Planhacker: Complete Australian iPhone 4 Plan Guide

Planhacker: Complete Australian iPhone 4 Plan Guide

NOTE: This Planhacker guide has been superseded. Click here for the most recent version.

All the carrier plans for iPhone 4 are out ahead of Friday’s Australian launch, but which plans offer the most data, the best SMS rates or the most attractive extras? Find out with our comprehensive Planhacker guide, listing every iPhone 4 contract plan in one handy table.

In the table below, we’ve outlined the contract deals available to purchase the iPhone 4 from 3, Optus, Telstra and Vodafone. (Virgin is also planning to sell the iPhone 4 and uses the Optus network, but hasn’t announced plan prices at this writing.) Given that the phone is a brand new release, it seems likely that most people will purchase it as part of a contract deal. As you can see from the table, there’s a ridiculously massive list of options to choose from (66 in this list)

If you don’t want to buy on a plan, you can purchase the 16GB model for $859 or the 32GB model for $999 direct from Apple. We’ll examine the specific BYO plans offered by carriers in a separate Planhacker column another time. You can also potentially use existing BYO plans, though you’ll need to either persuade the relevant carrier to supply you with the smaller micro-SIM format used by Apple or trim the SIM yourself. (While most carriers offer separate iPad plans which also use micro-SIMs, those aren’t priced for voice users.)

For each plan, we’ve highlighted the costs involved, including the monthly network access and handset fees (if applicable) and the total minimum cost over the contract (12 or 24 months); the included call value and the flagfall charge per minute for standard calls; how much data is included and how much you’ll pay for casual extra data; the charges for SMS and MMS messages in Australia; and any other notable features.

Vodafone and 3’s offers are confusing, since they include a fixed amount of data plus a ‘bonus’ amount — but one that applies for the life of the contract. As such, we’ve added this amount to their data totals.

Adding to the confusion, the standard cap plans from both companies are identical, except that Vodafone doesn’t list the $119 plan on its site and has different data charging rates. The iPhone-specific 3 plans include separate call allowances for Vodafone/3 calls and other networks, but don’t let you use voice credit towards excess data, while the standard Vodafone and 3 plans offer unlimited free calls on these networks and do let you spend your credit as you wish.

Telstra’s handset charge is an upfront fee, but we’ve divided it into monthly instalments for comparison purposes.

It appears that Apple will offer free bumpers to all users to deal with the iPhone 4’s reception issues, though it’s not entirely clear whether these will be supplied at purchase or ordered separately via a dedicated app, as has happened elsewhere in the world.

Here are all the details: Click on the image for a much larger and more legible version.

Which elements matter will depend on your own usage patterns, though we wouldn’t recommend a really minimal data option if you’re planning to use any actual “smart phone” features on the device. As ever, network performance is a crucial consideration. Optus has often been criticised in the past for flaky reception on iPhones; Telstra has a well-developed network but charges the most; 3’s network coverage is minimal outside capital cities and its include data doesn’t cover roaming ‘off network’ to use Telstra’s network instead. Check coverage maps carefully. If you have an existing contract, negotiate with your provider for an exit deal — while you’ll undoubtedly end up extending your contract, you may be able to get some fees and charges waived.

With the exception of some Optus plans, if you’re not looking at the cheapest plans it makes sense to insist on the 32GB model, since at higher price levels neither version carriers a handset charge. 3’s and Vodafone’s plans have the largest data inclusions at cheaper prices because of the bonus scheme, but calculating likely usage is very fiddly on the iPhone-only plans. Optus offers more data on pricier plans. 3’s network limitations make it hard to recommend if you do any kind of travelling. Telstra isn’t very competitive on data inclusions, but does have the most extensive network.

If you want full details of the terms and conditions associated with each company, hit the links below:

  • 3 (this page currently shows the 3GS, but the ‘More info’ links include iPhone 4 pricing)
  • Optus
  • Telstra
  • Vodafone

Which iPhone 4 deals are grabbing you? Let us know (and point out any corrections — it’s a huge table!) in the comments.

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


  • Optus’ $59 dollar cap on a 16gb model looks pretty good. $10 cheaper than the comparable vodaphone cap, unlimited mms and sms. Free calls to numbers on the same network is the same as voda and three, and unlimited access to a few select popular sites. I’ve not been with optus, so I can’t comment on the network performace, though I’ve never heard any serious complaints from friends who are.

    • Never heard complaints from people using iPhones on the Optus network?? You must be joking, the network is a complete farce. It’s slow, damn slow. Pay the extra and jump onto Telstra.

    • I have an iPhone 3G with Optus and I can definitely say that I will be making the jump to Telstra. Everyone whinges that Telstra doesn’t offer as much data, but from my own experience I know that I don’t use anywhere near my data allowance (750MB). I regularly use GPS, YouTube, email and web browsing and I really only get through 150-200MB per month.

      Again from my own experience the Optus network can be slow and patchy, even in the city (I live in Sydney). Many times have I tried to use GPS, or go to a website only to be confronted by that annoying circle where “3G” should be at the top of my screen, making using mobile internet impossibly slow. Sometimes, although to be fair not often, calls can take up to 30 seconds to start ringing and I often get messages saying that I have missed a call when I did not hear my phone go off (my phone did not have signal when the person called and so it went straight to voicemail).

      A mate of mine recently got the HTC Desire from Telstra and we decided to do an internet speed test between his HTC and my iPhone 3G.. the Telstra network was nearly twice as fast.

      At the end of the day the question I think you have to ask yourself is what’s more important to you.. quality or quantity? Would you prefer 2GB of data from Optus that you will never use and that is slow and sluggish anyway, or 500MB of data from Telstra that you will use, and have a mobile internet experience that is much snappier and more enjoyable!

      Hope this helps someone make their decision!

      • Agree with Dan. I’m on an Optus $79 cap with a 700MB monthly allowance (expires in September 2010), and I struggle to get over 30MB of downloads per month (I use the web at least daily, as well as GPS). I also use the tethering feature when I am away on business or on holidays, but even then, the most data I’ve ever downloaded was 140-oddMB.

        I also agree the Optus network reception is patchy in the metro areas, and it can be hit-or-miss in regional areas. Performance is also an issue in metro areas – we were in Melbourne a couple of weeks ago and I downloaded an app called ‘Tram Tracker’ to get around with the family (brilliant app). It took three attempts to log on to the App Store because there was no 3G signal, took another 3-4 minutes to download the thing, and the GPS map kept locking up when tracking the tram’s progress, taking about a tramstop of time to update.

        However, whilst Telstra’s iPhone pricing is now much more competitive, and the NextG network performance is, by all accounts, superior, I want to look at the total pricing and the fine print before I make a decision to switch. My wife and I have an iPhone each on a Business account (she’s on a $49 plan) and the things I want to check are:

        1) Pricing for deposits and retrievals of voicemail (currently free for both of us).
        2) Cost of calls between our phones (currently free).
        3) Cost of tethering the iPhone (Optus charges $9.90 per month – I have it enabled for the time I need it, then call and cancel it. Simple, and I can do this whenever I need it – no dongles with extortionate up-front and data costs).

        I’ve just had a look at Telstra’s website and I can see already their Business Accounts are ridiculous – $85 per month for $85 of included calls plus 600MB download limit… you’ve got to be kidding me!

        If I have to go to a Business Plan to get free calls between our two phones, I’ll definitely be staying with Optus – the faults of their network are minor compared to the higher costs of a better network service.

  • Excuse me, but you haven’t listed them all! Where’s Virgin Mobile? It’s not the same as Optus. They do actually have their own plans.

    • I was really disappointed with Virgin mobile. The network is completely rubbish compared to Vodafone, and I’m in the Melbourne CBD.

      I’ll be bailing the first chance I get. If you have the choice, avoid Virgin.

    • vodafone’s network in my opinion is sort of the inbetween of Optus and Telstra. Vodafone has its own network and has recently expanded to what they call a 2100 3G network. Basically, it isn’t like the maxed out Optus network where you’re either dropping calls or your phone has dropped off the celltower but it also isn’t as extensive in coverage as telstra, hence the pricing.

      • Thanks Justin. I have been reading a fair bit about the coverage issue as I am with Optus and getting sick of not having 3G or No Service at all. Comments on Vodafone have been a mixed bag. Some saying better than Optus, some saying worse.
        What is the speed difference between the 2100Mhz and 900Mhz 3G on Vodafone?
        I think I’m going to go the $79 32GB Vodafone plan.

    • As a side note, Voda have been rolling out about 60 850mhz towers in Victoria alone (can’t remember the number for the other states), purely to help the network congestion that all the iPhones are causing.

  • I have just upgraded my Vodafone plan to the new higher cap, but less data, and I was told by the sales guy that the new cap includes international calls too. Considering that it wasn’t included before this can make the comparison more interesting.

  • pricing looks pretty good especially with the larger data allowances. im currently with three but spend a lot of time in regional areas and to avoid the data roaming charges am thinking of moving to optus or even telstra.

    do people still find the optus network slow?

  • It appears as if their iPhone 79 dollar cap is identical to their regular 79 dollar cap.

    Except the regular cap includes unlimited mms and sms and the details on their website for iPhone show nothing about it.

    Does anyone know if the unlimited SMS and MMS will be incldued with the iPhone deal

  • what does it matter how much a call is if you cant call unless you hold it a certain way. guess it doesnt matter as long as you think you look cool and can tell people you have one.

  • I’m not sure, but I think Vodafone’s SMS charges are 28c not 25c judging by their current plans. That makes them the highest in the country I presume?

  • Currently with 3 using iPhone 3gs, Coverage is abysmal, I am 6km from mel cbd and cant even get phone reception let alone data! Constant missed calls due to reception – drop outs. Furthermore if you travel outside major city forget about it! No problems if I use a Telstra sim card. You pay for what you get so although 3 is quite competitive ( my contract is $29 cap, 1 gb data + $30 for iPhone )thats not much good if you cant use it. Im moving to Telstra and prepared to pay exit fees, and don’t let me start on call centres in India. So in my humble opinion avoid 3 at all cost, even if they have merged with Vodaphone

  • Is there a version of the spreadsheet that is clearer, the Vodafone pricing is almost unreadable being black text on red. Maybe you could post the actual spreadsheet rather than a dodgy screen shot.

  • Bear in mind, if you continue to use Pennytel application on the new iPhone 4, you will probably have issues getting the callback function working as Optus has blocked the number. I have confirmed this issue when trying another carrier sim card.


  • Why is the spreadsheet in JPEG? That is possibly the worst format you could have picked… PDF would be the best choice by far. But if you wanted it to still be an image, PNG is miles better than JPEG too – it would be sharper and probably compress to a smaller file size…

    • Thanks Matt. Will look into that, but for Telstra I was pretty sure it was the casual pricing (data packs are cheaper but not what I’m listing). Certainly not claiming infallibility though!

  • I chucked all those values into a Tableau visualisation; you can filter down the results based on preferred carrier, contract length, handset (16GB v 32GB), monthly cost, data …

    For me, looks like the Telstra $79 cap fits best. I hate to go with Telstra, but comparing the network speed & coverage on my Virgin iPhone 3G and my Telstra iPad 3G, it’s a no-brainer. 1GB of data a month is useless if you time out all the time!

  • I am currently on 3 and have been with them since they actually started.
    Their plans are excellent however the network, in some areas are shocking.i’ve got 3 Iphones and at this one area at the same time, one had network and the other didn’t..i think they shouldn’t even have roaming,what for?They need to place more towers or ask their mate Vodafone instead of using Telstra.
    Finally their customer service based in Mumbai, they hardly agree if the customer is right, it takes them longer to solve issues, transferring calls to another department, its a bloody joke…listening and understanding their language and what they say about 3 customers or us Aussies,shocking..Move to Telstra and just use their data and make calls using voip..pennytel, many outhere..unless you love your number..
    I think if Telstra wants, they can easily grab all their mobile customers back,how? They need to replace their marketing manager..
    and someone mentioned about Virgin mobile…don’t even go there…worst then Mumbai…calls answered in Philippines…Their customer service and credit manager used to work as a team leader for a Telco who was hopeless and still is…so keep away from these losers…Optus..i have no idea however when it comes to ADSL+, a few of my mates had issues…At the end of the day, i guess maybe try Vodafone however their customer service has now been directed to Mumbai who are also employed by 3 after they merged.

  • I am unsure of what to go for. Telstra $79 cap plan vs. Optus $59 plan. Weighing up coverage vs more data allowance. I’ve never owned an iPhone, can someone give me some sort of idea of how much 500mb will get you? Is that quite a bit or are some people likely to go over that. Any help would be great!

  • all my friends have the iphone on optus, and they havent had any issues… telstra for what its worth is terrible aswell, aswell as an unethical company as demonstrated by the massive fine they have just taken.

  • Optus is the only one on the list that has the information for a 12 month contract. I am coming off a 24 month contract for the first iPhone and in the past few months I have been incredibly frustrated by it’s performance. I was thinking of only signing up for 12 this time around so that I could upgrade more often, But the prices are so expensive that way. I just don’t think I can justify the cost. Anyone else have any thoughts on this?

  • Telstra seem to have updated their data allowances according to one of their blogs:

    The ‘Revised Data Boosted Plans’ table now has increased data usage allowances for all plans ($79 plan up to 1 GB from 500MB). However, their website still has the old information based on a press release. optus on the other hand has updated plans on its website.

    If this is right, telstra must really want those iPhone customers…..

  • Telstra have upped their data limits:

    Here’s what is available to customers purchasing the iPhone 4, iPhone 3GS, HTC Desire or Nokia N97 mini on the following plans from 30 July until 1 November 2010.

    Telstra Plan Included data
    $49 Consumer Next G Cap Plan 500MB (up from 200MB)
    $79 Consumer Next G Cap Plan 1GB (up from 500MB)
    $99 Consumer Next G Cap Plan 1GB (up from 500MB)
    $129 Consumer Next G Cap Plan 6GB (up from 1GB)
    $55 Ultimate II Plan 500MB (up from 200MB)
    $85 Ultimate II Plan 1GB (up from 500MB)
    $110 Ultimate II Plan 1GB (up from 500MB)
    $150 Ultimate II Plan 6GB (up from 1GB)

  • None of those stand out for me. I’d much rather hold on to my 3G on the $29 Optus YES plan for a couple months more until something better comes around. Im out of contract now, but I will keep this plan for quite a while as it suits me perfectly.

  • I called virgin and their plan – $89.00 dollars a month for 32GB with 4GB of data and unlimited calls. I dont know what plan to choose. I have been with virgin for 2 years – have noticed drop outs and slow speed of internet… considering telstra but do they have any bonus’s like free text or calls??

    Thank you

  • I used your guide to sign up to a Telstra $49 plan. Am very happy with that, given that I live in the very outer suburbs of Melbourne in the Yarra Valley and all providers except Telstra have very poor coverage in my area. The truth is I am held to randsom because of the inequity in coverage in Australia. It’s a ridiculous situation which means that I pay more for all of my phone services. But, your guide helped me figure out which plan will suit, which phone to choose and which features to bargain for. Thanks!

    • Elly, we never lift Planhacker content from other sites – I always assemble the lists from scratch. And one of the reasons we don’t currently offer them as spreadsheets is because it would be too easy for others to copy them!

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