The iPhone 5 goes on sale this Friday, and for many people buying on contract to avoid pay $800+ up front will be the most popular choice. But which carrier and which contract should you choose? Our Planhacker table lists every iPhone 5 offer in Australia so you can decide for yourself.
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Who will buy the iPhone 5? There's a clear target market of fans who upgrade to every new iPhone as a matter of course, and of people who have just gone out of contract on an original iPhone 4 and are happy with the iOS platform. Perhaps the most notable distinguishing feature of the iPhone 5 (larger screen aside) is support for the 4G LTE networks offered by both Telstra and Optus in Australia. For data-heavy phone tasks, that can make a big difference, and it might persuade some buyers who aren't concerned about screen size.
If you don’t want to sign up to a contract and find yourself tied down for 24 months, you can buy the iPhone 5 outright. Apple will sell you an unlocked iPhone 5 for $799 for the 16GB model, $899 for 32GB or $999 for 64GB. You might find cheaper deals through other suppliers. If you go that route, check out our table of BYO contract plans.
In the table below, we've detailed all the announced consumer iPhone 5 deals from the three major Australian carriers (Optus, Telstra and Vodafone), plus Virgin Mobile (which is an Optus subsidiary and uses the Optus network). We've based this on what is listed on the sites for each carrier, so offers available only in stores aren't included and we haven't included time-limited bonus offers. Additional notes on each provider are below the table.
If you're buying in the first week and you haven't already ordered, your choices are likely to be limited (many carriers have already sold out). That said, if you're signing up for two years, you shouldn't compromise just to get a phone a few weeks earlier.
For each model (which effectively equates to the amount of storage), 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. We've also highlighted how many 2-minute calls you could make with the included value, which is one of the key measures all carriers will soon have to list as part of the Telecommunications Consumer Protection Code.
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). You can also maximise the spreadsheet to make it easier to read.
Pricing will be a key consideration, but network availability is also a factor. There's no point getting a cheaper plan if you can't reliably access that carrier where you live and work. In pure 4G terms, Telstra has a clear advantage; as I write this, Optus' 4G coverage is limited to Sydney, Newcastle, Perth and Melbourne. That said, you can't always access 4G networks even in areas where they are available.
Optus has a broad range of plans, but the data inclusions on the cheapest deals are so low as to be unusable. If you're choosing the $129 plan, you'll want to aim for the 64GB model (even if you have to wait for stock), since you'll pay the same as for cheaper versions.
Telstra's pricing model is somewhat deceptive and confusing, since the prices it quotes for plans are different if you get a phone included than if you don't. As such, you can't directly compare the prices quoted as a basic 'per month' rate with the BYO alternatives. There is an additional handset charge, even on its costliest plans, if you go for the 64GB model. Telstra's plans also include variable levels of free calls on nights and weekends (though not on the cheapest S plan).
Despite running on the same network, Virgin offers more generous inclusions than Optus at several price points. It's also the only network featured here that doesn't charge to retrieve voicemail.
Vodafone is the only carrier offering 12-month plans, though the handset charges are as ever much higher if you go that route. Again, the data allowances are mean on the cheaper plans. On its sub-$60 plans, you can choose to have unlimited free Australian texts or Vodafone-to-Vodafone calls; we've highlighted the paid version of text in the table. If you go for the $100 plan, then anything other than the 64GB model is a rip-off. Vodadone won't have 4G until next year, so the LTE features won't mean much to Vodafone customers right now.
Data inclusions are a key important consideration, though if you frequently use Wi-Fi you may not need massive amounts. Research suggests iPhone owners use more data than Android, though that research also suggests that very few users require more than 1GB a month. I certainly wouldn't want a plan with less than 1500MB a month on offer. Optus charges higher excess data rates on its cheaper plans. The availability of 4G might increase your data usage, but you'd have to make a conscious choice to (for instance) watch more videos.
One minor nuisance with the iPhone 5? Its use of a nano-SIM format means that you won't be able to easily swap your SIM into most other phones, and you might have to work a bit harder to acquire suitable replacement SIMs overseas. That said, the dominance of Apple means it won't be long before the nano-SIM format is widely supported by phone stores, even if most rival models stick with the micro-SIM or classic SIM formats.
Luke over at Gizmodo has done his own analysis of which plans you might pick; it's a solid read, but this table gives you the data to compare everything. Which iPhone plans appeal to you? Prefer to go without a contract? Spotted an option we've missed? Tell us in the comments.
Lifehacker's weekly Planhacker column rounds up the best communication deals.