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How to choose a new mobile plan
When deciding on a new mobile phone plan, the number of options can seem pretty overwhelming. There are dozens of providers, hundreds of contracts you could sign onto and promotional deals everywhere that make it impossible to know what you're actually getting in the long term.
But don't worry. Despite all the hullabaloo providers make over their plans and the fancy bits they tack on to tempt you, it's way easier to find the right plan than you think. Use these three simple questions to guide your decision making.
- Do you want a new phone with your plan? If the answer is yes, you're looking for a postpaid plan with a mobile. If not, you want one of the other three types of plans available. All four plans are explained in this section.
- Do you want any particular features? This could be anything from free music streaming to included international calls. We break down comparing plan features in this section.
- Which service provider? The features and extras you can expect vary from provider to provider. We've given the most important information about Australia's major providers in this section.
Once you've answered these questions, choosing the right mobile plan for you will be a lot easier and less overwhelming.
Choosing a mobile plan
When it comes to choosing a mobile plan, the first step involves deciding whether you want a new phone attached to your plan or not. Once you've decided between using the phone you currently have, or getting a new one, you can then be more specific as to what type of phone plan you're after.
The different types of mobile phone plans you can get are:
- Postpaid plans. These are the most common option for regular users. You'll receive a bill at the end of every month with your flat plan fee plus the charge for any excess calls or data use. It may or may not involve a contract.
- SIM only plans. Pretty self explanatory from their name - you buy a SIM and provide your own phone. By default, they come as no-contract plans, making them extremely flexible, allowing you to switch to a new plan at any time. You can also grab SIM only plans on a contract if you'd prefer.
- Prepaid plans. Great for infrequent mobile users, low data customers or temporary use like travelling. You purchase all your usage ahead of time and can never be hit by excess data charges. These tend to have fewer benefits and lower monthly value compared to postpaid plans.
To make things even easier for you, we've drawn up a diagram to help you decide which plan suits you the most:
How to compare mobile phone plans
- Cost. This is about striking a balance between how much you can afford to pay each month for phone service and what you actually need. Often, you can save by letting go of a few features here and there, or switching to a SIM only plan if your contract is up.
- Data. Unlimited domestic calls and text are a staple of phone plans at this point, so the big differentiator is data. Don't go overboard on buying data you won't use, but don't pitch too low, either – excess data charges tend to rocket pretty fast.
- Entertainment features. A recent addition to many plans is the ability to stream Apple Music or watch a particular sports channel without using up your data allowance. If you're big on music or video streaming, or want extra data to watch Netflix on the train, you'll want to keep an eye out for entertainment bundle plans. Alternatively, consider finding a cheaper plan without these if you aren't going to use them.
- International inclusions. Most plans don't include international calls by default, but some have free inclusions or reduced rates to particular countries. If data overseas is more your concern, some plans may offer roaming rates that you can stomach.
- Coverage. A minor consideration, but some networks just don't do well in particular areas since network coverage varies with each provider. When you consistently can't get a signal from Telstra at home, consider switching providers.
- Included phone. When you know which phone you're after, it's easy to just sign the first contract you see that'll get you the handset you desire. But not all plans are created equal and some contracts will leave you with pretty sub-par service for the long lifespan of the contract.
Major mobile plan providers
While it would take all day to go through every single provider in the country, we've put together a rundown of the major ones and what you can expect to get with them. Keep in mind that only Telstra, Optus and Vodafone actually own their own network infrastructure, so everyone else piggybacks off them.
We refer to all the others as mobile virtual network operators (MVNOs), since they just resell service from one of the big three to you in a fancy package. This doesn't mean they're worse – their coverage is the same and they can often afford to be more competitive since they don't have to manage and run the network itself.
We've chosen seven popular mobile plan providers and outlined their plans and offers below.
Telstra has a very simple set of 4 postpaid plans to choose from, ranging from $50 for 15GB of data to $100 for 150GB. Every plan has unlimited national calls and texts. You can add a new phone onto these basic offerings for an extra bit of money every month. Here are a couple of the features you can look forward to by connecting to Australia's largest telco provider:
- Access to the 5G network if you have the right device in a covered area
- Free sports streaming of the AFL, AFLW, NRL, netball and A-League
- Free streaming of Apple Music (subscription still required)
- Access to the Telstra Air national Wi-Fi network
Optus also has a nice, simple set of 4 different postpaid plans, ranging from 10GB a month for $40 to 120GB for $80. Mobiles can be added onto any of these plans for an additional cost for 12-, 24- or 36-month contracts (your choice).
In addition to national calls being included, Optus allows for free talk and text to 35 countries on all but its cheapest plan. Its plans are flexible, even allowing you to build your own. Some other features from Optus include:
- Flexible plans that can include international calls to 35 countries and up to 4GB of roaming data
- Access to the 5G network with the right device in a covered area
- Six-month Apple Music trial on selected plans
- Can get an Optus Sport subscription that lets you stream the Premier League
While Vodafone's month-to-month plans have extremely poor data inclusions (1–15GB for $40– $60/month), its 12-month and phone-included plans have far better value. You can get between 7GB and 150GB for $40–$80 per month, plus some international minutes.
Most interesting are its phone-included plans which don't require you to sign a contract. This means you can switch between the Red Plus plans at will with no extra fees while continuing to pay off your phone. More of Vodafone's features are listed below:
- "Endless" data – 1.5Mbps speed-capped extra data at no charge past your limit
- Lots of discounts for students to get cheaper plans
- Bundling mobile with NBN and other plans can save you on all of them
- An extra $5 a day lets you use your regular data while roaming in 80 countries
Surprisingly for a supermarket chain, ALDI has a decent set of four prepaid plans that give good value for money. They range from $15 for 3GB to $45 monthly for 48GB and all use the Telstra 4G network.
Don't be fooled by the relatively low data inclusions – unused data rolls over from month to month and you even get a bunch of international calls and texts to up to 35 countries in all but the cheapest plan. Other great features include:
- All plans are prepaid, meaning no bill shock
- Full 30-day expiry unlike many prepaid plans, so you only need 12 recharges for 12 months
- Data rollover so long as you recharge before the expiry, letting you save up unused data
- Cheap plans on offer, perfect for light mobile users
As an MVNO, amaysim has some cheap, cheap prepaid plans on offer, ranging from as little as $10/month for 1GB to $50/month for 60GB. Adding extra data before the next month rolls around comes at a premium though, with a 1GB top-up costing you $10.
All amaysim plans have unlimited talk and text in Australia. Plans above $30 include international calls to 10 countries. amaysim uses the Optus 4G network for its service.
- All plans are prepaid, so you won't experience surprise bill shock
- Plans come with auto-renew, saving you from remembering to recharge (which can be good or bad)
- 365-day long expiry prepaid option available
- Watch out for 28-day expiry, forcing additional recharges during the year
Kogan's known for having cheap deals on pretty much everything in the world of tech and beyond and mobile plans are no exception. Choose from its 4 prepaid plans with 30-day expiry, from 3GB for $17 to 40GB for $50, all powered by the Vodafone 4G network.
Kogan Mobile stands apart with its 365-day flex prepaid plans, which offer unusually large amounts of data with year-long expiries. Some other great features from them include:
- All plans are prepaid, meaning no bill shock
- Choice of 30-, 90- or 365-day expiry prepaid plans, each with generous data inclusions
- Get extra data when you prepay your plan for an entire year and use that data whenever
- $15 international roaming pack offers 1GB data, 30 minutes of chat and 100 texts while overseas
Boost Mobile has a wide range of 28-day expiry prepaid mobile plans, from 5GB for $20 to 80GB for $70. The cheapest plan isn't the greatest value, but the more expensive ones get successively better. All of them use the Telstra 4G network.
You actually get some international call inclusions on every Boost Mobile plan in addition to domestic calls and text. Data rolls over from month to month if you recharge before expiry. There are 6- and 12-month long expiry data plans that offer just okay value for their big data caps, from 60–240GB. More inclusions from Boost Mobile are listed below:
- Prepaid plans only, so no chance of bill shock
- Free Apple Music streaming (subscription still required)
- Great international call inclusions on all plans to between 20 and 35 countries
- Watch out for 28-day expiry, forcing extra recharges over the course of a year