Student guide: Mobile phones
Knowing what's available on the market with mobile phones will help you make the right choice.
We’re reader-supported and may be paid when you visit links to partner sites. We don’t compare all products in the market, but we’re working on it!
When you become an adult, it's time to pay your own way with the money you will be earning. Since everyone needs a phone, you should make sure your not paying too much for your mobile phone each month. The two main options are prepaid and postpaid (also know as simply being 'on a plan') and getting familiar with how each works can make a big difference.
Prepaid mobile phones
A prepaid phone offers numerous advantages and is an excellent option when you first start working because it will let you work out exactly how much you use every month. This will make it easier for you to pick the right plan later on without paying a fortune in excess costs.
With a prepaid phone you can also change handsets more often, since a plan usually involves purchasing a handset on contract, which means that you will be stuck with the same phone for two years. By prepaying for your phone costs, you will also be able to stick to a budget, which means you will only be able to use what you can afford and can't run up additional costs. You also don't have to sign up for a contract and be stuck paying a monthly fee.
The fact is that a prepaid phone is generally more expensive than a plan, for calls, texts and more. However, at the beginning, it's definitely a better option as you won't have to cough up money every month.Back to top
Mobile phones on a plan
Mobile phone plans are everywhere today. Each provider is vying for your business, so there's a huge amount of plans available and the type you choose will depend on how much you can afford and how much you use every month.
This is important because you will have to pay penalties if you are late paying your bill and it will affect your credit, which will make it harder for you to get a loan in the future.
If you discover that you can't afford to pay for your plan after signing the contract, you will have to pay in full for the handset, if you purchased it with the plan and also pay early termination fees or exit fees to cancel the contract, which can amount to a lot. This is why it's so important for you get the right plan from the start and budget accordingly.
In terms of the types of plan available, you can opt for a SIM-only contract or one with a phone. You can also have an internet connection added to your phone, with either 3G or 4G speeds and 'unlimited' plans which offer an unlimited amount of calls, messages and data per month. Let's look at each.
A SIM-only contract is designed for those who already have a phone or wish to purchase one outright. In this case you'll only receive the plan and will use your existing phone. These are cheaper than plans which come with a phone.
Contract with a handset
A contract with a handset is one where you purchase the phone from the carrier and pay in instalments each month, which means you will be generally locked into a contract between 12 to 24 months.
3G/4G data plan
A 3G/4G plan will allow you to access the internet wherever you are and is ideal for smart phones and other types of mobile devices which can access the internet.
3G stands for Third Generation and refers to a specific transfer rate when surfing the web (200kbit/s for the technology connoisseurs out there). 4G stands for Fourth Generation and provides much faster internet, but requires a phone which can support 4G connections and a mobile network which offers it.
As the name suggests this offers unlimited calls, texts and usually a high data allowance. These can come as a sim card-only contract, with a phone and with 3G or 4G data. These plans tend to be quite expensive, especially when combined with a phone, so make sure you'll use the allowance up.
More guides on Finder
If you're sick of slow speeds on the NBN, or just can't get connected, there are fast 4G/5G plans available for you.
realme 7 5G review: Affordable 5G with an amazing display
The realme 7 5G brings a lot of features to the mid-range 5G market at an appealing price point, but it’s not quite the super-bargain it might seem.
Pay as you go mobile plans
Pay as you go mobile plans are a great way to save money if you don't use your phone very often.
Nokia 5.4 Review: Average Android doesn’t quite make the grade
The Nokia 5.4 is a fine phone, but it’s only an average model for its price range, which is something of an odd step backwards for Nokia.
Response to the Inquiry into Future Directions for the Consumer Data Right
Finder's submission in response to the Inquiry into Future Directions for the Consumer Data Right.
Review: TransferMate international money transfers
Learn about how TransferMate’s personal product works and what it can do for you.
What is LBN Co?
LBNCo is a high-speed alternative to the NBN but it's not available to everyone.
Samsung Galaxy S21 Ultra 5G Review: Android flagship brilliance
If you can stand the price point, there’s an awful lot to like about Samsung’s highest tier Galaxy S21 handset.
OptusPay: How does it work?
OptusPay is a straightforward payment plan system. Here's how it works in four steps.
Aspera R9 review: Low-cost, tough tradie phone
It’s not particularly powerful or equipped with a fancy camera, but if you want a low-cost Android handset with some reasonable durability, there’s value to be found in Aspera’s latest phone.
Ask an Expert