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The best mobile plans for entertainment
If your smartphone is your gateway to fun, choose a plan that lets you make the most of it.
Top tips for choosing a mobile plan for entertainment
- Look for plans with unmetered streaming options for the services you use
- Large data caps will help minimise chance of bill shock
- Use the quality settings in the streaming app to better control data use
The best plans to maximise your entertainment needs will typically be those with big chunky data allowances, because that would cover just about any need.
How much data? That will vary from user to user, but as a rough guide, here's what you could expect to use across a variety of mobile entertainment pursuits:
That's just a guideline for usage and doesn't take into account any additional downloads, such as games updates or offline album downloads that may more seriously impact your data usage.
Data's not the only consideration when choosing the best plans, though. So we’ve broken out our selections across different entertainment types.
Best plans for video streaming
Australians love video streaming, but as you can see above, it's by far the easiest way to blow through your mobile plan's data cap.
Now, you could opt for a high data plan in the first place, which will solve that issue for you as long as your data cap lasts, but you have other options on the table too.
Both Optus and Vodafone have options for unmetered streaming of popular video services, including Netflix, Stan and ABC iView. On Optus, for an additional $5 per month you can activate mobile TV streaming on an Optus contract on a month-to-month basis, even if you're on a longer-term contract. You're limited to SD-only streaming on the device with the SIM in it. Cast video up to another source and you could incur additional data charges.
Vodafone has a similar deal under what it calls "Vodafone passes". $15 extra per month on your Vodafone bill will score you unmetered access to Netflix, Stan and Amazon Prime video content, again limited to an effective SD quality.
However at that cost, there's a smarter play for Vodafone customers. Vodafone offers what it calls "Endless mobile data" on selected plans. This gives you a mobile data quota, and then no limit at all for any usage capped at a 1.5Mbps speed tier. In most cases that's a better deal than dropping $15 extra just to stream video at exactly the same rates.
If you're a Telstra customer, the same essential strategy applies. Telstra doesn't offer up unmetered video access passes outside of its own sports apps, but it does have its own "unlimited" data play in the form of what it calls "Peace of Mind" data. This is included with higher-end plans, or can be bolted onto lower tier plans for $10 extra per month. Like Vodafone's approach, you're limited to just 1.5Mbps download speeds once your data quota is exhausted, which is typically only going to be suitable for SD video viewing.
If your budget is more expansive, Telstra also offers up a $199 Unlimited deal over 24 months with your choice of bundled phone and data with no speed limits at all. It's a truly premium plan, but if you absolutely must have your Netflix in the best possible resolution, it's one solution.
One simple way to rein in your mobile entertainment costs is to take advantage of the offline modes offered for a lot of content on services such as Netflix, Stan or Amazon Prime Video. If you download a show or movie to your device for offline viewing while you're inside your home Wi-Fi, you won't incur any data charges at all for watching it on the train or bus.
Best plans for sports streaming
Your choice of sports code will probably determine which mobile plan deal best suits your needs because your included access is what’s critical here. There are plenty of players in the online streaming sports space, but only a handful that tie directly into mobile plans.
Telstra has longstanding deals with both the AFL and NRL that include access to online streaming passes for eligible Telstra customers, as well as more recent deals with Netball Australia and the National Basketball League.
Telstra's contract plans and prepaid plans bundle in free access to AFL, NRL and Netball, with a few key limitations to keep in mind. You can't stream the State of Origin or NRL Grand Final, and you're limited to streaming on devices with 7-inch displays or smaller.
Optus has been active in this area as well, most notably gobbling up the streaming rights for the English Premier League as the jewel in the crown of its Optus Sport offering. Optus Sport also includes cricket coverage if that’s your sport of choice.
It’s not just the big players who have an interest in sport, though. OVO Mobile is notable in this area for grabbing the rights to a wide variety of sports not covered by the big players, including motorsports, gymnastics, badminton and more. OVO only does prepaid SIM card offerings, but any OVO plan gets data-free access to its OVO Play service.
Best plans for music streaming
Music streaming should typically make much less of an impact on your monthly data bill, but all those tracks can add up over time.
Telstra at one time offered free Apple Music subscriptions with selected contracts, typically with a bundled phone, but it has now cycled back to offering data-free access to Apple Music for its contract customers. You'll still need to pay for the actual subscription to Apple Music, but usage won't incur any additional data charges.
Optus has taken the mantle from Telstra by offering a free six-month trial of Apple Music with its 12-month SIM-only plans as well as its 24-month phone contract plans. Unlike Telstra, though, streaming music through Apple Music still counts against your monthly data cap.
Vodafone's play in the music space is similar to video streaming. On lower-end plans, you can opt to pay $10 per month for a Vodafone music pass with no data metering on Amazon Music, Spotify, Tidal, Deezer or SoundCloud. Above a certain price point, Vodafone's unlimited metering kicks in anyway for contract customers.
Best plans for gaming
Mobile gaming as a category makes millions of dollars, as the makers of everything from Angry Birds to Pokémon Go could tell you, but to date, there’s not a lot of differentiation in mobile plans to cater to the needs of mobile gamers.
This means yet again that the key element you should concentrate on is data. Whether you like free-to-play ad-supported games, or augmented reality games that need GPS tracking, mobile gaming can chew through a surprising quantity of data.
One option here would be to opt for a data-only SIM with a large quota allowance. We're seeing new plans in this space emerge regularly, so even if you figure you're on a good data plan, it's worth checking and comparing to ensure you're getting the best value for money.
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