Prepaid mobile plans are great if you want to stick to a budget, but which plan should you pick if you want the best possible data experience?
This is a recurring topic of interest to Lifehacker readers, and with recent shifts in the mobile landscape it seemed timely to revisit the best prepaid plans under $50. At that price point it's most valuable to look at straight data provisioning, because it's really not very hard at all to score "unlimited" — or effectively unlimited — calling and especially texting provisions for that kind of money.
As always we're splitting these deals by carrier. While there are numerous operators, both virtual and allied directly with each telco, the reality is that you're going to be using one of the big three telco's networks to access your data.
Telstra's often held up as the gold standard for Australian networks, but when it comes to operator choice you're not exactly awash with great deals.
If you want to stay with Telstra itself, the Beyond Talk package remains your best bet, simply because it does allow you to use the $50 of real money you're giving them to top up your data allowance, which is only a measly 400MB at this level. However, you can use $49 of the $50 credit you've accrued to buy a $49 Browse plus pack, giving you 3.4GB to use over the 30 day period of the plan. What you do with that extra dollar of leftover credit is up to you.
If you don't need 4G access, you could consider Boost Mobile's $40 UNLTD plan, which gives you a straight 3GB of data to use across a 30 day expiry period, plus 1GB of data for use on Sundays only. That's a rather fiddly way to manage your data usage, but could mean you get 7GB of total data for $40.
If you don't want to muck around with data only usable on Sundays, AldiMobile's XXL deal offers 4GB of 3G-only data for $45 per month. That's marginally better than the Woolworths Connect $45 offer, which only gives you 3.5GB of data on the same "parts" of Telstra's 3G network.
Historically, we've always tended to favour Amaysim's Unlimited $44.90 deal. It remains highly competitive, with 4G data access on Optus' network and 5GB of data alongside unlimited standard calls and texts.
However, if your data usage varies over time, there's another prepaid option that's worth considering, and that's Optus' own prepaid deals. The current $45 recharge deal gives you the same unlimited call and text provisions, and 3.5GB of data, less than Amaysim will give you. However, the secret sauce here is that Optus now allows you to rollover unused data, up to a maximum of 10GB. If you're not consistently using all or most of your allowance, that could allow you to bank up data for when you really need it, which adds value for a specific set of circumstances.
Vodafone has traded over the last couple of years on the prospect of offering more than its competitors, but in the prepaid arena it's rather lacking, with a $50 offer that gives you 3GB of data and unlimited calls and texts. The current hook for Vodafone is that data usage is unlimited on weekends for prepaid customers, but that's a deal currently set to end on the 16th of August.
Vodafone reseller Lebara currently has a $39.90 plan with 6GB of data, but 2GB of that data is dependent upon you signing up for automatic recharges. For what it's worth, they're offering a half price first month if you sign up online, which increases their value.