Planhacker: Australian BlackBerry Deals September 2011

There are new models on offer and changes afoot in the BlackBerry market. As our Business Travel Week continues, we round up all the current contract deals for BlackBerry handsets in Australia.

There have been several big shifts since we last ran this guide. Firstly, BlackBerry has updated its ranger with the new Bold 9900 and Torch 9860 models, both of which are selling through Optus. Secondly, we’ve dumped separate listings for 3, since new customers are now being directed towards Vodafone. Thirdly, Vodafone has a deal which combines a BlackBerry with a PlayBook on a single contract.

Some of those changes mean that buying a BlackBerry as an individual is easier than it has sometimes been in the past, though it is still relatively fiddly with Telstra. (Telstra is also no longer selling the Curve 3G, and Vodafone seems to have dumped the Torch.)

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 (but does have free browsing on common social networking services across all its plans). Telstra 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. Some observations: Optus has an exclusive right now on the newest models, while Vodafone is the only source for Pearl and Curve models. Vodafone’s exclusion of BIS from the cheapest plans is a nuisance, but the PlayBook option is appealing. Telstra’s separate BIS pricing unfortunately makes it a seriously poor option, despite the appeal of its network coverage.

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.

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

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