Here are some important questions to ask yourself before you make the decision to purchase a mobile phone and/or enter into a contact for a mobile service.

1. What’s your budget? 

Before you do anything else, think about what you will be using your mobile for and determine your budget. There are now numerous types of mobile devices and a wide range of call plans available, to suit various budgets and needs. The service provider can provide you with a summary of the offered plan that includes all the important terms and conditions of the service so you can be sure exactly how much the offered service will cost. Make sure you read the summary of the plan carefully. If you are considering buying a second-hand phone, read our buyer beware tips to make sure you don't buy a stolen device that won't be able to connect to a network because it has been blocked.

2. What are your usage patterns? 

How often will you be using the phone, at what time of day and what will be your average call length? Will you be using the phone mostly for voice calls, or to SMS friends or will you be using it to access the mobile internet and downloading/uploading data? How many gigabytes (GB) of data will you use each month? Your usage patterns may help determine what type of plan is best for you and your budget.

3. How will you monitor your usage?

Some service providers have introduced services to help you monitor your mobile spend and your use of data. Such services are designed to help you avoid exceeding any included value allowances, limits or “caps” for voice, SMS and/or data.  Check whether these services will be available from your service provider and how you will receive the notifications, for example, by SMS alerts, email or will you need to log in and check your usage. Also, check if there will be any delay before notifications are received.  You may also want to ask your service provider what will happen if you exceed any included values, limits or “caps”. For example, will this change the rate you are charged for further calls, will you be charged “overage” or will your data speed be slowed?


4. What types of plan are available? 

There are four basic types of service agreement: fixed-term contracts, month-to-month plans, pre-paid or leasing. Fixed term contracts may suit you if you want to buy the latest smartphone as it will allow you to pay for the phone in instalments over the term of the contract. These plans may look like you are paying $0 for the handset up front but the cost of the handset is actually included in your monthly bill and even if you stop using the phone you will still be committed to paying each month until you have reached the end of the contract. Month- to- month plans may suit if you already own a handset (or would prefer to pay the total cost of the handset upfront) and would rather not commit to a long-term contract. And pre-paid is ideal if you want to ensure you stay within a specified budget - perfect for teenagers. Getting a pre-paid first is also a good way of finding out what your usage is and helping you decide what type of plan might best suit you. Leasing may suit you if you only need a phone and handset for a short time.

5. What are the call rates within each plan?  
 

Call rates vary from plan-to-plan. It's important to assess both the rates and the call charge calculation methods when assessing your options. Issues to consider include: How are call charges calculated? On some plans you will be billed per second, on others, per block of time used (usually per 30 or 60 seconds). Is there may be a flag fall (an amount paid for each connection, in addition to call costs)? Are there any special offers (eg cheaper calls off-peak, or to friends on the same network, or for SMS)? Sometimes calls to 13/1800 numbers may be charged at a higher rate than calls to other mobiles or national numbers – check what your plan will include.

6. What are the data charges for your smartphone or mobile broadband plan?

Your smartphone or mobile broadband plan will include a data allowance but it is important to check if this allowance will be enough and what will be the consequences if you go over your data limit. Usually, you can add more data to your plan if you need it and there is a wide range of data plans that you will need to consider if you plan to use your smartphone for accessing the internet. 

7. What features do you need in a handset? Do you want a smartphone or will a features phone meet your needs?

While many mobiles now on the market are smartphones and have a wide range of features and enable internet access, if you only need to make and receive calls and text messages you may be happy with a features phone or a more basic handset.
Other features to consider are battery capacity (some handsets run longer between charges than others), ease of use, and your coverage requirements (see ‘coverage’). Consider what you really need – or you’ll be paying for features you never use. If you already have a handset, are you eligible for other plans?
If you want to roam overseas, check whether you will be able to use that particular handset in the country you will be visiting. Not all handsets will work in every country. (See our international roaming tips for more details.)

8. How much flexibility do you need?

Consider your need for flexibility - and your budget - before you buy a handset or take out a plan. Are you likely to want the flexibility to upgrade your handset when a new one becomes available? Might you want to change to a different plan in six months? There are many different options for paying for handsets (eg up-front, flexi-rent deals, as part of your service agreement), and different plans (whether pre-paid or post-paid) have different terms and conditions – for example some include penalties for changing networks, or plans, for example. Read the small print and check you can meet all the minimum conditions of the contract before signing anything.

9. What coverage do you require?

Where will you be using the phone – only in metropolitan areas, or in the country? Will you require 2G, 3G or LTE coverage with your phone? This will depend on your handset, the data speeds that you require as well as where you will require coverage. Check with your mobile service provider about where they have coverage and what kind of coverage they have where you plan to use your mobile phone to ensure they can provide the service you want and where you need it before signing up. Your coverage requirements may also affect your handset choice.

10.  Are you buying a genuine device that will work in Australia? 

Read our Buyer Beware tips before you purchase a device from overseas or second-hand.

Return to our top tips before you buy a mobile.

Find out more about managing your mobile spend.

 

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