Kogan Mobile Review: Surprisingly Not Terrible [Updated]

When I say the words "low-cost mobile carrier" to you, don't be upset if you get a weird taste in your mouth. That's the feeling of all those past experiences of saddling up to low-cost mobile carriers letting you down all at once. Whether it's in the network, the customer service or even the bill shock you got from something that promised "no-catches", low-cost carriers are never what they crack up to be. Except this one.

Update: Since this review ran, it has been revealed that Kogan Mobile is actively booting high-usage customers. This service probably isn't appropriate for you if you're a high-volume user.

What Is It?

Kogan Mobile is the brainchild of electronics entrepreneur, Ruslan Kogan -- also of Kogan Electronics -- who decided to open a low-cost mobile carrier on the Telstra Wholesale network to challenge the big players.

Here's the pricing:

...and the coverage:

What's Good?

You can't go past those prices. Sweet mother of telco, those prices are low. $29 a month for unlimited calls, unlimited SMS and MMS and 6GB of data? I don't know about you, but compared to my $80 per month for $550 of calls and texts and 2GB of data on Telstra, Kogan Mobile sounds pretty goddamn amazing. But what about the old saying "you get what you pay for"?

For years, that phrase has controlled the way most sensible people shop for telco services. Telstra has often been the most expensive because -- let's face it -- their network has been far superior for quite some time. Optus is now also relatively pricey, but it's worth it with the inclusion of LTE services, which it gives to Virgin and anyone else with a chequebook, really. Incidentally, Virgin Mobile is where the whole "get what you pay for" aspect starts to flip on its head. Virgin offers up Optus' 4G network at a cheaper rate than the parent carrier itself can, which raises your eyebrows somewhat, especially seeing as how it's still a great service. Cut to Kogan, however, and you're left dumbfounded as to how the company can turn a profit offering a service so cheaply.

By that logic, you'd think that Kogan Mobile would be rubbish, but in fact, it's surprisingly excellent.

Ordering a SIM is as simple as punching in a few details online, activating it is as easy as falling asleep and setting up your spend level is also simple. Thinkhe best thing is that there's no bill shock at the end of the month because after all, it's pre-paid mobile.

Kogan Mobile states that their data speeds are rated to between 550kbps and 3Mbps, depending of course on your hardware, distance from the tower and all that other 'please don't sue us' blah. We tested the service at a few areas around Sydney, however, and found that the speeds on Kogan Mobile never went beyond 3.5Mbps -- a modest speed bump from what you're meant to be getting. A Telstra service tested at the same locations, however, always rated between 6Mbps and 9Mbps on Next G.

Call quality on Kogan Mobile is as good as you're likely to get on any other networks, with no dropouts, lag or waiting for a call to place to note. The only thing you'll be without on Kogan Mobile is Telstra HD Voice -- which boosts the call quality -- and is amazing, therefore it's something Telstra guards for itself.

All in all, it's a solid service for a bargain basement price.

What's Bad?

Despite all the positives, low-cost carriers still don't have it all, though. Kogan Mobile is no exception.

The mobile service might be amazing for the price, but you won't get a shred of 4G on Kogan Mobile. Telstra guards its shiniest mobile services like that dragon in The Hobbit guards dwarf treasure. Don't expect to get 4G anytime soon on Kogan Mobile, for that you'll have to pay carrier-premium prices.

The self-service website is incredibly helpful, but the user experience is pretty confusing. I went around in circles a few times looking for the right button to push and sometimes never found it. I had to come back later to have another crack at it. It isn't something you'd really want your nana having a go at, anyway.

Should You Buy It?

Everyone's needs will be different for their mobile phones, but compared to premium, on-contract prices from the big three carriers, Kogan Mobile is a winner.

So you won't get 4G and the whole thing feels a little DIY, but isn't that what we want out of our carriers most times? Something we can get going ourselves, fix with a bit of string and some knowhow and give us decent bang for our bucks? That sounds good to me.

If you're a hardcore speed demon who wants that sweet 4G coverage, Kogan Mobile isn't for you. If you're just someone looking to cut down on their phone bill without taking a hit in quality, however, Kogan Mobile is the business.

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