Three offering a strong 4G commitment

Tuesday, September 17th, 2013

Three logo

Although we first covered this earlier this year (here), we thought it worth restating Three UK‘s position in respect of their 4G rollout plans and the impact on their tariffs. The plans are quite simple; coverage to start in London, Birmingham and Manchester starting some point in December, with more cities during 2014. The impact on tariffs is even easier; there isn’t any!

Three UK have stated that existing users will get access to 4G (assuming you have a 4G phone compatible with Three UK‘s LTE frequencies), and will continue to benefit from All You Can Eat data without any additional charges or payments. It is possible that your phone will need a minor software update to enable 4G, although many manufacturers are already rolling this update out in preparation, however, existing SIMs will work, and there will be no need to sign a new contract.

This compares very well to Three’s competitors; eg with EE and Vodafone, you need to move to a 4G tariff, and all the other networks seem to be charging a premium for 4G data.


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Vodafone showing innovation around phone signal

Tuesday, May 7th, 2013

Vodafone have started a new blog covering some of their activities, called Vodafone Social. Of late they have covered three items of interest, which if you haven’t seen, show they are aiming to keep at the forefront of technology and innovation. Firstly, they have documented how they have provided a whole village with signal, whereas it used to be a mobile “not-spot”; in fact, to show they are quite serious about this, they haven’t just build an open femto-trial in one village, but have now completed this in three villages; East Garston, Cranborne and Newcastleton.

However, if you are ever in London, you will be well aware of the new tall building, The Shard. As part of the visitor centre high up in the sky, Vodafone have also provided a similar solution to those visiting, and you can read all about that here.

If you think that’s quite impressive, I’m also impressed they’ve spent the last year working with East Midlands Trains to improve the signal strength of Vodafone customers on their Meridian trains, which feature a metallic coating (to protect commuters from the bright sunlight) but which also hinder phone signals, and have deployed another variant of the technology that Vodafone have embedded into the trains themselves to improve the signal, even when travelling at full speed. If you are interested, you can read about that here.

It’s well worth you considering putting Vodafone Social into your RSS reader, as it does give an interesting insight into projects involving Vodafone that you might never find out about.


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Vodafone announce Red Hot; phone rental scheme

Monday, November 19th, 2012

Sometimes a company offers something that’s actually quite innovative, and personally, I wonder if this is actually a very fantastic offer.

Vodafone has announced Red Hot, which is a scheme whereby you rent a phone (for a 12 month period), and also pay line rental, and then at the end of the 12 months, you can hand the phone back, and get a new phone. None of the traditional 24 month tie in that most mobile operators are concentrating on right now. Now, as with all these things, there’s a few good and bad points to consider if you are thinking about the deal:

  • It costs more than an normal contract, but then you get to change phones every year.

Let’s take the Samsung Galaxy S3 16GB, one of a small number of phones being offered on the deal (others include Apple iPhone 5 and the Samsung Galaxy Note II); normally buying on a traditional plan, it would cost £42 per month (24 month contract, unlimited minutes, unlimited texts, 2GB data per month on the new Red Data plan); the equivalent is £47 per month on Red Hot (12 month contract, unlimited minutes, unlimited texts, 2GB data per month). Given that the deal also includes insurance for the handset, it’s actually fairly comparable, and with the ability to change your phone after 12 months to the next greatest handset, quite a good deal.

  • If you don’t want to swap after 12 months (because the new phone you want isn’t quite released), you can hang onto the current phone for up to 6 months.
  • You don’t own the phone though, so although you can easily hand it back, you can’t sell it on ebay to recover any cost.
  • If you hand the phone back damaged, then charges will apply. Of course, with included handset insurance, it would seem sensible to claim on the insurance and then hand the phone back (assuming the damage is covered within the small print of the insurance, though an excess charge will apply).
  • You do need to return the phone and original charger.
  • With £75 charge for deep scratches or dents, you might be wise to buy a case to protect it (after all, it’s not your phone).
  • One final thing to watch out for; a “non-approved operating system” will occur the maximum damage charge, so you shouldn’t hand it back with a custom ROM installed (yes, I can see an argument that it’s still a variant of Android, but I suspect that’s not a gamble most people will want to take).
  • It’s not exactly clear how much a phone next year will cost, but of course, you would be free to walk away from the contract anyway.

Although there’s a lot to consider, I actually think the prices aren’t bad, and well worthy of consideration, especially for those who are happy to swap phones every phone (but not more often). More details can be found at the Vodafone Red Hot page.


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Vodafone dropping 18 month contracts

Tuesday, September 11th, 2012

Just a quick headsup for anyone considering a new Vodafone contract in the next month or so; next week, Vodafone will be removing all 18 month contracts from sale, leaving most people with only the option for 24 month contracts, especially if you are looking for a new phone too.  Obviously other SIM Only contracts will continue to be offered, and their 24 month contracts have always seemed a little better value than their 18 month contracts anyway, but I thought it worth pointing out the change whilst everyone still had a few days to get the shorter contract.

My understanding is that the 18 month plans will all be removed by 19th September, although some 12 month deals will remain. As part of these changes, Vodafone will be pushing their new Red plans more, which generally offer unlimited minutes and texts, but will ‘only’ offer 1GB of data a month, so will not offer much to those heavy data users who rely upon the unlimited deals of Vodafone‘s competitors.


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Three competing in roaming deals too

Friday, July 27th, 2012

Last month I talked about the new Vodafone roaming deals, and the new offer of £3 per day to access your existing UK bundle. Well, Three UK also launched their offer; for £5 per day, you get All You Can Eat data for 24 hours (I assume it’s UK time, not local time). You also can’t (yet) buy this upfront for a whole holiday (you can buy in the UK on the day before you travel to cover the first day), or you can wait until you arrive and 3UK will text you details. It’s not the same as The One Plan; there’s no tethering allowed, and the quality of the roaming network may not be as good as the UK network which has been designed for high volumes of data, but it may be better than nothing.

As it’s the Euro Internet Pass, it doesn’t apply to all countries (especially those outside of the EU), but the 3UK website does have a list of countries that are and aren’t covered by it. Another small nice feature; the Euro Internet Pass website is actually free to access whilst roaming (though you would need to watch out for other background applications spotting the active connection which would be charged until you sign up for the day).

Obviously, if you were on a two week holiday, the costs are still going to mount up (eg 14 days would cost £70), but given that would provide you unlimited data usage, it’s not a bad deal, and if it helps to keep the kids happy, it may well be worth it. Local SIMs (or my suggestions for limiting data costs) may well help, but for those who use a lot of data, this may well be a sensible way forward.

For more information, head to the 3UK website.

Update: As Darren has pointed out in the comments, this only applies to phone contracts, and not Mobile Broadband or MiFi contracts.


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Roaming; how to keep costs down

Friday, June 22nd, 2012

The last article was about Vodafone European roaming rates for PAYG customers, so I thought I would jot down some of the techniques I use to try to minimise my roaming costs when going abroad. I should note for my last trip abroad I used 30MB of data (over 4 days), and a handful of texts, yet kept my total spend below £10, and could not have spent more than £20, yet that spend actually got me a bundle of texts, calls and data for the UK leg of the journey, and whilst abroad I could have used upto 100MB without spending any more money!

So, what techniques do I use:

Firstly, I carried my primary UK phone number in a phone where I turned off roaming data whilst still in the UK. In fact, as I left the UK, I turned off mobile data completely. This phone I only use for emergencies, being contacted if needed. This limited usage kept the battery going for 2 days without a charge.

I then carried a second phone, in my case, an old Android phone from a year or so ago. This had been wiped clean and just had the apps needed, with most of the sync functions turned off (actually, I kept calendar / contacts syncing, and ran a couple of Social Network clients). Although I kept the syncing turned on, to minimise usage even further, I would turn this off, as it only adds to the usage, and most changes could wait until I returned. Again, roaming data was initially turned off.

This phone carried a Vodafone PAYG SIM, which I topped up with £20 before I set off. This topup gave me minutes, texts and 500MB of data in the UK. As I’m already opted in to Vodafone Passport, I knew that if I kept data to less than 25MB per day, my data costs would be £2 per day.

Before I left the UK, I used those bundled texts that came with the topup to alert a few key people that if they needed me over the next few days to use this number in preference to my normal number.

Once I arrived, I was greeted with text messages to both phones informing me of the rates (which, given it was before the new 1 July 2012 roaming limits are imposed, were somewhat of a shock (eg £3.07/MB for data!). I then turned on roaming data on the Vodafone SIM, and then used the normal data on/off functions to control my usage. I had a data counter installed (I use 3G Watchdog Pro, which included the ability to create a widget on the homescreen which monitored and reported my roaming usage) to ensure I was kept aware of my usage.

So, with careful use of data, I kept within the 25MB daily limit Vodafone include with the Passport option, sent and receive a few texts (11p per text, but coming out of the £20 credit), and spent under £10 all in. Given the phone only had a £20 credit, even if something went wrong with the Passport data options, or I suddenly started making lots of calls (or my phone had been stolen; though I’m not sure a two year old Android phone would have been that worthy), my absolute roaming spend was limited to that £20 topup. I appreciate the UK networks have now introduced roaming cost caps to limit bill shock, but this method truely limited my costs to a fixed amount.

In addition, I ran mapping software which allowed me to download the maps beforehand, so I wasn’t paying for Google Maps type data transfers of map data all the time (and in fact, since travelling, Google Maps on Android now has a formal offline feature for downloading the maps, but not the turn-by-turn navigation). I didn’t need to drive / travel any great distance, but if I had, Nokia Drive on Windows Phone (or Symbian) still makes a lot of sense as it provides true offline navigation.

Most importantly, as I was travelling with my family, by having an old phone without every latest bit of software installed, and a need to keep data usage down, I mainly had the phone for emergencies, and enjoyed the holiday.

If you are travelling abroad this summer, you will firstly benefit from lower roaming rates within the EU, but either way, spend some time thinking about the costs and researching it before you leave, and make sure you plan a way that works best for you; this is even more key when you leave the EU, where the caps and new low rates won’t apply. With many of the networks now offering bundles and good rates on PAYG SIMs, it’s well worth considering taking a second phone (or simply an old phone in the cupboard) to best save money and keep down the risk of bill shock.


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Vodafone and European Roaming

Friday, June 22nd, 2012

As part of an EU Directive, all of the UK networks need to reduce their roaming costs, with the directive setting new maximums you pay for calls, texts, and data. Vodafone were one of the first to announce a new way forward; their new Vodafone Euro Traveller allows you to pay £3 per day and then you have full access to your UK minutes, texts and data. This is an improvement on their old scheme, which was competitive (compared to the other networks), which offered to make and receive calls for a 75p connection charge, and then use up your UK minutes.

With the £3 per day option, it’s nice and clear what you can and can’t use each day, although obviously a 14 day holiday would incur £42 of roaming charges, but at least the rest of your usage would be the same as the UK.

So, that’s nice and clear then?

Well, no.

If you opted into Vodafone Passport (to get those good roaming call rates before), then without Euro Traveller, you’ll stay on those Passport rates, except, for many people, these will no longer be the best rate to be on, as Vodafone is introducing a new set of roaming rates for non-Passport customers as from 1 July, which may well work out cheaper:

Vodafone Passport rates are:

Making a call Receiving a call Sending a text Sending a picture message Using mobile internet
75p connection charge plus your standard home rate or you can use your inclusive Vodafone Freedom Freebee minutes 75p connection charge, then no further charge for up to 60 minutes. Then 20p a minute after that. 11p a text 36p a text £2 a day for 25MB (midnight to midnight, UK time). £1 a MB after that

As from 1 July 2012, the Vodafone standard rates will be:

Making a call Receiving a call Sending a text Sending a picture message Using mobile internet
28p a min (minimum call charge of 30 seconds; after that, you’ll be charged per second) 7p a min (you’ll be charged per second) 8p a text 36p a text 69p a MB for the first 2.9MB. Then no further charge until 25MB. 69p a MB after that.

So, let’s take data; it was £2 for 25MB and then £1/MB afterwards, now it’s (assuming you use at least 3 MB) £2 for 25MB, and then £0.69/MB. The only case where it’s cheaper is if you used less than 3MB of data a day…

For calls, it’s less clear, if you make long calls, the old Passport rates may work out better overall, whereas for texts it’s clear the new rates are better.

Also, I should point out that I’ve been looking at this from a European perspective (and mainly PAYG rates); if you travel outside of the EU, you will need to study the Vodafone website very carefully to work out what deal is best for you. One nice feature (at the moment); you can opt in and out of Vodafone Passport as you please, so you don’t have to stick to one of these three pricing methods.

Vodafone continue to show a leading position in their roaming rates in my opinion, and should be a consideration for anyone going abroad.


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Update on Samsung Galaxy S3

Wednesday, May 30th, 2012

Further to the article last night about the Samsung Galaxy S3 on Vodafone, they have now informed me that any orders for the Samsung Galaxy S3 between now and 30th June may also be eligible for 2GB of data, for 24month contracts of £41 per month or more, instead of the usual 1GB of data (at that price).

Also, for those after the Pebble Blue variant, it seems there’s a delay of 2 to 3 weeks (according to Samsung) and right now there are only Marble White models for sale anywhere (in the UK).


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Vodafone open orders for Samsung Galaxy S3

Tuesday, May 29th, 2012

This evening, Vodafone opened orders for the new Samsung Galaxy S3 (as opposed to previous pre-orders), which is likely to prove to be a very successful phone for this year (or at least until the next iPhone becomes available). The Samsung Galaxy S3 16GB is available in Blue or White, and at the higher tariffs will come free (24 month contract required), or if you are interested, Vodafone has an exclusive on the 32GB for a short period.

Some of the key features of the phone include:

  • S Voice – Command your phone through your voice and not your touch.
  • Social Tag – Links pictures with social media sites.
  • Direct Call – Knows when you want to call and dials for you.
  • Smart Stay – Knows when you’re looking at the phone and doesn’t time out or go on standby.
  • Smart Alert – Let’s you know you have a message when you’ve been away from your phone.
  • 4.8″ HD Super AMOLED display
  • 2100mAh battery

Better than that, I believe that using my link to the Samsung Galaxy S3 and ordering online will also allow you to use an eVoucher code of 3MHPLR which will give you 3 Months Half Price Line Rental (you’ll need to order direct from my link, and not try to use cashback or loyalty sites, where this code is not valid).

On top of that, if you select, say, the £41/month tariff (24 month contract), then not just will you get 900 minutes, unlimited texts (in reality capped at a couple of thousand), and 1GB of data, but you’ll also get the benefit of Vodafone‘s “3 Months Data Test Drive – Unlimited data for first 3 months”, which will allow you to really try out the device and not worry about the data limits (although 1GB will be plenty for many people, but not all).

For more information on the Samsung Galaxy S3, head to the Vodafone website.


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New phone launches

Friday, October 7th, 2011

This week saw the launch of the Apple iPhone 4S. Despite many people not convinced the upgrade from the iPhone 4 was worthwhile, the consensus is that all pre-order sites have been inundated with people pre-ordering the device today.  The deals aren’t bad either; 3UK will sell you the new top of the range 64GB model for £279 upfront with a £35 per month (but 24-month contract) One Plan, offering 2000 minutes, 5000 texts, and All You Can Eat data.

Vodafone (as are all networks to be honest) are also offering the iPhone 4S; their closest deal is £319 upfront with £36 per month (24-month contract) with 600 minutes, “unlimited” texts, and 500MB of data; to rival the 3UK deal you would need to spend much more per month (which would equally reduce the upfront cost, but increase the total cost ).  However, there are always deals to be had; Vodafone seem to be currently offering a £59 cashback on online orders, and will allow unlimited data usage for the first 3 months as part of their new Data test drive promotion.

For those with a desire to upgrade, especially from an iPhone 3GS, this is a tempting offer.  For those looking for a new phone but do not necessarily need an iPhone, there are new releases from Samsung, HTC, and more importantly Nokia due to start shipping in the next few months that may suit you better…


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