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How we review mobile plans

There are dozens of factors we take into account when reviewing prepaid and SIM-only mobile plans.

Nathan Lawrence
Jan 23, 2024
Icon Time To Read4 min read

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There’s a lot that goes into a mobile phone plan. It starts with type (prepaid or SIM-only), then steps into pricing and data territory. After that, you’ve got to contend with a short or long list of plan features and customer support options. To help simplify things, we compare 100+ mobile plans across dozens of metrics under these core categories:

  • Type: prepaid or (postpaid) SIM-only, which may include the option to bundle a handset or purchase one outright.
  • Price: cost relative to plans competing with similar offerings in the same mobile plan category.
  • Data: how much data is included each month (SIM-only) or prepaid recharge period.
  • Features: how perky a plan is in terms of its network, potential speeds and other extras like international calls and international roaming.
  • Support: the number of pathways available for when you need help.
  • Satisfaction: reported happiness from real-world customers.

Have a look at the most popular mobile plans today.

Mobile plan types

At a top level, there are two mobile plan types: prepaid and SIM-only. But it’s a bit more complicated than that when you dig into each category. For prepaid, there are starter packs and ongoing recharge plans. While prepaid starter packs are typically a cheap starting point, we tend to focus more on ongoing recharge prices in our reviews and comparisons.

Prepaid plan durations can be incredibly short—a day or week—while the majority that we track are ‘monthly’ plans, which typically translates to either 28 days or 30 days in prepaid talk. Note that a full year of a 28-day Prepaid plan will require at least an extra recharge compared to a 30-day plan. Because of this, when reviewing plans, we prefer 30-day recharges over 28-day alternatives. There are also long-expiry prepaid plans—six months or a full year—to consider, which offer a chunk of data that can be used at any point over a longer period.

You’ll want to already have a mobile phone you want to use, though. That’s because mobile phones aren’t typically part of prepaid plans, though certain telcos will let you buy a prepaid handset outright, which is potentially network locked. Below is a daily updating snapshot of popular prepaid plans in our comparison engine.

If you want to pay off a new mobile phone, particularly a pricier flagship model, the best way to do it is from a telco who bundles a handset with a SIM-only plan. These mobile plans are identical to SIM-only offerings where you bring your own (BYO) handset, albeit you typically pay off the phone over two or three years.

SIM-only plans are paid at the end of a monthly billing period—except for Telstra Upfront plans, which are paid at the start of a month—and may offer better overall value in terms of data and perks compared to prepaid plans. Some telcos only offer prepaid or SIM-only with a rare few offering both options, which earns bonus points in our reviews for versatility.

Have a look at popular SIM-only plans from our database.

Mobile plan prices

Mobile plan prices tend to compete around particular data brackets. For instance, 10GB or lower is where you’ll find the cheapest mobile plans that don’t tend to have many features. We consider 30GB or more to be plenty for average monthly usage, while heavier users can access 100GB+ plans if they prefer. Our reviews assess plans based on these kinds of everyday-use and heavy-use data brackets.

Price is important as a base consideration, but we review and compare mobile plans relative to how much data you get per dollar spent. We’ll also factor in whether a telco offers family or bundle discounts as well as student and/or pensioner plans.

We like to see telcos offer promotional pricing, but we use typical pricing as the metric for our mobile plan reviews. Contracts aren’t the norm these days and nor are upfront fees, so if a telco has either of those on their plans, they tend to lose points.

Check out some of the cheapest mobile plans in our comparison engine.

Mobile plan data

Nowadays, telcos include unlimited national calls and text as standard. The big thing they compete on is data. For our reviews, we’re of the view that a little bit of data shouldn’t cost a lot, a decent amount of data should be comparatively affordable, and a lot of data should be reasonably priced.

Bonus points to telcos that typically offer bonus data: the longer the initial bonus data period, the better. That said, we do compare plans based on their base data allotment instead of bonus data. We like telcos that offer a data bank or data rollover, which is handy for using stored data from a quiet month during a busier time. For SIM-only plans, we also favour plans that include speed-capped endless data, which means no excess-data surprises on your bill if you exhaust your max-speed allocation. Finally, certain telcos also offer data sharing, which is great for families and friends looking to save money while pooling gigabytes.

Have a gander at mobile plans in our database with the most data.

Mobile plan features

Price and data are the two biggest considerations in our mobile plan reviews but there are a range of extras we factor in. For starters, network coverage. Telstra has bragging rights to the two largest networks—the main one and the Telstra wholesale network—with Optus in third and Vodafone up next. The more widespread the coverage, the greater the versatility of the plan for travelling in Australia.

While speed isn’t as important for mobile plans as it is for home internet, 5G connectivity does offer great download speeds and lower-latency perks. In terms of 5G reach, it’s the same network ranking as above. We also note in our reviews when mobile plans have a network speed cap, favouring those with higher limits or no caps.

Telcos that offer solid international inclusions fair well on the extras front, particularly in terms of international call and text allowances (unlimited is best) and straightforward international roaming add-ons. The other mobile plan perk that’s becoming more popular that we like to see is eSIM support, which foregoes the need for a physical SIM card on compatible handsets.

Here are some popular plans from telcos that offer a decent range of perks.

Mobile support pathways

Because the quality of support experiences can vary between people, we like to focus on the number of support pathways offered by a telco as evidence of how much they’re invested in customer assistance. Phone support and live chat are common. But we also like a telco that goes beyond with a blog or forum, active social media presence, usage-monitoring apps and self-paced online help. Certain telcos also offer in-person support at retail stores.

For a wide range of support pathways, consider a mobile plan from one of the telcos below.

Mobile plan customer satisfaction

The final category we consider is reported customer satisfaction. We appreciate that support experiences can vary between individuals and, typically, people use online review sites as an outlet for negative experiences. Regardless, we track available telco user reviews on Facebook, Google, Product Review and Trustpilot.

If you’d like a mobile plan from a telco with decent reported customer satisfaction, start comparisons with one of these plans.

Nathan Lawrence
Written by
Nathan Lawrence
Nathan Lawrence has been banging out passionate tech and gaming words for more than 11 years. These days, you can find his work on outlets like IGN, STACK, Fandom, Red Bull and AusGamers. Nathan adores PC gaming and the proof of his first-person-shooter prowess is at the top of a Battlefield V scoreboard.

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