Planhacker: Updated Australian iPhone 4 Plan Guide

NOTE: This Planhacker guide has been superseded.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

Since we ran the first version of this guide, Virgin Mobile has released its plans and Telstra has increased its data limits. We’re on the case with an updated version of 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, Virgin Mobile and Vodafone. 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 (78 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’s all the details: click on the image for a much larger and more legible version, or click here for the whole thing in PDF form.

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. Virgin’s call rates are the highest.

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

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.

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