The best Telstra Blue Tick phones with all the bells and whistles

For when you’re way out Woop Woop.

If you’re bushwhacking out the back of Bourke, even some of the latest smartphones will let you down when it comes to getting mobile reception. Thankfully, Australia’s coverage king, Telstra Mobile, actively tests how the latest handsets hold up when you’re travelling the outback.

Smartphones that pass Telstra’s rigorous lab and on-location testing are certified with the telco’s iconic seal of approval; the Telstra Blue Tick.

Here are the latest smartphones that currently hold the blue badge of honour.

Samsung Galaxy Note 10

Samsung’s big bertha, the Note 10+. This is the most recent premium smartphone in Samsung’s stable before the Galaxy S20 launches. It’s about the most expensive Blue Tick smartphone you can buy, but it’s easily the best option for those who like their displays big and bright. At launch, it was one of the priciest smartphones on the market but with the S20 Ultra around the corner, this one’s sure to see a significant drop in price.

Google Pixel 4 XL

Samsung’s range dominates Telstra’s tests but Google’s latest received the seal of approval when it launched in October 2020. The Google Pixel 4 is an amazing handset, no doubt. But one of our biggest complaints was its sub-par battery life. That’s definitely something to consider if you spend most of your day outside.

Samsung Galaxy S10

Samsung is gearing up for the launch of its latest handset, the Samsung Galaxy S20. Its latest flagship phone is destined for Blue Tick status but the flipside of Samsung launching a brand-new smartphone is that you can nab last generation’s Telstra-tested Galaxy S10 and S10+ for a steal.

Here are the latest deals on the Samsung Galaxy range from Telstra and Telstra MVNOs.

Apple iPhone 8

Unfortunately, there are not many options for Apple fans looking to lap up some of that rich, regional coverage offered by Telstra. The most recent Apple smartphone that was actually certified in the Blue Tick program was the Apple iPhone 8.

You can still pick up a refurbished iPhone 8 via Amazon Australia’s Renewed program and hop on a Telstra SIM plan if you’re dedicated to Apple. To be honest, you could probably get away with the latest iPhone 11 or iPhone 11 Pro too but it hasn’t been tested so purchase at your own risk.

Samsung Galaxy S9

Let’s skip back yet another Samsung generation to the Galaxy S9. If Samsung’s copped any criticism of late, it’s that it’s lacking innovation; meaning each new release is only a small improvement on the last. The reality is, Samsung really nailed it back with the Samsung Galaxy S8, and since then, the best Android smartphone has only improved (if ever so slightly). That’s great news for those looking to save some cash because the Galaxy S9, still a powerhouse smartphone, is selling super cheap.

You can pick up a refurbished model through Amazon’s Renewed program for below $400 outright or at a discounted monthly price through Telstra.

Telstra Tough Max 3

If you need a phone that’s going to survive the next Deni Ute Muster, you’ll want to consider the Telstra Tough Max. This stubborn smartphone features all the luxuries of a primo smartphone, a generous 5.65-inch HD display, a dual rear camera (16MP + 5MP) and expandable memory up to 256GB (via microSD) in a protective shell that’s built like a brick… outhouse. Its IP68 rating means it can cop a bit of dust, dirt, sand and can be dunked in water (up to 1.5-metres for 30 minutes). To top it off, it’s got a bouncy rubber frame and comes packaged with a tempered glass screen protector.

The Telstra Tough Max 3 is Blue Tick certified out of the box but it also has an external antenna port if you need a little signal boost in patchier areas.

Samsung Galaxy A70

Last up on our list is the Samsung Galaxy A70; a budget Samsung option that only released in April 2019.

Unlike the Samsung Galaxy S9, this phone hit the market as a budget alternative to Samsung’s premium range and for our money, it’s one of the best mid-tier smartphones money can buy. The A70 has plenty of the primo features associated with the flagship Galaxy range with a price tag that’s more wallet-friendly.

If you want a Samsung smartphone on a budget but don’t want to sacrifice some of the more recent design refreshes, the A70 is a great option. It’s also available on Telstra plans for cheap.

Hold up, wait a minute… what is Telstra Blue Tick?

We’ve established that a blue tick equals good coverage but how does Telstra decide which smartphone models are given the seal of approval? Telstra tests the latest devices’ receiver sensitivity, first in a custom lab (check it out in the video below) then on-location in various regional areas. Telstra is mostly testing for 4G call quality but this measure is also relevant to data transfer for browsing the Internet.

How to boost mobile reception

If you’ve tried a Blue Tick phone and you’re still not having any luck with reception, there are a few extra steps you can take to help improve coverage inside and outside your rural home, such as ordering a signal booster from Telstra or Optus.

What is a mobile phone signal booster?

Even under the vast umbrella of Telstra, there are still parts of regional Australia that don’t get top-notch reception. If you’re struggling to get a clear connection on your property, boosting your signal with an extender could help.

There are a few different types of extenders. First, there are repeaters, which take an existing mobile tower’s signal and give it a little leg up. Repeaters can be stationary or mobile depending on the use case. For example, if it’s the signal in your home that needs a boost, a stationary repeater is probably best. But if you need additional coverage on the road, a mobile car-mounted repeater could do the trick.

Then there are antennas. You can purchase a smaller external antenna to plug into your Telstra Tough Max 3 (or another compatible handset or internet-connected device) or rig up a larger solution at home, such as a medium or high gain antenna.

You can buy all sorts of signal boosting gear online but we’d recommend going through your provider for professional installation and peace of mind. Here’s what’s offered by Telstra and Optus at the moment.

Telstra Signal Boosters

Telstra offers a variety of network extension products that can be ordered over the phone.

First up, it offers mobile and stationary Telstra Go Repeaters. The mobile Telstra Go repeater is car-mountable, offers 3G/4G coverage and will set you back $864 (not including installation). The stationary option does mostly the same job but it’s designed for the home and will only set you back $816 (again, not including installation). Lastly, there’s the Telstra Smart Antenna, which despite the name, is another repeater. This one looks more like a smart modem and comes in two parts: one box for catching signal close to a window or door  and a smaller box to place where there’s particularly poor coverage. It’s a little pricier at $1080 but it’s the more user-friendly option and doesn’t require professional installation.

Lastly, Telstra offers medium and high gain antennas. Medium gain smaller, omnidirectional and are most commonly mounted to cars, boats and houses. High gain antennas are larger and typically stationary in a high position (e.g. above a house or telephone pole).

Optus Signal Booster

Despite its superior network footprint, Telstra isn’t the only telco that can sort you out with a signal booster. Optus works with supplier Cel-Fi for its signal-boosting solutions. Cel-Fi offers a similar solution to Telstra Smart Antenna for Optus customers, but there’s a whole range of signal boosting products available through its online store.

More Telstra Mobile plans

Already got your handset sorted? Take a look at Telstra’s range of SIM plans to see if you’re getting the best deal on your inclusions.