Study shows Aussies are (mostly) terrible at picking mobile plans

Alex Kidman 25 July 2016

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Aussies aren't as savvy as they might think when it comes to picking a "good" mobile deal, according to new research.

New figures from Roy Morgan research suggests that while many Australians consider themselves pretty clever when it comes to picking a good value mobile phone deal, the reality is quite different.

49% of those surveyed by Roy Morgan figured that they knew how to get a good phone deal, whether they were playing in the prepaid plans or the postpaid contract space. The other 51% figured that they weren't very good with this particular money-saving skill.

What Roy Morgan found, however, was that based on the average prices paid by the surveyed users, those who thought they "knew" how to pick a good mobile deal were paying around 7% more per month on contract and around 25% more per month if they were prepaid users. Or in other words, folks who figured they couldn't spot a good deal were spending markedly less than their supposedly more savvy counterparts.

The figures break in a fascinating way across carriers as well. If you're a Virgin Mobile customer, you're far more likely to think of yourself as savvy with 66% of customers positioning themselves that way. That's followed up by amaysim (63%), Vodafone (57%), Optus and (52%), TPG (51%) and iiNet (50%). Rounding out the bottom of the pack were customers of budget MVNO ALDIMobile (47%) and premium telco Telstra(39%).

The elephant in the room with these figures is that simply spending more on a mobile contract doesn't automatically mean that those deals are worse value overall than plans where you're spending less. Sure, you have less money in your bank account at the end of the month, but that presumes you're getting equivalent value for your spend.

How can I spot a "good value" mobile plan?

If we're all fooling ourselves when it comes to our ability to spot a good deal, what is it that we should be looking out for when it comes to mobile deals?

There's no hard and fast rule when it comes to weighing up plans, because their overall value can and will vary depending on your circumstances and needs. Overall spend is just part of that matrix. Along with the cold hard cash figure, consider:

  • How much does data cost? With so many plans offering "unlimited" calls and texts, data is the current battlefield for mobile value. That's not just a question of how much quota you're given, but also what excess data costs and how it's counted.
  • What about international inclusions? Many plans now include international calling minutes, or in some cases unlimited standard calls to select international locations. On the flip side, if you plan to travel, it's worth knowing upfront if roaming is supported, and what it will cost you to use your phone while overseas.
  • What's my coverage like? Value isn't just about money, data, calls and texts. If your location is one that's poorly served by any of the three core mobile networks (Telstra, Optus or Vodafone) then no amount of extra data or goodies is likely to satisfy you.
  • What's the total cost? For contract customers, you're typically signing up for one or two years with a carrier. The total minimum cost listed is just that -- a minimum. It may make better value sense to opt for a higher initial cost plan if you're likely to go over quota rather than incur lots of additional fees.
  • How long does my credit last? For prepaid customers, the question of how long your money gives you mobile access is critical. Some plans have dipped to 28 day terms recently, which is worse value over the span of a year, where you'll pay almost an entire extra recharge worth compared to a 30 day plan. Conversely, however, most long expiry plans work on a high call/text/data cost on a PAYG basis, and may not be a good match for moderate to heavy usage customers.

Image: Shutterstock

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