Planhacker: Australian Contract Phone Plans

Buying on contract is the most common way to acquire a new phone, but not all contract plans are created equal. Our contract changeover series continues as we round up and compare all the consumer contract phone plans currently on offer in Australia.

Scales picture from Shutterstock

Whichever carrier you choose, contract plans work in the same basic way: you sign up to a contract (usually for 24 months), and in return receive a handset. You'll own the handset outright at the end of the contract (but not before; if you try and leave early, you'll normally have to pay the contract out). You'll often pay a monthly handset fee as well, especially if the monthly plan fee is below $60. We haven't included any specific handset charges in the table below, since these vary depending on your preferred phone model. It's important to factor these in, especially on cheaper plans.

The most expensive plans will often include 'unlimited' calls and data, though this is invariably subject to a "fair usage" clause. While unlimited SMS options are common even on cheaper plans, unlimited data is not a feature on any contract phone plan we're aware of in Australia.

In the table below, we've listed the main contract plans on offer from each of Australia's main carriers (Telstra, Optus, Vodafone) as well as Live Connected and Virgin Mobile. Notes on each provider follow the table.

We haven't included providers who only offer pay-as-you-go deals or month-to-month contract options from the major providers. If you've purchased a phone outright, those options will usually make more sense (that's a separate story to be told another time).

For each carrier, we've listed the per-month charge; the minimum total cost over 24 months; the amount of included data, and excess data charges if you exceed that limit; the amount of included call credit; costs for calls and texts to Australian numbers; flagfall charges; how much a 2-minute call costs; and how many of those 2-minute calls you could make.

Vodafone offers 12-month deals, as does Optus under some circumstances, but the handset charges are so high that the total cost is often similar to signing up for a 24-month deal but without the benefit of that extra year's actual call charges. As such, we don't generally recommend them and haven't included them in the table.

The cost of the plan (and the associated handset charge) won't be the only factor you'll consider when acquiring a new phone. Some models (or colours) are only offered through particular carriers. Network availability can also be a major consideration; we always recommend borrowing a friend or relative's phone and checking reception in your home and office before signing up. Every network has coverage gaps.

You can sort and filter the table below by clicking on the column headers (so you can sort everything by price, or pick out plans with a certain amount of data.) You can maximise the table by clicking in the bottom right corner.

iiNet

iiNet uses Optus' network. You can't sign up for a phone unless you also have an iiNet broadband service. (The same deal is available through iiNet subsidiaries such as Internode and Westnet with the same restriction.) While the plans may appear relatively cheap, its handset charges are typically higher than other carriers, so the difference won't necessarily be as dramatic once you add up the total cost. Its plans include 150GB for 'social networking' (though this requires you to use the browser version of social networking sites rather than apps).

Live Connected

Live Connected uses the Optus network. One important restriction: right now, it only sells phones in Sydney. It has an unusual 'slider' option where you can temporarily jump up to the next highest plan for a single month to avoid bill shock.

Optus

The only difference between Optus' $30 and $35 plans is unlimited text on the latter. Its call rates are the cheapest of any provider listed here. It offers 4G in capital cities but not (as yet) in regional areas. Optus customers can also earn Qantas Frequent Flyer points on their expenditure.

Telstra

You'll definitely pay more with Telstra; its cheapest contract plan is $60 a month. Many people are happy to pay that for its broader regional coverage and market-leading 4G coverage, but in urban areas the difference may not be worth it.

Virgin Mobile

Virgin Mobile uses Optus' network, including its 4G network (and is in fact owned outright by Optus, though it doesn't go out of its way to publicise that fact). While Optus has cheaper call rates, Virgin has more generous data inclusions and a cheaper unlimited plan.

Vodafone

Vodafone has a reputation for bad coverage that two years of network expansion hasn't done much to quash. Its 4G network is rolling out this year. On its $40 and $50 plans, you can choose between infinite texts or infinite free calls to other Vodafone customers.


Those are the standard contract deals, but that doesn't mean you can't score some extras. Tomorrow, we'll look at strategies to score additional perks from your provider.


Comments

    I don't think this page is loading properly... At least not in Chrome

    Last edited 07/05/13 10:26 am

      Loads for me in chrome....

      Could be your work proxy - these wouldn't load for me until I hacked the proxy...

      Just to confirm, it does not load well, broken links/images/etc in the area before 'iiNet' heading. Giz need to look into it im on Chrome too and have it happen on other browsers here too.

    12 month plans make sense if you use an iPhone. The resale cost of an iPhone is close to the total handset cost.

    http://m.dodo.com/PrePaidMobileHome.aspx

    $39.90, no contract, unlimited talk, sms, mms and 5GB data. Has the option to be auto topped up after 30 days (so feels behaves just like a contract). You deal with Dodo but the actual carrier is Optus on 3G network.

    iinet continue to impress me. They are my ISP and I'm seriously considering their mobile plans too. Good work iinet.

    *message written and spoken by knuddy. No payment received from iinet in delivering this message :)

    For mobile service I just can't go past Telstra. I use to be with Optus and I Live only 15 mins from Melbourne cbf and it was a complete dead spot for Optus anywhere within a 1km radius of my house. You think Optus believe you. Nope. So I went to Telstra paying the same each month and coverage is amazing. Telstra FTW. Like they say you get what you pay for.

      Melbourne cbf, lol.

        haha - I'm gonna use that one myself.

        Mainly in profession communications.

    Did anyone else notice that the costs in the table are all in pounds? What is the current exchange rate? About 1.5 AUD to the GBP? lol

      Are you viewing it from an iOS browser by any chance? It was in pounds for me using Chrome on my iPad, but when I saved the .xls file, it shows up correctly as dollars when viewed in other apps.

      That's because your browser is set to English-GB (Great Britain).
      To fix in Firefox for instance, just go Firefox>Options>Options>Content>[Langues]Choose>English-AU.

    wow vodafone's prices suck now.. i pay $45 a month for infinite text and infinite calls to standard numbers within aust, also 2gb data.. you have to pay $80 for that now? paha

      You must have got it when they were running a special promotion or something, from my knowledge vodafone's 45 infinite always had 500MB data

      You must have gotten an extra internet pack. They always had 500mb on the base plan.

    You're actually wrong about (Vodafone's, at least, I have little knowledge of Optus') the 12 month plans being more expensive overall. For example: The iPhone 5 16gb on Vodafone's $60 plan 12mth is $36, =$96p/m. On the 24 month plan it's $10, = $60 p/m. Total for the one year plan is $1,152 as opposed to the 24 month $1,440 overall. You can also then get another phone after that year.

    Tl;dr: One year plans are more expensive by the month, but cheaper overall.

    The number one thing you need to do it determine what EXACTLY you need, by determining how you use your phone. I for instance don't make a lot of calls, but lots of texts and butt loads of data. I go with a cheap plan (they all offer unlimited texts these days) then add a data pack to boost my allowance. With Telstra I can get $600 calls, unlimited text and 4 GB data for $80, by getting the $50 12 month plan (no lock-in is $60) and adding a $30, 3GB data pack. Now I'm sorted for how I actually use my phone. Compare that to an $80 plan where I'd only get 2GB data but $900 worth of calls I'll never make.

    #HTCOne
    its just and easy and offorsable way of buying a phone of ur choice which in under contract .. though u use any of operator from listing .. which u would like to handle you for 2 years

    no tpg? you can get it for as little as $9.99/month

      This is about contract plans only, i think TPG only does month-to-month? (Liveconnected do month-to-month as well, but the article only talks about their non-byo plans which are 24mth i think)

        ah k you are right - tpg is indeed month to month

    Great summary, really like the in browser excel action (I'm using Chrome and had no issues btw).

    I just paid out my current contract with Virgin Mobile to get the SGS4 (up from the SGS2) with Virgin on the $59 plan with a $2/month handset repayment. From what I can see it was a good choice (I didn't do anywhere near that much research on other carriers etc).

    Also, paying out a contract early wasn't too expensive in my eyes. Cost me $100 to pay it out 8 months early. I got my SGS2 on $1/month handset repayment and now my SGS4 on $2/month handset repayment, so $100 to payout early is good value as far as I'm concerned (considering the outright cost of the phones).

      On either Telstra or Virgin, paying out the value of the phone is all you have to do if you are going to sign a new contract. If you are staying with the carrier, there is no early termination fee to pay.

      On Telstra and Virgin, it's cheaper to get a contract if you are going to replace your phone regularly (like every 12 months or so) especially if you are buying high end handsets that have just come on to the market.

    "Many people are happy to pay that for its broader regional coverage and market-leading 4G coverage, but in urban areas the difference may not be worth it."

    Telstra is definitely "worth it" in cities. The data speed is significantly faster (on the bus to work this morning i did some speed tests for a different reason and it was 22mbit telstra and 0.5mbps optus) and I can name a long list of locations around Adelaide where there is no Optus signal at all, but where Telstra is fine.

    That might be improved when Optus roll out 3G at 900Mhtz but they are taking their time.

    What about Kogan? $30 p/m, unlimited calls and texts, 6 GB data.

    Agree with the Kogan suggestion - $299 for 365 days of non 4G Telstra with unlimited calls/ texts and 6 GB data per month... anyone using this around here and care to comment on the experience?

Join the discussion!

Trending Stories Right Now