Planhacker: Complete Android Australian Contract Phone Deals

Android is a massively popular option for Lifehacker readers using mobile phones, but there’s a huge range of potential models and plans on offer. Here’s a summary of all the best deals currently available from Australian carriers that we could find.

It seems fitting to officially kick off our new Planhacker series rounding up communications deals with Android devices, given their popularity in the Lifehacker community. (With that said, we did effectively soft-launch the column with our recent roundup of iPad SIM plans.)

Each week, we’ll list all the major deals in a given category — whether that’s phones, broadband deals, or mobile packages. While we’ve got an extensive list of topics in mind, we’ll regularly revisit rapidly changing categories when major new options become available. If there’s a particular area you’d like us to cover, tell us in the comments or email us.

The table below outlines each of the Android models offered on contract for non-business buyers by Australian carriers with entry-level plan prices. Where publicised, we’ve also listed the outright buy price. (We haven’t factored in bundling discounts or other deals.) With the exception of Vodafone, contracts run for 24 months.

Obviously, if you want maximum flexibility you can import (or buy locally) any Android phone and plug in whatever SIM you like, but our focus here is on contract phones. For each carrier, we’ve listed the models available, which version of Android those phones run (here’s what’s special about Android 2.1 and what’s coming in 2.2), the contract length, the monthly and total lifetime cost (including handset charges if applicable), the included data allowance, basic call cost information (including the amount of credit offered on each plan) and any other special quirks. Click on the image for the full-size version (which, we promise, you can actually read).

We’ve emphasised data allowances because if you’re using an Android phone, you’ll certainly want to make use of the browsing and apps features. That’s not to say the call costs aren’t also important, but those are much more subject to individual factors when making a purchase decision (such as which networks people you call frequently use), so we haven’t listed every last detail.

If you have a particular phone in mind, that may well determine which carrier you go with — you can’t currently get a Legend without signing up with Telstra, for example, or an X10 Mini from anyone other than Optus. If you do have a choice, then make sure you pick a carrier that actually works in the areas where you’ll regularly use the phone.

While choosing your phone remains an individual decision, there are a couple of obvious details to note. Telstra’s data allowances are stingy; 500MB is not a lot given the capabilities of a typical Android device (and the speed of Telstra’s Next G network), nor is the $10 browsing allowance on most basic plans. Optus has much better data deals, and offers unlimited access to Twitter, Facebook, YouTube and MySpace on its plans. Vodafone is the only carrier with 12-month (for the Legend) and ‘unlimited’ contracts, but its cheapest plans don’t make much sense given the high monthly handset charges.

Finally, if you want to dig into the carrier sites for more information, here’s their deep-drilling-as-possible links:

Know a good Android package that we’ve missed? Tell us in the comments.

Lifehacker’s weekly Planhacker column rounds up the best communications deals.

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