Vodafone review - a reasonable choice for most people

By Adrian Vincent - 12 Jan 2024, 19:06 Vodafone review - a reasonable choice for most people
4 / 5
  • Generous trade-in offers
  • Extended warranty included with all pay monthly phones
  • Good coverage throughout the UK
  • 5G Ultra delivers a true 5G experience
  • Great customer service
  • VeryMe Rewards
  • Only average download speeds
  • Xtra benefit plans are a mixed bag
  • The least 5G locations of the 4 major networks
  • No free EU roaming with most plans
  • Expensive

Vodafone is the 3rd most subscribed network in the UK, with an estimated 15% market share. They also power some of the biggest MVNOs, including VOXI and Lebara.

If you’re looking to purchase a new phone contract with Vodafone, they offer a very tempting trade-in scheme, with generous valuations for your old device. In addition, you’ll also get an extended warranty thrown in with all phone plans, and a battery guarantee that will replace your battery if it’s in bad shape.

Their UK coverage is good, with so-so download speeds - it’s not the fastest network, but it’s far from the slowest.

With VeryMe Rewards and great customer service, Vodafone will tick a lot of boxes for many.

However, expensive plans and a lack of free EU roaming may be off putting for some.

Furthermore, they have the least 5G locations when compared to EE, Three and O2.

Their plans are also quite confusing, with Xtra benefits not being clearly defined on their website. It can be difficult to figure out exactly what you are getting for your money.

Vodafone don’t necessarily excel at anything in particular, however they aren’t exactly bad at anything either. Overall, Vodafone is a safe bet for most consumers.

Xtra benefits is a mixed bag

Vodafone have a range of plans, but their naming scheme is quite confusing. The explanations on their website aren’t clear cut, but we’ll try to break it down.

Most phone and SIM contracts come with either 2 Xtra benefits or 3 Xtra benefits. Unlike with O2 Extras or EE Inclusive Extras, these add-ons are predetermined - here’s what you’ll get for each one:

2 Xtra benefits

  • Device Care
  • Unlimited Picture Messages

3 Xtra benefits

  • Device Care
  • Unlimited Picture Messages
  • 6x Unlimited Data Boosters
  • Free EU roaming (51 destinations)

Let’s break these down.

Device Care is a bit of a gimmick - you can book an appointment and take your phone into a Vodafone store, where they will check your battery, storage and apps. However, there are a plethora of free apps that already do this, so we don’t see much value in this. We doubt Vodafone has access to some exclusive technology that can do this better.

Unlimited Picture Messages is basically advertising outdated technology, MMS. These were the days before WhatsApp and Facebook Messenger, where you would send pictures to your friends and family through your network using MMS. But simply put, no one uses this method these days. Vodafone claims their unlimited picture messages is worth £3.50 a month, but in all honesty, we think it's worth £0.

6x Unlimited Data Boosters is actually quite useful. If you’re approaching your data allowance, you can text BOOST to 40506 to get unlimited data for the remaining month, at no additional cost. As the name suggests, you can use this 6 times throughout the duration of your airtime plan, or 3 times if you have a 12 month airtime plan.

Finally, free EU roaming is probably the most valuable of all the benefits. You’ll be able to use your allowance in 51 European destinations, up to 25GB per month. Some Unlimited Max plans also include additional countries outside the EU, for a total of 83 destinations.

In conclusion, 2 Xtra benefit plans are not worth it in our opinion, but with free EU roaming and unlimited data boosters, most people will find value in 3 Xtra benefit plans.

Entertainment plans include YouTube Premium, Spotify Premium or Amazon Prime

With Entertainment plans, you can choose from either YouTube Premium, Spotify Premium or Amazon Prime for the duration of your airtime plan (12 or 24 months).

You’ll be sent a text message following your purchase of an Entertainment plan, where you’ll be able to select your choice.

It’s important to note that you cannot change your initial choice - what you pick will be what you’re stuck with for the rest of your airtime plan.

It only covers the length of your airtime plan, and not the device contract. For example, if your device contract is 36 months, but your airtime plan is 12 months, you’ll only get the entertainment pick for 12 months.

Once your airtime contract is over, you’ll be automatically charged monthly for your pick, unless you manually cancel it through your Vodafone account. We therefore recommended that you set up a reminder when your airtime contract is coming to an end, so you aren't unexpectedly charged.

Phone plans come with separate airtime and device agreements

Following a similar path of the 3 competing major networks, Vodafone offers flexible pay monthly phone plans, which are split into separate airtime and device agreements.

This allows you to easily customise a plan to your liking. You’ll be able to set the upfront cost you want to pay for the device, starting for £30. Furthermore, you can set the contract length, ranging from 3 months to 36 months. Once you’ve determined how you want to pay for the device, you can customise your airtime plan and your data allowances. For most airtime plans, you can only select a 24 month contract, however if your device contract length is 12 months or shorter, you’ll also be given the option to select a 12 month airtime plan.

Phone contracts include Xtra benefit plans and Entertainment plans, as explained above. Make sure you choose an 3 Xtra benefits plan if you want free EU roaming.

Vodafone also offers a very generous trade-in scheme called “Trade-in Guarantee”. When taking out a new phone contract, you can send in your old phone, where you will be given the option to use the value towards a discount on your airtime plan, added as credit to your Vodafone account, or money transferred to your bank account. You’ll need to download the My Vodafone app on your old smartphone so that Vodafone can assess the value of your phone. You’ll also be asked some questions about the condition of the device. Vodafone promises to guarantee the trade-in value, as long as they agree with you on the condition of the device.

All new phone contracts also come with Vodafone Lifetime Warranty and Battery Refresh. The warranty will cover all manufacturer defects and faults, as long as you have an active airtime plan. With Battery Refresh, Vodafone will replace your phone’s battery if it’s low on health, for the duration of the device contract.

Vodafone aren’t the cheapest network for phone plans, especially when compared to other networks and smaller MVNOs. But they do offer flexible plans that allow you to determine what you get and what you pay, which you won’t necessarily get elsewhere.

Reasonable SIM only plans with good unlimited data deals

If you don’t want a phone contract, you can get a Vodafone SIM instead, which includes 30 day, 12 month and 24 month contracts.

Vodafone are currently running an offer for many of their unlimited SIM plans, with 6 months half price.

Vodafone have two different types of unlimited SIM plans - Unlimited and Unlimited Max. Unlimited plans come with a 10 Mbps speed limit, hover there are no restrictions with Unlimited Max plans.

Just like with their phone plans, you can also get SIM only contracts with Xtra benefits and Entertainment. You’ll still get Device Care for your phone when choosing an Xtra plan, even if your phone wasn’t purchased from Vodafone.

Make sure you choose an 3 Xtra benefits plan if you want free EU roaming.

However, unlike with their phone deals, SIM only contracts also include ‘Red’ plans. These are basically stripped down, no thrill plans, that don’t include any extras or add-ons which you can get with Xtra and Entertainment plans.

As far as price is concerned, Vodafone is a mixed bag with their SIM only plans. Some of their unlimited SIM only plans are actually reasonably priced, but their Red plans aren’t that competitive compared to other networks, and you won't get added benefits like free EU roaming.

Respectable network coverage throughout the UK

Vodafone’s network coverage is only beaten by EE, according to independent data and tests. They deliver excellent coverage to major towns and cities, and reasonable coverage to less densely populated areas throughout the UK.

Vodafone currently claim their 4G coverage can reach over 99% of the UK's population.

As for 5G, their coverage includes 124 locations. According to their own statistics, this is actually less than competing networks - Three has 193 locations, EE has 160 and O2 has 150. However, as we’ll explain in the next section, Vodafone comes out on top for 5G coverage in the majority of locations where they are present.

According to NET CHECK’s 2023 benchmark, Vodafone is London’s best network, in terms of accessibility, reliability and quality.

In addition to good 4G and 5G coverage, Vodafone has the best call coverage with their 2G network. This means Vodafone may be a good match if you live in more remote areas of the UK.

Vodafone's 5G network: good speed and coverage, but limited locations

5G with Vodafone is available on all pay monthly plans and select pay as you go bundles.

As we explained previously, Vodafone’s own statistics show that they have the least 5G locations throughout the UK.

However, according to RooMetrics, an independent researcher, Vodafone have better reception and signal quality for areas of which they do cover, when compared to O2, Three and EE in the same location.

RootMetrics also mentions Vodafone made significant improvements in their infrastructure in 2023, which is reflected in stronger coverage and faster download speeds.

Vodafone claim average download speeds of 150 - 200 Mbps with their 5G network, however this generally requires a good outdoor signal. They also claim their maximum theoretical download speed is 1 Gbps, but this requires a near perfect connection, which is generally unattainable and unrealistic in the real world.

With a global presence, Vodafone are the only network who promise to deliver 5G when roaming in Germany, Italy, Spain and the Republic of Ireland.

5G Ultra delivers true 5G

Vodafone mentions 5G Ultra a lot on their website, but what exactly is it?

5G Ultra is based on standalone (SA) technology, which is infrastructure dedicated to delivering 5G connectivity. In the UK, most 5G is delivered through slower 4G Non-Standalone (NSA) infrastructure, which has been upgraded over time to provide 5G connectivity. However, with 5G Ultra, the connection is direct 5G to 5G, which results in lower latency, faster speeds and increased reliability.

Furthermore, Vodafone claim their 5G Ultra is 25% more battery efficient, meaning your phone should last longer throughout the day. The technology is also delivered through a lower band of the 5G spectrum, which increases coverage and allows more devices to be connected to 5G within a particular area.

5G Ultra is automatic. It’s available for all plans created from 24 February 2023. However, you’ll need a 5G Utra compatible phone in order to benefit:

  • Samsung Galaxy S21 series
  • Samsung Galaxy S22 series
  • Samsung Galaxy S23 series
  • Samsung Galaxy Z Flip 5
  • Samsung Galaxy Z Fold 5
  • Oppo X3
  • Oppo X5

Satisfactory and consistent download speeds

Several independent tests place Vodafone in the middle of the table when it comes to download speeds.

In RootMetrics’ 2023 report, Vodafone came 3rd for download speeds when compared to the 3 other major networks.

EE scored average download speeds of 65.1 Mbps, Three at 34.7 Mbps, Vodafone at 29.4 Mbps and O2 at 15.5 Mbps.

This means Vodafone is almost twice as fast as O2, but around 2 times slower compared to EE.

However, RootMetrics did note that Vodafone download speeds saw improvement over 2022, so steady progress is being made.

As for 5G, OpenSignal reports that Vodafone is the second fastest 5G network, when comparing average download speeds in their September 2023 report.

Average download speeds clocked in at 114.3 Mbps. This is roughly in the same ballpark as EE and O2, who scored 99.5 Mbps and 77 Mbps, respectively.

However, Three averaged an impressive 205.5 Mbps for 5G download speeds - almost double that of Vodafone.

In conclusion, while you won’t see the fastest download speeds with Vodafone, they are far from the slowest. They cover their ground with good coverage and reliable connectivity. So it’s safe to say you can expect good download speeds with Vodafone, but not the best.

WiFi calling now works without the My Vodafone app

Like most networks, Wifi calling is included with all plans at no additional cost.

Most modern smartphones support and enable Wifi calling out the box, so it’s completely automatic and doesn’t require a manual setup.

But what exactly is Wifi calling? When you’re connected to a Wifi network, or a 4G network is available, Vodafone will seamlessly and automatically switch from 2G to Wifi or 4G to improve call connection and quality.

Your phone will automatically determine which connectivity delivers the strongest signal.

When initially launched in August 2021, Vodafone required customers to have the My Vodafone app on their phone to use Wifi calling. However, this is no longer the case - it should work with any smartphone, without needing to download an app.

You'll probably need to pay extra for EU roaming

Since January 2022, Vodafone no longer offers free EU roaming with all of their plans.

However, free EU roaming is still included with 3 Xtra benefit plans, which allows you to roam in 51 EU destinations. Some 3 Xtra benefits plans also include additional international countries outside the EU, for a total of 83 destinations.

If you’re not on a 3 Xtra benefits plan, you will have to pay to use your allowance in the EU:

  • £2.25 per day (charged automatically)
  • £10 for 8 days
  • £15 for 15 days

For more information, see our detailed guide on Vodafone roaming.

VeryMe Rewards is a plus

Similar to O2 Priority, VeryMe Rewards is a loyalty scheme available to all Vodafone pay monthly customers, and pay as you go customers who top up at least £10 every 6 weeks.

So what exactly does it get you? With VeryMe Rewards, you can get access to weekly offers and prizes that change every month.

Vodafone are currently running a 2 tickets for £8 offer at ODEON cinemas, or £13 for upgraded Luxe tickets. The offer is available once per week, and allows you to see any 2D film at any time.

You can also get a 12 month membership to Local Blend, which gets you a 25% discount at selected local coffee shops.

In addition, you’ll also get a 12 month membership for Eat Local, with 2 for 1 meal offers and 25% off at selected independent restaurants.

With VeryMe Adventure Days, you can get up to 50% off a hundreds of UK attractions, including theme parks, cinemas and aquariums.

While not necessarily a major selling point, VeryMe Rewards is certainly a welcome benefit for Vodafone customers, particularly if you’re a frequent cinemagoer. There are a lot of offers to choose from, with chances to win big prizes with weekly draws.

15% discount with additional plans

Vodafone used to have a dedicated family scheme with Vodafone Family, but that has since been discontinued.

However, they now have a similar scheme, offering a 15% discount for additional contracts created with your account.

The 15% discount is only applied to the airtime plan. In addition, 30 day plans are not eligible for this offer.

You can have up to 9 additional contracts on your account with a 15% discount applied.

Additional contracts need to be purchased directly from your Vodafone account or app. Contracts purchased from 3rd party resellers, such as Fonehouse and Affordable Mobiles, will not be eligible for the 15% discount.

O2's Multisave scheme offers a slightly larger discount for additional plans at 20%, which you might want to consider instead if you have a big family.

Pay as you go bundles are reasonably priced

Not to be forgotten, Vodafone still offers decent pay as you go packages, for those who don’t want to commit to a long term contract.

Pay as you go with Vodafone is available with phones and SIMs.

You’ll need to purchase a bundle for set allowances, which lasts for 30 days. Any unused data will be rollovered once to the following month. Bundles start from £10 a month for 21GB data, and £40 per month for unlimited data.

Currently, Vodafone are running a x3 data offer with bundles.

You can set up bundles to automatically renew, however the money will come out of your credit. If you don’t have enough credit topped up, Vodafone will send you a warning text message in advance.

Unlike with SIM only contracts, bundles can be changed or cancelled at any time. There are no long term commitments.

If you don’t want a bundle, Vodafone don’t have traditional out of plan rates for data, minutes and texts. Instead, you’ll automatically be charged £1 per day for 50MB data, unlimited minutes and unlimited texts. This is known as “Pay As You Go 1”. Note that you won’t be charged if you don’t use your data, minutes or texts for the day. If you exceed the 50MB data allowance, data will stop working, unless you purchase an additional 50MB Data Extra, which costs £1 and lasts until midnight.

Good customer service, but limited UK call centres

As of writing, Vodafone are currently one of the highest rated networks on Trustpilot, with a 4/5 rating from over 47,000 reviews. This is officially graded as “excellent”.

In Ofcom’s recent complaints data, Vodafone is grouped in “industry average”, with around 3 complaints per 100,000 customers. This is the 4th fewest, with Tesco Mobile in 3rd (also 3 complaints), EE in 2nd (2 complaints) and Sky Mobile in 1st place (2 complaints).

To contact customer support, you can give Vodafone a call, or use the live chat on their website. Phone lines are open 7 days a week, from 8am to 8pm.

The majority of Vodafone’s call centres are located in South Africa and Egypt. They have some call centre presence in the UK, but most support queries are likely to be offloaded to outside the UK.

The live chat service initially connects you to a digital assistant called TOBi. To be frank, it’s pretty annoying and useless, apart from the most basic of questions. Its sole purpose is to make it as hard as possible to connect you to a real human. However, eventually it will connect you to a human if it can’t solve your problem (which is most likely won’t, to be honest).