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NOTE: This Planhacker guide has been superseded.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.


    If I can make a suggestion: although this table is quite thorough, my preferred way to judge a plan's value is to divide their "included value" by their call cost to get a measure of maximum talk time. If you include a guesstimate of the number of calls you make per month and the number of SMSes then you can first reduce the "included value" by these costs too, making it more accurate.

    Posters in your previous article requested this information as a spreadsheet rather than image, but I haven't checked back to see if you acquiesced (and can understand if you won't, given that it's probably of value to Lifehacker!)

      I should have checked... This website lets you do exactly what I want, has everything except Virgin, and is updating its data currently:

        The Virgin plans where add over the weekend, Thanks for recommending my calculator

    A Google Docs link would be nice,
    even just a link to the actual spreadsheet!
    The resolution of that image is pretty poor and makes for poor comparison.

      Seconded - Google Docs would be nice.

    What's happening with tethering? Is it free with every carrier now?

    Thanks for the update, however its almost illegible now (last one was easier to read, even with red vodafone bg) and a few of the notes cells still get cut off.

    Its a pity its so hard to chose a carrier though, Do i go Voda or 3 (already with 3, but coverage its spotty at my GFs place, her 3gs roams/searches quite often), or do i go Telstra but lose free calls functionality and sacrifice 1gb of data, though ill be on wifi at home so most of my data will use that.

    Telstra's data allowance increase is just a time limited bonus: "Bonus data offer available 30 July-1 November 2010 unless extended by Telstra."

    I think you will find that Telstra's $49 plan doesn't give u 500mb data, its actually 200gb, plus a bonus of 300mb till Nov. Telstra probably did this so people like u guys post it up ;)

      No Baa Baa Blacksheep, the Telstra bonus offer is for the life of your contract IF you sign up before Nov 11. That's enough for me. Never thought I'd be saying this but I'm going to sign with Tel$tra. By Bye Optus, you can stick you F$&% S&#^ network up your Ar53!

    Great job guys! Virgin offers free voicemail calls and unused call cap rollover (on the Optus network), but as the Optus 3G/900 network coverage will now be able to complete with Telstra 3G/850, the best plan looks like the Optus $59 Extreme Cap ($69 with 32GB iPhone4)..$550 calls, 2GB data, unlimited SMS/MMS/Facebook/LinkedIn etc. if you don't break the 24-month contract!!

    Is that table a joke? come on post it as a readable file or size, geez. What's the point of going to all that work to tabulate that information and then present it like that. I appreciate the effort but seriously..

      There's a PDF version:

    It is in readable form, Just click the link to the PDF that is directly above the image.
    Maybe read a post fully before having a go...

      It wasn't in readable form earlier today, and there was no link to the PDF that wasn't directly above the image.
      Maybe go back in time and read posts partially before having a go...

      The PDF isn't much better unless you have a microscope.

    Why not post it as an excel spreadsheet - doh !

    WTF with the stupid iphone over hype, where are these telstra $79 1gig plans for the desire ?
    I'm calling smartphone racism.

    Just got the iPhone 4 and Telstra told me that the bonus data is just a rumor. Had to pay an extra $10 to get the extra data!!

      Incorrect. The deal is real:

      There's links on the Telstra Website with the fine print...
      If it's just a rumour, it's a pretty massive conspiracy!

    I'm wondering, how does the bonus data work on vodafone? I'm happy with their service, and how they treat their customers, so i'm going to stay with them. but i want to know what i'm getting :p

    For Telstra, their website says "Bonus data offer available 30 July-1 November 2010 unless extended by Telstra". Does this mean that you only get bonus data until November, or does it mean you get it for as long as you have the plan as long as you purchase it before November?


    Thanks so much for this comparison! Saves me a lot of time :) The Optus $59 Extreme Cap($69 for 32GB) is attracting my attention. I also noticed on the optus website that several plans have 2 months access for free if you sign up before 31/8 so on this particular plan you save $118 , bringing the cost down to $1538 over 24 months.

    I get over 9gb of data with Telstra's current bonus promotion. For $140 a month including iphone4/$1500calls/text
    best deal around.

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