Planhacker: Every Australian Contract Phone Plan Compared (September 2014)

With new phones galore about to hit the market (iPhone 6, Galaxy Note 4 and Edge, Experia Z3, Moto X for starters), many people will be signing up for a new phone contract between now and Christmas. We've rounded up all the current contract offers from the major providers so you can compare them and choose the best for your needs.

Family picture from Shutterstock

To be clear: if you can afford it, we always think you're better off buying a phone outright and choosing a suitable prepaid plan — you'll have increased flexibility and you'll often save money. That said, many people don't have $600 or more to spend on a new handset, so they prefer the subsidised contract approach.

Below, we've outlined the consumer plans currently on offer from the major local carriers (Optus, Telstra, Virgin Mobile and Vodafone), based on what they list on their sites for people who are purchasing a phone as part of a contract. (We're not covering SIM-only or prepaid plans here — hence the absence of resellers — and we're not looking at business deals.)

For each, we've highlighted the plan cost per month and the minimum total cost over the length of the contract. You'll generally have to pay an additional fee per month for high-end handsets, especially on the cheaper plans; how much will vary depending on the model. We've listed the amount of included data, what texts cost to Australian numbers if they're not free, how much call credit is included and how many 2-minute calls to Australian numbers you can make on the plan. We haven't included any discounts you might receive for buying other services (such as landlines) from the same provider, or limited-time offers like bonus data. Most plans are on 24 month contract — some carriers will offer 12-month deals in store, but don't list them online.

For each carrier, we've discussed any quirks (such as how excess data is charged). After the discussion of each carrier, we've also included an interactive table listing all the plans so you can compare them more directly.

Optus

Provider Name Monthly Contract Min total Data (MB) Call credit Texts #2 min calls
Optus My Plan Plus $35.00 24 $840.00 500 - Unlimited 150
Optus My Plan Plus $50.00 24 $1,200.00 1000 - Unlimited 300
Optus My Plan Plus $60.00 24 $1,440.00 2000 - Unlimited Unlimited
Optus My Plan Plus $80.00 24 $1,920.00 5000 - Unlimited Unlimited
Optus My Plan Plus $100.00 24 $2,400.00 8000 - Unlimited Unlimited

Optus quotes a total number of call minutes to Australian numbers rather than a dollar value for call credit. If you exceed data allowances, you're charged a flat $10 for an additional GB of data. It offers trade-ins for old phones and up to $200 to help cover early exit charges if you switch from another network.

Telstra

Provider Name Monthly Contract Min total Data (MB) Call credit Texts #2 min calls
Telstra S $55.00 24 $1,320.00 500 $550.00 Unlimited 231
Telstra M $70.00 24 $1,680.00 1500 $700.00 Unlimited 294
Telstra L $95.00 24 $2,280.00 2500 $950.00 Unlimited 399
Telstra XL $130.00 24 $3,120.00 3000 Unlimited Unlimited Unlimited

On all these plans, you can also choose either an additional 500MB of data or $500 in extra call credit (the latter isn't available on the XL plan, since it has unlimited calls anyway). Excess data is charged at $0.03 per MB. Telstra offers up to $200 to help cover early exit charges if you switch from another network.

Virgin Mobile

Provider Name Monthly Contract Min total Data (MB) Call credit Texts #2 min calls
Virgin Mobile $30 Plan $30.00 24 $720.00 300 $300.00 $0.28 127
Virgin Mobile $40 Plan $40.00 24 $960.00 1500 $450.00 $0.28 190
Virgin Mobile $50 Plan $50.00 24 $1,200.00 2000 $500.00 Unlimited 211
Virgin Mobile $60 Plan $60.00 24 $1,440.00 3000 $700.00 Unlimited 296
Virgin Mobile $80 Plan $80.00 24 $1,920.00 5000 Unlimited Unlimited -
Virgin Mobile $100 Plan $100.00 24 $2,400.00 8000 Unlimited Unlimited -

Virgin is owned by Optus and uses its network. Virgin charges excess data at $0.052 per MB. As I write this, it is offering a bonus 2GB of data on all contract plans (that offer stops on 12 October).

Vodafone

Provider Name Monthly Contract Min total Data (MB) Call credit Texts #2 min calls
Vodafone $30 Plan $30.00 24 $720.00 300 $300.00 $0.30 127
Vodafone $40 Plan $40.00 24 $960.00 500 $400.00 Unlimited 169
Vodafone $50 Plan $50.00 24 $1,200.00 1000 $500.00 Unlimited 211
Vodafone $60 Plan $60.00 24 $1,440.00 1500 $700.00 Unlimited 296
Vodafone $70 Red $70.00 24 $1,680.00 3000 Unlimited Unlimited -
Vodafone $80 Red $80.00 24 $1,920.00 4000 Unlimited Unlimited -
Vodafone $100 Red $100.00 24 $2,400.00 6000 Unlimited Unlimited -
Vodafone $70 Red $70.00 12 $840.00 3000 Unlimited Unlimited -
Vodafone $80 Red $80.00 12 $960.00 4000 Unlimited Unlimited -
Vodafone $100 Red $100.00 12 $1,200.00 6000 Unlimited Unlimited -

You can opt to swap free texting for unlimited free calls to other Vodafone users on the non-Red plans. Vodafone has temporarily upped the data allowance on the $80 Red plan to 5000MB and on the $100 plan to 8000MB, which matches Optus; that offer ends on 4 November.

Tables & Comparisons

Here's the full table with all the plans. You can click on a column heading to sort or filter for specific download allowances, prices or companies. Click in the bottom-right corner for a maximised view.

Your choice of plan is likely to be heavily influenced by network availability where you live and work. However, given the amount of network-building activity all three carriers have done recently, you shouldn't make assumptions on which networks work based on experiences from years ago. if you're thinking of switching networks, find a friend or family member using that network and test how their phone works.

As has long been the case, Telstra's plans are the most expensive and have less generous data than their rivals (though adding extra data). Virgin used to offer more data than Optus on the same network, but a recent upgrade by Optus means there's less distinction. Beware of super-cheap plans as the data inclusions are often very minimal and the handset fees can be enormous.

Spotted another plan we've missed, or an error? (We try hard to avoid these, but mistakes happen.) Share your thoughts in the comments.

Lifehacker's Planhacker column rounds up the best communication deals.


Comments

    Can anyone comment on the quality of individual networks these days? For example, Telstra used to be "worth" paying extra for because of the coverage, but is that still the case? Optus and Voda have some great value offerings (especially in SIM-only options), so I'd love to hear people's thoughts on their network vs Telstra's (and quality/breadth of 4G coverage). I am in Adelaide, but all city's coverage standards would be handy to know.

      Not from my experience. In the last 12 months Optus have really stepped up in terms of 4G coverage. I use my phone extensively on the road around Melbourne and I'm even getting 4G in areas I wouldn't have previously expected any 3G reception.

      I can't remember the last time I didn't have 4G with Optus.

      $100/month for 8GB with Optus v $95/month for 3GB with Telstra is a big difference.

        Thanks for the feedback - those are the kind of details I'm after. Especially with Optus' month-to-month Sim only offerings ($45/month, unlimited calls + texts, 2GB data and $10 for an excess 1GB data) being far more attractive than having to spend minimum $70/month on Telstra for anything comparable.

          I'm with Virgin ($50 Plan) and completely agree with Danbeebee about Optus coverage. I can't recall the last time I had network issues.
          They have the best cost / data allowances too, with bonus data available in some form or another every couple of months (I'm on 4gb thanks to the specials) and generally good deals on handset bundling too, if you're into that sort of thing.

      If you live out in the country then Telstra for sure. If you live in a city area then it's much less of an issue.

      according to Optus coverage map no 4G in Canberra so I Guess I will stay with Telstra

    Telstra used to be "worth" paying extra for because of the coverage, but is that still the case?

    Yes.

    Completely depends where you are, I have terrible reception at my house with Vodafone Telstra and Optus. But Telstra is the worst as alot of times people will call and my phone wont even ring.

    Odd that the plan I use isn't listed, it's significantly cheaper than the cheapest plans on that list.

      Which plan? (Bear in mind old plans are often grandfathered -- existing users keep enjoying them but new customers can't sign up.)

    If you are going to include Virgin an Optus reseller you should have Amaysim on there. They offer some excellent value plans that blow these out of the water ($45 unlimited call/txt 5GB), only 3G though :-(

      We're only listing postpaid contract plans that include bundled phones here -- Amaysim don't do those.

    So, not "every" plan then. Nothing from Exetel, for example (where I have my plan) or any of the other resellers.

      Exetel sell SIM-only plans. We're just looking at phone bundles here. (Again, going SIM-only can be better value, but it's not the focus here.)

    Why didn't you include SIM-only plans? Especially since you've recommended buying a phone outright.

      Different Planhacker. We'll revisit that in the near future.

        I look forward to that plan hacker.

        I have an Optus $26 plan which runs for 45 days, includes $250 calls plus $250 Optus calls and has 5Gb of data. Its not 4G. It works out to be about $18 a month.

        This make BYO phone a bargain. I've bought an international version of my Android smartphone (ex Hong Kong no GST) that gets updates well ahead of the Telco updates here in Oz. Oh and no Telco bloatware.

        This has made for very low cost smartphone ownership.

        Good to hear. I'm currently looking for a new plan as Live Connected have added a "Plan Freeze Fee" to my grandfathered plan. My $11.99 plan is now costing me $21.89 :(

    You have a typo in the Vodafone text:
    "Virgin has temporarily upped the data allowance on the $80 Red plan to 5000MB ...", should be Vodafone.

Join the discussion!

Trending Stories Right Now