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Is it worth buying a mobile phone online?

  • Vodafone occassionally have online deals
  • Great handsets from non-retail providers
  • iPrimus, Dodo and TransACT also offer phones
Written by Adam Wajnberg
23/03/2012

Signing up for a new broadband plan, or even a SIM-only mobile plan, isn’t really a big deal. After all, you can’t hold or feel a mobile or broadband plan. But most people aren’t interested in buying a phone online. People want to touch and feel a new handset, compare it directly to the physical aspects of other phones, and see how the screen resolution and apps look in normal daylight. But with so many reviews and product information easily available, and with many buyers onto their 2nd or even 3rd phone, is buying a physical handset online becoming an easier proposition?

Retail not much better

      deciding to buy a phone online

The alternative, of course, is to go into a store. This seems to answer most concerns, especially for those who need to ask an expert, face to face,  certain questions that they’re not comfortable looking up online.

But people working the retail side of mobile phone sales are motivated as much by sales targets as they are by trying to help you. Most people would like to see you get the handset that’s best for you- that makes for an easier sale and a happier customer- but some phones attract higher commissions, or staff are otherwise encouraged to move certain handsets. You can bet this is rarely the best selling or most popular handsets.

Meanwhile, it’s easy to find online reviews that come from the heart. Compare Mobile Plans runs mobile phone reviews that aim to put you in touch with the best provider – we have no direct relationship to manufacturers, so we’re interested in reviewing phones strictly on their own merits. Many other sites are the same.

Being able to touch the phone isn’t necessarily met by walking into a shop. While Telstra is still keen on putting out working versions of the latest handsets in its retail stores, Optus, Virgin and Vodafone are all moving towards dummy models. This, of course, tells you nothing about the smoothness of screen graphics or animations when using a phone, making the entire point of going into a shop somewhat moot.

Missing out

Only Telstra, Optus and Vodafone have a strong retail presence. Virgin have some small stores and kiosks. Everyone else is online only, or phone-only. As such, these guys are good at making attractive deals on good handsets. Dodo (1300 136 793) gives away tablets and other goodies with some smartphones. TransACT (1300 302 514) has phone deals with plans as low as $39. iPrimus (1300 137 794) has a surprisingly broad range of handsets for a company that deals primarily with landlines and broadband, including top models like the Samsung Galaxy Nexus and the Nokia Lumia 800.

Online tools to help you

Phone-size.com is a handy tool that allows you to compare phone sizes to each other. So long as you set up the page to work specifically with your screen size (more instructions on site), you’ll be able to get an exact detail of the size and shape of your new phone.

Online deals

Some providers with a retail presence have online-only deals from time to time. Check out the Vodafone online store for special offers.

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