Australia's two biggest telcos - Telstra and Optus - have both given their range of phone plans a fresh coat of paint recently. Now that they've rejigged their offering, who comes out on top?
Telstra’s changes were a veritable shake-up. Excess data charges are long gone. Lock-in contracts have been canned. A gazillion plans were axed. Optus’ changes were more based around price, but leasing plans did get the boot.
Telstra has vastly simplified its mobile business, with all existing plans replaced by four contract-free options. That's right: all 12- and 24-month contract plans are set to be axed, along with smartphone leases. Here's how much the new plans cost, the inclusions you get and what happens to your existing plan.
Let's take a look at how they compare.
No contract SIM-only plans
Telstra's newish plans easily come out on top when compared to Optus’ contract-free options. If you're after a no-commitment plan on Optus, you’ve only got one choice: $40 per month for just 3GB.
For $10 more per month, you'll get 15GB on Telstra. And as with all of Telstra's new postpaid plans, it's free from excess data charges. If you burn through your allowance, you'll be able to keep using your service, albeit capped at speeds of 1.5Mbps.
SIM-only plans with a contract
The story is a bit different when you compare Telstra's range to the SIM-only plans Optus offers on a 12-month contract. In exchange for giving a year of your life to Optus, you’ll get a healthier amount of data.
Optus will give you 30GB for $39 per month, while Telstra has you spending $50 for 15GB. Of course, Telstra no longer requires you to commit for more than a month.
Telstra's plan range is also comparatively no-frills. You get access to some Telstra perks, like data-free Apple Music, live passes for select sports, and Telstra Air access, but features that were previously standard are now bolt-ons that cost extra. Adding international calls to a Telstra plan is now $10 more per month.
If you spend at least $49 per month on an Optus SIM-only plan, you’ll get an international talk inclusion, and plans worth at least $59 per month include a small roaming data allowance for use overseas.
In addition, Optus’ new SIM-only plans come with an Optus Sport subscription, and up to a year of Apple Music access.
Plans with a phone
One of the key parts of Telstra's plan refresh was the move to contract-free plans, even when you're buying a new smartphone.
If you want to grab a new device from Telstra, you pick one of the four core plans and then add on your device. You'll then pay your device off over 24 or 36 monthly interest-free instalments. These are based on the device’s outright price, divided by your term; opting for 36 months naturally leads to a lower monthly fee. If you want to leave Telstra early, you can do so by paying out the remaining value of your phone.
As part of its recent changes, Optus killed its leasing plans, but stuck with the traditional 24-month plan structure. You’ll still have to commit to a full two years, but if you want to cancel early, you can do so by paying out the full remaining cost of your phone. This is roughly equivalent to the initial outright cost of the phone, divided by 24, and multiplied by the number of months left in your contract.
Here's a look at how Telstra and Optus plans compare when it comes to the iPhone XS, Galaxy Note 10+, and Huawei P30 Pro across a 24-month term.
Best iPhone XS plans
Best Samsung Galaxy Note 10+ plans
Best Huawei P30 Pro plans
Best Pixel 4 XL plans
Best iPhone 11 plans
While Optus has often offered the best bang for buck across the board with phones on a plan, this isn’t necessarily as clear cut these days.
When it comes to the iPhone XS plans with at least 10GB, Telstra comes out ahead of Optus. You can get a 15GB iPhone XS plan for $118 per month, or a 60GB plan for $128 per month. Optus’ 60GB is only $2 per month more expensive, however. Telstra also has a better entry-level Pixel 4 XL plan - while it's around $8 more expensive, you get 15GB of data. Optus' equivalent plan only comes with 4GB which is basically unusable for most people.
Optus comes out ahead on both the Note 10+ and P30 Pro, however. Optus will sell you a Note10+ with 60GB of data for $115 per month, whereas you’re looking at $120.79 per month for a 15GB plan on Telstra. And with the P30 Pro, you can get 60GB for $105 per month on Optus, or 15GB for the same price on Telstra.
If you're after an iPhone 11 Pro plan, a 36-month term will be your cheapest option. Optus' plans start at $93 per month with a paltry 4GB of data. Telstra will up that to 15GB for $98.58 per month, but for just over a dollar more, Optus will give you a 100GB allowance to go with your shiny new iPhone. If you're happy to pay off your device over 36 months, Optus' $99 Promo Plus plan is hard to beat.
Of course, both providers have their own perks worth considering. Telstra has a larger network than Optus, its plans have no excess data charges, and you’ll get live passes for AFL, AFLW, NRL, Netball, and the Hyundai A-League.
Optus plans include free Optus Sport subscriptions, extended Apple Music trials, and international inclusions and roaming data when it comes to top-end options.
There’s more to Telstra and Optus than just data-per-dollar.
Alex Choros is Managing Editor at WhistleOut, Australia's phone and internet comparison website.