Planhacker: Australian BlackBerry Deals May 2011

As I’m spending the week doing my job using only a BlackBerry Torch, it seemed appropriate to dedicate this week’s Planhacker to BlackBerry deals. From the compact Pearl 3G to the touchscreen Torch, here’s a total roundup of the BlackBerry deals currently available for individual buyers in Australia.

The most obvious shift since we last ran this guide in February is in terms of formatting; this guide now uses the interactive spreadsheet format which we’ve adopted for Planhacker to help filter through large amounts of data. We’ve also tweaked the listings to incorporate other changes (3 and Optus has shrunk its range dramatically, for example).

BlackBerry is increasingly pushing into the personal buying market, and the launch of the PlayBook tablet reinforces that. However, it’s still often more straightforward to get a BlackBerry through your workplace than as a solo buyer. There are individual deals available from every carrier, but Telstra in particular doesn’t make it easy (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 doesn’t offer non-email data on its $19 and $29 caps. 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.

Vodafone offers 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, or subtracted the MRO options for Telstra.

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 (as drawn directly from the relevant telco sites). 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.

Here’s the full table; you can click on the column headers to filter down results to specific prices, carriers or other features. You can also access this as a PDF.

Your choice of BlackBerry is, as with any mobile, likely to be heavily influenced by which networks work where you live. There’s no exclusive models in the market now.

Some observations: 3 has drastically cut back on its range, eliminating some of its low-value plans. Check inclusion details carefully: Optus’ $49 plan costs more than its $59 plan for instance. Vodafone’s exclusion of BIS from the cheapest plans is a nuisance. Telstra’s separate BIS pricing unfortunately makes it a seriously poor option unless you fancy the Pearl 3G.

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

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

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