BlackBerry is often thought of as a business phone, but the newer touchscreen Torch is a worthy competitor to other similar smartphones. Here's a total roundup of the BlackBerry deals currently available for individual buyers in Australia.
We ran a version of this guide back in November, but we're updating now to reflect the availability of the Torch across all the main network providers; move into the new Planhacker format (something we'll also be doing with our Android and Windows Phone 7 listings in coming weeks); and incorporate other minor changes (such as 3 offering the Pearl 3G on 24-month contracts, and the arrival of the Bold 9780).
While I'm a big fan of the Torch in particular as an individual phone, it remains true that a lot of the focus on selling the BlackBerry is squarely on corporate buys. There are individual deals available from every carrier, but Telstra in particular doesn't make it straightforward (or affordable) with most models.
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 as part of that option (though the latter only applies if you use the native BlackBerry browser, not an alternative like Opera).
The majority of 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, but that does make the phone marginally less useful. Telstra doesn't offer any extra data on the Pearl 3G, and requires you to bundle BIS with the Bold and Torch 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 on its $19, $29 or $45 plans, which renders them all but pointless without paying an extra $10 a month for the service.
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 contract 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, see the table below; if you want a printed version, it's also available in PDF form.
Your choice of BlackBerry is, as with any mobile, likely to be heavily influenced by which networks work where you live. There's virtually no exclusive models in the market, and thankfully the nightmare that was the Storm range has now disappeared.
Some observations: 3's cheap plans are a waste of money because of handset charges -- the $49 deal is the same price as the $39 option. 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 of BIS from the cheapest plans. Vodafone doesn't offer the Infinite plan option for the older Pearl 8120.
Telstra's separate BIS pricing makes it a poor option unless you fancy the Pearl 3G. The Torch is available across all three carrier networks, but all have issues: Telstra doesn't have much in the way of deals, Optus won't include BIS and data, and Vodafone is not enjoying the best reputation right now.
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.