Compare 8 Mobile Plans & 7 Phones to find the best deal!

Mobile Deals with Free Stuff Included

  • Optus, Virgin and Dodo all offering free schwag
  • Underlying plan value not bad either
  • Phones are still the real draw
Written by Adam Wajnberg
05/07/2012

Remember a few years ago, when Strathfield car radio was one of the biggest dealers of mobiles? They were an Optus Network reseller (I think…might be wrong on that) and their best gimmick was the ridiculous free swag you could get with each mobile. Game consoles, GPS systems…stuff that costed hundreds of dollars on their own! We’re talking Playstations here!

A few others played that game, with the catch usually being that the underlying plan was poor value, or the phones with the best free gear were relatively unimpressive. Many people would just wait until their parents were out of contract, get them this phone and plan, give them the lousy phone and keep the swag for themselves (and by ‘many people’ I mean ‘I did this and would have no problem doing it again, thanks Mum’).

With phones themselves being so much more these days, and with the best sellers like the iPhone having such a low margin for sellers, the practice has mostly disappeared. But competition is fierce, so the whole thing is making a comeback. Let’s look at some of the deals available with free bonus stuff, and let’s judge-


-    Is the phone worth it?
-    Is the plan good value
-    Is the free stuff…good stuff?

And, for good measure -

-    How would it compare to buying the whole thing outright, with a $40 unlimited plan from Dodo or Amaysim?

Click here to check out Virgin’s Big Plan $39, or call 1300 768 103

Don’t need a phone or bonuses, just need a SIM plan with great value? Call Amaysim on 1300 209 198! Unlimited call and text for just $39.90!

                                        Virgin

                          virgin htc one x free headphones


Offer – Free Beats Solo Headphones (RRP $279) with HTC One S or HTC One X, $39/$49 plans, $0 phone repayments


Is the phone worth it?
The HTC One X is, without hyperbole, the best Android phone on the market. The One line in general is HTC’s attempt to simplify and de-crapify their line, which was getting completely out of hand. Old habits die hard though – the One line still had to break up into 3 variations. Skip the One S – pay the extra $10 for the One X. Besides its good looks, the smooth user interface and overall power makes you feel like you’re using 2014’s Android phones. Worth every penny.

Phone – 10/10

Is the plan good value? I don’t personally like cap plans (and ALL of the plans discussed in this article are cap plans), because they absolutely require you to keep an eye on what you’re doing, or get hit with really hard over-use charges. I don’t think Virgin or anyone else is evil – cap plans are the best way to respond to customer demand that allows the companies to stay in business. But still, always approach any cap plan with a clear head.

That said, this cap plan is not too onerous. You get $650 plan credit. Calls and texts to other Virgin mobiles are free. SMS to other networks are 28c a pop.

Calls to everywhere else, including 13, 1300 and 1800 numbers) pack a bit of wollop – 40c connection fee and 99c a minute. That means if you go over and start paying real money, you’ll be paying REAL MONEY. Going over your credit and then getting stuck on a 2 hour customer service call would net you a nice little $200 bonus in your bill. A few slips like that, and you coulda bought your own phone and gone on a cheaper Unlimited plan.

It’s very hard to calculate how many minutes this really buys you, because of the charges for SMS and flagfalls. But needless to say, it’s not 650 mins (unless you make exactly one 11 hour call all month, and nothing more). Assuming you make 3 calls a day, and 20 SMS a day, you’re looking at something like 440 mins a month before you go out of pocket – not counting free Virgin 2 Virgin stuff. That’s pretty good, really.

As for data – you get 2.5GB. I download apps all the time on 3G, do all my email on my phone, listen to full live feed 3 hr baseball games daily, watch a  couple of highlight reels, and occasionally download a song. I’ve never exceeded 2GB, even when I wanted to. You should be right. But watch out – if you exceed 2.5GB, you’ll get hit with 20.5c per MB – or $200 per GB.

Plan – 4/10 (points shaved for one other reason – Virgin uses the Optus Open Network on a specific APN that limits data speeds to a maximum 3Mbps).

Is the free stuff good stuff? How do you excite people about headphones? Everyone makes them, and everyone else has twenty pairs. Unless you’re looking for pro quality ($200+) or Bluetooth ($100+), it all seems like much of a muchness.

The same could be asked about cables. It turns out that the best way to get people excited about cables is to CHARGE $100 FOR THEM. This racket has been challenged with countless ‘coat hanger tests’ (ie. someone rigging a coat hanger to do the same thing as a shiny $80 cable and getting the same result), but no matter – when people buy a $2000 LCD, they want their cables to be expensive. And no-one does that better than Monster.
So, marry the two up, and you get Beats headphones. Rapper Dr. Dre, Geffen records and Monster all combined to deliver massively overpriced headphones with very appealing branding, and then sold most of the firm to…HTC.

So that’s why you get these headphones with the HTC phones. Vertical Integration is occasionally a wonderful thing.

BUT…are they any good? You could argue the One X and the Virgin Fair Go plan make for a good combination anyway, and that it doesn’t matter if the headphones are any good.
But the headphones are pretty good. They’re not necessarily the audiophile's cans of choice – Sennheiser has a better name there, not to mention blue ribbonbrands like Shure. But the Beats line are certainly better than standard issue headphones. They tend to be bass heavy – and the One X music player is calibrated to take advantage of this. You supposedly ‘hear more’ of the music – so long as the music is relatively bass heavy. Like the music of say, I dunno, Dr. Dre.

The Beats Solo set that come with this offer are very good headphones. Not $279 good, but certainly a good deal for free. And they’re available with an excellent phone, not some leftover from stocktake. So yes, good stuff.

Stuff – 8/10

Overall – 75% Good deal

Compared to buying it all outright with a top value SIM only plan:

Virgin plan over $24 months - $1176

HTC One X outright – about $650

Beats Headphones - $279

$39.90/month x 24 months - $957.60

Total - $1886.60

So yeah, the Virgin deal actually comes out far cheaper – so long as you never go over your cap value. Even if you do, it would take serial over use to make up that $700 differential – and you don’t have to pay anything upfront. Let’s give a bonus 20% to that final score. 95% Good deal. Good on ya, Virgin!

Tip: Try the promo code ‘fusion’ when you call Virgin on 1300 768 103. They may give you a discount on your first 5 months service ;)

                                           Optus

                                              optus htc one x with free headphones
Much short entry this time around – because Optus is doing the same deal with the HTC One X and the same Beats headset. Let’s just look at plan value.

HTC One X + Beats Solo headphones, $50 plan with no handset repayments. Call 1300 768 194

Is the plan good value? With $500 included value and only 1Gb of data, it’s tempting to say no, no it is not. The call charges are a little easier to swallow (90c/min + 35c call charges), and all SMS are free to any network. Excess data is even more onerous than Virgin at 25c/MB ($250 per GB). Using the same metric as the Virgin plan, 3 calls a day and 20 SMS, you’re looking at about 470 mins per month. A little more than Virgin’s cap.
You are, however, on the Optus Direct Network, which offers slightly better data speeds (up to 7.2 Mbps, Up to 20Mbps in some metro areas). Hrmmm.

Nup. This plan is a stinker, compared to Virgin.

Plan – 2/10

Overall – 65%

Compared to buying it all outright with a top value SIM only plan:

The overall price and savings are about the same as the Virgin example. But much more risk of overusing that 1GB of data, and more risk of overusing that credit. No dice. No bonus. This is 65% of a good deal. Boo Optus :(

                                    

                                             Dodo

                                         DODO SONY XPERIA S WITH FREE TV


Dodo has a bad rep when it comes to fixed-line, ADSL2+ broadband. And some of that bad rep has been justified in the past – specifically, some Dodo plans charge exorbitantly for over-usage, and they’re suspected of having high contention ratios (packing too many subscribers into each serviced port, crippling speeds and connectivity). Their customer service and support are also not highly rated. But in all these areas, they have acknowledged their faults and have been showing steady signs of improvement.

The same criticism can’t be made for Dodo’s mobile offering. Like Virgin, Amaysim and a host of others, Dodo resells the Optus Open Network, so their network quality and data speed are equivalent. Their plans are fantastic, and offer very fair value compared to their immediate competition. And like the Strathfield of old, they like to give away free gear.

Let’s look at a slightly less blockbuster phone than the HTC One X.

Sony XPERIA S + Vivo 32” HDTV/DVD - $59.90 Flexi Mobile Plan + $17 phone repayments

Is the phone any good? Sony is in deep dog dip overall, and their phones are somewherebetween LG and BlackBerry in terms of relevance. But the XPERIA line is merely unpopular. The XPERIA S deserves to be in the same league as most top end HTC and Samsung phones – the real problem is Sony’s overall woeful image.

The XPERIA S packs a 4.3 inch screen, powered by BRAVIA technology- Sony’s brand name for their still-good display technology (including TVs). How good is the display? It’s technically as good as the iPhone 4S, with its ‘Retina’ display. And it’s better than the HTC One X and Samsung Galaxy S3. Dony may be facing extinction, but you can’t accuse them of not having the hardware. This display is fantastic.

The camera is 12MP, beating the aforementioned other 3 big time phones (all sporting 8MP). It also sports Near Field Communications (NFC), allowing it to be used with Google Wallet. Micro HDMI. 32Gb built in. FM radio. Jesus. Why is no-one buying this phone?
Actually, there is no reason. The XPERIA S is an excellent Android phone. Like Motorola’s RAZR, it’s baffling why it’s considered in a different category over HTC and Samsung. In many benchmarks, it smokes the competition. Even software wise, it’s fine – running Android 4.0 well and plenty powerful enough for Android 4.1 (‘Jelly Bean’). The phone is solid.

Phone – 10/10

Is the plan good value – Fuhgeddaboutit. The other two plans have nothing on Dodo’s $59.90 Flexi Plan.  Unlimited calls and SMS to any network. Unlimited MMS. Includes 1300, 1800 and 13 numbers. $100 MINUTES OF FREE INTERNATIONAL CALLS. So much value, it beggars belief.
Of course, the phone is not free – and $17 a month is significant. But there are no surprises here. You get exactly what you pay for.

You also get 5Gb of data. Excess is a mind blowing 50c per MB – but who will use 5GB of mobile data?

Plan – 9/10. Boom. Solid. I’ve ONLY shaved that one point because the plan below it, the $49.90 Flexi Plan, is deceptive – with 1300 numbers not included in a plan that otherwise looks similar. Also, $500 per GB is criminal, even if most people are unlikely to exceed their plan.

Is the free stuff good stuff? Vivo are a generic rebrander of LG flatscreen panels. They’re usually rebadged in Australia as Dick Smith’s Home Brand. The TVs are indistinguishable from Soniq and other discount brands. They do everything pretty well, pack plenty of ports and are built on last year’s specs (in regards to thinness and other cosmetic qualities). They’re ok, as cheap TVs go. Their USB media playback software is lousy, as is remote responsiveness. But they’re pretty good for free. Heck, they’d be ok at $200. It’s a TV, dude!

Stuff – 5/10.

Overall – 85% good

Compared to buying it all outright with a top value SIM only plan:

Dodo Plan $59.90 + $17 handset payments x 24 months - $1845.60

Sony XPERIA S outright - $799 when you buy it from Dodo…and even then they’ll give you the Vivo 32” LCD for free!

$39.90 Amaysim or Dodo Magic SIM only plan x 24 months - $ - $957.60
Total - $1756.60

Close! Considering that both plans offer the same value, the only real advantage of buying outright is the freedom of not being on a contract. Otherwise, for less than $100 you lose nothing by going on contract – but with no hefty upfront payments. Bargain! We're giving this extra points. let's say 12%. it's 97% a good deal. Why not?

                             Is free swag worth it?

Seriously? Only if you need it. There’s a reason the model died out – smartphones are at the forefront of tech innovation these days. The PHONE is the draw, not the free gifts.
All the same, these deals demonstrate that even when deals are arranged to draw you in, which is usually a sign that the underlying value of the deal is poor, right now the value is pretty good. Have fun and pick accordingly!


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