Updated 30th January 2020
It wasn’t all that long ago that students were expected to make do with less of everything as a trade-off for a life devoted almost entirely to study. But times have changed now for students, and technology changes even faster. Now, no matter what you’re studying, you need to be able to keep in touch with a mobile plan with your fellow students and friends stressing about paying a fortune to do so.
The age of the cheap mobile phone — and cheap mobile plans — has completely changed student life very much for the better. In times not that long ago (but which may as well be in the dark ages when viewed from today), keeping in touch with your family, friends and organisations depended on you having access to a phone — any phone. Living in a share house or a dorm you might have had limits on how much you can use the phone or had no phone at all (in which case, the local payphone was your friend!).
Mobile Guide for Students
Mobile phones solved the problem — but they were not only prohibitively expensive to use as an everyday phone, but they were also quite hard to get a plan for in the first place. It was a mess of credit checks, high call charges and long, long contracts. Thankfully, the world’s moved on from those dark days, and now as a student, you’ve got a wealth of choices when it comes to finding yourself a mobile plan that does what you need and doesn’t break the bank.
Picking the Perfect Phone
Of course, you’ll need a suitable phone to use with any student mobile plan you might choose, and here’s the key tip — do not get a phone on a plan. There was a time when mobile phones were heavily subsidised by providers so that agreeing to sign up for a two-year contract effectively got you a free phone handset. Sadly, that’s a disappearing thing — though you will still find some cheaper and/or older phones heavily subsidised (or even appearing to be “free”), by choosing those options you’re really cutting yourself off from the very best value mobile plans, and getting yourself locked in to a long-term contract with a single provider.
Instead, look at buying a phone outright. That’s not as expensive as it sounds — especially if all you need is a phone to be a phone, rather than a portable internet browser. So-called “feature phones” (we’re not sure why, since the one thing they don’t have is lots of features) do a perfect job of the essentials without the distractions. Make calls, take calls, send and receive texts, and that’s pretty much it. You can pick phones like this up at supermarkets and phone provider outlets for as little as $39. Spend a little extra and you can get yourself a basic (and somewhat slow) Android smartphone and still come away with change from $100.
What Smartphone Features does a Student need?
The thing to think about is whether you need smartphone features — namely, internet access for browsing and email, and the ability to run apps (which can be great for things like public transport schedules). If you think you’ll need more than calls and texts, get a smartphone — but be willing to accept that it mightn’t be the fastest smartphone on the block. Wouldn’t you rather have a slower phone and spend $1000 less than everyone else? Thought so!
However, what you’re looking for is an unlocked phone — one that isn’t tied electronically to the provider you buy it from. These are becoming more common at lower price points, but be sure to ask so you’re sure. Being able to pick and choose from a range of great value mobile plans is a lot harder when you’re locked down to a single mobile network.
Picking the Right Plan for Students
So now that you’ve got your phone — or persuaded your brother to let you have the year-old iPhone he’s just replaced with the shiny new version — you’ll want to get hooked up with a plan that’ll let you talk and text and — if you’ve got a smartphone — do data things.
Here are the five plans that we think hit the sweet spot for students. The goal: either unlimited calls or close to it, unlimited texts, and enough data to get stuff done without coming up short. Let’s take a closer look.
#1 – Southern Phone Green 22 Plan
Based in regional Australia and putting all its profits back into local communities, Southern Phone has become hugely respected for its great value plans and excellent service. Their Green plans — powered by the Optus network — include a $11/month 1GB plan to compete at the low end. But the star here is the Green 22 plan, which is only $22/month for a massive 7GBof data! If you’ve been looking at the above plans and thinking, nope, I use a ton of data and need more, then this is the plan for you! The only caveat here is that it’s a 12-month contract (month to month is available for smaller data, though). There’s even a 30-day network guarantee on all 12-month plans.
#2 – Moose Mobile 2.5GB Plan
The Moose is cutting loose with their range of affordable no lock-in plans. You get unlimited calls (including calls to 13 and 1800 numbers), unlimited texts and MMS, and unlimited access to voicemail as well. Our pick is the $14.80/month plan with 2.5GB data, giving you a nice bit of digital breathing room. All of Moose’s plans are also backed by the Optus 4G network.
#3 – Belong 1GB Plan
Looking for flexible mobile plans? Belong’s got ’em and it comes with rather generous data allowances as well. Our top pick for students would be the 1GB plan priced at only $10/month. This plan already comes with unlimited calls and texts on the Telstra mobile network, making it an ideal choice for students who need a reliable yet affordable deal. If you’re feeling a bit more luxurious, you can easily switch to the 10GB plan for higher data at $25/month. Plus, all plans offer unlimited data banking so you can save any unused data for future use.
#4 – Telstra BYO $50
Telstra’s range of BYO plans may be more expensive than the rest but for a good reason, value-wise. For starters, the $50 BYO plan already gives you a generous 15GB data. You can perform your research and do your work while on the go plus stream your favourite shows during your free hours. Unlimited national talk and text are a given plus exciting perks on the side. One added bonus is data-free Apple Music streaming, which is definitely a perk that students would thoroughly enjoy having. All mobile plans also include data-free live sport so you can stream AFL, AFLW, NRL, Netball, and the Hyundai A-League and access to Telstra Air for free WiFi data at more than 1 million hotspots across the country. Best of all, no excess data charges and free 5G network access for the lower end plans until June 2020.
#5 – Woolworths Prepaid Extra Small
Woolworths Mobile is building a phenomenal reputation for value that’s never wavered, and there’s arguably no better value at the budget end of the mobile plan market than what they have to offer. For $20 per 30 days — so, $5/week —you get unlimited talk and text to all standard numbers in Australia. The plan comes with 6GB of data, which is a decent amount considering you’ll only have to pay 20 bucks per month with included unlimited calls, SMS, and MMS. Woolworths uses Telstra’s mobile network, so quality is first-rate. It even includes 200GB data bank!
What’s the verdict?
There’s heaps of great value in SIM-only mobile plans out there to be had, as you can see from the sample above. The market really is yours to take advantage of these days, with deals everywhere and often no contracts to tie you down. Be sure to bring your own phone to the party and you’ll never have to worry about the cost of your student mobile service again.