Mobile phone customers are getting stung by unnecessary costs despite tough competition among telecommunications companies hungry for their business.
The latest Australian Bureau of Statistics data shows that overall telecommunications costs dropped almost 20 per cent in the past decade, but phone specialists say some expenses are rising.
Research group Telsyte’s managing director, Foad Fadaghi, said the average cost of smartphones had increased by 81 per cent in the last few years, from $359 in 2015 to $651 in 2018.
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Many consumers are forking out more than $1500 for high-end mobiles each time they upgrade. However, smartphone plans have been falling in price and deliver consumers much greater bang for their buck than a few years ago.
“There is money to be saved if subscribers have not reviewed their mobile plans in the last two years,” Mr Fadaghi said.
But many are sitting on their hands. New research commissioned by amaysim has found that only 7 per cent of consumers have recently switched to a new mobile plan, and 62 per cent say they don’t intend to switch in the next six months.
As smartphone use multiplies in households — including among pre-teen children — the overall expense for many Australians is significant. Fortunately, there are plenty of ways to cut your costs.
Resist the temptation to upgrade your phone every couple of years and you can save a packet. BYO plans typically average $30 a month while plans including a phone are often $100 a month.
Telco comparison website Whistleout.com.au’s publisher, Joseph Hanlon, said most consumers could expect their older phones to keep going for a while yet.
He said older phones previously ran slower because technology was developing quickly, but in recent times there had not been as many technology improvements.
Mr Hanlon said there was a “forgotten tier” of phones — mid-range handsets that still had most of the benefits of top-end phones.
“You’re not sacrificing a lot when you get those phones,” he said.
“All big brands have that mid-tier.
“If you are still in that cycle of buying a new phone every two years, your phone bill is going to be higher than it was a couple of years ago — the idea of a free phone is largely behind us.”
Moose Mobile CEO Dean Lwin said there was “really nothing new in the world of mobile handsets these days”.
“So by simply buying a phone that is not the absolute latest you can save 30 to 50 per cent of the purchase price with very little difference in actual performance,” he said.
“Refurbished handsets are sometimes only half the price of the same phone new.
“Just make sure you are buying of a reputable supplier and you get at least a twelve-month warranty on the device.”
Some users can extend the life of their older phone by buying a new battery for less than $100.
Consumers don’t have to limit themselves to major providers Telstra, Optus and Vodafone. The army of smaller players in the market use one of the big three’s networks anyway.
Mr Lwin said anyone wanting to save money should do some online research.
“It’s so easy these days to get online and find not only the cheapest deal in the market but who is offering the best customer service and coverage,” he said.
“Companies can’t hide online if they don’t give good service and don’t have a good product.”
Mr Lwin said people needed to understand their phone use, because those who underestimated or over-estimated it could end up wasting money on an inappropriate plan.
“It’s really important that you have flexibility with your phone plan so if you circumstances change you can change your plan,” he said.
“Getting stuck on a contract plan can end up costing you big time.”
Telsyte says more than 70 per cent of Australian handsets in use are now on BYO plans.
Vodafone chief commercial officer Ben McIntosh said there were more deals around than ever before, and consumers should not be afraid to switch carriers to save money.
“Do your research, compare plans and go with the option that gives you the biggest bang for buck,” he said.
“To save on your phone plan, check with your telco about loyalty discounts — it could save you up to 20 per cent on your total monthly bill.
“Be sure to review the international roaming costs before selecting your plan — look out for nasty excess charges.”
Data has become the key battleground for phone companies chasing customers as we consume more and more on our devices.
The average smartphone now uses more than 5GB of data a month, Telsyte says.
Vodafone’s Mr McIntosh said family sharing could be a good way to pool data together and “tap into a sizeable data bucket”.
He said another good option was to select and endless data plan.
“This gives you cost certainty that you’ll pay the same amount each month and never run out of data.”
However, Whistleout’s Mr Hanlon said people should make sure they were not paying for huge data limits they didn’t need.
“Most people can step down a tier or two and still have enough data to get by each month,” he said.
“Most people can save money by picking the right plan rather than the best plan.”
Phone companies allow their customers to track data usage using apps, and people can cut their data use by using Wi-Fi where available.
“We have had untimed phone calls and free text messages for years now — when you are shopping for a phone plan you really are shopping for data,” Mr Hanlon said.
Originally published as Best way to save on phones and data deals