Planhacker: Australian BlackBerry Deals

NOTE: This Planhacker guide has been superseded.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

While the BlackBerry’s core audience remains corporate workers, newer phones such as the Torch are very much aimed at consumers at well. Find the best BlackBerry deals with our guide to what’s on offer for individual buyers in Australia.

Since we ran the first version of this guide back in July, quite a lot has changed in the world of BlackBerry. For a start, the introduction of the BlackBerry Torch means that there’s finally a touchscreen BlackBerry model that doesn’t blow chunks. The Curve 3G has also hit the market, and Optus is now selling more than one model. In line with general improvements across the market, data allowances are also higher from most carriers.

For all that, BlackBerry deals aimed at individual buyers are still relatively thin on the ground. Each of Australia’s major carriers does offer contract deals for BlackBerry for individuals though, so it is possible to use the BlackBerry effectively as a standalone phone.

While you can plug any SIM you like into a BlackBerry that isn’t network-locked, BlackBerry’s email and browsing services depend on also having access to its proprietary systems. For standalone buyers, this means the BlackBerry Internet Service (BIS) option needs to be bundled with the service. In most cases, you get unlimited email downloads and browsing — but the latter only applies if you use the native BlackBerry browser, not an alternative like Opera.

The majority plans in Australia include BIS with unlimited data for those associated services. Some exceptions: Optus offers a choice of either BIS or other data options; in practice, BIS is what you’d want to pick. Telstra doesn’t offer any extra data on the Pearl 3G, and requires you to bundle it with the Bold separately at a $29.95 per month cost, which we’ve added into the table below as there’s not much point getting a BlackBerry without it. Vodafone doesn’t offer BIS at all on its $19 or $29 plans, which renders them all but pointless.

3 and Vodafone offer a handful of 12 month contract options, albeit with high handset charges; otherwise, you’re looking at 24 months for most providers. We haven’t included temporary offers or online-only promotions in this list.

In the table below, we’ve noted the monthly cost, contract length, total cost (incorporating any handset charges) and included data for each plan. If BIS is included, this data will cover everything outside of email and BlackBerry native browsing (such as applications like video streaming which use data access). We’ve also included the bundled call value for each cap, though it’s important to check details of call costs once you’ve picked some likely candidates: $100 of cap with one provider is not equivalent to $100 with another. ‘Unlimited’ deals will invariably only cover calls in Australia.

For all the details, here’s the full table in PDF format (the listing was too long to make rendering as a JPG sensible).

Your choice of BlackBerry plan is likely to be heavily influenced by which networks work where you live. There’s virtually no exclusive models in the market, save for the two old Storm designs which are utter dogs anyway and not worth anyone’s time.

Some observations: 3’s cheap plans are a waste of money because of handset charges, and the same applies to some Vodafone deals — its $69 and $79 Torch plans both have the same total cost, for instance, so the $79 is a better choice. Optus’ either/or BIS versus data arrangement is a trifle annoying, as is Vodafone’s exclusion from the cheapest plans. Telstra’s separate BIS pricing makes it a poor option unless you fancy the Pearl 3G. Right now, Optus and Vodafone are the only carriers selling the Torch, but Telstra is expected to also add it to its range eventually.

If you want to dig into any given plan, here are the relevant sites:

Let us know about to any other good BlackBerry deals you’ve found in the comments.

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

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