - with no speed caps.

We took our Talkmobile SIM out and about in a range of location types, in the same test phones we use for every network. What we found ties in with what the specialist testers say.

In large urban centres, we were seriously impressed with peak speeds as fast as 58 Mbps over a 4G+ connection. Although 30 - 48 Mbps was more common.

4G+ on Talkmobile

In more suburban places, we measured speeds over regular 4G at around the 13 Mbps mark. HD video streaming on YouTube is still possible at that level.

While in more rural countryside and small towns with 4G, we measured as low as 6 -8 Mbps. Web pages with loads of images were noticeably slower at this kind of speed but you could still stream a standard definition YouTube video confortably.

According to independent network testers Opensignal and Speedtest by Ookla, that means typical download speeds between 21.15 - 25.1 Mbps. That makes for really fast browsing and smooth video streaming.

Although realistically you're looking at lows around 6 - 8 Mbps in rural locations and highs approaching 60 Mbps over 4G+ in urban centres on Talkmobile - that's impressive for any network.

Useful link: More about Talkmobile's 4G

Call technology: Talkmobile don't offer WiFi calling

Vodafone WiFi calling banner

We've rated all the networks with WiFi callingRead our guide

at simsherpa.com
(opens in new window)

One of the benefits on Talkmobile is that their signal for phone calls is on better frequencies for getting idoors, which is a good job because they have no backups like WiFi calling to help out.

WiFi calling is where your phone connects to the mobile network via WiFi, instead of conventional mobile signal, if your regular reception is weak. It lets you make and take calls as normal (read our guide here).

It's rare to find a low-cost network, like Talkmobile, with WiFi calling (iD Mobile are probably the best bet). We think the main networks might prevent smaller providers having it, to create a reason to join them.

You also don't get 4G calling (VoLTE) on Talkmobile either. This would let you make calls on 4G, rather than the usual 2G/3G. That improves coverage and audio quality.

Useful link: All UK mobile networks with WiFi calling

WiFi calling rating:
★☆☆☆☆ (poor)

Same as:
All others

Tethering: it's allowed on all Talkmobile plans

Screenshot of Talkmobile FAQs

Talkmobile let you tether with your SIMRead all FAQs

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

You can use anything up to your entire monthly data allowance on Talkmobile for tethering (otherwise known as personal hotspot). Some providers can be finickity with how much you can use.

Having used tethering on Talkmobile for real, we'd say it works just as we'd expect. There's no rummaging in your account to turn it on and it just works "out of the box".

This is quite a straightforward test. We put the Talkmobile SIM in, turned on personal hotspot and connected a laptop to it.

Everything worked straight way. No having to turn on tethering in our account or similar.

We tested in an area only getting 6 Mbps, so the performance was below what you'd expect from a low-grade home broadband, where images on webpages take a while to load etc.

But overall, tethering works on Talkmobile. No issues for us.

If you've never heard of tethering or personal hotspot, it's when you use your mobile phone's data connection to create a miniature WiFi hotspot around you. Most modern smartphones have the feature.

You've then got a mobile internet connection for those devices that you can use on the train, in the car or anywhere else you can go that's got a 3G or 4G signal with no WiFi.

Useful link: Read Talkmobile FAQs (bottom of linked page)

Tethering rating:
★★★★★ (joint best choice)

Rank:
Joint 1st

Same as:
Most other networks

Better than:
N/A

Talkmobile benefits

There's no credit check to pass to join Talkmobile

ID check question screenshot

They do still ask questions about youRead full terms

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

If you've ever missed a phone bill or been late to pay power and electricity, that can count against your credit history and make it harder to be accepted for a pay monthly phone or SIM only contract.

This isn't something to worry about when you join Talkmobile. There's no credit check to pass - although they do take a number of details off you that might seem a bit like they're doing a credit check.

Talkmobile have assured us all they are doing is checking your ID - that you are who you say you are, and that you're entitled to be setting up a direct debit, using the bank details you've provided.

Once you're a customer and have been reliably paying for your SIM, you may also become eligible to upgrade your Talkmobile SIM to a phone contract too. So Talkmobile could be a good opportunity to re-build your credit.

If you've got good credit, you can ignore all this and just enjoy the decent pricing. Talkmobile isn't only for people with bad credit.

Useful link: Talkmobile's buying online terms and conditions

Spending caps: choose to avoid overspending on Talkmobile

Spending cap screenshot

You can edit your cap more precisely laterHow it works

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

If you've had a pay monthly deal before, you'll know your plan only covers basic minutes, texts and data. But you can spend extra on things like going over a usage limit, roaming or calling premium numbers.

The government regulator Ofcom has now made it so every mobile network must offer you the ability to set a cap on how much you're willing to spend, above and beyond the basic cost of your monthly plan.

But networks have some license in how flexible they are with the caps. We find Talkmobile to be very good for spending caps. You can choose either a £0, £5 or £10 limit when you sign first sign up.

When we first ordered our SIM, we set the cap to £0, which disables any premium feature that would cost extra. You just get a network fail message if you try to send a chargeable MMS for example.

We then went into our account and bumped the cap up to £3. The update happens immediately but you don't get any text confirmation, which would have been nice.

We then used 10x MMS messages at 30p to try and hit the cap. It kicked in immediately once we'd hit. And we got a text message through confirm it:

Text message from Talkmobile

But then you can go into your account later and adjust your cap in smaller £1 increments - and set a much higher limit of up to £100 if you really need it (subject to Talkmobile approval).

If you want the re-assurance of not overspending, Talkmobile are a very good choice.

Useful link: Cost of not-included extras on Talkmobile

Our spend cap rating:
★★★★☆ (excellent)

Rank:
TBC

As good as:
TBC

Better than:
TBC

Roaming: use your Talkmobile SIM in the EU for no extra cost

Map of Europe with Talkmobile roaming selling points overlayed

Inclusive roaming in 41 destinationsSee all countries

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

Despite the low-cost of Talkmobile's SIM only plans, you can still take them on trips abroad to the EU, without paying extra to use your regular UK minutes, texts and data.

That covers the 41 destinations listed here on Talkmobile's website. You won't pay to receive calls there. And you can use anything up until your full allowances (if you go over, you'll pay as you go at these rates).

Annoyingly, roaming is de-activated by default on Talkmobile. You have to manually ring up their customer services to get it activated. Do this before you leave, else you could end up with no way to turn it on.

Free EU roaming is now a standard feature on every mobile network, so it's not unique to Talkmobile. However we've seen some cheap deals (like Vodafone's Basics plans) exclude any roaming, to get out of offering it free.

If you want to go further afield, there isn't any inclusive worldwide roaming on Talkmobile. And for the price we wouldn't expect there to be. If this is something you want, see our best roaming network guide here.

Useful link: Full Talkmobile roaming terms and conditions

Our roaming rating:
★★★★★ (good)

Rank:
TBC

Not as good as:
Three, Vodafone, EE, O2

Similar to:
All others

Things you don't get on Talkmobile that other low-frills networks have

SMARTY data discount explained

SMARTY pay you back for unused dataHow it works

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

We accept that there are some things you're not going to get as benefits, for the low prices that Talkmobile offer. But there are some things, you do get on similarly-priced networks.

Data rollover is a good example. Some networks let you keep data you've not managed to get through, for next month. SMARTY even pay you back what it cost in the first place on selected plans. Talkmobile don't offer this.

You're also joining Talkmobile on a 1-month contract, rather than a pre-paid 1-bundle. It means you have to give a full 30 days' notice to leave, rather than just stopping paying up to the day before.

It's also a bit more difficult than it need be to change plans if you find you're getting too much or too little data. On other networks, you can do it online or on an app. On Talkmobile, you've got to ring.

Useful link: Rear our other mobile network reviews

Premium benefits you don't get on Talkmobile because they're no-frills

VOXI unlimtied social media data banner

Unlimited data for social mediaSee VOXI benefits

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

By choosing no-frills, there are some other benefits you don't get on Talkmobile that you would on the slightly pricier networks, which are worth knowing about just in case.

There's no clever free data schemes on Talkmobile like VOXI's Endless Social Media data (also on Vodafone) or Sky Mobile's unlimited Sky TV app streaming data. Read our guide to all these types of benefit here.

There also aren't any Family Plans on Talkmobile (discounts for taking multiple deals on the same account). And there's no extended worldwide roaming like Three's popular Go Roam scheme, covering 71 countries.

Talkmobile are definitely for people who like to keep things straightforward, with no extra gimmicks or fluff.

Useful link: Compare their deals

Talkmobile deals and plans

SIM only plans from Talkmobile

Use our price comparison tool further below to find the right deal

Key facts on Talkmobile's SIM only plans

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Special offers running on Talkmobile

Here are the latest promotions on SIM only plans.

Exclusive hidden improved offers

Talkmobile hidden 1GB offer

Get hidden deal

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

Phone contracts: Talkmobile offer upgrades from SIM only

Screenshot of Talkmobile's phone range

Join on a SIM and upgrade to a phoneSee phone range

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

You might have seen that Talkmobile have a range of upgrade phone contracts available. These are meant for their SIM only customers, to upgrade to a phone contract. You can't join directly on one.

We think this is because Talkmobile is partially set up by Vodafone to offer a way for people with bad credit history to get back on track with a SIM only plan, and then eventually move on to a phone deal.

If you're in the situation where you've been declined for a phone contract with another network, including Vodafone, you could think about doing the same (Talkmobile alert you in your account when you're eligible).

Their phone-range is full of affordable mid-range Android models and iPhones. Once you've established yourself as a reliable phone contract payer, you may build up enough credit to re-apply with other networks too.

Useful link: More about upgrading to a phone contract

Talkmobile customer service

Customer service: we found Talkmobile decent enough

Ofcom complaints data table

No data for VOXI but Vodafone score poorlyRead Ofcom's report

To judge a network's customer service, we'd normally look at how many complaints the government ombudsman Ofcom receive about them. But Talkmobile are too small to appear in their data.

Their parent company Vodafone don't exactly have the hottest reputation. Ofcom receive an above-average amount of complaints about them. But there is a bit less to go wrong with no-frills Talkmobile.

We genuinely found it quite difficult to get an online account up and running, so we gave Talkmobile a call for free on 5888 from our Talkmobile SIM.

After following a couple of automated items, we were through to a real person about 3 minutes later (this was around 17:30 in the afternoon.

The agent took a few security details and then went through the registration process for us over the phone. The whole issue was resolved within a few minutes.

They also explained why the first bill was more than the advertised plan (it's pro-rated to cover to the beginning of the month).

All-in-all, we'd say our experience was totally satisfactory, without blowing us away.

Unlike some of their online-only low-cost rivals, you can at least phone Talkmobile for free from your Talkmobile number. They do have a small help section online too.

There's no app on Talkmobile to manage your account. And the logged-in Your Account area is extremely basic. But you can see things like your bills, tariff and manage your spending cap in there.

You don't get the major network experience. But you're not paying major network prices.

Useful link: How to get help on Talkmobile

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