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Best phones and plans in Australia: find the right handset for your budget

The smartphone market has gotten to be a pretty intimidating place – phone manufacturers are offering more options and configurations than ever in their primary lineups, and then there's the plethora of devices in the mid-range and budget realm as well.

On top of this, when you bundle in the added choice of all the various plans and contracts, it can be a real doozy to choose between them. Don't worry, we're here to help!

On this page, we've covered everything there is to know about making your choice and deciding on your new phone or plan. Whether you're looking for SIM-only plans and outright phones, or phone contracts with the major carriers like Telstra and Optus, this page has you covered.

If you already have an idea of what phone you're chasing, check lower down the page for specific phone deals for the best plans to grab them on. If, on the other hand, you're dead keen on a certain carrier, we've tracked down the best Telstra plans and the best Optus plans available as well.

Below, we have a live tracker that compares some of the best available iPhone handsets, both standalone and on plans, spanning the full range of telcos and networks. If you're after an Android alternative (from Samsung or Google, for instance), scroll further down to find our comparison tables.

Compare iPhone deals

iPhone 12 deals / iPhone 12 Mini deals

The latest Apple flagship is here – the iPhone 12. Bringing with it 5G connections, a brand new processor and smart upgrades to the camera, the iPhone 12 is all-round the best iteration of the iPhone. It even throws in clever new tricks like magnetic connections while wirelessly charging.

iPhone 12 Pro deals / iPhone 12 Pro Max deals

While the iPhone 12 and Mini are certainly impressive, some will be keen on even better specs in their daily handset. Go for the iPhone 12 Pro or Pro Max and you'll receive an additional camera lens and a huge boost in a number of key areas like battery life and screen size. Overall, these are Apple's two most powerful smartphones.

iPhone SE (2020) deals

Apple has released the second iteration of its affordable handset, and if the original's success is anything to go by, the 2020 version of the iPhone SE is sure to be a huge hit. Packing in the A13 Bionic chipset from the flagship iPhone 11, along with the camera and display prowess of the iPhone 8, this handset manages to fit a whole lot of power into an affordable and compact handset.

Best Samsung and Google Pixel deals

Samsung Galaxy S21 / Galaxy S21 Plus

Samsung's latest barrage of flagship phones are the first to include 5G as standard, and also notable for reducing in price compared to last year's iteration. Add to this their upgraded processors and powerful camera specs, the S21 range builds on a winning formula.

Samsung Galaxy S21 Ultra

If you're after the S21 experience but want something ... more Ultra ... then the S21 Ultra certainly lives up to its namesake. It sports S Pen compatibility, a huge 5,000mAh battery, a 6.8-inch AMOLED display, and either 12GB or 16GB of RAM, depending on its configuration. Beast.

Samsung Galaxy S20 FE deals

The Samsung Galaxy S20 FE (Fan Edition) is the latest addition to the S20 range. It brings the range way down in price, bringing affordable specs to Samsung's top devices. You get most of the key specs of the other devices but at a far lower price.

Samsung Galaxy Note 20 deals / Galaxy Note 20 Ultra deals

In the Galaxy Note 20 and Galaxy Note 20 Ultra, you'll find the most powerful smartphones available, so it's just a matter of how much Samsung power you can really handle. With top-shelf cameras, hugely powerful performance, gorgeous displays and stylus operation, these are certainly phones for power users.

Google Pixel 5 deals

The Google Pixel 5 is Google's best device yet. It offers an awesome camera performance, high-end processor, improved battery life and a host of other impressive features. In essence, it takes all of Google's best features and sorts its issues.

Google Pixel 4a deals / Google Pixel 4a 5G deals

The Google Pixel 4a and its 5G counterpart are the latest mid-range devices from Google, providing high-end camera specs at a bargain price point. While it doesn't provide all of the high-end specs of a flagship, it does go big on camera performance and brings with it Google's clean Android experience.

The best SIM-only deals

SIM only

Want to hold on to your current phone for a little bit longer? Or feel like a SIM-free contract is the way to go? We understand, and that's why grabbing a SIM-only deal can be a great way to go. If you have a little bit of spare cash lying around, you may even find that teaming up a cheap SIM-only deal with a new handset is a cheaper way of getting your new smartphone, with some plans on offer costing less than $10 a month.

Visit our dedicated round-up of the best SIM only deals or see below for a live-updated tracker, comparing SIM-only plans under AU$40.

Mobile phone deals FAQ

What you need to know about buying your new phone

Of course you want to find the cheapest price for your new smartphone – and our comparison chart at the top of the page will narrow that down for you – but we know there are likely to be dozens more questions you'll want answering. Keep reading below, where we answer some of the key commonly asked questions about buying a new mobile.

What phone network is the best?

Each phone network has its own advantages and disadvantages. There isn't necessarily a wrong choice – it just depends on what's most important to you. Whether that's sweet inclusions, solid coverage, cheap prices or good global-roaming options. While loyalty may be an admirable trait, it's essentially useless in the realm of phone providers, so we highly recommend shopping around once your contract has finished.

While Telstra may be better known for its coverage, Optus has the lead in overall value. Ever since Virgin Mobile was absorbed into the Optus name, the telco has become a good degree more affordable than its main competitor, and can often provide equivalent plans for less than half the price of Telstra. Optus of course has its own 5G network by thus point, and while Telstra seems to have a slight leg up on how widespread it is, the gap is closer than ever at the moment. As always though,  you'll need to check to see which areas it currently covers on the telcos coverage map.

Check out our editor-recommended Optus mobile plans

As mentioned above, Telstra has earned a name for itself for being Australia's leading telco when it comes to network coverage, and that's still the case. It's also on the cutting edge when it comes to new technologies such as 5G, and although Optus has its own network up and running now, Telstra is still the industry leader in the field at present.

Check out our selection of the best-value Telstra plans

Vodafone is the third major player in Australian networks and, despite having been rather uncompetitive in the past, it's now offering better value than ever thanks to frequent sales, so it's worth checking out for sure! Plus, thanks to a recent merger with TPG, we're expecting this telco to offer even better value in the future. While Voda does have a 5G network in Australia, it's considerably more infant than Telstra and Optus, but check the telco's latest information regarding coverage because you might be in one of the areas that is already receiving it.

Check out our selection of the best Vodafone plans in Australia

An unsuspecting entry into the race for Australian phone users, Woolworths Mobile is actually doing really well so far. Operating on the Telstra network and offering plans at ridiculously low prices (some of which even include top-tier Android handsets, like the latest range of Samsung Galaxy devices), this is quickly shaping up to look like a compelling competitor to the big guns. The main catch is that it doesn't have nearly the same range of plans as Telstra or Optus, and often won't get some of the latest flagships at launch.

What is an MVNO?

An MVNO, or Mobile Virtual Network Operator, is a company that utilises a larger carrier's network – i.e. Telstra, Optus or Vodafone – to run their service. These carriers are typically much smaller in size and popularity, but can still offer some exceptional deals.

For instance, Vaya, Amaysim, and Woolworths Mobile all run their service via either the Optus or Telstra network, which gives them similar advantages and disadvantages when it comes to coverage as the major telcos themselves. 

The bigger providers may charge a little more, but they come with the usual advantages of bigger businesses, which can include better customer care resources, the ability to bundle other products and services and a guarantee that they'll always have the latest flagship handsets.

Should I go for a contract or get a SIM-free phone?

When trying to find a new phone contract, there are more options now than there used to be. You could get a phone on a 12- or 24-month contract, or purchase a handset outright and combine that with a SIM-only plan, but there's also the option of repayments.

This last option has been widely adopted by the major telcos (Telstra, Optus, and Vodafone are all doing it) and it represents a kind of middle ground. You're able to get a brand new handset and pay it off over the course of 12, 24, or 36 months while also signing up for a mobile plan that you pay for monthly and can leave at any time. 

Alternatively, if you've got the cash up front, it can sometimes be more sensible to purchase the phone you're after and pair it with one of the excellent SIM-only plans available, which are getting much more compelling as time goes on – offering exponentially more data at lower prices than they have in the past.

How much data do I need on my phone plan?

  • 1-10GB If you like to scroll through your social media feeds and emails while out and about and steam a moderate amount of music but aren't using your handset for anything much more intensive than that, then this option will be enough for you.
  • 11-50GB This bracket should be more than enough for the vast majority of users and generally presents great value. Loads of data for streaming music, downloading podcasts and enjoying social media videos. Because there's no such thing as too many cats falling into bins.
  • 51-200GB Big data for the big phone user. Perfect for those that use their device to hotspot, those that frequently stream Netflix and other services on their devices, and for those that download large files often. And these plans often have extra freebies thrown in, too.