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Samsung Galaxy S9: Outright vs contract plans compared

Matt Sayer 28 February 2018 NEWS

Is it worth forking out retail price for Samsung's latest handsets, or do contract plans offer better value?

It didn't take long for the major players in the mobile space to reveal their plans for Samsung's new Galaxy S9 handset following its announcement at the Mobile World Congress earlier this week.

While there are plenty of compelling reasons to sign up for them, including Woolworths Mobile offering $300 off the handset price and Telstra bundling in a free Samsung Galaxy Tab A tablet, there's another option worth considering: purchasing outright. By shelling out the hefty handset fee upfront and pairing it with a cheaper prepaid or SIM-only plan, you could stand to save a considerable chunk of cash over the course of a typical contract.

To determine exactly how much you can save, we've compared the cost of purchasing the Samsung Galaxy S9 outright from Samsung and signing up for a SIM-only plan with the cost of going the traditional contract route.

About the author

Matt Sayer is a writer covering the latest tech, telco and video game news at finder.com.au. In his downtime from helping Aussies make informed decisions on their broadband, mobile phone, and streaming video plans, he likes exploring rich video game worlds and kicking back with a good book.

RRP for Samsung Galaxy S9 and Galaxy S9+ in Australia

Samsung Galaxy S9 64GB$1199Buy now
Samsung Galaxy S9 256GB$1349Buy now
Samsung Galaxy S9+ 64GB$1349Buy now
Samsung Galaxy S9+ 256GB$1499Buy now

For starters, let's consider the standard 64GB Galaxy S9 handset. Assuming your data needs are fairly humble, you have plenty of options in both the phone plan and SIM-only space. Since SIM-only plans tend to be more flexible with their contracts than phone plans, we've used the cheapest version in the table below. This may mean signing up for a 12-month SIM-only plan, so bear that in mind.

Samsung Galaxy S9 64GBMonthly costMinimum 24-month costSIM-only planSIM-only plan plus outright phone cost over 24 monthsOutright savings
Virgin Mobile $55 plan w/ 5GB data and 10% discount$79.50$1908$30 12-month plan w/ 5GB data and 20% discount$1775$133More info
Optus $45 plan w/ 2GB data$89.00$2136$30 12-month plan w/ 3GB data$1919$217More info
Woolworths Mobile $30 Flexi plan w/ 5GB data$67.45$1618.80$30 12-month plan w/ 5GB data$1919-$301More info
Telstra Go Mobile Plus $59 plan w/ 2GB data$94.00$2256$39 12-month plan w/ 2GB data$2135$121More info
Vodafone $40 Red plan w/ 15GB data$89.50 w/loyalty discount$2148$40 plan w/ 6GB data$2159-$11More info

As you can see, the value of purchasing outright varies wildly from provider to provider. While forking out the handset cost upfront with Optus could save you as much as $217, you'd actually lose money taking the same approach with Woolworths Mobile thanks to its $300 discount on Galaxy S9 pre-orders.

Vodafone, too, offers little reason to front the $1199 sticker price, since its month-to-month Red plans are identical whether you sign up for a SIM-only plan or a phone plan.

Of course, if you're considering picking up a premium handset like the Samsung Galaxy S9 at launch, there's a good chance you'll want a premium plan to go along with it. And given how much you'll already be spending, ponying up the extra $150 for the bigger and more feature-packed Samsung Galaxy S9+ becomes almost trivial.

Let's take a look at how the contract and outright purchasing options shake out for the 64GB Samsung Galaxy S9+ on plans with more than 15GB of monthly data:

Samsung Galaxy S9+ 64GBMonthly costMinimum 24-month costSIM-only planSIM-only plan plus outright phone cost over 24 monthsOutright savings
Virgin Mobile $80 plan w/ 16GB data and 10% discount$92.00$2208$40 12-month plan w/ 15GB data and 20% discount$2117$91More info
Vodafone $60 Red plan w/ 36GB data$111 w/ loyalty discount$2664$50 plan w/ 32GB data and $5 discount$2429$235More info
Optus $100 plan w/ 30GB data$110$2640$50 12-month plan w/ 30GB data$2549$91More info
Woolworths Mobile Large plan w/ 25GB data$93.70$2248.80$50 plan w/ 25GB data$2549-$300.20More info
Telstra Go Mobile Plus L plan w/ 20GB data$124.00$2976$70 12-month plan w/ 20GB data$3029-$53More info

Once again, the benefit of buying outright differs dramatically depending on which provider you go with. While it's still slightly cheaper to drop the full $1349 sticker price of the Galaxy S9+ upfront with Optus and Virgin Mobile, Telstra flips the script with a more compelling contract option this time around. That said, Telstra is still the pricier of the bigger providers, though you do get a free Samsung Galaxy Tab A 8.0 thrown in if you pre-order with Telstra before the Galaxy S9's official launch.

Are there any cheaper options?

While there's plenty of appeal in signing up with household names like Optus and Telstra, there's no shortage of smaller mobile providers offering cheap prepaid and post-paid SIM-only plans ideal for coupling with an outright purchase of the Samsung Galaxy S9. Over the course of 24 months, these plans can save you hundreds when compared with a contracted plan from the bigger mobile providers.

For example, here's what some of the cheaper prepaid and post-paid plans will cost you over 24 months when paired with an outright Samsung Galaxy S9 64GB:

Samsung Galaxy S9 64GBPayment methodIncluded dataMonthly plan costPlan plus outright phone cost over 24 months
SpinTel BYO Mobile 6GBPost-paid6GB$23.95$1773.80More info
CMobile Red $24.90Post-paid4GB$24.90$1796.60More info
Jeenee Mobile Large 5.5GBPrepaid5.5GB$25$1799More info
Moose 29Post-paid5GB$29.00$1895More info
Kogan Mobile MediumPrepaid6GB$29.90$1916.60More info

Not only do these plans work out cheaper than the contracted offerings from the bigger providers, they come packed with more monthly data than many of them, too. Only Woolworths Mobile's contract plan with its $300 handset discount and Virgin Mobile's discounted SIM-only plan manage to hold their own against the smaller providers, and even then they lack the freedom of the month-to-month plans above.

That's an important distinction if you're a keen bargain hunter, since signing up for a no-lock-in contract lets you switch plans and providers on a monthly basis, if you so choose. This allows you to take advantage of the many limited-time discounts and short-term deals that smaller providers tend to offer. Manage your plan hopping well enough, and you could save even more than the price differences above.

Interestingly, it's a slightly different story when pairing the Galaxy S9+ 64GB with larger data plans:

Samsung Galaxy S9+ 64GBPayment methodIncluded dataMonthly plan costPlan plus outright phone cost over 24 months
Catch Connect 15GBPrepaid15GB$35$2189More info
Lebara Large $39.90Prepaid16GB$39.90$2306.60More info
Moose 49Post-paid30GB$49$2525More info
Kogan Mobile Extra LargePrepaid23GB$49.90$2546.60More info

Although Catch Connect's 15GB prepaid plan works out cheaper than competing contract plans, the rest of the plans don't stack up quite as well as the more affordable Galaxy S9 plans did.

This is largely due to the limited data caps smaller providers offer. While Optus and Vodafone load their 12- and 24-month plans with upwards of 30GB of data, their smaller cohorts tend to top out around 20GB. If you're in it for the long term, then, you're going to get more from the larger providers whether you purchase outright or sign up for a fixed-term contract.

Once again, though, the commitment-free nature of the month-to-month plans above does open up the possibility of regularly swapping between plans as providers roll out new deals. It's a lot more hassle, certainly, but it could pay off with significant savings over the long term.

Should you buy the Samsung Galaxy S9 outright?

Looking at the numbers, it's clear that there's room to save a good couple hundred dollars by forking out the upfront cost for a new Samsung Galaxy S9 and combining it with a SIM-only plan. But while the savings can be quite significant if your data needs are relatively modest, the tables turn if you're looking for a plan with plenty of GBs. In that case, the larger data caps available on 24-month plans can be worth the commitment.

You'll also want to consider the various incentives offered on Galaxy S9 contract plans as you can find some impressive deals if you're willing to stick it out for the long haul. Woolworths Mobile's $300 handset discount, for instance, tops even the best outright deals, making it the go-to means of picking up a cheap Galaxy S9.

What about lease plans?

Lease plans have found favour in recent years, with both Optus and Telstra offering them as alternatives to their regular purchasing plans. While the average $10-a-month discount on leasing plans can make them seem quite attractive, you'll want to consider the cost on the back end. Leasing might save you as much as $240 over a 24-month contract, but you won't own the $1000+ handset by the end of it. That means you won't be able to flip it on eBay or hand it down to a friend or family member, and you'll have to return the handset to your provider if you choose to cancel your plan at any point.

Compare all Samsung Galaxy S9 and Galaxy S9+ plans

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