Best Smartphone Data Plans

By Mike Wheeler

By Mike Wheeler

A recent report by the ACMA showed that almost 20 percent of Australians over the age of 18 no longer have a landline because the mobile handset meets their needs. A smartphone goes one step further than a landline, because it not only makes calls, it sends and receives texts, and is now a one-stop shop connection device for all you communication needs. This includes surfing the net, getting emails, as well as uploading and downloading picture and video files, which in turn means customers need a fair whack of data on their plan. With that in mind, we thought we would take the pain out of researching and choose some of the best plans out there.

Amaysim piggy backs on the back of Optus’s dual-band network. Its Unlimited plan is the best on offer, which has been mentioned in a few of our lists when it comes to options available to the consumer. At $39.90 you get a more than reasonable 4GB of data for a 30 day period. This would be ideal for a moderate user – somebody who likes to check their emails, use Google Maps, or surfs the net on occasion. You can buy data packs if you think you are going to exceed your allocation ($9.90 for 1GB; $19.90 for 2.5GB; and $29.90 for 4GB), or you can pay $0.05 cents for every MB you use over your limit. What you’ll find is that most other data plans seem very stingy compared to what Amaysim is offering.

Optus covers almost at 96 percent of the Australian population, so is going toe-to-toe with Telstra when it comes to spruiking this feature of their service. But what about its plans? Being a much bigger player than Amaysim, there is a lot more on offer – SIM only; prepaid; bundles that include a landline; and those aimed at senior citizens. After sorting the wheat from the chafe, there are a couple that caught our eye. Its prepaid offering of $50 is reasonable. You get 2.5GB of data, plus a range of other features. The $70 option will give you 4GB but you’d have to be a pretty heavy user to take up that choice. If you’re after a new phone, you can get the latest Samsung Galaxy S4, iPhone 5 or HTC One for $80 a month or $100 a month depending on whether you want 2GB or 3GB of data. For the average user, we’d stick with an $80 plan.

Telstra is the biggest kid on the block in terms of coverage, but a little mean when it comes to handing out data allowances. It has a plan for every scenario – including month-to-month, BYO mobile and those that want to buy a new phone and plan together.  We’d go for the $50 Everyday Connect BYO plan whereby you’ll get 1GB of data, which is not great, but the best they offer in our opinion. They will also charge you a reasonable $0.10 cents for every MB you go over your limit.

TPG is a small player in a big market and it shows with a single offering in the mobile data stakes. For $19.99 you’ll get 1GB of data as well as the usual text and call rates. Not a bad effort on their part, but they will charge you a whopping $0.25 per extra MB you use.  Just make sure when you sign up with TPG that you read the fine print. The company has been given a harsh word or two by the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC) over some of its ADSL2+ advertisements and what was included in the pricing of its products.

Virgin Mobile
Virgin Mobile tends to go under the radar when it comes to mobile phones. They don’t have a huge presence in Australia, but they do offer a true alternative to some of the main players in its post-paid plans, while its prepaid offerings fall into the interesting category. First the post paid. Best on offer is the $49 plan whereby you’ll get 2GB of data a month, which isn’t too bad, but they will sting you with $0.20.5 cents for every MB you go over the limit. Where it gets interesting is with the prepaid, whereby for $29 you will get 1GB of data, but you’ll also get that same amount for the $99 plan. Where they differ of course, is the number of calls and texts you are allowed throughout the month.

Vodafone has been trying hard to be the third ‘big’ player in the Australian market and is pressing hard its claim even though customer satisfaction levels are still an issue. And if its data plans are anything to go by, then it needs to try harder to get consumers on board. The best SIM-only plan on offer appears to be its $45 for 1.5GB, which is measly, when you consider for an extra $5 on the Optus plan you’ll get another gigabyte of data. Past that point you don’t really get as much bang for your buck. They’ll point out that at that price you also get infinite texts and calls to other 3 and Vodafone mobiles, to which we say, so what? We do begrudgingly think its $50 prepaid cap is okay at best, which will give you 1GB of data, but the only reason being that if you go over within the 28 day period (another minor bugbear, what no 30 days?), it will cut you off so you don’t go over the stated limit.

Note: These plans are for smartphones only. Some of the carriers have data-only plans designed for other mobile devices such as tablets.

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