Optus vs Telstra Phone leasing: Whose plans are better value?

Alex Kidman 5 May 2017 NEWS

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Both Optus and Telstra now offer the option to lease a handset, but whose deal offers better value to consumers?

For years, when you signed up to a mobile contract, it was with the understanding that the handset that you were given would be yours at the end of the contract. It wasn’t "free" to speak of, with either the cost of the handset built directly into the plan, or added on as a handset repayment.

More recently, however, Telstra introduced the facility to lease mobile phones on a contract under its Go Mobile Swap plan scheme. Optus has today announced its own version of phone leasing for consumers under its new My Plan Flex scheme.

The key benefit with phone leasing is that you pay less each month for your total phone package. You never actually own the phone under a leasing arrangement, but both carriers will allow you to swap it out after just 12 months for a fresh phone, at an additional cost. At the end of your standard 24 month contract you either return the phone to your carrier or buy it off them at an agreed price.

Telstra vs Optus: How much will I save?

Both carriers tend towards a $10 discount per month, which means the general maximum you’re likely to save over a 24 month contract is logically $240. That’s a reasonable saving over a mobile contract presuming you don’t incur any other charges.

However, it’s not a flat $10 saving at every combination of phone and plan tier. That’s especially true if you opt for a low-storage phone on a high-priced plan, where often the handset cost of the phone is essentially built into the phone pricing.

As an example (and ignoring data inclusion factors), here’s the raw pricing data for an iPhone 7 32GB on Optus’ current plan tiers, including your total maximum savings:

Optus Plan comparison
iPhone 7 32GB My Plan Plus Monthly My Plan Flex Monthly Saving 24 Month contract difference
$40 Plan $76 $66 $10 $240
$65 Plan $89 $79 $10 $240
$85 Plan $94 $85 $9 $216
$100 Plan $105 $100 $5 $120
$130 Plan $130 $130 $0 $0
$160 Plan $160 $160 $0 $0

Here’s Telstra’s plan vs lease pricing for the exact same handset:

Telstra Plan comparison
iPhone 7 32GB Go Mobile Plus Go Mobile Swap Saving 24 Month contract difference
$55 S Plan $91 $81 $10 $240
$75 M Plan $99 $89 $10 $240
$95 L Plan $105 $95 $10 $240
$135 XL Plan $143 $135 $8 $192
$195 XXL Plan $195 $195 $0 $0

Clearly, if you were already of a mind to sign up for an iPhone 7 32GB with Telstra, there’s more savings to be had, excluding the top tier XXL plans.

It’s even the case when you tweak upwards, choosing a handset with more features, storage and a higher outright price point.

Here’s the comparison of pricing between Optus’ current plans for the Samsung Galaxy S8+

Optus Plan comparison
Samsung Galaxy S8+ 64GB My Plan Plus Monthly My Plan Flex Monthly Saving 24 Month contract difference
$40 Plan $87 $81 $6 $144
$65 Plan $95 $89 $6 $144
$85 Plan $100 $94 $6 $144
$100 Plan $108 $102 $6 $144
$130 Plan $133 $130 $3 $72
$160 Plan $160 $160 $0 $0

And here’s Telstra’s comparison for the same phone:

Telstra Plan comparison
Samsung Galaxy S8+ 64GB Go Mobile Plus Go Mobile Swap Saving 24 Month contract difference
$55 S Plan $97 $87 $10 $240
$75 M Plan $107 $97 $10 $240
$95 L Plan $115 $105 $10 $240
$135 XL Plan $145 $135 $10 $240
$195 XXL Plan $195 $195 $0 $0

So in general, if you’re looking to lease a phone, Telstra’s cutting deals that save more over the general cost of the contract. The flip side of that issue is that Telstra generally charges a premium on access to its network, so an Optus plan with similar data inclusions will usually end up a little cheaper than its Telstra equivalent. That’s also a question of your mobile reception area and general usage, because there’s not much value in a plan that doesn’t cover you where you live, work and play.

Telstra vs Optus phone leasing: Phone swap charges

Under Optus’ My Plan Flex plans, if you want to swap out your handset after 12 months, you can do so for $99, presuming that there’s no damage to the original phone. Telstra offers the exact same facility with its Go Mobile Swap plans at exactly the same price for an undamaged phone.

If you do damage your phone, the amount you’ll pay depends on the precise nature of the damage. Optus advises that "easy fix" problems will incur a charge of at least $229 will apply, but for more serious damage charges of up to $499 will apply.

Telstra follows the same pricing scheme, with a $229 fee for a phone with a cracked screen and a charge of $499 if your phone doesn't work at all. Other repair charges can range "up to $499" so that will be a matter of both the handset in question and the cost of repair. However Telstra does also advertise the possibility of keeping the existing handset and swapping out to a new one. In essence, if you change to a new phone, you’ve got 30 days to return the old one. If you fail to do so, you’re charged Telstra’s determined market value plus a 20% penalty, but the phone then becomes entirely yours to do with as you like.

Telstra vs Optus phone leasing: handset options

If you’re after a wide range of handset choices, Telstra’s Go Mobile Swap applies to far more handsets than Optus. At the launch of its My Plan Flex scheme, Optus only offers up the iPhone 7, iPhone 7 Plus, Samsung Galaxy S8 and Samsung Galaxy S8+ to lease.

Telstra offers those phones as well under My Plan Swap, but additionally you can opt (at the time of writing) for the LG G6, Google Pixel, Google Pixel XL, Sony Xperia XZ or Telstra Signature Premium to lease.

Telstra vs Optus phone leasing: What happens at the end of my lease?

Optus’ setup for its My Plan Flex leasing offers you a couple of options at the conclusion of your 24 month contract term. If you’re done with the handset and it’s still in fine working order, you can simply return the handset to conclude the contract, or buy it outright at what Optus determines to be the fair market price. If you don’t want to keep the phone and it’s damaged, the same damage tier pricing as at the 12 month period applies.

If you don’t contact Optus, your existing leasing contract rolls over for up to six months, at which point Optus will charge you its determined price for the phone and conclude the contract, which means from a practical point of view the longest you can lease a single handset from Optus is 30 months.

On the Telstra side, matters are essentially the same. You can opt to hand in a working handset in good order and conclude your contract, or buy it outright from Telstra, or sit on it for a further six month period at which point you’re automatically billed for the handset cost.

Can I swap my phone out if I'm on a regular Telstra or Optus contract?

You certainly can. Telstra was first to market with its New Phone Feeling offer, which allows customers on full contract terms to re-contract for a new phone after twelve months, which you can find out about here. Optus has its own version of much the same scheme, marketed as the New Phone Trade Up deal, which you can read about here.

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