Amaysim is finally offering 4G access on its plans -- but that change does alter some of its most popular offerings. Here's what you need to know and how Amaysim compares to all its major rivals.
Amaysim has been a popular choice for Lifehacker readers ever since its launch back in 2010, in large part because of its relatively generous data and calling allowances. While its bargain-price plans have made it the largest independent mobile network in Australia, it has been subject to one increasingly vocal criticism in recent years: it only utilises the older Optus 3G network, rather than the faster and more frequently upgraded 4G network. As 4G coverage has become more widespread, that has made it look less valuable to customers, especially when other Optus resellers like Virgin, Vaya and Jeenee already offer 4G.
So the announcement last year that Amaysim would shifting its plans from 3G to 4G was a welcome one -- but the devil is in the detail. It does come with a number of changes, especially for customers on the popular Unlimited plan. Whether those changes are welcome will largely depend on whether you're already in a 4G reception area and how you utilise data.
All the no-contract plans that Amaysim offers -- the fully prepaid As You Go for casual users, the $19.90 per month Flexi for light users and the $44.90 Unlimited for heavy users -- will be switching from Optus' 3G network to 4G. In the case of As You Go and Flexi, the only real change is an increase in the per-MB rate for data usage, which goes up from 5 cents to 7.2 cents. But that rise does come with a benefit: usage is now calculated with per kilobyte (KB) rounding, rather than per MB rounding. That means your overall data usage may well be lower, since individual polling by, for example, your email, now won't automatically be rounded up to the nearest megabyte.
Unlimited has a more significant change. While it continues to include unlimited calls and texts to Australian numbers, the amount of data being included on the $44.90 per month prepaid plan has dropped from 5GB to 4GB. Amaysim's argument is that with the per-KB rounding (which also applies here), many customers will still ultimately consume a similar amount of data. That will be the case for some users, but it won't be true for everyone.
Amaysim increased the amount of data offered on Unlimited from 4GB to 5GB back in August 2014, but it also put up the price from $39.90 to $44.90 at that time. As a result, dropping the data inclusion back to 4GB does look like a price rise for data inclusions - more speed but with a little less to use. How much that matters will depend on how often you bounce against the existing limit.
If you'd prefer to hang onto your 5GB inclusion and you're an existing Unlimited customer, you can elect to stay on your existing plan, which will be grandfathered. You won't be switched onto the new Unlimited plan unless you specifically request it, and you'll keep your 5GB allowance. However, you'll also stay on the 3G network, rather than being shifted to 4G, and your usage will continue to be rounded to the nearest MB.
Whether that switch is good value for you will depend on individual circumstances. If your home address is in a 3G-only area, the incentive to switch will be minimal. If you can get 4G, the improvement could be worth it -- but if you're regularly coming close to 5GB a month, you won't want to switch without careful checking. (Once you've switched from the grandfathered plan, you can't switch back.)
If you're sure you'll want more data regardless, there will also be an Unlimited plan with 6GB of data for $54.90 per month. That's cheaper than using the existing 1GB add-on, which costs $10. For customers who run out close to the end of the month and want extra data occasionally without paying for a full GB that might not be used, there will also be the option to add 300MB for $4.90.
One new plan is also being added to the mix: Unlimited Text. That costs $29.90 a month, and includes 1.5GB of data, unlimited texts and 500 minutes of calls to Australian numbers.
All Amaysim's plans include free calls and texts to other Amaysim customers -- not really relevant on Unlimited (where all calls to Australian numbers are free anyway), but potentially useful for families who want to use the cheaper plans while being able to call and text each other for nothing.
How It Compares
For most Lifehacker readers, data inclusions are the most relevant factor. Even with the reduced 4GB on offer, Amaysim compares well to its Optus-selling rivals offering 4G -- we couldn't find anyone offering better value on that front.
In this comparison, we'll look at SIM-only plans, which offer the maximum flexibility and usually have more generous inclusions, and which are the relevant comparison for Amaysim's plans. And we'll focus on Optus network providers, because if you've already decided that you must have Telstra or Vodafone, Amaysim is no use to you anyway.
Optus itself charges $45 for a plan with unlimited calls and texts, but only offers 3GB of data compared to Amaysim's 4GB. If you want 6GB of data, you'll pay $60 rather than Amaysim's $54.90. Its $35 plan includes the 1.5GB of data, the same as Amaysim, but only 300 minutes of calls.
Optus-owned Virgin Mobile doesn't compete well here. $35 a month only scores you 1GB of data plus $900 in call credit. Forget it.
Jeenee Mobile's most generous plan offers 3GB of data and $650 in call credit, with unlimited texts, for $35. If you don't call much and are sure 3GB is enough, that might be acceptable. For $25 a month, it offers 1.5GB of data, unlimited texts and $500 in call credit. That's cheaper than Amaysim's Unlimited Text plan, but also offers slightly fewer calls -- 232 2-minute calls rather than 250.
Vaya doesn't look so good either. For $44 a month, you score 3GB of data and unlimited texts. Amaysim gives an extra GB for $1 more. That said, Vaya's $27 a month for unlimited texts, 2.5GB of data and $650 in call credit is slightly better than the new Amaysim Unlimited Text deal.
Note: One area we haven't touched on here is international calls. While Amaysim's rates for these aren't huge, its focus is very much on Australian usage. If making calls overseas is a focus, you'll want to explore more broadly.
Amaysim's shift to 4G is welcome, as signing up to an older slower network isn't ideal on a modern smartphone. We're also fans of the ability to either top up with 300MB for $4.90 or be charged a reasonable rate (7.2 cents) per megabyte. Paying an extra $10 for 1GB (the approach at Optus and Vodafone) is often promoted as a way to dodge bill shock, but in reality it can mean you pay $10 when you only needed 100MB more for the month. We're also pleased to see per-KB rounding.
The one change which is likely to raise customer hackles is the reduction in data allowance on the Unlimited Plan. If you regularly exceed this, then the change might mean you want to look elsewhere -- but do check your own usage. I'm on that plan myself, and on looking at the records, I've never exceed 3GB a month. A drop from 4GB to 5GB won't affect me. That doesn't mean everyone will be so lucky, but it reminds us to check the options before choosing a plan. Rely on usage, not assumptions.
Even with the reduction, Amaysim remains the most generous prepaid/SIM-only plan on Optus' 4G network. If you have data needs in the 1.5GB-2.5GB range and don't make a lot of calls, Jeenee and Vaya are worth considering, but if you want a large chunk of data to use (or tether) and unlimited locals texts and calls, Amaysim is the best choice on the Optus network. If you need 6GB a month on your phone, it's especially competitive. And it has the benefit of all prepaid and SIM-only month-to-month plans: if you don't like it, you can switch next month without penalty.