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Vodafone user review 2020: testing their mobile network for real

Vodafone logo, phone and 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 join Vodafone as a real-life customer to put their coverage, 4G speeds and other benefits to the test. Here's what we found. SIM Sherpa is your trusty guide. Last updated: 13th February 2020.

Overall rating

SIM Sherpa rates Vodafone as an excellent network
 (4/5, excellent)

The 3 best bits

1) Excellent UK coverage
2) Above-average data speeds
3) Comprehensive roaming options

The 3 worst bits

1) Slower rural 4G speeds
2) WiFi calling support patchy
3) History of poor customer service

"Vodafone are an extremely safe pair of hands when it comes to their national mobile coverage, data speeds and extra network technology like WiFi calling and 4G calling. Their Global Roaming is a touch of class too.

It's definitely a case of premium features for a premium price with Vodafone's plans though. And their customer experience of managing your account, billing and general service is still Vodafone's weaker point.

We think customers who don't mind paying a little extra for the re-assurance of being on one of the proper networks will be generally be happy day-to-day on Vodafone."

Information symbol We're a professional reviews website but we bought our Vodafone 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 Vodafone review and guide

Vodafone's mobile network

Coverage: you should rarely struggle to get Vodafone signal

Vodafone's coverage map

Use their map to find signal strengthCheck signal now

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

In terms of how much of the population can get each type of mobile signal from Vodafone outdoors, the latest stats have them at 99% for 4G, 3G and 2G - so it's an extremely comprehensive network.

Vodafone's 3G and 2G signal used for calls and texts is carried on good frequencies for getting into buildings, meaning Vodafone are naturally better placed for indoor calls coverage than some of their rivals.

We took our Vodafone SIM card out and about in a variety of locations: a big city, small towns and villages and in the countryside too, to see what their signal is like.

We were genuinely impressed at some of the remote places you could still get 4G on Vodafone, even if the speeds over this long-range 4G weren't particularly fast.

Cities and towns seem to be almost universally covered in our experience, including extra capacity 4G+ in more-urban places.

We also found Vodafone's signal good at getting indoors too. Trying to get WiFi calling to kick could actually be difficult because regular signal was available.

Remember we only have the resources to do spot checks, use Vodafone's official map to check near you.

They've also turned on their 5G network. But so far this is limited to only a few places within 44 cities, so nowhere near as comprehensive as their other signal (read Vodafone's future 5G rollout plans here).

When joining any network, our best advice is to check their signal upfront in all the places you can think of where you use your phone (not just at home), particularly away from residential areas.

Useful link: Vodafone's guide to their network

Our coverage rating:
★★★★☆ (excellent)

Rank:
Joint 2nd

Not as good as:
EE

Better than:
Three

Data speeds: we expect Vodafone to be UK's second fastest

Vodafone 5G banner with runner

5G will increase averages data speedsRead 5G difference

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

To get an impression of how Vodafone's speeds fare up and down the country, Opensignal and Speedtest by Ookla's independent reports are a great resource, because they're based on millions of measurements.

They predict typical speeds on Vodafone of 21.15 - 25.1 Mbps. That's an excellent average and is comparable to a mid-tier home fibre broadband connection, although we experienced big variations above and below this.

When we were out and about testing Vodafone coverage, we also did a few spot checks on download speeds in a variety of locations.

We do think Vodafone have achieved their broad 4G coverage by broadcasting over long distances, which has a negative impact on speeds in rural places. We measured 6 -8 Mbps in countryside and small towns.

Once you get into big cities, the speeds shoot up quickly. We were getting 58 Mbps in a city centre and nearby residential areas over 4G+.

We can see how a mix of the two would average out to what the independent testers report. Just expect a greater variation on Vodafone of slow and mega fast than other providers.

Vodafone have recently built some speed caps into some of their products (particularly their Unlimited data plans), so do be careful when picking a deal that you're happy with its max speed.

Useful link: How Vodafone are improving their network

Our data speed rating:
★★★★☆ (excellent)

Rank:
Joint 2nd

Not as good as:
EE

Better than:
O2

WiFi calling: good if Vodafone support your phone

Vodafone WiFi calling

Not every device is supported by VodafoneSee supported devices

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

Some providers let your phone connect to the mobile network via a WiFi signal, if there's no regular signal. You can then make/receive calls on your normal number, without a separate app. It's called WiFi calling.

Vodafone do offer WiFi calling but there are quite a few conditions around it. It'll need to be included in your plan and not all plans come with it. Vodafone will also need to support your phone (so check here first).

We put our Vodafone SIM card in a few test phones not bought from Vodafone to test how well each were supported.

We found that you can easily bring an iPhone to Vodafone on SIM only and have WiFi calling / 4G calling work but that older Androids still need to have been bought from Vodafone to have the software on them.

It can be difficult to force WiFi calling to kick in on Vodafone if there's regular mobile signal available. It seems to prioritise conventional mobile signal.

We successfully switched from a WiFi call to a 4G call mid-way through a call, without it dropping. WiFi calling to 2G/3G does not work though. The call will drop.

Overall, the audio quality is good over WiFi and the calls connected at a regular speed.

Unlike EE, Three and iD Mobile, the WiFi calling on Vodafone doesn't support conventional SMS messages. These are used more and more for security verifications so not having the feature could be a pain.

All that said, if it works fine for you, Vodafone's WiFi calling is a good way to get over indoor blackspots. It means that you're available to make/receive calls in more places.

Useful link: Full details on getting WiFi calling to work

Our WiFi calling rating:
★★★☆☆ (good)

Rank:
4th

Not as good as:
Three, BT, EE, iD, O2

Better than:
Sky and all others

Free WiFi hotspots: only on London Underground

London Underground sign and Big Ben

Free WiFi at 250+ stationsHow to connect

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

Our reviews cover what you do and don't get with each network, so that you can make up your mind based on the full picture.

One thing Vodafone don't have a lot of is free WiFi. This can be useful for keeping your data usage down, or getting online when there's no mobile signal.

On Vodafone, you'll get free access to Virgin Media's 250+ hotspots across London's TFL network, as long as you're a pay monthly customer or on pay as you go with an active monthly bundle.

EE, O2, Virgin Mobile, Three and giffgaff all offer this - so it's not unique. And other networks like BT and Virgin have whole national hotspot networks to connect to. Overall, we give Vodafone an average rating.

Useful link: How to connect via Vodafone

Our free WiFi rating:
★★☆☆☆ (average)

Rank:
Joint 4th

Not as good as:
BT Mobile, Virgin Mobile, O2

Same as:
EE and Three

Vodafone's additional benefits

Roaming: impressive inclusive destinations on some plans

Vodafone Global Roaming banner

Vodafone claim they have the best roamingRead why

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

For us, a good roaming scheme offers lots of destinations you can visit without paying extra to use your phone, and has the best possible data speeds and service while you're there (read our roaming rankings here).

Vodafone do have the largest number of worldwide destinations (77) where you can use your allowances without it costing extra. But this only comes on their premium plans (so you are kind of paying more).

As one of the main four mobile networks, you expect Vodafone to be slick at roaming - and they are.

When we took our SIM abroad, it connected quickly to a host network and you get 4G (or even 5G if your plan has it) where it's available.

Overall, we found roaming on Vodafone to be how it should be: totally problem-free and barely different from being at home.

Their standard pay monthly plans (and pay as you go) only actually include EU roaming at no extra cost. To go further afield you'll need to pay extra still (see rates per country here).

You do however get 4G/5G as part of all Vodafone's roaming if you're somewhere it's available and your UK plan has it, which is excellent. All-in-all, it's a case of paying more and getting more on Vodafone for roaming.

Useful link: Vodafone's full guide to roaming on their network

Our roaming rating:
★★★★☆ (excellent)

Rank:
2nd

Not as good as:
Three

Better than:
EE, O2 and all others

Subscriptions: get an entertainment service included

Red Entertainment plans usually cost moreSee what you get

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

If you choose a pay monthly plan marked out as "Red Entertainment" on a phone or SIM, Vodafone throw in a couple of added extras some people will find useful.

You'll get a subscription to one of four entertainment streaming services (Amazon Prime Video, Spotify Premium, Now TV Entertainment Pass or Sky Sports Mobile TV) for the length of your mobile contract.

You also get 77 worldwide roaming countries instead of the usual EU-only ones. And 500 international minutes to any of these countries. So all-in-all a pretty comprehensive package.

We'd just caution that none of these things are a real "freebie". The plans tend to cost £4-£6 more a month than ones without those benefits. So factor that in when choosing.

Useful link: Vodafone's Red Entertainment plan guide

Our rating:
★★★☆☆ (good)

Rank:
TBC

As good as:
TBC

Better than:
TBC

Customer rewards: Vodafone now have an app like Priority

Vodafone Very Me Rewards app

Freebies, offers and discounts See example rewards

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

Every Vodafone pay monthly customer and every pay as you go customer that tops up with at least £10 every six weeks gets accessed to Vodafone's VeryMe Rewards. So what is it?

It's basically a mix of limited-number complete freebies (things like high street coffee, snacks), prize draws for things like holidays or free subscriptions, vouchers codes and discounts.

You access the VeryMe Rewards via the My Vodafone app. If you're the kind of person who always seeks out the best price before eating out or buying anything, it'll be worth your while.

Otherwise, we think a lot of people will never actually end up using the VeryMe rewards, so it's a nice-to-have but not really something that we'd use to pick one network over another.

Useful link: Current offers on VeryMe

Our rewards rating:
★★★☆☆ (good)

Rank:
Joint 2nd

Not as good as:
O2 Priority

Similar to:
TBC

Spending caps: you can set a limit on any Vodafone deal

Phone using Vodafone's My Vodafone app

Manage your account in Vodafone's handy appAll app features

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

By law, every mobile network in the UK now has to let you set a spending cap on your pay monthly plan, which you can't overshoot by using things not included in your plan (like premium numbers).

The best networks give you a really free choice of how much to set your limit at (ideally in £1 increments). But Vodafone's goes in steps of £10, £20, £30 all the way up to £100.

It's easy enough to set up a spending cap. You can do it when you sign up, or do it in your online account or mobile app.

It's just a matter of locating the spending cap section and choosing your new limit from the dropdown. It's all very simple.

We think the jump from £0 to £10 will be a bit steep for some users, who might just want to build in a buffer of £1 or £2.

That said, the cap is easy to manage within the My Vodafone app or your online account. And you don't have to have one at all if you don't want to be stopped using any services.

Useful link: How to use Vodafone's Spend Manager

Our spending cap rating:
★★☆☆☆ (average)

Rank:
TBC

As good as:
TBC

Better than:
TBC

Keep unused data on Vodafone's pay as you go bundles

Vodafone Total Rollover banner

Keep minutes, texts and data (pay as you go)How it works

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

A few networks now offer something called data rollover, where they let you keep unused data for the future or give you money back for what it cost - so you don't lose what you've paid for.

If you're interested in a pay monthly SIM or phone from Vodafone, then this isn't something they don't offer. They only offer it on their pay as you go Big Value Bundles.

Vodafone actually go one step further with their Total Rollover scheme, which lets you keep all minutes, texts and data you haven't used from your bundle for the next month (as long as you buy a new bundle).

It's a good system if you're on pay as you go but a bit disappointing that Vodafone don't offer the same thing on their way more competitive and popular pay monthly products.

Useful link: Guide to Vodafone's Total Rollover

Our data rollover rating:
★★★☆☆ (good)

Rank:
Joint 5th

Not as good as:
SMARTY, Sky, iD, Virgin

Similar to:
EE and O2

There aren't any free data schemes on Vodafone

Three Go Binge banner

Unlimited data for using certain appsHow it works

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

It's good to know what Vodafone do and don't offer. And one thing they don't have is any kind of free data for streaming or social media scheme like other networks now offer.

Vodafone's sub-brand VOXI give you Endless data for social media apps. Three have a really good scheme called Go Binge that lets you stream Netflix and other video/music services without using data.

These schemes come into their own if you're on a cheaper deal with a capped data allowance. But now Vodafone have launched a range of 5G-ready unlimited data plans that are worth a look.

If you take an unlimited data plan, you obviously don't need free streaming/social media. But if you're not up for paying the premium for an unlimited plan, these kind of schemes are useful.

Useful link: All networks with free data schemes

Our data scheme rating:
★☆☆☆☆ (poor)

Rank:
Joint last

Not as good as:
Three, Sky, EE, VOXI, Virgin

Same as:
All others

Vodafone plans and offers

What type of deal are you interested in?

Choose an option to skip to the right section:

Special offers on Vodafone

A quick overview of the best current deals on Vodafone

Compare Vodafone SIM only deals

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Phone contracts on Vodafone

Are smartphone deals on Vodafone any good?

Vodafone's phone deals tend to be quite expensive

Vodafone phone range

Latest phone offers

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

There's nothing particularly special or innovative about the way Vodafone do their phone contracts. They're straight-up 24-month contracts with no financing or early upgrade options.

Price-wise, we generally find Vodafone to be one of the most expensive places to get a smartphone contract (their own sub-brand VOXI will usually work out way cheaper).

Depending on which plan you take your phone on, you'll get some or all of the pay monthly benefits we've listed in the "additional benefits" section of this page.

Useful link: Compare Vodafone phone contracts

It's worth checking Carphone Warehouse too

See Vodafone offers

at carphonewarehouse.com
(opens in new window)

If you like the sound of Vodafone's benefits but don't like the pricing of the phone contracts, take a look at retailers Carphone Warehouse and Mobiles.co.uk deals on Vodafone.

The two retailers buy their own phones in way bigger quantities than Vodafone, so can offer much lower prices on handset contracts.

You still join Vodafone as a customer and get all the regular benefits your chosen plan includes with the network, you just order via a different store, and Carphone or Mobiles.co.uk handle any problems you may have with the phone.

Our price comparison tool below includes phone deals direct from Vodafone and via Carphone and Mobiles.co.uk, so it's worth having a play with.

Useful link: Carphone Warehouse's Vodafone deals

Choose a manufacturer

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Vodafone's Pay As You Go is poor value all-round

Vodafone Pay As You Go options

Bundles or pay for what you useLatest pricing

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

If you're after the type of pay as you go deal where you top up and then just pay for your usage out of that, Vodafone aren't really a great choice.

Their pay as you go basic rates of 20p per min, text or 5MB data are comparatively expensive, even if there is a daily £1 spending limit. You can get way lower basic rates elsewhere:

Or if you're after pre-paid monthly bundles of minutes, texts and data, Vodafone are still easy to beat for price (check out their own sub-brand VOXI's plans for instance).

The bundles do come with Vodafone's unique Total Rollover benefit that lets you keep unused minutes, texts and data for the next month. But overall, pay as you go isn't what Vodafone are set up for.

Useful link: Compare pay as you go bundle SIMs

Customer service

Ofcom still receive high complaints about Vodafone

Ofcom complaints table

Complaints per 100,000 customers

If customers have to complain to the government regulator Ofcom about a mobile network, it means the provider has not successfully sorted an earlier problem (their customer service has been poor).

So we look at Ofcom's data that they publish quarterly, to see which networks they receive the most complaints about per 100,000 customers with that provider.

In Ofcom's most recent report, Vodafone are among the most complained about mobile networks, with a complaint rate of 6 per 100,000 customer being over triple similar-sized providers O2 and EE.

On the face of it, this isn't good but it is actually progress. Previous reports had Vodafone at 11 complaints per 100,000 customers then 9, then 7 and now 6. So Vodafone seem to be getting a grip on the problem.

Useful link: Ofcom's complaints data reports

Other Vodafone articles

Vodafone and VOXI differences

Vodafone and VOXI logos

Vodafone's Basics SIMs

Vodafone logo and a SIM card

Vodafone's Unlimited plans

Vodafone logo and infinity symbol

SIM Sherpa can help you find your next SIM only deal

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