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

For when you’re way out Woop Woop.
Best Blue Tick: Galaxy S20 Plus
HandsetMin. handset fee5G?More info
Galaxy S20+$63.70/mthYesSee Plans
Google Pixel 4$31.70/mthYesSee Plans
Galaxy S20$57.45/mthYesSee Plans
Telstra Tough Max 3$20.79/mthNoSee Plans
Galaxy A30$15.79/mthNoSee Plans
Handset
Galaxy S20+
Google Pixel 4
Galaxy S20
Telstra Tough Max 3
Galaxy A30
Min. handset fee5G?More info
$63.70/mthYesSee Plans
$31.70/mthYesSee Plans
$57.45/mthYesSee Plans
$20.79/mthNoSee Plans
$15.79/mthNoSee Plans

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 S20+

The middle child of Samsung’s 2020 flagship range, the Galaxy S20+, is our top pick for Blue Tick-certified Samsung handsets. It’s Samsung’s larger premium handset, without the price tag and gimmicks of the Samsung Galaxy S20 Ultra. Don’t get us wrong, the Galaxy S20 Ultra is a powerful handset, but when you stack it up side-by-side with the Galaxy S20+, the upgrade doesn’t amount to much.

The Samsung Galaxy S20+ boasts a 12MP wide-angle camera, a 48MP telephoto camera, a 3x hybrid zoom, and a 30x digital zoom. As for power, you’re getting the same processor under the hood with the S20+as the Galaxy S20 Ultra (Exynos 990).  The Galaxy S20+ also has a huge 6.7-inch OLED display and there’s a 5G model available.

Galaxy S20

If you’d rather save some money, you can also downsize to the Galaxy S20.

Galaxy S20 Ultra

Otherwise, if you do want to fork out for the bells and whistles, like 100x Space Zoom, here’s how much you can pick up the Galaxy S20 Ultra for.

Samsung Galaxy Note 10+

Samsung’s big bertha, the Note 10+. This was the most recent premium smartphone in Samsung’s stable before the Galaxy S20 launched. It’s still one of the priciest handsets on the market, but with the Note 20 around the corner, we’ll (hopefully) see a price drop on the Note 10+ soon. The Note 10+ has a 6.8-inch display, sitting smack-bang between the S20+ and the Ultra.

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.

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 A30

With monthly device repayments of $15.79 per month (on any 24-month plan), the Galaxy A30 isn’t just a great budget Blue Tick phone, it’s one of the cheapest handsets available through Telstra at the time of writing. For the low monthly cost, you’ll get a Galaxy handset with a 6.4-inch display, a dual-lens camera (16MP + 5MP), and a 4,000mAh battery.

The Galaxy A30 isn’t a premium handset, but it still gets you all the bells and whistles of a modern smartphone at a fraction of the cost.

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.

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