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.

Cheers Lifehacker

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    Lol so.. I take it you use internode then.

    really the correct non subjective answer imo would be 'whatever fits your needs best', or a comparison of a few at least..

    the instant conclusion stated seems rather shallow

    In terms of BYO plans, TPG seem to be good value. They use the Optus network, and have reasonable included value and data. $18/month gets $550 value + 1.5GB data ($15/month if you happen to have internet with them). $10/month gets you $180 + 250MB.

    In terms of actual service delivered however, I can't say.

      The actual service delivered is identical to Optus. It uses the same settings as Optus users do.

      This is unlike virgin, who use different settings and speeds can be quite a bit slower than regular optus in some areas as a result.

      I have the TPG plan, and I think it's great value. When you do the maths, buying a phone outright is much more cost effective than getting one included in a plan. It also stops you being so locked in to a contract. If you just need a basic phone, spend the $200 on a cheap android, and jump on the TPG/Boost/Kogan/Aldi/etc bandwagon.

    Switching Carriers could also consider:
    - buying a prepaid mobile from the carrier the new provider supports - so if it's TPG or Internode SC could get a Desire X from Optus for $299 or LG Optimus L7 for $199 - these are much cheaper than buying the same phones outright, but they are locked to the Optus network. If it's Kogan, Boost, Aldi, Beagle, Southern Phone, ANM, Ozlinked, Telechoice or Think Mobile SC is considering, which all use Telstra, buy the HTC 8S from Telstra for $279 or Galaxy Ace Plus for $199.

    - buying the phone SC wants on interest free from jb hi-fi, harvey norman, or other retailers that sell phones outright and have interest free deals. JB (Telstra) and Harvey Norman (Optus) also do contract deals, but are unlikely to have anything as cheap as SC wants it.

    Anyone know of any networks that provide a low cost sim for use in devices like GPS cat collars or GPS bike minders. Sim only with unlimited text, pre paid and <$5 per month or per charge.

    The Woolworths Mobile plan is good value.

    $30 for 5GB and $250 Optus calls and $250 other calls. Runs on Optus, Managed through the Optus website. And you can stretch that value out for up to 45 days, rather than a month so it's even cheaper.

    Vaya and liveconnected. check them out, especially vaya

    Vaya +1 I tried them with one $11 plan and having had no problems then signed up three more phones, including 2 Xperia 10i that had just finished their contract with Virgin. Everything is great, Optus network, just cheaper for more data. And it's monthly so if you don't like it you can leave.

    Should have said the fourth phone I signed up to Vaya is a Samsung Galaxy SIII I bought new outright. Did the sums - BYO is cheaper than a 2 year plan with a phone included.

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