After 15 months, Vodafone has effectively ditched most of its Infinite offerings and "simplified" its contract plans. In practice, that means far fewer "unlimited" deals and the need to add bolt-on data packs to many plans.
Picture by Gareth Cattermole/Getty Images
I'll be blunt: these plans don't look like very good value, especially when locked in for 24 months on the lower value deals . The charges for calls and texts are higher than rivals, and the data allowances aren't very generous. Given Vodafone's existing reputational issues, I can't see how looking like the most expensive option will help.
Across most of Vodafone's contract plans (for people also acquiring a new phone), standard calls are now charged at 98 cents per minute, plus a 40 cent flagfall. Text messages cost 30 cents each, while MMS are 55 cents. All of these are taken out of the "included value" for each plan. Plans priced at $59 and above include unlimited texting; those at $79 and above include unlimited calls to Australian landlines and mobiles.
There's some included data on each plan, but not much on the cheapest plans. Standard excess usage charges remain high, at 50 cents per MB. If you sign up for an additional "data pack", you get more data. Whether you're on a 12-month or 24-month contract, the data pack contract is 12 months. $5 a month gets you an additional 750MB of data, $10 gets you 2GB, $15 gets you 4GB, and $25 gets you 8GB. Data pack users also get much lower excess usage fees: 2 cents per MB. In practice, you're more likely to buy a data pack for the cheapest plans.
Here's an interactive spreadsheet listing the new contract plans Vodafone now offers, including the monthly, included value and total costs and the basic data inclusions. Note that these represent the absolute minimum cost: depending on the phone you select, you will pay more once handset charges are included. We've also calculated how many 2 minute calls at standard rates you could make using the plans over a month, which is a stark reminder how little you might get on the cheaper plans. (And again it's a maximum figure: any texting, for instance, will reduce the value).
The good things? 12 month plans are still around, though only for some price points and you can expect to pay high handset charges if you buy a phone on contract using one. Free access to the standard social networks (Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn and Foursquare) is included. If you really don't make many calls and want data more often, combining a $19 plan with a $10 data pack would score you a fairly cheap phone with 2GB of data.
The bad things? As I said, the call and texting prices are higher than on any other major network. Because rules to make plans easier to understand haven't yet been ratified, the Vodafone site currently doesn't offer details such as how much a 2-minute call will cost — presumably because the answer is $2.36. Yes, it's simpler that Vodafone no longer has two competing plan options, but that doesn't mean the plans are easy to follow. If you don't want to carefully track your usage, Vodafone's answer is to spend at least $79 a month. That's a similar figure to its rivals, but more than you might want to spend.
Buying on contract is always risky, since you're stuck with the same handset and provider for a long period of time. That said, it remains a popular choice for many people, since it minimises your up-front investment. But with these prices, I can't see how Vodafone is going to improve its market share (in a growing mobile market, it was the only major local provider to lose customers last year).
What's your take on the new contract deals? Share your thoughts in the comments.
Lifehacker's regular Planhacker column rounds up the best communication deals.