Optus, Telstra and Vodafone are all now selling the latest model iPad (with 4G SIM capability and retina-hyped screen) on contract plans with a included SIM and a monthly data allowance. Who has the best deal? Planhacker round them all up so you can compare.
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One of the more notable improvements when the iPad was updated back in October was that it added support for the 4G LTE networks being widely deployed in Australia (the lack of that support in the previous version scored Apple an expensive court visit). All three major Australian carriers are now selling the device on contract.
Buying any tablet on a contract only makes sense if you're short of money, you want the SIM-enabled version, and you'll use the SIM regularly. Outside those circumstances, buying outright and then using a prepaid SIM makes more sense. Apple routinely charges $679 for the 16GB model with 4G, $789 for the 32GB variant and $899 for 64GB.
Those aren't small sums, so it's easy to see how people are tempted by the contract option. Just remember: by doing that, you're essentially saying you're happy not to upgrade for 24 months, a period that will almost certainly see two iPad upgrades and could easily see more, given Apple's recently accelerated pace of development. You're also saying that you'll regularly use the paid-for amount of data every month solely on mobile networks. That may be the case for frequent travellers, but you should assess your needs carefully before signing up.
In the table below, we've listed the contract options available for the 4G iPad models listed on each provider's web site, including the monthly charge for the plan and for tablet repayments, the total cost, and how much data you get each month. On all carriers, your data allocation resets every month; contracts run for 24 months.
You can click on the column headings to sort and filter, so you can look only at plans for 64GB models or sort everything in order of total price. We've made notes on each provider below the table.
Optus' plans apply a consistent handset charge for each model regardless of which plan you sign up for. Plans come in five flavours: 2GB, 5GB, 10GB, 15GB and 20GB (the last being bigger than any of its rivals). Optus' 4G coverage is largely confined to capital cities, covering the CBDs of Sydney, Melbourne, Perth, Newcastle, and Brisbane. If you exceed the allocated data, excess is charged at 2 cents per MB.
Telstra doesn't separate out its handset charges and plan charges on its site, quoting a single sum. Plans come in four sizes: 1GB, 4GB, 8GB or 15GB. Telstra's plans are the priciest here, and that's matched in its excess data charges (10 cents per MB). Telstra's 4G coverage is much broader than its rivals, but as its number of 4G customers edges close to a million, the performance advantage of using the network is reducing somewhat.
Vodafone squeezes in with the cheapest plans on offer, though it only beats Optus by a tiny amount ($1128 for a 16GB model with 2GB of data per month versus $1152 at Optus). It offers five plans -- 2GB, 6GB, 12GB, 14GB and 18GB. Excess data is charged at 2 cents per MB. Vodafone's big challenge in this market is that its 4G network isn't due to roll out until next year, and it is has an uphill battle to fight in terms of perceptions of its network performance.
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