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Why is Talkmobile so cheap? How the network cuts costs

Talkmobile logo and a wallet iconVisit talkmobile.co.uk

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Talkmobile sell SIM only plans at a fraction of the price of main networks, including their parents Vodafone. Here's how they can do it. Last updated: 20th December 2023.

How Talkmobile stay cheap

They were set up to be cheap from the start

Screenshot of Talkmobile address

Talkmobile are owned by VodafoneRead their About Us

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

Talkmobile actually have an interesting history. They were initially set up by Carphone Warehouse as a cheap virtual provider on Vodafone to offer phone contracts on. Later they were bought by Vodafone themselves.

For a long while, Vodafone operated Talkmobile as a way of being able to keep customers who had failed a credit check with them. You’d join on a SIM and work your way up to a full phone contract. They still do this.

But more recently, they’ve used Talkmobile to target value seekers on SIM only - people that use comparison sites and want cheap no-frills deals. Doing it with Talkmobile protects Vodafone’s main brand and profit margin.

The first thing people worry about when they see Talkmobile’s cheap prices though is: what am I not getting with Talkmobile that I would on Vodafone? That’s what this guide is all about. So read on!

Useful link: Read our full Talkmobile vs Vodafone guide

You don’t get a worse network experience on Talkmobile

Screenshot of Talkmobile coverage checker

Identical coverage to VodafoneCheck for yourself

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

First though, it’s worth looking at some myths people might believe. We’ve tested Talkmobile directly against Vodafone over many months to see if there are coverage differences or speed differences (see full guide here).

We’re happy to report that Talkmobile isn’t cheap by somehow giving you a worse network experience. Our tests got identical numbers of bars in every location, the same 5G areas and even the same speeds.

It’s never been the case that we’ve noticed being disadvantaged vs our Vodafone SIM. Network-wise, the only noticeable difference is WiFi calling. Talkmobile’s WiFi calling is a newer feature and supports fewer phones.

There may also be differences on more advanced features like call forwarding or voicemail functions etc. The vast majority of the public will hardly touch these. But calls, texts and data are not somehow worse, just because Talkmobile are cheap.

Useful link: Use Talkmobile’s network map to check near you

You even still get roaming and telephone customer service

Talkmobile themed map of Europe

Use up to 5GB in the EU each monthSee countries and terms

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

The traditional method low-cost networks like Talkmobile keep their prices down is by stripping out things like customer service over the phone. With networks like iD Mobile, SMARTY and giffgaff, it’s all online.

Talkmobile buck this trend. You can still phone their customer service. We would say their agents are noticeably based outside of the UK - so they’re making a cost saving there. For our review, we found them pretty efficient.

We’d also point out that you still get EU roaming on Talkmobile as standard with every plan. The only main network still offering that in the UK is O2. Vodafone, Three and EE have all made it a premium extra feature.

It’s a mad situation where the expensive “premium” networks are charging more than the cheap “no frills” brands like Talkmobile, yet actually including less! Pay more, get less.

Useful link: Our best rated networks for roaming

So what is worse to make Talkmobile so cheap?

A budget network you can call stillHow to get in touch

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

Firstly, Talkmobile don’t run any stores. That’s a massive cost for their parent network Vodafone. You can’t go into Vodafone shops and buy Talkmobile or ask about customer service issues.

They also only have a small staff in the background, which keeps costs down but means new features are rare. There’s always a long lag from Vodafone offering something like eSIM or 5G to Talkmobile offering it.

Then there’s branding. Main networks spend a lot of money on slick branding and advertising. How do they recuperate that? Through higher plan prices for their customers.

When you receive your SIM card from Talkmobile, it’s all very basic. Their logged in areas to manage your account are cheap and cheerful. If you need the reassurance of things feeling expensive, they might not be for you.

But if you just see a mobile SIM card as a way of making calls, texts and data work on your phone, Talkmobile do all that really well, at a fraction of the cost of joining a main network.

Useful link: See our hidden Talkmobile offers page



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