What different types of Family Plans are available from the phone companies?
Family plans are big business. In the last 2 years, phone companies have started paying special attention to the different family phone plan needs there are out there, and designing products to suit.
- Pocketmoney Plans:
$10 monthly plans from a variety of providers: These plans are targeted at kids with ‘pocket-money’ spend levels.
- Kid Device Management Software:
$10 plans from Dodo, Moose and Optus.
- Family Discount Plans:
Plans which give you a discount when multiple family members use a single phone company – for example, Yomojo offer increasing discounts the more SIMs you take from them.
- Data Pool / Data sharing’ plans:
These are plans which let you share mobile data across multiple SIMs.
How do family plans work?
The way each ‘Family Plan’ works differs according to the problem they’re designed to solve.
- Data pool family plans :
These plans are first initiated by a ‘Leader’, who gets an unlimited voice and SMS plan and decides who to add. Next, the Leader adds other users for an additional monthly fee, to share the unlimited voice and SMS and a specified amount of mobile data.
- Pocket money plans :
These plans are offered at a $10 per month price point, making them affordable enough to be given to children as a basic monthly plan to service their phone.
- Family Friendly software:
Is provided free of charge (included in the price) in phone plans from OVO Mobile and charged for by Yomojo. This software helps parents manage their kid’s internet access and performs useful functions such as automatically turning the device off at a reasonable time of night.
- Family discount plans :
Give an increasing percentage discount off the SIM Plan list price as families add more SIMs to the same account. Yomojo also do this.
Do family plans save money?
All of that means families are managing more SIMs than ever before,
Fundamentally, family plans help in the management of SIMs involved in all of these connected devices. With multiple SIMs, some family plans can save users money. They can help you manage the big pools of data in-between with shared family plans. They can provide your child with the basics of phone use – and help them learn how to budget.
However, in actuality, these plans save money mostly when compared to individual plans on the same network. When compared to individual, separate SIM plans on smaller providers (MVNOs), they don’t save as much.
How many users can I add on a family plan?
The maximum number of possible users on a family plan depends on the provider and plan type chosen.
- Kid’s / pocketmoney plans:
These are exclusively 1 person per SIM.
- Shared Data Plans:
Optus allows a maximum total of 6 users (the Leader plus 5 SIMs) at a minimum charge of $40 to add a new SIM. Vodafone allows a maximum of 11 users (the Leader plus 10 SIMs) and a minimum charge of $30 to add a new SIM.
- Stepped discount plans:
Yomojo offer a discount of 15% on each SIM, if you take 6 SIMs with them.
- Family friendly software:
OVO include a free license to Familyzone software in the price of the plan. Yomojo charge for it separately (they do offer the first month free. Their product is Family Eye – not Family Zone).
Who are Yomojo and why are their plans so ‘Family friendly’ ?
Yomojo are a brand you might not be that familiar with. Recently, they have set their stall around facilitating family phone plans and they’re doing well by targeting this group of users.
Yomojo have a number of features built into their plans which lend themselves well to families:
- They offer discounts:
When you add more than one SIM to your ‘account’ – up to a maximum of 6 SIMs for a 15% discount.
- They have special ‘Kids Safe’ software:
FamilyEye software helps parents manage the risks of giving their child a phone – enabling them, for example, to install a ‘white list’ of websites they can visit and a blacklist of those they should not.
Why are ‘$10 per month’ phone plans good for families?
In 2019, a number of phone companies offer ‘pocket money’ phone plans with small data allowances – typically in the order of 1GB or 2GB of mobile 4G data.
Tying one of these plans together with a phone (especially if you pick a prepaid version) can be a great way to provide kids with a sure method of always being able to contact you (these plans usually include unlimited sms for the month).
What are the alternatives to a family plan?
- Save money with data management facilities.
- Multi-SIM discounts available.
- No bill-shock & less wasted data.
- Starter plans for kids that have just been given phones.
- Not all plan features are shared (e.g. International Calls).
- Lack of clarity on what exactly constitutes a 'Family Plan'.
- Sharing data might lead to one heavy user exhausting the data.
Do you :
- Have kids begging you for a phone as well as concerns about letting them loose on the mobile internet unsupervised?
- Have a growing number of SIMs on a growing list of phone plans scattered around your family?
- Overspend on some phone plans and waste inclusions on others?
If your answer to any of these questions is yes, you might well be able to benefit from a phone plan especially designed for families.
Below, we’ve taken a look at what family plans are, how they work, their pros and cons, and we’ve examined the alternatives.
70% of individual Australians use 3 or more devices to access the internet. Estimates for the number of tablets, phones, and laptops held by a single family in Australia vary between 17 and 27. The continued increase in the number of ways to access the internet represents an opportunity for phone companies. Whichever of them can provide the data and data management tools required by ordinary people to live their connected digital lives will make the most money. It’s not hard, then, to see why Family Plans are the newest addition to the range of products being marketed.
There are 4 types of family plan available. We will summarize them here and then explain each in the text below.
- 1. Volume discounts:
Plans which give you a discount the more you spend and the more SIMs you take.
- 2. Family Phone Management Software:
Software providing access to a service which helps you manage your child’s phone, including things like the ability to black list some websites so they can’t be seen by young eyes.
- 3. Data Sharing Plans:
The big phone companies offer their customers the ability to have a family ‘account’ with multiple services attached to it as well as the ability to share mobile data between them.
- 4. Pocket-money plans:
Phone plans costing $10 or less per month, which can be used as a beginner’s plan for a child who has just been given a phone.
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- Many options make it more likely you’ll get your needs met :
The move from single SIM in mum and dad’s phones to multi-SIM, multi-screen lives has caught many people by surprise. Many may be surprised that these sorts of usage behaviors warrant the attention and value adds they are getting. For instance, they might not have known about the discount for taking multiple SIMs or the free software which is available in some phone plans to make your child’s mobile internet connection safer. In aggregate, however, the needs of Australian families for plans with these features has led to a lot of choice in the area.
- They all provide you with just one bill :
Having a single company whose bills you have to manage makes things much simpler. Administration of the account is easier and you are likely to have more leverage with the provider if you ever have a complaint.
- Multi-play discounts & single connection options :
Optus offers you further discounts on their mobile services if you tie their purchase in with your fixed line ( broadband or phone ) service. Do this and you’ll get another $10 per month off. On the other hand, if you have just given a child their first phone and want to help them learn how to manage the cost of it, prepaid plans costing around $10 per month are now available ( and are shown on this page in the table above ). These plans give users a connection and the basic phone plan inclusions – voice, SMS, and data allocations of typically 2GB per month or less.
- More transparency :
The reporting tools which are available from the phone companies to help you understand the data usage of all the SIMs on your account are extremely strong these days.
- Less waste : Instead of multiple family members using only a proportion of their allocation, through better management and information, plus pooling of low and high users, it’s possible to use your allocation more efficiently.
- Huge data on shared data plans:
The data allowances the phone companies are including in their shared data plans are probably more data than you need. The data allocation in these plans is large to the point of silly. This is far more data than people are currently using.
- You’re tied in if you take the multiple SIM discount:
By far the worst thing about family plans (and bundle discounts) is that they tie you in to a single company. Once the problem is solved, and people are signed up, most people stop shopping around at all. Which is, of course, why the companies offer these discounts. Internally, the measure of customers which leave phone companies is known as churn. The more products people have with a single phone company, the less likely they are to leave. Imagine the administrative difficulties of unpicking a contract with Optus if you need to wait until the broadband contract finishes AND a 12-month phone contract finishes ! You know as well as I do that you’re just not going to bother changing.
- Better deals on single SIMs :
Make sure you compare the data inclusions you’ll get at these prices with the cost of a single SIM to do the same job. Smaller phone companies may provide a better deal than even these structured family offerings. Kid’s plans are a good example – not every phone company which provides $10 plans targets them directly at children. It’s really marketing, not a phone plan, when these companies provide Kid Phone Management Software as part of the monthly fee you pay them.
- Shared Data plans are postpaid only :
At the moment, neither of the Family plans from Optus or Vodafone allow the addition of prepaid plans.
- Existing customers have to move to the new plan :
Nothing happens automatically, you have to call Vodafone or Optus and get yourself moved to the family plan.
1. Volume Discounts : Family plans are a new way to save money on multiple SIMs
As we’ve said, the number of connected devices is already surprisingly large ( around 20 ) and is also set to grow at prodigious rates in the years ahead. The so-called Internet Of Things will be fueled by 5G network services which allow for literally millions of parallel connections to a single cell tower.
Not all of these devices will be connected to the mobile internet using a SIM – many will use WiFi connections. Many of the products added to the cellular internet will require a SIM, however. And if you’re going to have multiple SIMs on your account, then why not get a discount for having all of those SIMs with a single provider? Yomojo now offer a stepped discount, rising to 15% off the total bill if you take 6 or more SIMs with them at one time.
If you’ve got one service working and you’re satisfied with the network coverage you’re getting, adding a new SIM to the family, on the same network is an extremely low-risk thing to do. Associating multiple SIMs to a single account has other advantages too – you only have to review and think about a single bill, for example.
2. Family Phone Management Software
Australian children are being given mobile phones at younger and younger ages every year. Usually provided initially under the auspices of ‘safety equipment’, modern smartphones are nothing less than a constantly available portal to the internet – and all the good and bad that the digital realm contains.
Realizing the threat, software providers have developed applications which can be installed by a parent on their child’s phone. Two examples of this software are shown below. Both give parents control over what their child does online, through their mobile phone connection. At the simple end, this sort of service allows the most obvious examples of places on the internet that children shouldn’t see to be blocked with a ‘blacklist’ of websites they can’t access. Other aspects of the service include the ability to schedule a time every night when the phone shuts itself off.
3. Data Sharing Plans: Spending less by sharing more
Data sharing plans are, for now, offered only by two of the major phone companies – Optus and Vodafone – and even then, you can only get the data sharing facility on their postpaid range. Here are the mechanics of the family plans offered by both Vodafone and Optus.
- They have a pool of data for the family to share :
The key attractive element of a shared plan is the shared data allowance. The best way to describe it is to think of the data allocation as a milkshake the family can share. Every family member gets a straw.
- A single bill :
All the phones from a single household go on to one bill administered by the ‘Leader’. The Leader has their account set up first and decides to what degree anyone in a family is in charge of the setup.
- Keep adding family members :
Whoever you choose for your family plan Leader can add The Brady Bunch as extras, if they so wish. Optus has a maximum of 6 SIMs on the account ( Optus leader + 5 ); Vodafone has a maximum of 11 ( Vodafone leader + 10 ).
- Everyone gets unlimited SMS and voice :
Each SIM added to the family plan comes pre-enabled with unlimited national SMS and voice minutes to any network. There may be a cost of $5 per device to connect : Vodafone does not charge a fee to connect people to the service; Optus charges $5.
- Still tied in with data top ups :
Overage is still $10 per GB, charged in 1GB increments.
- Data workout is still included :
Vodafone still offers their ‘data workout’ plan feature which gives every SIM on the account unlimited data for the first 2 months of the agreement.
- Some things aren’t shared :
International minutes and access to premium services like video on demand are not shared between the SIMs on the family plan
How do ‘Data Sharing’ family plans work ?
This shared data family plan scheme should not be considered on its own. The phone companies are motivated to help you use a lot more data. They’re encouraging high-quality video downloading through their Stan, Presto, and Netflix products or affiliations.
If people are not using their data allocations, they can be more efficient by using the app from the phone company’s website to determine their own usage and make the most of what they have. If they are exceeding their usage, it’s not that expensive these days. The major phone companies that still charge for data overages have automatic charging at $10 per GB for those that do go over.
The biggest problem with shared data is a lack of personal responsibility for the use. When the average cost is less than the personal marginal cost, you end up with problems like global warming. This is known as The tragedy of the Commons. In simple terms, if you add your teenager to a shared bundle and tell him you’ll pay the bill, you’ll be paying more for data pretty quick.
You know what the alternative is to family plans because you’ve been using it / them for years. The alternative is to take out individual plans for each family member. Your options include the other family plans we’ve covered on this page, for a start:
- Prepaid for the kids :
Prepaid plans offer complete cost predictability and are often deployed to avoid big bills for kids. The pocket money plans we’ve outlined above will help with that.
- Consider multiSIM discounts: There are other family plans which are available which will give you a hard dollar discount on your plan fees. You might not feel as smart being unable to manage the family data from an interface o your phone, but you’ll have some real money in your pocket.
- Remember, there are other dangers on the internet:
Phone plans now exist which will cover the other real-world aspects of your child’s internet use – safeguarding them from the perils of internet surfing, to give just one important example. Telstra offer their own parental control software product which assists with this.
- Cheaper plans from alternative providers :
You’ll see these on many of our comparison pages. Smaller phone companies like Amaysim and Boost offer better pricing and, often, access to exactly the same networks. Many of these plans are available as either prepaid or postpaid variants.
Summing up Family Plans - Are they useful?
Overall, Family Plans are extremely useful. The concept of having plans specifically designed for them is slightly overwhelming to some. Shared Data Family plans are another step towards the intelligent management of data. Kids’ plans are an affordable way to start a kid with a phone and plan. Child management software is well worth considering when you remember that you’re giving a 10-year-old an unfiltered connection to the internet. Each of these Family Plans addresses a unique and real need.
In fact, this is probably only the start. The first cab off the rank is offering a new ‘Product’ (Family Plans) to multiple people in a family. Further down the line, the principal can be assigned to multiple SIMs for an individual to cover things like the SIMs in their car, boat, umbrella, and laptop as everything gets added to the bill. In our view, a better way to manage data usage ( than grouping it into a family plan ) is to make yourself aware of your own by using the app from the phone company. If the real problem you have with data is usage, then a shared plan insulates you from the effects; it doesn’t solve it.
We advise that you also consider alternative plans from smaller phone companies. They give you data allowances which are so much bigger than Optus or Vodafone that there is no need to share data. They avoid the problem of encouraging usage by avoiding responsibility for it too ( because everyone pays their own bills ).
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