Since the digital cellular networks began, all mobile phone packages have been in effect data packages. The phone companies decided to divide this data into internet data, voice and SMS components. No doubt this division best serves their business interests, but it doesn’t always serve the customer’s interests.
Each one of us has their own mobile device usage pattern. Some people spend many minutes each day making calls and sending SMS, but others are much more online data-orientated. Your usage pattern should be a guide to the most appropriate phone plan.
So what kind of phone plan suits you best if you use a great deal of internet data but make very few phone calls, or hardly send any SMS? To get a very large data allowance you might end up paying a great deal for calls and SMS you do not use.
Saving Money on Tablet and iPad Data Use
You can certainly save on mobile data if you wait to download that movie until you go home, or are within range of a WiFi hotspot. However, this is not always so convenient. A great advantage of mobile devices is the ability to download data on the move. For these reasons Tablet or iPad owners do well to consider data only plans.
If you don’t have to pay for unneeded calls and SMS, a data only plan can actually cut your phone company bills in half. For example, a SIM card that can be used exclusively in a tablet gives you access to online data from the cellular network at any time. This kind of SIM card also has a much more generous data allowance than the card that also supports voice and SMS.
If you never make phone calls we would recommend signing up for a data only plan. Stop paying for call minutes and texts that you don’t need. Remember, you will still be able to receive all the calls you want to take in any event.
So what do you do about phone calls if you opt for a data only plan?
You can quite easily make calls free of charge using Skype, WhatsApp, or another third party application. These third party applications also make very low mobile data demands.
Another option is to get a data plan for a device with a small phone call and SMS allowance included. If you only make a few phone calls a day this should be sufficient.
The Mobile Data Sharing Option
Mobile data sharing allows you to share a data allowance between several mobile devices – sometimes as many as ten. The sharers can be members of a family, friends or any other group. This may be an economical idea if the data sharers can co-ordinate usage together, but if one overuses their share less is available to the others. For example, if you share data with a teenage family member who often streams video, the joint allowance could soon get used up.
Data plans for tablets
With at least half the population now using tablets, demands on mobile data services are clearly increasing. More tablets can now connect to the internet through cellular networks. According to the research done by the Australian Communications and Media Authority (ACMA):
- 50% of adult Australians used a tablet to access the internet in the six months to May 2014.
- The majority of tablet owners currently access the internet via WiFi.
- Only one out of six tablet owners use a phone company plan.
No doubt the higher cost of buying a tablet with 3G and 4G connectivity discourages some buyers, but nevertheless, this is a potential market that phone companies hope will expand.
Mobile Broadband SIM-Only plans have been developed with the tablet or laptop user in mind. They enable you to fully benefit from the opportunities tablets offer to stay online while on the move. These kinds of plans don’t include any superfluous calls or SMS but just the internet data you require. For example, Telstra make it crystal clear than you can only use their SIM for data. Other phone companies allow you to use this kind of SIM for a small amount of phone calls or SMS without an extra charge. Before you take out this kind of plan, inquire if it also allows calls and SMS.
How much data do I need?
ACMA has calculated the average mobile device user needs 2GB of mobile data. If you try wherever possible to download videos via WiFi, or when at home, and use a third party application for calls, you should manage very well with this allowance.
To get a better idea of how much data various activates required, use one of the virtual calculators found on the phone company websites. These show you in a graphic way how demands on mobile data rise and fall according to your activities. You soon notice that actions like streaming video use tremendous amounts of mobile data, while actions such as sending emails uses relatively little.
With newer Android devices you can also view data consumption on the data tracker under the Settings menu.
Tablets Have Heavier Data Demands than Smartphones
Studies have found that tablets connected to 3G and 4G networks use up data allowances faster than smartphones. Cisco Systems 2011 study found that tablets connected to 3G and 4G networks consumed almost double the amount of megabytes used by smartphones (382MB compared to 201MB per month). One of the sources of the difference seems to be that tablet users spend more time browsing the web. Although the data consumption delta is significant it is still well within the boundary of most mobile data allowances.
The Verizon data calculator also shows how tablets require much more online data than smartphones:
In addition to revealing the major differences between tablet and smartphone online data needs, the data calculator shows how streaming video demands much more data than other online activities. So if you enjoy downloading and viewing videos, remember how much data this requires — especially if you are using a tablet.
Comparing Data Plans for Tablets and Smartphones
What kinds of data only SIM cards do the three big Australian phone companies offer? This table summarizes keys points from a selection of their data only plans (full details are found on each company’s website).
Taking a data only contract from one of the big companies might not be your best choice. Just as the best call deals are available from Australia’s smaller phone companies, they also offer more advantageous “data only” deals.
Companies such as Bendigo and Amaysim lease network access in bulk from the three big companies. They negotiate access at bargain rates, and also have lower overheads. These advantages mean they can afford to offer customers cheaper deals than the network owners. At the same time, the quality of the connection is exactly the same as you enjoy if you take a deal directly from the network owner. The difference is just the lower cost!
If you want to find out more about how these small companies can still make good profits while charging low rates, look up information about mobile vertical network operators (MVNOs). The salient message to take away is that it pays to check out the data-only deals small companies have on offer. By the way, of all the deals we recommend are also great for tablet owners.
Here are a few examples of good data deals from small phone companies. See for further information about these and additional offers. You can also compare the differences between deals.
For light mobile data users we recommend the Amaysim Additional Data Packs deal.
For $19:90 a month you get:
- 2.5GB of mobile data
- Advantages of the Optus 3G and 4G service
- 30% off data
- Pay as you Go (PAYG) Voice – you only pay for the calls you make
- Monthly renewable contract.
For moderate to fanatic mobile data users we recommend the Virgin Mobile BYO Postpaid deal.
For $40 a month you get:
- 12GB of mobile data – far more generous than any of the big phone companies offer for a similar price.
- Advantages of the Optus 3G and 4G service
- Free SIM card delivery.