UK versus Australia: Mobile Phone Prices Compared

It’s been awhile since I did a cost comparison post, so today I decided to compare mobile phone plans between the UK and Australia.

mobile phoneFor this particular comparison, I decided to pick the most popular mobile phone, the iPhone 4S 16 GB, and only look at plans that gave you this phone for free.

I visited a popular UK mobile phone plan comparison site and chose the top three in the bestseller list.

Obviously these bestsellers will change regularly, but, for the record, the website I got my information from is called Uswitch.

I then went to a popular Australian mobile phone comparison site, and chose similar plans from popular mobile phone providers here that offered the same or similar in terms of minutes, SMS and data transfer.

Then I compared the prices.

Here’s what I found, and you can click on the table below to enlarge it…

Mobile phone plans compared UK and AustraliaThe above plans and prices were correct as at May 2012 but will obviously be subject to change, and probably very quickly.

The results:

I’m really not sure whether we are truly comparing like with like here. Some of the Australian plans, if not all, offer free telephone calls to the same network in some form or other.

Some Australian networks also offered unlimited access to places like Facebook, Twitter and other social media sites. Back in the UK, Orange offered 2 for 1 cinema tickets and free calls to one of your Orange friends.

And where the UK mobiles tell you exactly how many minutes you get each month, here in Australia you tend to be given an amount of money as a credit, say $400 a month. Calls are being charged out at the standard rate used by the company, which includes a connection charge for the call and then a rate per minute. Whatever you use is taken out of your monthly credit.

So that’s why the number of minutes is an odd number, it’s based on assumptions that you’ll spend 3 minutes on each call so they can calculate the connection charges and then the minute by minute call rate.

On that basis, if you make a lot of calls only to hear “Sorry, can you call me back later, I’m in the middle of my dinner!” – then the number of minutes you will actually get will decrease. So the UK method of charging seems to be fairer.

It’s also worth mentioning at this stage, that coverage is a big issue here in Australia. It’s a big country, not all of it gets a signal. I actually sometimes struggle to get a signal where I live, and I’m about 22 km from the city of Brisbane.

If I drive about 5 km down the road, away from the city, the signal disappears in some areas. So if you’re travelling around the country, don’t expect to always have a signal. Whereas in the UK, I’m pretty sure it is now pretty much covered.

The totals:

In the interest of scientific accuracy, I’m just going to add up the cost of all three plans, from three different mobile phone companies from the two countries.

Like this…

  • The UK – £2352.00
  • Australia – $4704.00

At the current exchange rate of Australian $1.56 to the pound, in Australian dollars the UK phone plans cost $3669.12. That’s about $1035 less than they cost in Australia, so UK mobiles are something like 22% cheaper than similar deals in Australia.

But, of course, wages are higher here as explained in my post about the hard yakka.

In terms of hard yakkas, here’s how much they would cost in each country:

  • The UK – 156.1 hard yakkas
  • Australia –143.4 hard yakkas

So, whilst on the face of it UK mobiles seem cheaper, you’d probably work fewer Australian work hours to pay for your mobile phone here.

Shall we call it a draw?

What about the USA?

At this point in my cost comparisons between the UK and Australia, I normally mention that had I included the USA, they would have won hands down.

That doesn’t seem to be the case here.

I had a quick look, and interestingly they have the same cost comparison site in the USA as we have here in Australia. They have whistleout.com.au and whistleout.com.

I had a look at a comparable deal over at the USA site, and it said…

Mobile phone plans compared USAFor an extra $20 per month, you could get unlimited SMS, bringing the total to over $2800. And the reason the total doesn’t equate to 24 times $89.99 is because there is also a $199.99 upfront fee.

That makes it the dearest plan of the lot! Can that be right? The USA dearer than both the UK and Australia for mobile phones?

Who’d have thought?

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{ 9 comments… add one }
  • Digital Calling Cards April 9, 2014, 7:16 pm | Link

    High rates for international calls makes you restricted when it comes to keeping in touch with your friends and family abroad. As far as Malaysia is concerned, Cheap International Calls Malaysia provides you excellent quality low cost calls from UK. Decrease the distance between Malaysia and UK in with just a few bucks.

  • Patrick December 12, 2012, 2:22 am | Link

    Vodafone does. You can see the plans here: http://www.vodafone.com.au/personal/prepaid/home/options/365

    • BobinOz December 12, 2012, 1:48 pm | Link

      Ah, yes, that must be reasonably new. Good plan if you don’t use the phone much. By the way, Vodafone and 3 Mobile recently joined forces somehow or another, so they are now the same.

  • Patrick December 10, 2012, 8:36 pm | Link

    Hi Bob,
    Funny I was just looking at mobile phones last week, for next year. I planned to reuse my current phone and just change the sim card in it, and was looking at prepaid plans.
    I found a comparison website and browsed around. I admit I didn’t look at every providers, but Vodafone caught my eye with a $1 sim card deal And their 365 days prepaid plans.
    I’m not a big user over here, but I don’t know how much I’ll need down under… They have various credit amounts from 20 to 150 dollars (50 to 850 mins), and they’re all good for a whole year, wich I think is good as my first visa is valid for one year… But is it enough minutes for a main phone?

    • BobinOz December 11, 2012, 5:00 pm | Link

      When my phone contract ran out a few months ago, I kept the phone and switched to a $20 per month pay-as-you-go plan, that gives me $180 worth of calls per month + 225 minutes of free calls to 3 Mobile, more than enough for me. I’ve not found a PAYG contract that lasts a whole year though. Who is offering that here in Australia?

  • David May 16, 2012, 1:22 pm | Link

    Bob…
    I am in the USA and we pay to receive calls as well making calls. You can actually lose all your credits by receiving phone calls and not making any, although this is unlikely. My point is that is you have a 500 min plan, much can be eaten up by receiving the calls. There are however unlimited plans but you do really pay for that.
    I was in OZ for nearly 4 months and I found the phone to be cheaper, particularly the data plans. I used Virgin and paid $30 per month, no contract and 2 gb’s. I can get that hear but with a 2 year contract.

    • BobinOz May 17, 2012, 1:09 am | Link

      I’m really quite shocked by that, I’ve never heard of having to pay to receive a telephone call before I wrote this post.

      It must be really irritating when it is, say, your boss, wife, girlfriend, mother-in-law, next-door neighbour (which ever applies) droning on and on about who cares what. You can’t exactly hang up on them, AND it’s costing you money!

      Maybe you can use the old “hold on, I think the signal’s going……” – and hang up?

  • Cameron Craig May 9, 2012, 12:37 pm | Link

    You’re right – good post. I’m one of the team at WhistleOut so happy to provide some more detail.

    Australian phone plans are actually cheaper in many instances. The iPhone 4S is a glaring example as we have more competitive providers like Virgin Mobile able to sell this handset.

    A plan that gets you 400 mins in Australia (Virgin $39 plan with iPhone 4s 16GB) will be $1296 over 24 months.

    The closest equivalent in the US is $1675 for the 400 minutes AND the 400 minutes is eaten into by calls you make AND receive.

    • BobinOz May 10, 2012, 12:54 am | Link

      Calls you make AND receive!! Wow, I have never heard of any plan where you have to pay to receive a call.

      I am very surprised that USA mobiles are more expensive, but it’s nice to hear that we do get some things cheaper over this side of the world for a change.

      Thanks Cameron for the additional information.

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