If you’ve noticed your phone bill steadily rising, your coverage lacking, or you’re just ready to make a change, it’s probably time to find a new mobile plan. But if you’re also looking to upgrade your smartphone, it’s not quite as simple as switching to a new SIM-only service.
Bundling your new device on a telco plan can be a great way to avoid paying hundreds (or thousands) upfront for your handset. But with more than half-a-dozen Aussie providers now offering phone-on-a-plan options, finding the best deal and value for money can be daunting — fortunately, we’ve done the hard work for you.
Earlier this year, Canstar Blue surveyed over 3,000 Australians currently using a smartphone bundled on a telco mobile plan. Each respondent was asked to rate their mobile provider on six major factors, including customer service, value for money, network coverage, plan flexibility, billing, and sign up/activation, plus on their overall satisfaction with their service.
Historically a category dominated by the ‘big three’ Aussie telcos — that’s Vodafone, Optus, and Telstra — Canstar Blue’s Phone On A Plan ratings welcomed two new providers in 2021: Southern Phone and Woolworths Mobile. And in a shock upset, one of these debuting telcos has taken the number-one spot and secured a five-star rating in almost every category.
Southern Phone is #1 for phone plans
Southern Phone is our best-rated phone plan provider of 2021, achieving a full five-star result for overall customer satisfaction, as well as five stars each for customer service, value for money, network coverage, plan flexibility, and sign-up. The telco also received four stars for billing, rounding off an outstanding result for its first year in our Phone On A Plan ratings.
Formed in 2002, Southern Phone was initially launched with a focus on servicing regional Australia. The company originally restricted shareholders to local councils in rural locations, meaning all dividends would go back to the community. However, Southern Phone was acquired by AGL Energy in 2019, giving invested councils an immediate boost of funds and providing Southern Phone with the resources to deliver competitive phone and internet plans nation-wide.
Currently, Southern Phone offers both SIM-only and phone-on-a-plan mobile options, and carries a large selection of popular Samsung devices (plus Nokia and Swissvoice handsets). Each device can be bought outright at full price, or paid off over 24 months of equal installments (and bundled with a Southern Phone postpaid mobile plan).
Southern Phone’s postpaid plans begin at $12.99 per month for unlimited standard national talk and text in Australia, plus 2.5GB of data. There’s four plan options available, including 10GB for $25, 30GB for $35, and 60GB of data for $45 per month, making Southern Phone one of the cheapest providers on the market to offer smartphone and plan bundles.
With plans from Vodafone, Optus and Telstra typically beginning at the $35-$55 per month mark, Southern Phone offers a lower-priced alternative for customers who don’t require a huge data allowance, or who want to skip the bells and whistles and opt for a simple, affordable phone plan. With coverage offered on the Optus 3G and 4G Plus networks, Southern Phone is also worth considering if you’re a current Optus subscriber happy with your reception, but looking to cut down on your monthly bill.
The following table shows selected published Southern Phone postpaid plans on Canstar Blue’s database, listed in order of cost, from the lowest to highest and then by data allowance, largest to smallest. These prices do not include handset repayment costs. Use our comparison tool to see plans from a range of other providers. This is a selection of products with links to a referral partner.
While Southern Phone was our number-one rated telco for phone plans in 2021, Woolworths Mobile also made an impressive first-year entry, claiming the second-place spot and receiving four stars for overall satisfaction. The full list of best-rated phone providers for 2021 is below.
- Southern Phone
- Woolworths Mobile
Both Optus and last year’s winner Vodafone were awarded four stars for overall satisfaction, with Vodafone also achieving a notable five-star rating for customer service. In last place was Telstra, which took home three stars for overall satisfaction, but received five stars for network coverage.
You can compare postpaid plans from Telstra, Optus, Vodafone and Woolworths Mobile in the tables below. Note that these prices are for your postpaid plan only, and do not include handset repayment costs.
Telstra postpaid plans
The following table shows selected published Telstra postpaid plans on Canstar Blue’s database, listed in order of cost, from the lowest to highest and then by data allowance, largest to smallest. Use our comparison tool to see plans from a range of other providers. This is a selection of products with links to a referral partner.
Optus postpaid plans
The following table shows selected published postpaid Optus plans on Canstar Blue’s database, listed in order of cost, from the lowest to highest and then by data allowance, largest to smallest. Use our comparison tool to see plans from a range of other providers. This is a selection of products that may have links to a referral partner.
Vodafone postpaid plans
The following table shows selected published postpaid Vodafone plans on Canstar Blue’s database, listed in order of cost, from the lowest to highest and then by data allowance, largest to smallest. Use our comparison tool to see plans from a range of other providers. This is a selection of products that may have links to a referral partner.
With plan prices rising, it’s time to shop around
Canstar Blue’s Phone On A Plan ratings come one week after Australian consumer watchdog the ACCC expressed concerns that recent price rises from the three major networks were leading to decreased competition in the mobile phone market. Telstra, Optus and Vodafone have each tweaked and — in most cases — increased their postpaid mobile plan pricing in the last 12 months, and with the Vodafone-TPG merger now complete, there appears to be little incentive for telcos to cut plan fees.
The big three telcos control roughly 95% of the postpaid plan market, and have been the go-to providers for Australians wanting to pick up a smartphone on a combined handset and mobile plan. However, with smaller names such as Southern Phone, TeleChoice, Woolworths Mobile and Aussie Broadband entering the phone-on-a-plan space — and offering genuinely competitive prices — there’s finally options for customers who want the advantages of buying on a plan, without being tied to a ‘big three’ provider.
More competition is also good news for customers who don’t need the massive data allowances and included plan perks offered by larger providers. According to Canstar Blue’s latest research, a combined 33% of Aussies are on plans of 20GB a month or less, and 50% of us have never gone over our data allowance. While there’s certainly a market for the unlimited speed-capped data now offered by Telstra, Optus and Vodafone, as well as fast data allowances of 100GB per month or more, there’s also a huge chunk of mobile users who simply don’t need that much data.
Smaller providers also offer an alternative for customers who aren’t yet caught up in the 5G hype. In Canstar Blue’s 2021 research, 42% of respondents stated they don’t need 5G, and have no interest in upgrading to a 5G-ready phone or plan. While the 5G access offered by Telstra, Optus and Vodafone will likely be extended to brands such as Southern Phone in the near future, for now 4G-only coverage is more than adequate for the millions of Australians who are happy with their current network speeds, or just not in a 5G-covered area.
Overall, if you’re less than thrilled with your current phone plan, it may be time to shake things up. Canstar Blue research shows that the average time we spend with a telco is 10 years: that’s roughly five new phone upgrade cycles. While there’s nothing wrong with being a loyal customer, it may mean you’re paying more than you should each month for your plan or smartphone — so if it’s time to upgrade your device, it may also be time to shop around for a better deal.