Planhacker: iPhone 4S Australian Launch Pricing Compared

Planhacker: iPhone 4S Australian Launch Pricing Compared

Optus, Telstra, Vodafone and Virgin Mobile have all announced their contract launch pricing for the iPhone 4S, which goes on sale this Friday from 8am. Find the plan that has the right options and pricing for you with our complete Planhacker spreadsheet.

Apple has been boasting that the iPhone 4S has already attracted more than a million pre-orders worldwide, so there’s no reason to doubt that its latest iPhone incarnation will be a big success. Especially for existing iPhone owners on the older 3GS model, the 4S can be a logical upgrade choice — but before signing up to a long-term contract, you should make sure that the deal is right for you.

If you don’t want to sign up to a contract, Apple will sell you an unlocked phone outright, charging $799 for the 16GB model, $899 for 32GB or $999 for 64GB. That’s not a cheap price, so it isn’t surprising that many people prefer to get a subsidised handset from a carrier, even if that limits their flexibility.

In the table below, we’ve detailed all the currently announced iPhone 4S plans from the three major Australian carriers, plus Virgin (which is actually an Optus subsidiary and uses the Optus network). For each, we’ve detailed what you’ll pay for the plan and what you’ll pay as a handset subsidy, which add up to the total monthly cost; the length of the contract and the total amount you’ll pay; how much data and “call value” is included, and what you’ll pay for excess data; and charges for calls to Australian numbers (which invariably involve both a flagfall and a per-minute charge) and for texts to Australian numbers.

Optus and Vodafone both offer 12-month or 24-month contracts (though Vodafone sneakily only announced its 12-month plans today after having its 24-month options on sale for several days; I’ve updated the table today to include both options). Note though that while a 12-month contract doesn’t tied you down, the per-month fees are much higher.

There’s a lot of data in the table below, but to make the most of it you can filter out the details you need. Click on the arrows at the top of each column and you can either sort (so, for example, you can list all plans sorted by per-month cost or total cost or data allowance) or filter (so you can only look at plans for 32GB phones or with unlimited text).

Cheap per-month plans are often offset by high handset charges. For instance, Vodafone’s $29 per month plans work out as poor value, since they cost $44 a month in total for a 16GB model and still only offer a poor 200MB of data a month. For $10 a month more, you can get much more data (1500MB) and call credit. (And after all that, you still might not trust the network in your area.)

Vodafone and Virgin Mobile’s call rates are higher than the others, but everyone charges at least 90 cents a minute plus flagfall, except on higher-priced “unlimited” plans. Data is an important consideration, though if you regularly use Wi-Fi you may not need massive amounts. That said, I wouldn’t want a plan with less than 1500MB a month on offer. Total cost of ownership also varies widely: the cheapest option is from Vodafone (that self-same poor-value $29 per month 24-month contract), while the priciest is from Telstra ($3216 over two years, though that covers the 64GB model and unlimited Australian calls). As ever, knowing your own usage patterns will help you identify the best options.

Obviously, a crucial factor in choosing a carrier is availability where you live and work: there’s no point getting a bargain phone if you never get signal. Broadly speaking, Telstra has the best coverage, followed by Optus and then Vodafone, which has spent most of 2011 trying to convince consumers that it is implementing improvements to make its network viable. But generalisations don’t always help, and this remains a highly individual issue: all three carriers have black spots and congestion issues.

We’ve covered the most critical pricing elements for each carrier, but your own usage patterns may vary. If you frequently make international calls on your mobile, then those rates will matter. None of the main carriers offers free voicemail as standard, but if you’re a heavy messaging user, that’s also a consideration.

If you want to check further details for each carrier, here are their plan sites:

Which iPhone 4S plan tempts you the most? Share your thoughts in the comments.

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


  • We bought the 64GB 4S outright from the apple store, and then go on telstra prepaid.

    -best network
    -no risk of overage charges
    -can change networks if someone else has a better offer or shapes up their network

      • I don’t know if it’s still possible, but you could preorder the phone from the Apple site to be delivered on launch day. There was probably a pretty limited amount available though, so I wouldn’t be shocked if that isn’t possible until they secure more stock.

        • When I spoke to an Apple sales rep on Monday afternoon, she was pretty emphatic that the “Ships by October 14th” line on early pre-orders was the day the phone leaves the plant in China, and I should add “2-3 days” to the time it actually gets delivered. I’ve lived with my 3GS this long, so a couple of extra days won’t kill me, I guess.

    • Assuming you stick with the phone/plan for 2 years, and you get the $999 model,
      that works out to a total of $1730 for 24 months, or $72 per month.

      That still works out cheaper than all of the contracts I’m seeing…

      • Dude, you can’t just compare outright. DISCOUNTING!

        Using 6.51% discount rate (uBank rate) (assuming the Red Bull 365 is paid monthly), mostlegendary’s pack comes to an NPV of $1,681.74

        Using Optus $59 cap for comparison (with $15/month surcharge), that works out to NPV of $1,735.03

        Saving $53.28 (in terms of today’s cash) for the benefit of buying outright, if you keep to each plan for 24 months (which I doubt someone who buys outright will do, as they’ll upgrade to a newer phone)

        • So are you saying it’s better to buy outright that to go on a plan Anonymouse? I was thinking of buying outright and then getting a $15 a months im. I’m a little confused by what you mean when you mention the ubank discount rates… would you be able to explain please?

        • Anonymouse: I completely understand the concept, but have no clue how to crunch the numbers on that time cost of money stuff. Is there anywhere you can point me to that would help?

  • Well, no matter what, I’ll get a 32gb model, between the camera and the extra grunt, I have a feeling I’m going to chew up the storeage. At first, I was leaning towards a $59 24 month Optus plan for $70pm total – 2gb, $750 credit but not unlimited SMS, going from that chart… but the Telstra $59 is tempting with the better network and unlimited SMS but 500mb less and “only” $550 call credit. I don’t think Telstra gives unmetered access to social sites either…?

    • I know they give facebook unlimted access. Not to sure about twitter though. I think they do though.

      I’m skipping the 4s but if I wasn’t telstra would be my only choice in north queensland. Optus and 1 bar just don’t take my fancy.

    • It works out to about 17c/min in real dollars once you strip away all of that cap tomfoolery.

      I’m still amazed by how they’ve managed to come across a way of marketing their product where higher call rates appear to be good.

  • Hehe.. I barely go through 500MB a month let alone 1.5GB on my Galaxy.. I started on 500MB, thinking that would not be enough based on what everyone says.. so paid an extra $4/month for an extra 700MB a month.. I’m barely doing 10MB/day..

    I guess it depends how much of a internet-whore you are on your phone.

    • Or how much you connect to wifi. I know with apps and updates of said apps etc my usuage would be fairly high, however most of what I do is at home on my wifi.

  • I’ve ordered the 32GB on the Vodafone $49 cap. It meant to have $10 per month for the handset as well, but I convinced them to drop that :D. I will be paying less for my iphone than I currently am for my bloody N97.

  • Regarding international calls, as far as I can tell Vodafone is the only carrier to include calls/messaging with the cap allowance. For the others anything overseas is on top of the cap allowance, is this right? or am I missing something?

  • Thank you for choosing Optus. Please wait for an Optus Representative to respond.
    You are now chatting with ‘Patrick’
    Patrick: Hi there, I’m an Online Sales Support Rep. How can I help you?   *Just to let you know, all information I give you is correct as of today*
    you: Hi Patrick
    you: I’m interested in an iPhone 4 (not 4S) on a 12 month plan
    you: what can you do for me?
    you: I’m Peter by the way
    Patrick: We have only 24 month contract.
    you: You have a 12 month contract for 4S
    you: Why not 4?
    Patrick: We have 24 months contact for the iPhone 4S.
    you: yes you do.
    you: But also a 12 month contract
    Patrick: We don’t have 24 months contact for the iPhone 4S.
    Patrick: Sorry for the typo.
    you: are you sure – see above link
    Patrick: We are in Optus. You are referring the iinet.
    you: “Optus and Vodafone both offer 12-month or 24-month contracts (though Vodafone sneakily only announced its 12-month plans today after having its 24-month options on sale for several days; I’ve updated the table today to include both options). Note though that while a 12-month contract doesn’t tied you down, the per-month fees are much higher.”
    you: are you sure
    Patrick: Yes.
    Patrick: We don’t have 12 months contact with iPhone 4S and iPhone 4.
    Patrick: We only have 24 months contact with iPhone 4S and iPhone 4.
    Patrick: Are you clear with this?
    you: LIfehacker are a pretty reliable source. SOmeone should rectify this with them if this is the case

    • Initially, there were on the pre-order page of optus website. However, as I just checked, they magically disappear and just left with the 24-month option and their so called “20 handset credit prepayment” promotion, which is just exactly the same as they offered in the pre-order phrase. I am surprised as well but maybe just be patient and wait for official reply from lifehacker then.

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