Where to buy a pre-paid iPhone 3G for Australia?
August 31, 2008 4:07 AM   Subscribe

Where can I buy a new, 3G iPhone for the Optus network (in Australia) without having to sign a contract? Optus certainly won't let me...

I'm currently on the Turbocharge Optus pre-paid plan, with my trusty Nokia N73. Until recently, the combination's been a bit useless for web browsing - data was $0.33 for 15kb (!), so I only used it when in dire need. When the iPhone came out, though, they upgraded the Turbocharge plan to include data.

Once I started taking advantage of the pre-paid data, though, I realised that... my phone isn't really up to "surfing" the internet. The experience is more akin to lying in 6 inches of water in a bathtub. It's agonising - especially as I know how awesome it can be to surf the net on my iPod Touch.

I asked Optus about keeping my pre-paid plan while buying an iPhone outright - despite that they're the only carrier in Australia to "offer" the iPhone pre-paid, they basically said no - you'll have to wait (depending on who you talk to, in what store) somewhere between 6 weeks and 6 months (!) before you can get a pre-paid iPhone.

Sign a contract for two years with them, however, and they'll give you one straight away.

No thanks. I've never signed a mobile phone contract in my life, and I'm not about to start.

I'm still happy to keep my Optus pre-paid plan, but if they won't sell me an iPhone, who will? I'm hesitant to buy one from eBay, as it's been a bit of a mixed bag for me. I'm not sure where else I'd start with "importing" a 3G iPhone into Australia - would I have to do some unlocking shenanigans to make one work? Would I have to pay through my nose to get one?
posted by TooManyGadgets to Technology (7 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
Hmm...I believe that my friend bought hers (outright) through Vodafone, and is now using it with her (already existing) prepaid Optus account. I wouldn't import one before trying all the other carriers: most phones in Australia (IME) aren't locked to a carrier these days.
posted by jacalata at 5:23 AM on August 31, 2008

I was in the same boat and I'll also never buy a subsidised phone on contract. I tried Optus, Voda and Telstra all around Melbourne. No luck. I priced AT&T grey-market 3G iPhones in China as well as I travel there frequently on business.

The simplest and best way to get an iPhone in Australia off-contract and completely and totally unlocked is to buy it in New Zealand. Vodaphone NZ sells them no questions asked and no hassle what so ever. I realise it isn't the most convenient method, but if you're serious about getting one, flights are cheap. Plus, it's a nice place to visit.
posted by michswiss at 5:30 AM on August 31, 2008

I should have previewed...

jacalata: Most if not all phones sold in Australia are locked to their respective carrier. Each carrier has a different policy to unlock the phone and, in the case of the iPhone, different charges for the unlock.
posted by michswiss at 5:33 AM on August 31, 2008

That's true. Vodafone will unlock it instantly for $75 ($100 if you don't go online), Optus for $80. I should have said that in my experience, it is always possible to unlock a phone these days.

Also, I think just signing a contract with Optus and cancelling it once you had the phone would cost about the same as buying it outright (from here:early termination fee + handset payments).
posted by jacalata at 6:37 AM on August 31, 2008

What exactly is your objection to getting one on a contract?

If it's just perceived costs over two years then I wonder whether you have you done the sums? Even taking into account the likely drops in data costs over the next two years, you may still find (some) contracts make for reasonable value.

For instance the Virgin Cap plans (running on the same network as Optus, so presumably with the same performance as you'd currently get) start at $70 per month for the 8GB and $74 for the 16GB, both with 1 GB per month of data, and more phone calls than I'd ever make.

If - for example - after twelve months data and call rates did drop significantly (and it feels like the rate of change has slowed in the past few years), or you wanted to head overseas, then the buy-out costs are fairly reasonable: $432 to break the contract and have an unlocked 16GB iPhone in your hands. Or to look at it another way, at that point you'd have spent $1320 for an iPhone and one year's call and data costs.

Compare that with AUD$922 at the current exchange rate for a phone bought outright in NZ, plus the costs associated with a flight or other means of actually obtaining one, and you'd have to find a pretty good pre-paid call and data rate to be in front. Having just had a quick peek at the Optus Turbo Caps (which have a 30day expiry) I can't see how you'd be better off unless you could source a particularly cheap iPhone, or you go months at a time without using it (eg, head overseas).

(From somebody who used to avoid contracts at all costs, but who is probably about to go down the Virgin route once I establish how hard it is to tether via jailbreaking. I'm always keen to hear of a way to save money, so please keep us informed if you find a cheaper way)
posted by puffmoike at 9:40 AM on August 31, 2008

I bought my iPhone from a Telstra Shop outright for $726. If I wanted to I could have unlocked it for $150. You could do the same and switch to Optus. Hell, I'm thinking of doing so, simply cos the Telstra data packages are so sucky.
posted by Effigy2000 at 3:48 PM on August 31, 2008

Response by poster: I'm returning to the party rather late, but - I randomly walked into an Optus shop on the weekend, and they had pre-paid iPhones in stock. I jumped on it while I could. Thanks to all who replied.
posted by TooManyGadgets at 4:52 AM on September 15, 2008

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