It’s that time of the year again – new iPhones and paying attention to what we pay per month for the luxury of instant Internet wherever we go. The telcos are masters of obfuscation, so to save you the soul crushing agony that is wading through telco contracts, I’ve distilled the useful into this article and further decantered the crux of the situation into to a paragraph.
I won’t be detailing every single plan and comparing pricing directly because the outright cheapest isn’t necessarily the best option for most people. I have created a spreadsheet with the major players compared, so you can see the 24 month and 12 month pricing, including contract cancellation fees in the one spot. In this post I’ll point out highlights and general ideas to assist you in choosing where to get your iPhone from.
TLDR; if you want a new iPhone 6 or 6 Plus now and want a new iPhone next year too, go on the Vodafone 12-month contract with the amount of data you like. If Vodafone’s no good for you, go on a Telstra contract with the data you want and cancel it when the new iPhone comes out.
There’s also a few assumptions I’ve made as to keep things relatively simple:
4G plans only – it’d be a shame to use this advanced phone on lame 3G speeds. There are some good 3G only deals from companies like Amaysim or Lebara, but 3G is so slow when you’ve been sucking at the LTE teat.
16GB iPhone 6 – pricing scales linearly across all the models, so if a suggestion applies to the 16GB iPhone 6, it also applies to the rest of the lineup.
Yearly upgrades – I want a new phone every year and you probably do too. All the prices I state for 12 month costs include early contract cancellation fees where applicable.
The first step is to decide which network is appropriate for you. If you’re in a metro area most of the time, Vodafone and Optus will work pretty well. I prefer Vodafone, but Optus has improved lately, particularly with their 4G network. Check out the coverage maps for each network and you can see that in the capital cities at least, 4G coverage is pretty broad. As always the devil is in the details and you can’t really tell that from a coverage map anyways.
If you’re outside the big capital cities, Telstra is pretty much your only option. Which at least makes looking for a plan easy – as you have no choice.
Virgin are offering some excellent deals on the iPhone 6 and are worth looking at too. They’re the only MVNO with the iPhone and they offer 4G on the Optus network. Coverage footprint is the same as Optus, but they do use a different APN setting than Optus, so maybe data speeds on Virgin aren’t identical as Optus. I have no personal experience to relate and cant’ find much about Virgin speeds vs. Optus on the Internet. I would assume they’re pretty much the same, but I can’t promise that.
If you’ve been afraid of leaving Telstra because the other telcos suck, I’d suggest to look again. 4G has evened the playing field, in metro areas at least and as someone who uses the 3 networks pretty often at the same time, there’s not much real world between them if you have 4G coverage.
BYO iPhone With Grandfathered Vodafone & Telstra Pre-Paid Plans
Is it worth sticking with Vodafone pre-paid if you’re on the old Flexicaps? Unless you’re using more than 4GB of data a month regularly, I’d say no. Vodafone’s recharge life is only 28 days – that’s 13 recharges a year vs. 12 monthly payments on a contract. Together with a 16GB iPhone 6, you’d have spent $1259 over 12 months. Vodafone’s Red $80 plan ($110/m) with 4GB of data is only $81 more at $1320.
A benefit of going on a contract is that you don’t have to spend all the money up front by buying outright, which is nice. You also get the $5 Red Roaming benefits, which is handy if you travel frequently and can’t be bothered buying a local SIM. There’s unlimited calls & SMS versus the generous, but still limited about on pre-paid. I’d say the 12-month contract deal at Vodafone is better value than the pre-paid unless you’re a regular heavy data user and make virtually no calls or SMS. But if you use say, 10GB+/month, the $30 pre-paid can’t be beat. Hopefully it doesn’t vanish any time soon, as Vodafone’s current pre-paid sucks.
Telstra’s situation is the opposite. To get a similar level of data as you would on the $40 pre-paid you need to spend $1524/yr vs. $1349/yr buying outright. You get an extra 500mb/month on the contract, but you can buy extra data packs on Telstra pre-paid as you need it, or hoard your credit (as it rolls over) and still spend less. I’d probably stick with Telstra pre-paid over the contract at this stage and pray Telstra keep your pre-paid plan around for a little while longer.
Cancelling 24 Month Contracts After 12 Months
If pre-paid isn’t for you or you don’t want to splash the cash for an outright iPhone, then a contract is it. They are for 24 months, but cancelling it after 12 months when the new iPhone comes out is actually quite cost effective depending on the carrier. The full details are in the spreadsheets, but here are some highlights.
Vodafone actually have 12 month contracts, so go with those if you want to be on the Vodafone network. Cancelling their 24 month contracts is quite expensive as you pay all the remaining contract out (e.g: 12 months left on a $100 contract = $1200). The 12-month contracts are great.
The Telstra critical info summary can be quite confusing when trying to calculate cancellation costs. The beginning of the document mentions a Device Plan Discount – this does not apply to the iPhone 6, as it’s not on the Device Plan Discount list. So that can be safely ignored. So cancelling your Telstra contract after 12 months is simply 50% of the ETC specified in your chosen plans CIS and 50% of the remaining handset payments. If you re-contract with Telstra, the ETC is waived (if your monthly spend goes up) or is reduced
Optus contract cancellations are similar to Telstra. In the CIS there’s a maximum cancellation fee, which is pro-rated for the length of time remaining on your contract. You also pay back any remaining handset repayments.
Virgin has a generous cancellation process, where all you pay when you cancel the contract is the remaining outright cost of the device. However, after a chat with the nice people at Virgin (I hope they don’t refer to themselves as Virgins) the outright cost of the iPhone is higher than the RRP, so what you pay isn’t simply 50% of the RRP Apple sells at, but 50% of whatever the RRP Virgin decide to set. Unfortunately nobody at Virgin was able to tell me what the RRP of the iPhone 6 is until tomorrow, when the iPhone is already launched. I will update this later, but if you’re trying to make a decision in order to get an iPhone on the morning of the 19th of Sept, it’s not ideal. It sucks as their plans are very very good if you’re comfortable with an Optus MVNO. Even with the inflated mystery RRP (which you have to call up to ask about), it could work out to be the cheapest 12 month deal.
BYO iPhone With An Optus MVNO
There’s a couple of Optus MVNOs around offering cheap BYO phone plans (none offer the iPhone except Virgin). Unfortunately, they’re not that good value than going on a contract with one of the mainstream telcos and cancelling after 12 months. Take Vaya for example – for 2.5GB of data with the 16GB iPhone 6 outright, you’ll outlay $1253/yr. Whereas on Vodafone it’s only $1284/yr and you get 3GB of data and unlimited calls & SMS. I’d only go with an Optus MVNO if Vodafone doesn’t suit you. If an Optus thing Vaya is a good way to do. Yatango, Exetel and Spintel have nice no contract plans also.
To work out your 12 month cost to compare with the other plans in the spreadsheet, simply multiply the monthly cost by 12 and add on the outright cost of the iPhone you want.
Port In Credits & Bonuses
Vodafone have a sweet deal with 3 months free on the $100 plan and 8GB of data, but these are only on the 24 month plans, not the 12 month ones. Even when taking this into account, the 12 month plans are better value for annual upgraders.
Optus and Telstra are offering $200 of port-in credit to move to their network. On Telstra, the credit is pretty simple – if you’re on a non Telstra carrier, you port over and $200 credit is applied to your second bill. This brings the overall 12 month spend down by $200 – very nifty. With Optus, the credit only applies if you had to cancel your contract. They ask for your old account number, so I assume they can check you were actually on a contract in the first place.
I’ve added these discounts to the speadsheet so if you’re thinking of changing networks, you can see the real costs over 12 months.
Telco Trade-Ins & Selling Your Current iPhone
Telstra and Optus are offering up to $250 trade-ins for your old phone. Prices vary depending on condition and model, but you’ll get more money if you sold it elsewhere. If you can’t be stuffed doing that and have nobody to hand your old phone down to, it’s better than nothing I guess. Otherwise you can sell your iPhone on eBay or Gumtree or even hand it down to someone else – the iPhone 4 is still pretty usable on iOS 8.
Telstra’s New Phone Feeling – Worth It?
On the iPhone M, L, XL plans, Telstra’s new phone feeling is free. On the S plan it’s $10/m. This gives you the ability to give Telstra back your iPhone when a new one comes out, sign up for a new 24 month contract and get a new iPhone, with no out of pocket expenses. Pretty nifty, but if you’re re-contracting with Telstra anyways, the ETC often waived or reduced to $50 depending on which plan you’re moving to within Telstra and all you need to pay is the handset repayments.
The New Phone Feeling option pretty much saves you having to sell your phone – if you’re happy to go another 2 years on Telstra and can’t be bothered selling your phone, it’s a good idea. Otherwise you can just re-contract with Telstra anyways, get the ETC waived or reduced to $50, sell the phone and pocket the profits after paying back the generally small handset repayments.
Tips For Getting An iPhone On The 19th of September
If you haven’t already ordered from the Apple online store or one of the telcos, your only plan of attack is to line up outside your preferred store as early as you can tolerate. The earlier you get there the better your chances. iPhone 6 Plus stock is very thin on the ground, so if you’re after the big one, you want to rock up very early.
From previous experience, the telco shops at airports are another excellent way to get a device, as they generally have a fair amount of stock, but not a lot of people. JB Hi-Fi and Dick Smith are also selling the iPhone on Telstra and Vodafone contracts respectively.[optin-cat id=5772]