The savagely high prices for contract deals for the new iPhone have reaffirmed our belief that no-one should buy a phone on contract, or sign up for any kind of contract phone plan. But how can you choose between all the different prepaid and month-by-month plans? We've cut through the clutter with one clear recommendation for each of Australia's main mobile networks.
NOTE: This guide has been superseded. Click here for the most recent version.
Beach picture from Shutterstock
Each of these plans represents our choice for a good value, no-commitment deal that should meet the needs of most people. That doesn't mean they'll suit absolutely everyone. If you need masses of data, or are focused on being able to call overseas numbers, or only want to spend $20 a month, you'll need to do more research. However, these deals should work for most people, and we've aimed to find packages costing $50 a month or less.
We've included all three networks (Optus, Telstra and Vodafone) because coverage varies. A phone that doesn't work at your home and your workplace isn't good value. We haven't included every single company that resells on those networks; instead, we've picked the best-value deal available using that network. With that in mind, these are our recommendations.
Telstra charges a clear premium compared to other providers, and finding a plan with a decent data and calls allowance that doesn't require a long-term commitment can be tricky. The best option is one we highlighted recently: the $50 Encore Cap with an added Browse Plus Pack, which adds 3GB of data to the 800MB available on the $50 pack. The Browse Plus is nominally priced at $49, but that can be paid for using the "recharge credit" included with the main plan, so there's no extra cost. Yes, that's confusing, but the upshot is you spend only $50 a month for 3.8GB of 4G data and $950 of call credit, as well as free calls between 7pm and 7am. It's a slightly fiddly arrangement — you have to 'buy' a new browse pack each month and can't automate the process — but it's easily the best-value deal on the Telstra network.
We have two recommendations here, both from MVNOs. If you're not concerned about 4G access, then Amaysim Unlimited is the way to go. For $39.90 a month, you score unlimited calls and texts and 4GB of data from a reliable, well-established provider.
If 4G matters to you, Live Connected's Rapid L plan also costs $39.90 and has unlimited texts, $850 of credit and 2GB of data. If you're willing to spend a little more, Optus $2 Day plan potentially gives you 15GB of data and unlimited calls and texts for $60 a month. It's an unusual plan; check our full writeup for all the details.
It's tough to get a decent amount of data on Vodafone. The $50 Red Plan has unlimited calls and texts, but only 1.5GB of data. Nonetheless, it's the best option we could identify in our price range, and includes 4G access. Pennytel's PennySIM Endless Lite offer is cheap at $35 and includes 5GB of data, but the stability of the company appears to be an issue so we hesitate to suggest it right now.
Which no-contract plans work for you? Tell us (and tell us why) in the comments.