Vodafone and Virgin Mobile are two of the most popular companies to come out of the UK, with huge customer bases in Australia, too. In fact they have quite a lot of things in common. In addition to their origins, both of their names start with the letter ‘V’ and their respective colour schemes are both red. But what about their phone plans? Canstar Blue has produced a comprehensive guide to their mobile plan offers, so you can determine which one of these British telcos you want to say G’day to.
Before we dive in, let’s first just explain that Vodafone has its own mobile phone network infrastructure, whereas Virgin Mobile operates off the Optus network. If this is a deal breaker for you, then we hope you enjoyed this review. If you’re not fussed about which network you use, read on.
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Virgin vs Vodafone: What’s on offer?
Between the two providers, there are 29 phone plans in total. These are further divided up into:
- 17 prepaid plans between $8 and $99 per billing period
- 12 postpaid plans between $30 and $100 per month
These are then further divided up into SIM-only or bundled plans with a mobile phone. Read on to see how they compare to one another.
Prepaid Plans Compared
Prepaid plans are convenient because they are no-fuss and you can recharge when you like. Between Vodafone and Virgin Mobile, keep an eye out for plans with long or short expiries – between 7 and 365 days in length. Unfortunately, what’s on offer from Virgin and Vodafone in the prepaid sector doesn’t scream ‘value’ and the array of plans with short or long expiries can be confusing.
There are some ‘normal’ prepaid plans to be found, but they are all Virgin’s. Good news for Virgin, bad news for consumers wanting variety. Virgin offers five plans with 28 day expiries, ranging from $19 to $99. None of the plans have unlimited calls or texts – instead, dollar values are in place. This is what you get:
- Unlimited Virgin to Virgin calls and texts
- Calls are 90c a minute, plus 40c flagfall
- Texts are 25c
- All plans have data rollover up to 12GB when you recharge before expiry
The pick of the bunch here seems to be the $29 plan with $450 value and 2GB of 4G data. With $450 value you could potentially get:
- About 180 two-minute calls ($400)
- 200 texts ($50)
Overall though, it’s a little disappointing Virgin doesn’t offer unlimited calls and texts, even for plans over $50.
Prepaid plans with varying expiry periods:
Both Virgin and Vodafone have a range of plans with varying expiry, from 7 days all the way up to 365 days. These represent a great niche for people who either desire short expiries for budgeting purposes and whatnot, to the long-termers who don’t use their phone much at all. In total, Virgin comes to the game a lot stronger than Vodafone.
Virgin dominates the ranks with its range of expiries from 90 to 365 days. Often, you won’t get data included, just dollar values applied. Text, call and data rates are also generally lower in value than its other prepaid plans. Texts cost 28c, calls are 78c a minute plus 40c flagfall, and Virgin to Virgin calls will cost 5c plus a 40c flagfall.
Vodafone comes to play with a select few good-value plans. Over 7 days you’ll get 120 minutes calling, and 500MB data. This falls under Vodafone’s ‘MyMix’ plans, which are handy because you can build your own plan based on how much call time, text value or data you want. If you want maximum flexibility, a Vodafone ‘MyMix’ plan may be up your alley. Here’s a snapshot of what’s on offer:
If you’re a regular phone user, you might find these ‘alternate’ prepaid plans a bit of a waste of time. However, their varying expiry periods make these plans viable for someone with a second ‘emergency’ phone, or for the person who hardly uses a mobile in this day and age.
Postpaid Plans Compared
There are three different categories you will need to consider if you’re in the market for a postpaid plan:
- SIM-only plans with a contract
- SIM-only plans with no contract
- Bundled plans with a handset
A postpaid mobile plan is great because you can just ‘set and forget’, and providers frequently pile in some juicy extras with these plans – especially bundled plans. Let’s see what the two carriers have got instore.
SIM-only plans with a contract
In total there are nine plans from Vodafone and Virgin Mobile in this bracket. Prices range from $30 up to $60 per month, and you can clearly see they are obviously competing with one another as there’s only about a hair’s difference between the two in terms of inclusions. For example, for $30 a month you get from the two providers: 1.5GB data plus unlimited calls and texts. Pretty much the same, right?
Where Virgin and Vodafone separate themselves is the international calling stakes. With Virgin you’ll get a $50 allowance, and Vodafone has international roaming for $5. So, are you calling overseas, or actually heading overseas? Additionally, as you move up in price, expect the two to provide near identical bonuses and extras. Here’s an example of how little there is between the two:
SIM-only plans with no contract
This is where the two start to separate themselves. Virgin Mobile dominates the ranks in the cheaper end, whereas Vodafone comes to play with more plans over $50. Expect ‘tit for tat’ variations. For example, Vodafone might offer 500MB of extra data for $5 extra, but Virgin has the standard $50 international calling inclusion. Virgin then ups the ante by encouraging consumers to spend $50 to unlock hefty data bonuses. Vodafone then comes to the party fashionably late with a $60 plan with 11GB data. It’s hard to decide the winner here as there’s something for everyone.
Bundled plans with a mobile phone
This is the business-end of the mobile market. Both providers offer a range of phones to bundle your plan with, from the cheap to the high-end. It’s handy to use the iPhone 7 in a cost comparison as it’s one of the newest and hottest phones to come out recently. In this category, the cheapest phone plans come from Virgin Mobile, but here it’s more than data you’ll need to be concerned about, and Vodafone offers a greater range of perks:
- There are two plan categories – ‘Data’, and ‘Global’
- With each plan, you either get more data, or Qantas Frequent Flyer points
While the cheapest iPhone 7 plan between these two comes in at around $60 a month from Virgin Mobile, you may find it’s well worth going with Vodafone for fringe benefits such as extra data or Qantas Frequent Flyer points. These are just some of the examples that Vodafone offers when you side with them. Are these perks enough to sway you over? Only you can decide that. Here’s an example of how Vodafone dominates the bundled plan segment:
Virgin vs Vodafone: Where to find the best deal?
The two companies starting with V whose colour is red are markedly similar in what they offer to the masses. It’s obvious they are competing directly with each other and it’s a shame there is no robust competition to see who can offer better value. Often their plans are identical, with unlimited calls and texts and set amounts of data.
However, where the two separate is their bundled plans. Using the iPhone 7 as an example, it’s apparent that Virgin offers the cheapest, no-frills plans starting at around $60 a month. Vodafone dominates the high-end market, however. And when you spend more, naturally you get more in return. Vodafone has a superior swathe of perks to get you over the line, including the Frequent Flyer points and data bonuses. In this instance, if you’re after the cheapest plan out there, Virgin is the go. But if you want a high-end plan, Vodafone might be your best bet with its perks to entice you.
All in all, both providers are pretty even in terms of value across the board, but Vodafone may have the slight edge in the bundled plan market. It all depends on what you’re after, and it never hurts to compare more providers in your hunt for the best value.