Ask LH: Who Should I Choose For A Cheap Handset Contract?

Dear Lifehacker, Two years ago I signed up for Virgin Mobile Australia’s $29 plan. It came with a Sony Ericsson Xperia X10i. I signed up for the plan, because it had a reasonable credit allowance of $450 per month, and 200Mb of data per month. Not much, but enough to use maps and social networks a little.

Contract picture from Shutterstock

I recently decided that my phone needed an upgrade because it was starting to lag a lot. I went to Virgin again, but was informed that the $29 plan had changed to including only $250 call and text allowance each month. It seems like a waste of my money to stay with Virgin after being told about this change. My question is this: what is the best value for money plan available now including a handset? Any advice? Thanks, Switching Carriers

Dear SC,

Based on your current contract, it appears you want an entry-level plan that favours free calls over data. Internode currently has some good NodeMobile plans that should fit the bill.

For instance, you can snap up a Samsung Galaxy Ace smartphone on a 24-month NodeMobile Value Plan for $30 a month (handset repayments included). This plan comes with $450 free calls/texts, 1.5GB data and 150GB for social networking — which is significantly better value than your Virgin Mobile plan, even before they reigned in the free call allowance.

You might also want to consider buying your new phone upfront before signing up to a prepaid BYO/SIM-only plan. While this means paying a lump-sum fee for the new phone, it will actually be cheaper in the long run as you won’t have to fork out monthly repayments over the duration of the contract. (These days, you can get reasonably zippy Android phones for under $200.)

In addition, a prepaid BYO plan means you won’t be locking yourself into a lengthy contract, which leaves you free to shop around for a better provider whenever the mood strikes you. Some options worth checking out include Amaysim, Boost and Kogan Mobile; all of which offer BYO plans starting at less than $30 per month.

Another option is to haggle with your current provider — there’s a chance that Virgin Mobile might match a rival’s plan if you explain your intention to switch. At the very least, it can’t hurt to give it a shot. If you do decide to shop around, make sure to read our guide on mobile plans to avoid .

If any of our readers have a sub-$40 mobile plan suggestion of their own, do let SC know in the comments section below.


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