Vodafone has revamped its unlimited contract plans under the Red moniker, promising better voice inclusions, Australian customer support and other enhancements. Here's what you need to know about how the plans work and what they offer.
Presuming you want to buy a phone on a 24-month contract, Red comes in three versions. $65 a month scores you infinite calls and texts to Australian mobiles and landlines, plus 1.5GB of data. (As with any 'infinite' plan, that is subject to a reasonable usage policy.) $80 ups the data on offer to 2.5GB; $100 gets you 3GB. Whatever data level you choose, those costs include the handset charge, presuming the model is on offer.
If you'd prefer to bring your own handset, those plans are also available for $15 a month less, and with no contract requirement. In other words, $50 a month scores 1.5GB of data; $65 a month gives 2.5GB; and $85 a month gives 5GB, with unlimited Australian calls and texts. (Unlike Vodafone's other plans, there's no 12-month version of Red; given the high handset charges typically associated with those deals, we think offering a no-contract alternative is much better.)
Two other features distinguish Red from Vodafone's cheaper plans. It includes an enhanced level of customer service; if you call the Vodafone helpline from a Red-connected number, you'll receive a priority connection to Vodafone's Hobart call centre, rather than being routed overseas. The 'Red experience' also includes specially-designed gear for use in Vodafone stores which can automatically export your contacts from your old phone and add them to your new smartphone — not necessarily much of a sell if you're using Android or iOS, but handy for people switching from older feature phones.
The Red phones also qualify for the $5 a day roaming deal for New Zealand, the USA and the UK which Vodafone announced last month. Under that deal, if you pay $5 a day, you can use your credit in the same way as if you were in Australia. If keeping your number while travelling is important, this could be worth the investment, especially on shorter trips.
The plans go on sale from Wednesday 28 August (and hence haven't hit the Vodafone site as I write this). Vodafone will continue to offer its cheaper plans, but those will included limited Australian call credit and require extra handset repayments if you want to buy a phone in most cases. That doesn't mean they're bad value necessarily; as with any phone plan, knowing your own calling habits and data usage is vital. Paying for unlimited calls if you only make a few every week is a waste of money.
It's worth noting that you receive the 'face value' of the plan as credit towards making calls to international numbers, or to 13 or 1800 numbers in Australia. Again, whether the lack of the latter two categories matters depends on your phoning habits. If you're a heavy international caller and use all your face value credit that way, that could be a nuisance; if not, $65 gives you quite a bit of 1800 access.
If you need more data, Red offers additional data add-ons; for instance, $10 a month gets you 1GB, $20 offers 2.5GB, and $30 offers 4GB. Data packs are subject to their own separate 12-month contract; you can add and subtract data packs as you need them if you prefer, but adding one under its own month-to-month deals offer 50 per cent less data than the contract arrangement ($10 only scores you 500MB, for instance). Again, we'll emphasise that data pack contracts are separate to the main contract; you could theoretically add a 12-month data pack to a month-to-month BYO plan, but that turns it into a 12-month deal for all practical purposes.
You need to understand your usage pattern to know if you need this option; I routinely use close to 4GB a month on my phone, but know people who don't chew through much smaller allowances.
We'll run a Planhacker later today putting Vodafone's new offering in context by comparing it to other "unlimited" 4G plans.
Disclosure: Angus Kidman travelled to Queenstown for the Red launch as a guest of Vodafone and Virgin Australia.