Mobile Industry Awards
Mobile Industry Awards

2011 Winners

Runners up - Sony Ericsson Xperia Arc and HTC Sensation

As the follow up to Samsung’s most popular handset to date, the pressure was always going to be on the Galaxy S II to be something special. Before it had even launched the buzz was sky high, with pre-orders hitting a record-breaking three million units.

The handset launched on 1 May and it was barely out of the box before it had bulldozed its way to become the top selling smartphone in the UK. And its strong sales look set to continue and make the Galaxy S II one of the bestselling handsets of the year.
 
The panel felt it ticked a lot of the right boxes. One judge said: ‘Speed is going to be an essential feature going forward in the smartphone market. The dual-core processor is incredibly powerful, great for games and multimedia. And then there’s that screen.’

The panel spoke highly of the device’s predecessor and its impressive screen. The next step up is the Galaxy S II’s 4.3-inch Super AMOLED Plus display, and it’s already made a clear impression.

‘The Galaxy S II’s screen is something else,’ said one panellist. ‘You could be really cynical and say that phones are becoming at their  heart just a screen and an operating system. So long as you do those features right, with a good bit of design thrown in, you’re laughing. But there’s something really special about this device.’

Viewing content on the pin-sharp screen is one thing, but Samsung has also pushed the boat out in other ways. The handset features full 1080p HD recording and has a rear-facing eight-megapixel camera.

One judge said: ‘It’s an obvious hit in the making, the initial sales are strong and it does pretty much everything you’d want it to do.’

With such an eye-catching screen, a clear emphasis on multimedia content and the latest Android Gingerbread 2.3 software, the Galaxy S II looks in every way to be one of the must-have consumer items of 2011.

Shortlist

  • BlackBerry Bold 9900
  • INQ Cloud Touch
  • HP Pre 3
  • HTC Desire S
  • HTC Sensation
  • LG Optimus 2X
  • LG Optimus 3D
  • Motorola Atrix
  • Sony Ericsson Play
  • Sony Ericsson Arc
  • Samsung Galaxy S II



Runner up - Daisy Distribution

It’s been a tough few years for Avenir Telecom, but the distributor has come out of the other side to win the Best Airtime Distributor award.

Dealers agreed that Avenir has managed to stay ahead of the game this year, despite growing competition. One dealer commented: ‘I can confidently say that Avenir’s service is always efficient, reliable and fast. They do an extremely good job. They always seem to have a high calibre of staff who maintain the same level of professionalism, which shows when you are dealing with requests and account queries.’

Avenir is one of the largest telecoms b2b distributors in the UK. It is an O2 Strategic Partner, an Orange Federated Partner and a Three Strategic Partner. At present, Vodafone makes its own transactions, with Avenir taking a commission.   

Avenir produced one of its best ever results for O2 over the last year, setting new sales records in the SME segment and topping the O2 Strategic Partner league table for new business connections, lowest churn, BlackBerry products sales and mobile broadband sales in Q3. It also won O2’s Champions League for Q3.

Avenir has maintained group turnover in excess of £570m, and its MD Andy Tow has been instrumental in leading the company there.

The company innovated by investing in its Connecting Business b2b comparison website – the first of its kind. The website is still at the beta stage but has seen strong interest in its soft launch and received ‘extremely positive’ feedback from the dealer community and other users.

Dealers were also impressed by the reach of the Connecting Business website, which will cover airtime and handset ranges at launch, and with plans to expand into cloud computing, software solutions, hosting and business applications in the near future.

Shortlist:

  • Avenir Telecom
  • Daisy Distribution
  • HSC
  • Mainline Digital Communications
  • Midland Distribution


Runner up - Brightstar

Data Select’s focus on the UK seems to meet with dealer approval judging by the votes it received in Mobile’s survey. It has performed consistently well in terms of its support for the dealer community.

‘Data Select has an upfront approach, consistent pricing and a long-term attitude to business relationships. If stock goes short we still get the price we agreed, which isn’t always the case with other distributors,’ said one dealer.

Its logistics operations offer comprehensive stock holding and availability of devices, advance replacement and direct fulfilment. Key dealers are also supported with bespoke pricing and credit facilities and regular reviews.

Data Select’s Platinum Club goes from strength to strength and is proving a strong source of growth. Exclusive benefits for members include fixed pricing, marketing support and sample handsets. Examples include its Open All Hours sales incentive run in conjunction with Nokia in November 2010, where Platinum Club members could win up to £2,000 if they sold 400 Nokia devices within a specified time. Non-Platinum Club dealers were also eligible for rewards.

The company boasts an unrivalled number of direct relationships with manufacturers including Motorola, Samsung, Nokia, LG, Sony Ericsson and Sagem. Last year, Data Select sealed a deal to distribute products from fast growing Chinese manufacturer Huawei.

Data Select also teamed up with JCB again to range four ‘tough’ mobile handsets. The company is also a leading distributor of prepay phones to high street retailers.

In March 2011, Data Select was one of two distributors chosen by HP to distribute its new range of mobiles and tablets in the UK across both consumer and business sectors.

Shortlist

  • 20:20 Mobile
  • Brightstar Europe
  • Data Select
  • Micro-P
  • RP Europe

Runner up - 20:20 Mobile

Micro-P proved a favourite with dealers when it comes to accessories. Much of its success stems from its deals with accessories vendors such as Jabra, Jawbone, Plantronics, SanDisk and Altec Lansing.

Dealers are enthusiastic. ‘Micro-P is a fantastic accessories distributor,’ said one. ‘It imports innovative products and has great packaging and marketing services to make sure we have the right solution in store.’

The company’s mobile division stocks a wide range of products from accessories vendors, as well as many own brand accessories from the likes of BlackBerry, Samsung, Nokia and HTC.

Its product range features nearly 250 cases and covers, along with an extensive line of cables, cradles, chargers, headsets, handsfree kits, in-car accessories, memory and storage products, power kits and batteries. It also currently stocks 132 mobile handsets.

The company’s mobile division was set tough targets in 2010 to grow its revenue 300% by 2012. In April this year, general manager John Doughty reported that the mobile division was on track to hit that target, or even exceed it.

Revenues and margins have been under pressure in the mobile distribution sector over the last few years, so the financial stability of distributors is a key consideration for dealers and network operators alike. Micro-P’s last available figures showed a very healthy rise in revenue and profit. The company pushed heavily into the b2b space in 2010 and this year has made an aggressive drive into the retail sector.

Micro-P’s strength in the IT, fixed line and mobile sectors puts it in a strong position to take advantage of the move towards unified communications. Cross-selling may not be easy, but Doughty says the mobile division has penetrated around 25% of the company’s impressive base of 8,000 resellers.

The arrival of tablets will not only aid Micro-P’s drive into the converged market, but open up a whole new opportunity in the accessories space.

Shortlist 

  • 20:20 Mobile
  • Frequency Telecom
  • Genuine Solutions
  • Micro-P
  • Shebang

Runners up - Voice Mobile and Uplands

The dealer category was one marked by diverse but equally worthy business models. Yorkshire dealer The One Point came out tops with the judges thanks to its impressive integrated approach to services, commercial success and media savvy way of publicising itself.

The judges felt that The One Point knew its market. The Hull-based outfit understood the needs of both its customer base and its community and put forward solutions to match them. One judge observed: ‘The company has clearly positioned itself as a one-stop shop for its clients. You can tell they understand that sweet spot in the market and have built brand credibility out of their expertise.’

The company has moved on from 100% mobile sales in 2003 to 60% in 2011 with integrated IT services and support and fixed line sales. The move to all-round support was a smart decision, according to the judges.

‘Converting the existing client base is key and you do that by offering integrated services,’ said one panellist. And with churn at less than 5%, the company must be taking the right approach.

On top of that, The One Point showed a very forward-thinking approach to expanding its client base through media advertising. Numerous websites attract a lot of traffic back to the business, and websites for clients such as Hull Kingston Rovers FC bring self-advertising into the deal. The judges felt this was a great way to bring in potential new business as well as align the company with other brands.

Overall, The One Point showed a tight business model, insight into its market and foresight in how it uses publicity to generate interest, all of which struck a chord with the judging panel.

Shortlist

  • Clove Technology
  • The One Point
  • ScanCom
  • Uplands
  • Voice Mobile

Runner up - T-Mobile

Three emerged as a clear winner this year, according to our independent judges Broadband Genie, who commented: ‘Not only has Three improved its average speeds year on year once again, it was a clear winner of the Broadband Genie Road Trip 2011 and offers great value and range of deals.

‘In addition, Three has continued to lead the way in innovation in mobile broadband. It followed being first to market with mobile Wi-Fi in the UK with being the first to release its impressive 3G+ dongle.’

Mobile broadband access on the move is where Three scored particularly highly. It comprehensively won the Broadband Genie Road Trip, running away with both the key downloader and uploader categories alongside the main award.

In terms of value, choice and data limits, Broadband Genie felt there was not a lot to choose between all the players on value, with Three offering slightly cheaper data but not by enough to make it a deal clincher. On choice, however, the list was quickly cut back to Three, T-Mobile and Vodafone. All offer Wi-Fi units, plus contract or pay-as-you-go dongles.

On data limits, it was again a toss-up between Vodafone and Three. But here Three’s value shines through: it offers 1.5 and 15GB contracts compared with Vodafone’s 0.2, 0.5, 2, 3 and 4GB ones.

The same can be said on pay-as-you-go: Three offers more choice than Vodafone and at better value (Vodafone £15 for 2GB to be used in 30 days); Three has both daily and monthly offerings (four in total), with £15 getting 3GB over 30 days. Overall then, Three once again takes the plaudits.

Shortlist

  • O2
  • Orange
  • T-Mobile
  • Three
  • Vodafone

Runners up - BlackBerry Playbook and Samsung Galaxy Tab 10.1

You’d think that the decision to crown the Hottest Tablet for 2011 would be a no-brainer. Apple created this category thanks to the launch of the iPad in 2010 and since then all the major players have been battling for a slice of the market. However, this category turned out to be one of the most fiercely contested of the judging process.

The iPad is one of the most iconic gadgets of recent years, so any rival tech is going to have to go a long way to beat it in the eyes of a consumer. The judges were impressed with its design, performance and the excitement it generated at launch.
 
‘Apple knows how to stoke people’s interest and they have the infrastructure to roll out a product like this perfectly,’ said one judge. ‘They had their second tablet out before a lot of manufacturers had released their first. Plus pound for pound, the iPad is probably the best deal.’

The iPad 2 is 33% thinner and 15% lighter than the original iPad, with a new dual-core A5 processor and a GPU giving nine times faster graphics performance.

The screen is still 9.7 inches and the device has two cameras, one of which is front-facing to allow for FaceTime video calls. The iPad 2 is capable of taking pictures and 720p HD videos, and has an HDMI port that allows users to mirror their iPad screen on an HDTV. It even comes in black or white. But the lack of Flash support is still an issue.

One judge said: ‘There’s a lot of talk about tablets replacing PCs. Fundamentally, by not having Flash, I still have to use a netbook. It’s far more of an issue on a tablet than a phone – you can forgive that.’ But despite some glaring omissions, the iPad 2 was undoubtedly a hit with the public, selling out in many stockists immediately on release.

Mobile World Congress was awash with tablets this year, with every key manufacturer investing in the technology. Fast forward a month to the iPad 2 unveiling and Steve Jobs jokingly described 2011 as the ‘year of the copycat‘. Clearly Apple has set a benchmark and the industry has followed suit. The next question for the judges was who would move this category forward.

The panel decided that the iconic iPad 2 was still the hottest tablet on the market, but by a nose. Apple remains the company to beat, but it was widely felt that there would be a fitting challenger sooner rather than later.

Shortlist

  • Apple iPad 2
  • BlackBerry PlayBook
  • Galaxy Tab 10.1
  • HP TouchPad
  • HTC Flyer
  • LG Optimus Pad 3D
  • Motorola Xoom

Runners up - Apple iPhone 4 and Samsung Galaxy S

The battle for hearts and minds was firmly between HTC and Apple this year, with the HTC Desire giving the iPhone’s latest iteration its toughest fight yet.

The judges admired both phones, but the tipping point came when one panellist reminded the group that while the iPhone was arguably an incremental leap, the Desire was the first in a new breed of smartphones who’s greatest achievement was in creating demand for a blossoming operating system: Google‘s Android platform. 

‘There is no denying that the Desire created a massive amount of buzz about Android,’ one judge remarked. ‘You have to consider where the iPhone sits – it’s the fourth version and it’s riding the wave, but the Desire is the first of the vanguard of the Android OS and that’s something to shout about.’

It was a pitch battle between the judges. ‘The head says iPhone, but the heart says Desire,’ struggled one panellist, but the Desire won the day to be crowned the Mobile Industry Awards’ Phone of the Year.

The HTC Desire’s innovative design and brilliant performance made it a genuine iPhone killer and its popularity with the consumer has cemented both HTC’s success and its reputation as the champion of Google‘s Android operating system.

One judge said: ‘The HTC Desire converted a lot of people to the Android OS. It almost single-handedly created the Android category of phones and it was the most exciting manufacturer on the shortlist.’

Android is the fastest growing operating system on the market today, with a 2011 Q1 market share of 35% and a positive outlook for the rest of the financial year.

The HTC Desire itself more than lived up to expectation. The massive 3.7-inch AMOLED touch-screen held its own against the iPhone’s Retina display, while the 1GHz Qualcomm Snapdragon processor which lurked under its classically designed hood made for fast and powerful performance. And of course, Flash support doesn’t hurt.

That all-important Android operating system, shipped as Eclair 2.1 but upgradeable to Froyo 2.2, was made all the sweeter by the HTC Sense user interface, a feature universally praised by the judges. The ability to back up your work and contacts to Google was also cited as a major selling point, and unlike its nearest rival, the HTC Desire was a phone that consumers could walk out the store with completely set up, charged and ready to go.

Overall, the panel felt that the Desire embodied the best traits of Android: customisability, a user-friendly interface and a massive step forward for the fastest-growing smartphone operating system.

Shortlist

  • Apple iPhone 4
  • BlackBerry Torch
  • HTC Desire
  • HTC Wildfire
  • LG Optimus 7
  • Nokia N8
  • Orange San Francisco
  • Samsung Galaxy S
  • Samsung Omnia 7
  • Sony Ericsson Xperia X10 Mini Pro

Runners up - Sony Ericsson and Samsung

The newest category in this year’s Mobile Industry Awards was based on submissions, the best of which came from relative new kids on the block HTC. The entire judging panel felt the HTC team’s product knowledge and technical support was outstanding and the information they gave was consistently relevant and precise. Moreover, they were observed to be an incredibly personable group of people, with a great mantra: ‘train the person, not the subject’.

One judge remarked: ‘Their product knowledge is phenomenal, and you can tell that they are fans of HTC themselves. You look forward to a visit from an HTC rep, because that enthusiasm shines through.’

That enthusiasm and desire to put the product first has certainly been noticed. The judges also observed that HTC reps visited stores a long time before handset launches, giving those on the shop floor whatever time they needed to get a handle on the products. The ‘try it yourself’ hands-on approach of the team was roundly praised, as was their use of portals such as Facebook, where they have even set up a dedicated staff training group.

Their style is people first, not PowerPoint, and the panel were quick to mention their unscripted and engaging approach to demonstrations, where they always encourage staff to try out the product. The judges felt that HTC were also excellent at passing on excitement for their products while giving sales people confidence.

‘Sales staff have to be confident in what they’re talking about and they’re conscientious about research. They want a rep that will take them beyond spec and tell them something they don’t know, and HTC do that well,’ remarked one judge.

Their training team is under two years old and has grown from six to 13 in that time, yet the judges felt they had come on leaps and bounds, offering top notch help and advice to suit various scenarios. Over the year they have made themselves available in stores, call centres and at events such as the recent HTC Roadshow and Mobile World Congress in Barcelona earlier this year.

HTC attribute their success to having a core training team who are completely focused on the HTC ethos, with the people skills, knowledge and drive to get that across to retailers.

Clearly that approach is working, as the judges were united in their view that a visit from an HTC rep was always something to look forward to. With each visit they passed on something new and interesting, and even followed-up visits in order to pre-empt queries and check how and what people were selling.

It has been a very successful year for the HTC brand, and its field marketing team has been on the front line of that success.

Shortlist

  • HTC
  • LG
  • Nokia
  • Samsung
  • Sony Ericsson

Runners up - Richie Austin (T-Mobile) and Nicola Venters (Phones 4u)

This year’s Shop Idol hopefuls were some of the strongest the competition has ever seen. Throughout the contest, sales people from across the UK impressed the judges with their natural sales ability, people skills and product knowledge.

When it came to the final, the panel had an agonising decision to make – each of the six contestants represented themselves and their companies remarkably well, but it was the youngest finalist, Christopher Bowden, who eventually won the day.

Christopher proved himself time and time again, from his high scoring Mystery Shop, impressive results at regionals and collected performance in the Grand Final. In each case, Christopher seemed to raise his game and it did not go unnoticed by the panel.

Christopher began his career with Orange in 2009 as a part-timer. Two years on and he has his eye set on a future in management and being the best ambassador for Orange he can be. He said: ‘I aim for the top in everything I do. I love my job and I want to make a great impression.’

The judges thought his style struck a fantastic balance between product knowledge, enthusiasm and understatement.

One judge said: ‘Christopher has incredible product knowledge, so you know that if you were to talk to him in store you’d get brilliant advice. But on top of that he just projects empathy. He has this subtlety to him, a control over every situation he’s put in. For an 18-year-old that’s impressive, but he’s just a natural.’

An issue which came up over the course of the day was the line between sales and customer service. Christopher was pragmatic in his outlook. ‘Sales are obviously important, but I place more on customer service because I believe that great customer service leads to more sales. I want to build trust with customers, and if people trust you they will come back.’

Throughout the day, Christopher was calm under pressure and showed remarkable promise for his age and experience. As one of Orange’s Top 40 sales people, he has already proved to his company that he can deliver top class service. His latest triumph is further proof of his hard work and raw talent.

Shortlist

  • Christopher Bowden, Orange
  • Richie, Austin, T-Mobile
  • Nicola Venters, Phones 4u
  • Pete Begley, Carphone Warehouse
  • Elliott, Whattingham, O2
  • Anthony, Armour, Vodafone

Vodafone UK CEO tops the Power50 list for 2011

One of the major changes in the UK mobile phone industry over the last year has been the emergence of Vodafone as a challenger brand.

View Power 50 Profile for Guy Laurence + user comments

Mobile’s research among the industry’s senior figures revealed that Vodafone CEO Guy Laurence is widely seen as one of the most dynamic figures in the business at the moment. He is admired for his no nonsense attitude and his ability to get things done.

The once staid ‘businessman’s network’ is being transformed into a dynamic and nimbler outfit with a wider customer appeal. Much of this transformation is down to Laurence’s leadership. After six CEOs in 10 years, Laurence took over the job of running Vodafone UK 18 months ago with a clear plan to ‘get back to basics’. In his first year he laid the groundwork by taking some tough decisions. He cleared out many of the senior managers, appointed a new executive team and laid off some 20% of the workforce.

A key task was to improve what he referred to as the company’s ‘sub-optimal’ customer facing processes, partly by investing in new IT and a major customer service centre in Stoke, and partly by improving the way customers were dealt with. He also worked hard to improve Vodafone’s direct and indirect distribution channels and began the long task of changing the poor perception people had of the brand through a vigorous advertising campaign, refreshed tariffs, more product exclusives and the new VIP customer loyalty and reward scheme.

Over the last six months his efforts have begun to bear fruit as the company moved back into the black and increased customer numbers. More recently, Laurence has overhauled the company’s pay-as-you-go offerings, providing more attractive tariffs and the ‘Freebees’ reward scheme.

Vodafone may still have a way to go to improve all its offerings, but it does boast an excellent network infrastructure. Laurence has continued the high investment here, including the construction of a new network operations centre at the Newbury HQ.

The company is also leading the way in the b2b sector with its One, One Net and One Net Express unified communications offerings. The company is number one in the corporate and government sectors and is one of the main players in the SME sector.

There can be little doubt that under Laurence’s leadership Vodafone has reinvigorated its brand, put itself on a more stable financial footing and is forcing its rivals to sharpen up and compete more aggressively.

Shortlist

  • Jon French, VP of Sales and Operations, EMEA, HTC
  • Guy Laurence, CEO, Vodafone
  • Jacqueline Kelleher, Director of Retail Sales, Three
  • Tim Sefton, Director of New Business Development, O2
  • Tim Whiting, CEO, Phones 4u

Runners up - Phones 4u and Carphone Warehouse

The turnaround that some thought would never happen. The general opinion of the judges was that Three had put to rest the problems of the past, conquering negative consumer perceptions to come out strong, focused and well-positioned for the future.

One judge remarked: ‘Three has been a standout success over the last year. It has put people firmly at the forefront, used very clear, simple retail objectives with success and turned the business around to a highly profitable one.’

One key area where Three has reigned supreme has been in its smartphone market share. Last year Three began selling the iPhone, and it now has the largest market share of both new smartphone customers and new iPhone customers.

Three UK became EBIT+ mid-year in 2010 for the first time as its network investment began to pay off. One judge remarked: ‘During one of the toughest economic periods, Three has managed to maintain a profitable estate and increase its customer base while keeping things simple and clear.’

Communicating a simple message to the consumer was a huge factor in its success. The panellists were taken with the clarity behind The One Plan, which the judges felt had obviously resonated with the public. Three also stepped ahead of the competition in terms of data, an area it excels in, with the well-publicised all-you-can-eat campaign.

The company has also introduced services to make its offering even more appealing to an increasingly tech savvy customer base. MiFi mobile broadband has been extremely successful; its collaboration with Spotify meant some handsets came with a two-month free subscription to the highly popular music streaming service and Three customers were free to use Skype even without a data allowance.

The Three store retail estate now consists of 298 stores, with eight outlets in Superdrug stores and three kiosks.
 
The brand upped its use of digital signage in order to showcase new projects, with just a 48-hour window from marketing brief to in-store rollout. Product displays have become even more immersive, with live demo areas for all new devices and focus on both assisted and unassisted demos. As a result, overall customer satisfaction has increased eight points to 81%.

The judges were struck by Three’s proposition and the clear statement it gave of what the company was about and where it was looking to go next.

‘What Three has done is just astounding,’ said one judge. ‘It knows how it's changed from where it was and it‘s really honest about that progression.

‘You get the impression it has learned a lot. It’s been a remarkable transformation and that is almost entirely due to its retail arm.’

Shortlist

  • Carphone Warehouse
  • O2
  • Orange
  • Phones 4u
  • T-Mobile
  • Three
  • Vodafone

Runners up - RIM and Samsung

For a brand with the tagline ‘quietly brilliant,’ HTC has had a lot to shout about over the last year. The panel was unanimous in its view that HTC is an innovative and exciting company that has well and truly arrived.

This was the year that HTC really made its mark on the market, moving from white label manufacturer to true high street contender in a relatively short space of time.  

The Taiwanese manufacturer has focused heavily on retail and launched some massively popular handsets including the HTC Desire, Wildfire and their recent updates, as well as Windows Phone 7 devices the HD7, Mozart and Trophy. The company also recently entered the tablet space with the HTC Flyer.

The company almost doubled its handset shipments to 9.7 million in the first quarter of 2011, up 192% year on year and up 6% on the previous quarter. All in all, the judges saw the company as a massive success story and one that has introduced smartphones to a whole new audience.

‘The whole Android explosion has been thanks to HTC. The Desire has been a marvellous counterpoint to Apple’s iPhone,’ said one judge. Another pitched in: ‘HTC has been a revelation. They have managed to capture the imagination of the public with a range of handsets at different price points and made a massive impact on both the industry and the general public.‘

It was widely felt that HTC had led the charge for Android-powered handsets, and that both their successes went hand-in-hand.  While the company didn’t actually sell the most Android handsets last year, the HTC brand has become so synonymous with the OS that it’s now seen as its champion.

‘It’s almost hard to pull those two apart,’ said one judge. ‘Android and HTC are a kind of mirror of each other in terms of the impact they’ve made on the consumer and the industry at large.’

The panel was also impressed by the range of products HTC had brought to market and their mass appeal. One judge said: ‘If you look at a handset like the HTC Desire, the HTC Sense interface is just so simple to use. HTC surely deserves recognition for introducing smartphones to a whole new set of people.’

The panel was impressed that HTC had seemingly come out of nowhere in the last two years to become one of the best-known brands in the industry. One judge said: ‘HTC is certainly one of the more exciting players in the industry. They’ve caught the general public’s attention and they’re backing it up with great products.’

Shortlist

  • Apple
  • HTC
  • RIM
  • Samsung
  • Sony Ericsson

Runners up - O2 and Three

The judges felt that there could almost be a winner based on any one of the listed criteria. However, Vodafone emerged as the near unanimous choice thanks in no small part to the stability of its offering in the last financial year.

The judges agreed that while it may not be the most glamorous choice, Vodafone is providing the right basic products at the right price and that is what really matters to customers in tough economic times.

One judge said: ‘Vodafone is not the best at everything, but in a year where stability was crucial, it has met its customers’ needs. They haven’t confused people with changes in prices, and they’ve made ground in the business sector. It might not be spectacular, but they have stuck to the basics and it has paid off.’

Vodafone has invested significant capital in its network infrastructure, which the judges said was outstanding. Customer complaints have more than halved in the last two years thanks to some back-end improvements and an increase in online support.

‘Vodafone was naively behind on dealing with customer complaints,’ said one judge. ‘But they’ve changed a lot of their internal processes and it has made a difference to how they are perceived.’

The company’s last set of quarterly results were its best since 2007. Vodafone was also rated the most valuable brand in the UK, and the most valuable telecoms brand in the world, in a recent BrandFinance report.

Vodafone is also sensibly planning for the future: the company is actively planning for superfast LTE services once the spectrum becomes available and is in the middle of rolling out a state-of-the-art store refit programme.

One judge observed: ‘It says something about Vodafone that they appear unafraid to admit to areas where they have underperformed compared with their rivals, and it seems the company is making significant changes to catch up.’

Customer rewards such as Vodafone VIP events have gathered momentum - open to all Vodafone customers, it offers access to diverse events such as the T in the Park music festival and London Fashion Week.

The Freebees campaign also intrigued the judges: this saw Vodafone re-enter the prepay market, offering massive bundles of free texts, web access and international calls for as little as £10 per month. It’s been Vodafone UK’s biggest prepay push in the last five years and has been backed by a £15m advertising campaign to raise consumer awareness.

‘Freebees is a great campaign and has made a solid impact so far,’ said one judge. ‘That said, I still think they could shout about it more to get people talking about it.’

Overall, the judges admired Vodafone for keeping a level head in difficult times, meeting the needs of their customer base and improving on areas where they had previously been lacking.

Shortlist

  • O2
  • Orange
  • T-Mobile
  • Three
  • Vodafone