Is it cheaper to buy an iPhone outright with a SIM-only plan?

Summary: Tech types sing the virtues of buying iPhones outright and grabbing a SIM card from your favourite telco, but is it actually cheaper in the long run to buy yours this way?

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Whether it is cheaper to buy an iPhone upfront, through Apple itself, or to sign on to a telco plan is a long-running debate among techy types.

Last year when we asked this question, we came to the conclusion that it is cheaper over 24-months to buy an iPhone on a telco contract, but that it was better value to buy it outright and choose one of the numerous SIM-only plan options.

In the past 12-months, a lot has changed. Many of the network resellers have decreased the value in plans, specifically data, and the major telcos are working hard to seem more competitive. On top of all this, Apple has significantly increased the price of an iPhone 6 and iPhone 6 Plus.

To make this comparison, we’ll use the iPhone 6 16GB and iPhone 6 Plus 16GB. Included plans must offer at least 500 calling minutes and unlimited SMS, plus at least 2GB data — the average data inclusion in plan searches on the WhistleOut engine.

For reference, the outright price of an iPhone 6 16GB is $999 and an iPhone 6 Plus 16GB costs $1,149.

Telco Plans incl. handset repayments - over 24-months

*includes promotional data

Plan

Inclusions

iPhone 6

iPhone 6 Plus

Virgin Mobile $60 Plan

Unlimited Calls/SMS + 3GB Data*

$1800

$1920

Optus $60 Plan

Unlimited Calls/SMS + 3GB Data

$1968

$2112

Vodafone $70 Red Plan

Unlimited Calls/SMS + 4GB Data*

$2040

$2160

Telstra $70 Plan

$1000 calls + 2.5GB Data*

$2304

$2496

Monthly Plans plus outright phone cost - over 24-months

Plan

Inclusions

iPhone 6

iPhone 6 Plus

Lebara Mobile ($29.90)

Unlimited Calls + 2GB Data

$1716

$1866

Spintel ($36 + $25 setup)

Unlimited Calls + 3GB Data

$1888

$2038

AldiMobile ($35)

1250 mins + 2.5GB Data

$1839

$1989

Jennee Mobile ($38)

500 mins + 3.5GB Data

$1911

$2061

Boost Mobile ($40)

Unlimited Calls + 3GB Data

$1959

$2109

Telechoice ($40)

$2000 calls + 3GB Data

$1959

$2109

Amaysim ($44.90)

Unlimited Calls + 5GB Data

$2076

$2226

Optus ($45)

Unlimited Calls + 4GB Data

$2079

$2229

Vodafone ($50)

Unlimited + 4GB Data

$2299

$2349

Virgin ($50)

Unlimited Calls + 5GB Data

$2299

$2349

Telstra ($50)

$1000 Calls + 2.5GB Data

$2299

$2349

We have a winner?

Not really. Virgin is the cheapest on contract, and the cheapest plan with 4G speeds overall, as Lebara Mobile and ALDI Mobile offer 3G speeds only.

If you want to choose a different provider offering 4G data speeds, then the Spintel and Jeenee Mobile options (both Optus 4G) work out slightly more expensive.

ALDI, Boost Mobile and Telechoice hold their own well on price and inclusions alone, but miss out on key benefits offered by the big telcos. For example:

  • Telstra, Optus and Vodafone all offer data sharing on post-paid plans, so you can build a single plan for your whole family.
  • Vodafone's Red Plans include international calling credit and $5 per day international roaming for travellers.
  • For the super keen Apple fans, Telstra's New Phone Feeling bonus will let you upgrade from the iPhone 6 to the iPhone 7 for free on $70 plans or higher.

On the flip side, buying the iPhone outright means you maintain the freedom to switch to a different carrier at any time, which is a benefit many would pay extra for.


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