While more Australians are buying phones outright and putting them on a sim-only deal, the majority of mobiles are bought in Australia through a postpaid plan with a phone carrier. Currently buyers have 6 options to choose from when buying a phone locked in to a plan: Telstra, Optus, Vodafone, Woolworths Mobile, Southern Phone and JB Hi-Fi Mobile.
Each of these carriers have their clear strengths over the other, and depending on what matters most for you could depend on where you want to keep your phone on for the next 2-3 years.
While Optus has made grounds on its network, Telstra still has the best coverage, especially in regional Australia – so if coverage is most important with your next phone, Telstra is best for you. But if you’re more price conscious and don’t need to head out to Yanyarrie anytime soon, then Optus will have some better value phone plans for you.
And outside of the basic coverage and price debate, things such as travel and family extras will better suit you on Vodafone with its $5 a day international roaming or Woolworths Mobile with its kids management tools.
We’d also advise to try and avoid lease plans. While they might look more appealing on the surface with a monthly discount and quicker device upgrades, your pocket will be left worse off than if you went on a regular plan and kept your device, rather than returning. Likewise, most leasing plans have clauses that mean you could need to pay $200+ if you do as much as even scratch the screen. So, if you can afford it, your best bet is to go with a regular plan.
The best mobile plans for coverage – Telstra
Telstra is Australia’s oldest, and widest mobile network, and should be the choice for people who need a new phone and frequently travel outside major cities and regional centres. Although this comes at a price, and you’ll see around a 10% premium or sometimes more over comparable device plans from Vodafone and Optus.
Telstra says its coverage is over 99% of the Australian population, compared to Optus’ 98.5% and Vodafone’s vague statement of “22 million Australians”, which is about 87% of the population based on the latest ABS stats.
On top of that, Telstra also offers a bunch of extras like its new Telstra Plus rewards program, free NRL and AFL streaming on your phone and cheap movie tickets.
And for those in extremely remote communities and farms, Telstra also offers a range of devices, including the Telstra Tough Max 2 that can get mobile coverage in areas your regular old iPhone XS or Samsung Galaxy S10 will not.
The best value mobile plans – Optus
Optus’ latest line of promotions centres around the fact that you can have both well priced plans and decent phone coverage, leaning into its strengths. While Telstra still has it beaten for coverage in a lot of regional Australia, Optus has seriously gained ground in the last few years, and its plans often have much greater inclusions for the price versus Telstra.
Although be careful when you see some of Optus’ phone deal promotions as a lot of them are based around leasing plans, which as we mentioned above, usually result in you being worse off in the long run.
On top of the greater inclusions in its plans, and coverage that is good enough for most people, Optus also has lots of other entertainment content thrown in, especially if you’re a football fan.
Most plans include Optus Sport, which features the English Premier League, UEFA Championship and a host of other international football. There’s also a free subscription to National Geographic’s digital content as well as data-free streaming of Netflix, Stan, ABC iView and music apps such as Spotify.
Another interesting bit on Optus’ handset plans is that it is the only carrier in Australia to offer the Huawei P30 and P30 Pro in dual sim variants. This means that when you travel overseas you can keep your Australian number in to receive calls from back home, while also running a local sim for your data usage to avoid Optus’ massive international roaming rates.
Here are our picks of some of Optus’ best plans on the Apple iPhone XR, Samsung Galaxy S10e, Huawei P30 Pro and Oppo R15 Pro.
The best plans for travelers – Vodafone
Vodafone’s $5 a day has been around for 6 years now, and surprisingly no other carrier has come close to matching it. It’s truly the best way to use your phone overseas (unless you’re in the one country for a long period), allowing you to use your phone as you would back home with all the same inclusions for just $5 extra per day.
Currently, you can use $5 a day roaming in 80 countries, including China, United States, England, Singapore and New Zealand.
Outside of its roaming offering, Vodafone is still a very capable mobile provider, as long as you live in a city or major regional centre. Its plan inclusions are similar to Optus, and usually much more generous than Telstra. Plus its Endless Data inclusions means most plans will have no extra data costs if you go over your high speed limit, just speeds slowed down to 1.5Mbps which is still perfectly usable for basic web browsing and WhatsApp messaging.
It also has some exclusive devices like Google’s new Pixel 3a and the Oppo AX5.
Telstra, Optus and Vodafone Network Coverage
If you’re curious about how the networks are in coverage against each other, you can check on our network coverage map below.