Some great feature-packed contracts, but customer service and satisfaction still needs to improve
- Strong range of bundles
- Improved 5G coverage and performance
- Flexible deals on new phones
- Average performance
- Disappointing scores for service and satisfaction
- Charges for EU roaming on cheaper plans
Vodafone has been in an awkward position the last few years, struggling to compete with EE on 5G coverage and cutting-edge performance while still being seen as an expensive option next to Three, Tesco Mobile and the budget no-frills networks. Its strength has been in its features and bundles, with packages that throw in free streaming services or other useful extras to sweeten the deal. Now Vodafone is involved in a potential merger with Three, creating what promises to be the UK’s biggest mobile network, if and when it launches. The resultant 4G/5G superbrand should be a serious contender, but is it worth signing up to Vodafone right now?
Yes and no. In last year’s Mobile Network Awards survey, Vodafone’s customer service seemed to be improving, but this year’s results show an unfortunate reversal. Prices are still relatively high, while Three and EE offer faster connectivity in many areas. Most pointedly, fewer than 20% of Vodafone customers said they would be very likely to recommend the network, with a further 51% fairly likely. That’s a better result than O2 could manage and broadly similar to Three’s, but it still leaves Vodafone lagging far behind its own offshoot, Voxi, not to mention Smarty, Tesco Mobile, Lebara and Giffgaff.
Vodafone review: What do you get?
Vodafone has some strong deals on pay-monthly phones, with flexible build-your-phone plans where you can alter the upfront payment and the contract length, plus separate airtime plans. Just be aware that the cheapest monthly prices tend to be on 36-month contracts, which could see you paying more than you would for the equivalent 24-month plan.
An iPhone 15 will cost you from £41 per month over 36 months with an upfront cost of £39, but you’ll still be paying £21 a month for the last 12 months when a 24-month contract would be finished. Take an iPhone 15 with 150GB of data on a two-year contract and you’re looking at a monthly cost of £61.50 per month for a total of £1,476. That’s less than you’d pay with EE or Sky Mobile, but more than you’d pay with iD Mobile or Three. It’s a similar story if you opt for the Samsung Galaxy S23 Ultra, where you’re looking at monthly charges of £79.50 plus £49 up front if you go for a 24-month term. iD Mobile would sell you the same phone for £43 per month plus £99, albeit with a smaller 100GB data plan.
Meanwhile, Vodafone’s SIM-only options can be bewildering. Its basic Red packages give you the usual calls, texts and data, but on top of that you have Entertainment packages that bundle in a year’s subscription to the streaming service of your choice, with options including YouTube Premium, Amazon Prime Video and Spotify. In addition, Xtra Benefits packages give you other bonus features, including device care insurance, unlimited picture messages and data boosters that you can use to get unlimited data for a 30-day period. These may or may not be worth paying the extra for, depending on your data requirements and whether you’d pay for your chosen streaming service anyway.
|Package||Monthly fee (12 months)||Monthly fee (24 months)||Monthly fee (30 days)||Data||Extras|
|Vodafone Red 2GB||£15.00||£14||£25||2GB|
|Vodafone Red 6GB||£19.00||£18||£29||6GB|
|Vodafone Red 80GB||N/A||£20||N/A|
|3GB plus 3 Xtra benefits||£22||N/A||N/A||3GB||3x Unlimited Data Boosters, Device Care, Unlimited Picture Messages|
|Vodafone Red 20GB||£24||N/A||£34||20GB|
|Vodafone Red 6GB with Entertainment||£27||£26||N/A||6GB||Choice of entertainment package: YouTube Premium, Amazon Prime Video, Spotify|
|8GB plus 3 Xtra benefits||£26||£25||N/A||8GB|
|Vodafone Red 200GB||N/A||£26||N/A||200GB|
|100GB plus 3 Xtra benefits||N/A||£27||N/A||100GB|
|Vodafone Red 80GB with Entertainment||N/A||£28||N/A||80GB||Choice of entertainment package: YouTube Premium, Amazon Prime Video, Spotify|
|25GB plus 3 Xtra benefits||£31||N/A||N/A||25GB|
|Unlimited (max speed 10Mbits/sec)||£31||N/A||£41||Unlimited (max 10Mbits/sec download speed)|
|Vodafone Red 20GB with Entertainment||£32||N/A||N/A||20GB||Choice of entertainment package: YouTube Premium, Amazon Prime Video, Spotify|
|8GB plus 3 Xtra benefits plus Entertainment||£34||N/A||N/A||8GB||Choice of entertainment package: YouTube Premium, Amazon Prime Video, Spotify|
|Vodafone Unlimited Max||£34||N/A||£44||Unlimited|
|Vodafone Red 200GB with Entertainment||N/A||£34||N/A||200GB||Choice of entertainment package: YouTube Premium, Amazon Prime Video, Spotify|
|100GB plus 3 Xtra benefits plus Entertainment||N/A||£35||N/A||100GB||Choice of entertainment package: YouTube Premium, Amazon Prime Video, Spotify|
|150GB plus 3 Xtra benefits plus Entertainment||N/A||£38||N/A||150GB||Choice of entertainment package: YouTube Premium, Amazon Prime Video, Spotify|
|Vodafone Unlimited plus 3 Xtra benefits||£38||£37||N/A||Unlimited (max 10Mbits/sec download speed)|
|25GB plus 3 Xtra benefits plus Entertainment||£39||N/A||N/A||Unlimited||Choice of entertainment package: YouTube Premium, Amazon Prime Video, Spotify|
|Vodafone Unlimited plus Entertainment||£39||£38||N/A||Unlimited (max 10Mbits/sec download speed)||Choice of entertainment package: YouTube Premium, Amazon Prime Video, Spotify|
|Vodafone Unlimited Max plus 3 Xtra benefits||£41||N/A||N/A||Unlimited|
|Vodafone Unlimited Max plus Entertainment||£42||£41||N/A||Unlimited||Choice of entertainment package: YouTube Premium, Amazon Prime Video, Spotify|
|Vodafone Unlimited plus 3 Xtra benefits plus Entertainment||£46||N/A||N/A||Unlimited (max 10Mbits/sec download speed)||Choice of entertainment package: YouTube Premium, Amazon Prime Video, Spotify|
|Vodafone Unlimited Max plus 3 Xtra benefits plus Entertainment||£49||£48||N/A||Unlimited||Choice of entertainment package: YouTube Premium, Amazon Prime Video, Spotify|
These packages tend to be more expensive than equivalent plans from Three, iD Mobile, Tesco Mobile or the no-frills networks, though they’re competitive with packages from EE and O2. You also need to keep an eye on Vodafone’s Unlimited and Unlimited Lite packages, as they come with speed restrictions on 5G services of 100MBits/sec and 10Mbits/sec respectively. 100Mbits/sec is probably fast enough for most users, but if you want unlocked 5G speeds, you need to splash out on the 5G Unlimited Max plans.
Our Mobile Network Awards research suggests that Vodafone isn’t one of the top networks for value for money. Only 61% of users were satisfied with the value of their package, and nearly 16% were actively dissatisfied. To be fair, both EE and O2 had similar results.
Vodafone review: Customer service
Judging by our survey results, Vodafone’s customer service seems to have slipped since last year. In 2022, 74% of Vodafone users were satisfied with their customer service, with 27% very satisfied. This year, those figures are down to 55% and 20%, with 13% of users actively dissatisfied. That puts Vodafone in line with Three and ahead of O2, but EE, Tesco Mobile, Giffgaff, Smarty and Voxi all do significantly better.
Ofcom’s 2023 Mobile customer service and satisfaction research also shows Vodafone falling behind: it’s only just below the average 87% for overall customer satisfaction, with 86%, but 17% of customers had a reason to complain against an industry average of 12%. What’s more, Vodafone still has nine complaints to Ofcom per 100,000 subscribers. The network needs to get back to improving these figures.
Vodafone review: Coverage, reliability and speed
In the past few years, Vodafone has been tussling with Three to be the second-fastest UK mobile network. The latest RootMetrics figures have put it back down to third place, with a UK-wide median download speed of 29.4Mbits/sec, just behind Three’s 34.7Mbits/sec. However, RootMetrics praised Vodafone for its call performance and for how fast you can access its network, and also noted improvements in the network’s 5G coverage and speeds. Vodafone delivered median 5G download speeds above 100Mbits/sec in 15 of the 16 cities where RootMetrics runs intensive 5G tests, while coverage had improved in all of them. Vodafone still needs to catch up with EE and Three on coverage, which extends to over 160 UK towns and cities, but the potential merger with the latter should help it achieve that.
Vodafone performed well for reliability in our Mobile Network Awards survey. Over three-quarters of users were satisfied with their signal strength, and nearly 76% said they always or often had speeds fast enough for web browsing. The results aren’t quite as good for audio and video streaming, at 59% and 48%, but they’re still well above average. It might not be the fastest network, but you can get a solid connection most of the time.
All the same, Vodafone’s 5G performance is a little underwhelming: 63% of the 5G users surveyed told us they were satisfied with their 5G connection, putting Vodafone behind leaders Smarty and Giffgaff and slightly below the average score, though Tesco Mobile and O2 had worse results.
Vodafone review: Roaming
Vodafone isn’t a bad network for roaming as long as you’re on one of its Xtra Benefits plans. If that’s the case, you could have inclusive roaming in 51 European destinations or, on the most expensive plans, 83 destinations worldwide. However, if you’re not on one of these plans, you’ll need to pay £2.25 per day to use your inclusive minutes and data within the EU, while charges elsewhere can be £6.85 per day for the Roam Further pass.
Roaming outside these passes varies dramatically, with the most expensive regions costing £2.40 per minute, 60p per text and £7.20 per MB.
Vodafone review: Other features, services and spending caps
Vodafone supports Wi-Fi calling, so you can make and take calls over a Wi-Fi network in places where a 4G or 5G signal might be hard to come by. Meanwhile, you can set data caps through the website or the network’s smartphone app. You get an alert when you’ve run through 80% of your data allowance and another when you’ve used it completely, with more reminders for each further 250MB of data you consume.
Vodafone review: Verdict
Vodafone has the occasional great deal on new smartphones, and its bundles are worth looking at to see if you can save some money on services you’d normally pay for separately. You can also find the odd bargain online, both from Vodafone itself and third parties such as Carphone Warehouse or Mobiles.co.uk.
But while the packages can be interesting, Vodafone needs to do better on customer service and satisfaction, and make sure its speeds and coverage remain competitive with its rivals. That should be easier if and when the merger with Three goes through, not least because EE and O2 will be the only other major UK networks in contention. That could be the start of something special, but right now other mobile networks are cheaper, faster or both.