UK Cell phone carriers – Vodafone and 3

I purchased a brand shiny new Google (Samsung) Nexus 4 for my trip to the UK and France (actually it was just an excuse to buy another Android after being marginally frustrated with my iPhone for being a performance poop).

The Vodafone sim pack
The Vodafone sim pack

Fresh off my plane, I found a SIM card vending machine and purchased a Vodafone SIM. My first mistake of the day.

Popping it in, I was hencefourthly dropped onto a delicious HSPA+ network. All was good. Referencing the internal card included with the plan, my jaw dropped as I saw the rates (including 1£ for each 25MB of data used). Their “extensive web plan” includes 250MB for 5£ available for 30 days. They describe the amount of data that is based on quantity of “emails and BBC news articles.” Yes Vodafone, people only use their phones to download pure ASCII text.

Calling their help number, I got a lovely message asking if I wanted to opt into their text and web “freebee” program. I pressed 1 to accept, after which a British female read me an announcement about what the program offered, then said “sorry this service is not available right now.”

Confused, I checked my balance to discover than in barely 3 hours in the country I had lost about 3£ of my 10£ of credit. I quickly bought the web package, and became scared when I realized my texts and calls may stop working soon. Purchasing an upgrade code (because it twice rejected my US credit card), I was once again asked to enroll in the FreeBee program, which I did. It then, once again, told me that the “service was unavailable.”

Obviously their “terms and conditions” require that you activate BEFORE adding a code. I then added the code, because I had “activated” the FreeBee twice. Naturally no free credit was given.

Say you wanted to contact support? Lots of shiny but useless video tutorials are provided online. Want to contact them? You’ll have to do a find to locate the light grey text buried at the bottom of the page, sift through more pages trying to redirect you to useless videos, and then be told that “all representatives are busy.”

I did eventually get through to their support, who credited me with my free data and texts. So I don’t hate you quite as much.

http://three.co.uk, on the other hand, provides unlimited data plus a mountain of texts and minutes for 15£/month. Compare that to the US. Admittedly, enough people have discovered this to sufficiently bog down their network to 3G speeds during peak hours, but honestly if it’s free and that cheap? I got quite good speeds even with the SIM card in my Verizon iPhone 5 (which is primarily a CDMA phone, but includes a unlocked GSM modem for reasons unknown).

3 network's network which registers as "3G" on my iPhone. Clearly faster than that ;)
3 network’s network which registers as “3G” on my iPhone. Clearly faster than that 😉

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