What are the advantages of taking a SIM Only plan?
Put simply, a lot of people don’t need a new, expensive phone. Many people already have their own phone and it does them fine.
SIM Only plans are ideal for people who just want just the voice minutes, texts / SMS and data offered in a plan instead of being tied into a contract.
Most people find that they can reduce their monthly outlay on phone company services with a SIM Only or BYO Plan.
SIM only or BYO plans are playing an increasingly important role for phone purchasers in Australia. Already, two-thirds of people are choosing SIM Only plans.
How can I be sure my phone will work with the new SIM?
It almost certainly will.
Whichever phone you choose, you’ve got to make sure it works with the same frequencies available from the phone company you’re considering. Each phone has a number of frequencies or ‘bands’ which it uses to access the phone company your agreement is with. Years ago, your phone would only have had two or three of these bands or frequencies. The number of frequencies that phones work with has increased over the years. The latest iPhones now work with 14 different bands!
A key call out here is that Telstra phones (that’s phones you got under contract with Telstra) are likely to work on the 850 MHz network. Only Telstra use the 850 MHz network in Australia. If you want to move across to Telstra, make sure your phone works on that frequency.
Remember, it is incredibly rare these days to find a combination of devices/frequencies that won’t work for you. If it does happen (i.e. if you go with Telstra and you’ve got an old phone you bought overseas) then you’ll be able to take the SIM back to big T for a refund.
Can I use any mobile phone with SIM card?
Very much so. If you bought your phone through a carrier, give them a call and ask for the phone to be “unlocked” before you get a new SIM. We have an article about unlocking your phone if you’d like more details.
Can I keep my phone number with SIM only mobile deal?
Yes you can. You’ll see an option for this whichever phone company you go with. They’ll remind you while you’re checking out. You give them your current number and, by the time your SIM card arrives, it’ll have your existing number attached to it.
You’re welcome to read our article if you need more information on this very common question.
Are SIM Only plans 4G (superfast data) enabled?
Erm, mostly, yes, they are. Especially the new ones. There are a couple of exceptions. Check the ‘Network’ column in our table on this page. If it says 3G + 4G, you’ll get the fastest speeds possible, wherever you are. If the column entry says 3G (only) then the plan is only 3G speed capable.
We have a lot of information on what 4G is. You might also like to read about our view of the best 4G plans.
What is a SIM technically?
A SIM is a Subscriber Identity Module. It’s a key you can use to get on to the network of the phone company you choose. Since the phone company knows it’s your key specifically (that it belongs to you) it/they can charge you for using the network.
Technically, SIM cards are integrated circuits which store your personal identification information on them. This information is then used to identify and authenticate the SIM when you make a call.
Will I need to pass a credit check to get a SIM Only plan?
The rules they have in place might be far less stringent than those you would have to oblige in order to be provided a phone. However, providing a postpaid SIM Only Plan to you does still represent a credit risk to the phone company. In theory, some customers could take out a SIM only plan, go overseas and run up roaming bills for thousands of dollars which represent a real cost to the phone company. A credit check is required to minimise the risk.
If you’re choosing a prepaid plan then, no, you won’t need to pass a credit check.
Which SIM Only Plan is best for International calls? (i.e. calls from within Australia to other countries.)
The price of international calls within SIM Only and prepaid plans has fallen over the last 2 years. You will now find international call inclusions within most SIM Only plans that cost $40 a month or more.
We also have a specific page with extra information on international plans.
What if I need a Nano SIM?
Nano SIMs are just smaller SIMs that some of the newest phones take.
A number of phones have Nano SIMs these days. You will find a Nano SIM option with literally every phone company you can imagine in Australia. Nano SIMs came out in 2011 so they’ve had plenty of time to adapt.
You can choose a Nano SIM on our site by choosing the links associated with Nano SIMs, or when you’re on a phone company website. Options for Nano SIMs usually pop up in or near the checkout as part of your ordering process. It’ll be obvious.
- Flexible agreements
- Month to month, 12 months or 24 months deals
- Move to a new phone company & keep your number
- Great value deals from smaller phone companies
- Ensure your phone is unlocked before purchase
- Make sure you're out of your current contract
Recent WhatPhone Surveys & What they Mean For SIM Only Plans
- SIM Only plans are an easy, flexible way to save money on your phone tariff.
- They’re such a sensible choice and represent such good value that they are taking over.
- Today, the majority (around 60%) of people have a SIM Only plan from their phone company.
- SIM Only plans provide access to the phone company’s network services.
- Network services are the data, voice, SMS, international calls and other phone company services you need to use your phone.
- There are different types of SIM Only plan: Prepaid, Postpaid (included on this page), and PAYG. We explain each of these terms below.
- SIM Only plans rarely have contracts. They are extremely flexible agreements.
- You can usually change the plan you’re on at the end of each month.
- Or, you can move to a new phone company whenever you want to.
- Even if you’re buying a brand new phone yourself and adding a SIM to it, you can save a lot of money.
- We often suggest SIM Only plans from smaller phone companies (also known as MVNOs) because they’re so much better value.
- There are some changes coming in Australia which are likely to make SIM Only (and eSIMs) an even bigger part of the market.
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We’ll introduce you to the basics of SIM Only plans here and then show you the results of our SIM Only survey.
SIM Only plans are often the quickest, easiest and cheapest way to get a phone service from a phone company. There are some basic questions that come up about SIM Only plans all the time. Almost everyone thinking of buying a SIM Only plan asks the same things. We have tried to answer them here.
What do SIM Only plans give me?
So where does the phone come from then?
How do SIM Only plans work?
Do I need to unlock my phone?
Can I keep my existing phone number if I take this sort of plan?
Why are SIM Only plans called different things e.g SIM Only / BYO?
How long will it take to move phone companies? Will I be without my phone number/phone service for long?
The primary benefit of a SIM Only plan is flexibility: SIM only plans offer users the flexibility to change plans as often as they want.
Now you know about the different types of SIM Only plan. You also know the financial reasons some people decide to buy their phone outright and add a SIM to it later. We can now move on to the benefits of having a SIM Only plan. The primary benefit of a SIM Only plan is flexibility: SIM only plans offer users :
- Flexibility of plan:
Most providers let you move up and down plans very easily, whenever you want to.
- Flexibility of provider:
Since most people are not tied into a contract on a SIM only plan, they are not locked to any particular provider for more than 30 days.
SIM Only users can move around to new companies when they launch. Australia’s telco envronment is, believe it or not, a dynamic place. Phone companies are always being added to the market.
Getting into an agreement with the phone company, you have two different options:
- 1. Buy a phone under contract with the phone company (typically 2-year agreements. and you’ll get a phone thrown into your tariff).
- 2. Buying the phone yourself and adding a SIM to it. You can save a lot of money if you get the math right.
We even conducted a survey of 500 Australians. Reading their answers below will help you find the right SIM Only plan.
- 1. How long have you owned your phone?
- 2. What’s the best way to minimize the cost of your phone over the course of it’s life?
- 3. When did you last compare your Phone plans costs and features?
- 4. Would you consider buying a lesser known brand?
1. People are holding on to their phones longer
We asked: “How Long Have You Owned Your Phone?”
In our survey of 500 Australian phone users, more than 30% of people have held on to their phone for more than 2 years. That could very well be the reason you are on this page. When you’ve been in possession of your phone for 2 years, almost everyone is out of contract and in a facility to pick up a SIM Only plan.
Research suggests that the average amount of time people are holding on to their phone is increasing around the globe. That’s true in Australia, too. The average length of time people keep hold of their phone is now 29 months (up from 24 months in 2015) and it’s rising fast. Many people now ‘wait until it stops working’ before they shell out for a new one.
Our survey suggests the same thing. Thirty percent of people have had their phone longer than the critical 24 month juncture.
Reasons people are holding on to their phone longer:
- New devices are not that impressive:
Plateauing specification improvements and rising device costs mean people are making the best of what they’ve got for longer. It appears that phone manufacturers have used up all their good ideas. Every hero product now has the option of a bigger screen size. Most are waterproof. Alongside the dearth of exciting features in new phones is the other side of the coin. What is being brought to market now are expensive: The 2019 iPhone is the most expensive iPhone yet, for example. So was the 2019 Samsung’s Galaxy range. It could be that, until the full rollout of 5G, there is no compelling reason to upgrade.
- The proportion of contracts sold is diminishing:
In the old days, most people picked up their new device under a 2-year contract with one of the main phone companies. Some estimates suggest that the number of phone contracts sold in the next 2 years will halve from around 20% of the market now to around 10% of the market in 2 years. Typically, when a phone gets to the end of its contract, the phone company which provided it to you will contact you and offer you a ‘free’ phone if you upgrade. Without contracts, there is no prompt of a ‘perceived need’ for a new device.
- Cheaper alternatives:
Many people just want a phone which does the basics – whatever that means to them. For some, a feature phone may be fine. There are smartphone options from $200 from the Post Office. For these people, there is no need to upgrade every couple of years. Their expectations are low and they don’t want to spend money in this way.
What this means to you:
The key implication of this news for those in the market for a SIM Only plan is the freedom to move provider. The 30% of people who have held their phone for more than 2 years, those who have bought a cheaper alternative, those who chose to buy outright instead of a contract have a suite of SIM Only options available to them. They can all move phone companies when and where they want to, to ensure they always have the most competitive SIM Only plan.
2. What’s the best way to minimize the cost of your phone over the course of it’s life?
We asked: What’s the best way to minimise the cost of your phone over the time you own it?
The good news is that 50% of people realize that a small amount of math is involved. The bad news is that 20% of people think their best option is a contract with their phone company.
What this means to you:
Doing the math to figure out how to minimise the cost of your phone plan is actually easier than you might think. We have a couple of real-life examples of how to do it on this page.
Working out the cost of a phone contract:
- 1. First, pick the phone you want. Make a note of the manufacturer, memory, and color you’re interested in.
- 2. Next, figure out the amount of data you need. Here’s the link again.
- 3. Now, go to the phone company you’re interested in – say Optus – and find the cost of the handset (with the data you need) that you decided was right for you.
Most phone companies either offer the phones they have on a 2-year contract or give you that option. Find the cost per month and multiply it by 24 months.
Working out the cost of the alternative – buying the handset yourself and adding a SIM.
- 1. To get the cost of the handset you want, go to Mobileciti and find your device in the right color and with the right amount of memory.
- 2. Now, select a SIM Only plan. You can do that using the table on this page. It’s possible to filter your options based on the amount of data you need in your plan if you’d like a shortlist. You might like to also check the network is the same. There are several smaller phone companies which resell the Optus network. Find a plan which has the data you need.
- 3. Now, multiply that plan price by 24 (so you are comparing fairly with the 24-month contract alternative you have.) and add the cost of the device.
You’ll almost always find that buying a phone yourself and adding a SIM is the cheapest option. As you can see from the examples on this page, you can save between 10% and 30% over the course of a 2-year agreement.
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3. When did you last compare your Phone plans costs and features?
We asked “When did you last compare your phone plan’s cost & features?”
The most common answer we received to our question was ‘I can’t remember’. Here, the type of phone that was being used also influenced the answer in our survey. iPhone users, for example, generally had not compared their plan ingredients for a longer period than Android users.
The problem with comparing phone plans is that most people suffer from a lack of knowledge (and interest) and are presented with too much information. There are literally hundreds of options to compare.
Worse still, the phone companies deliberately muddy the water with decoy pricing and plans which create the wrong impression. We saw at this year’s iPhone launch some ridiculous data plans of 100GB of data per month. That’s far more than anyone would actually use on a mobile. Unfortunately, for the uninitiated, it creates the impression that 100GB might be required.
It must be said, however, that we received a range of answers to this question. More than 30% of people had compared in the last 12 months.
What this means to you:
We have to be realistic here. You can’t compare your phone plan every weekend. Aiming for an annual health check is likely to be useful, given trends in the rise of the amount of data people are using and the reduction in the costs of it.
4. Would you consider buying a lesser known brand?
We asked: Would you consider buying a phone plan from an unknown / lesser known brand if it was cheaper and offered the same service and benefits?
According to our survey, around 45% of people would consider buying from a smaller phone company (those with lesser-known brands). There are a lot of misconceptions about smaller phone companies. Just yesterday, someone told me they thought that, behind the scenes, everything ran on Telstra’s network (that’s not true). Others have told me they believe that if you take a SIM from a smaller network provider, it will be slower or get ‘de-prioritised’. Neither of these (or the other misconceptions we hear) are true!
This survey answer, too, is a key finding. Smaller phone companies often offer better SIM Only deals than those available from the ‘tier 1’ phone companies we’re used to. Importantly, they tend to provide more data at a lower cost.
There are some basics to be aware of here. To realistically consider these plans as a viable alternative to the one you’re on, you need to be able to move providers. That means you need to be outside a contract and prepared to spend a few minutes researching.
What this means to you:
In a way, picking a SIM can be a bit like going to the Aldi supermarket. The smaller phone companies are like big brands only they’re cheaper. Include one of their SIM plans in the calculations we’ve outlined above and see how much you’ll save.
In our view, network resellers (also known as MVNOs) offer the best deals. There are MVNO options on each of Telstra, Optus and Vodafone’s networks.
In our view, network resellers (also known as MVNOs) offer the best deals. There are MVNO options on each of Telstra, Optus and Vodafone’s networks. Network resellers are smaller phone companies which don’t own their own telecommunications network.
Generally, we advise our visitors to choose one of these smaller phone companies. They’re also known as MVNOs (Mobile Virtual Network Operators). These companies rent their network access from the major phone companies like Optus, Telstra and Virgin Mobile. Then they resell that network to Australians and they (usually) provide much better rates for access than you’ll get from the major players.
Within the SIM Only family, there is a lot of choice. There are many different types of SIM Only plan
Within the SIM Only family, there is a lot of choice. There are many different types of SIM Only plan. The most common are prepaid and postpaid SIM Only plans which are usually just called SIM Only plans. Less common are PAYG (Pay As You Go) plans and contract agreements.
Below, we have explained the differences between the different types of SIM Only plans that are available. If you’d like more detail, we have it here.
Prepaid SIMs used to be the realm of the teenager. Now some of the best SIM Only pricing you’ll find is on a Prepaid Plan. I use one myself.
In prepaid agreements, the user has no more commitment than what they’ve spent on their initial SIM or a recharge. Customers pay at the start of the billing period with prepaid. You then use the network services within the entitlements of the plan, for a specified period. One example might be ‘Unlimited Calls and SMS in Australia for 30 days.’ When the time period for the plan and entitlements is up, you ‘recharge’ your service and start the time window once more.
Prepaid SIMs used to be the realm of the teenager. Now some of the best SIM Only pricing you’ll find is on a Prepaid Plan. I use one myself. Prepaid offers feature that other plans don’t. One obvious one is that if you are not going to be using your phone for a while, you don’t have to recharge until you need it.
If you’re aiming to spend $30 or less, prepaid should be your first port of call. With the major phone companies, at the $30 price point, you’ll get better inclusions than if you took their postpaid equivalent.
There are providers out there who only offer prepaid plans. And their value is often incredible. For example, Boost Mobile has unlimited plans with huge data inclusions. And Boost offer 4G access to the full Telstra Mobile Network, unlike other Telstra MVNOs, and they have some of the cheapest plans you’ll find on this site.
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At the other end of the spectrum are postpaid SIM Only agreements. The name of these is mostly abbreviated to ‘SIM Only plans.’
The key difference between a SIM Only plan and a prepaid plan is that customers choosing a postpaid agreement pay at the end of the billing period with a SIM Only plan. Typically, that’s a month in arrears (behind.) In some ways, it’s a trivial distinction. Postpaid plans are seen as more responsible and grown up by some people. They tend to be entered in to by older people because a (rudimentary) credit check is required in order to get this type of plan.
Contract SIM Only Plans are rare these days. There’s clearly a little more commitment involved with a contract. However, in exchange for your dedication, you’ll save some money. People usually save around $10 per month for signing a multiple-month agreement.
Contract plans make sense for people who don’t have the time to check their options every month. It’s important to be realistic about what you’re going to have time to do. If you won’t have the time or inclination to check the competition regularly, maybe signing up to a contract and taking the price saving is the most sensible thing to do.
PAYG plans – also known as ‘ Pay As You Go’ plans have a mixture of prepaid and postpaid features. They’re pretty rare in Australia. With this sort of plan, buy the SIM, add a PAYG plan to it at the point of activation and then charge – all as you would a prepaid service. However, from that point, money comes from your account as if you were a postpaid customer.
Just as you’d expect, PAYG plans charge you each time you make a phone call. Rates of 7c per minute are typical. With the average call length being around 2 minutes, you’ll quickly see, if you do the math, that once you’re making a couple or more calls each day , it makes more sense to invest in a plan with a cap value, whether it’s prepaid, postpaid or contract postpaid. However, if you only make one call a day, you’ll often get your PAYG bill in for less than $10 per month.
Payments are still made a month in arrears with a PAYG plan. However, there is nothing like the level of commitment that a contract plan usually involves. You can usually leave your SIM only commitments with one month notice. (That is, you can leave once you’ve paid the month you’re in.)
Hopefully, this is obvious – you’re going to need your own phone! The phone you’ve got will need to be an ‘unlocked’ phone.
- Consider but don’t automatically go for a contract longer than 1 month:
Some phone companies want you to take out a contract (Telstra used to be one of the only ones to offer these, but now they offer month-to-month plans with no lock-in contracts instead). Of course, if you do take out a contract, you will lose the flexibility of the month to month option of you choose them.
- Get one as soon as your contract ends:
When can I take advantage of SIM Only / BYO mobile rates? You can start right now. Remember, if you had a phone under contract, that contract ends at some point (usually, it’s after 2 years.) From the point your contract ends, you can keep your phone and start getting the new, better rates of a SIM Only plan.
Top Postpaid Plans
SIM Only plans have been on the market for a long time now. In the last two or three years, they have really taken off. Already, the majority of people are using SIM Only plans in their phones.
The math doesn’t always work in favor of buying your own phone and adding a SIM to it. There are exceptions when the major phone companies compete over significant device launches to steal some new customers form their competitors. A good example is Optus’ iPhone pricing which is often very keen.
As people hold on to their phones longer, however, SIM Options become useful and some knowledge about the difference between the different versions that exist (prepaid, PAYG, contract options, for example) can become helpful in keeping your phone bill realistic. You’ll have noticed that we gave an awful lot of information here on the data element of these plans. Not only is data the most important thing in a phone plan, to most people, these days, it’s also the trickiest to figure out. With people pretty evenly split in our survey, the only way to be sure you’re buying enough is to work out how much data you’re using now.
People are more aware of the options they have from phone companies than ever before. They know that if they shop around, they’re more likely to get a good deal. Comparing contract options versus SIM Only options might appear daunting but, as you’ve seen in our write up, it needn’t be.
- Most of the primary research that is shown on this page was conducted by us.
- Deloitte’s Australian consumer mobile phone summary is also extremely useful.