Buying mobile phones

Mobile phones are becoming more advanced—and more widely used—every day. Mobile phone plans and products can be confusing, and getting your bill can bring an unexpected shock. Do you need a Smartphone which can access the internet regularly or use apps, or a regular mobile phone?

These days, people usually buy their first mobile phone around the age of 13. If your child uses a mobile phone, make sure to talk to them about things like security, fees and subscriptions.

Buying a phone

The handset

Before you sign a mobile phone contract, think very carefully about your options. Don’t sign if you’re not comfortable with the agreement.

Think about:

  • why you need a phone
  • how you will use it
  • what conditions and/or plans are attached
  • how much they will cost.

You’ll need to consider:

  • if you’re buying for yourself or for your children’s use
  • whether the phone will be mainly for work or personal use
  • if you need particular apps, services or features
  • how often you’ll use these apps, services or features.

Visit different stores from a range of service providers. Ask the sales assistant about their best offer for your personal situation.

Your plan

You can choose from any of the mobile networks that operate in Queensland. Each offers a wide range of contracts and plans. Make sure you explore your options before you agree to any contract.

To get the plan that best suits your needs and gives you the best value for money, consider how you use your phone. This could be:

  • how much time you spend on calls each month
  • how many messages you send
  • if you intend to use your phone for email or social networking
  • whether you intend to use other apps, including internet and mobile TV.

Make sure you shop around with different service providers. Be aware of:

  • the monthly costs of a plan
  • the minimum total cost of the entire plan.

Think about the different types of plans available, specifically:

  • what type of plan you’d prefer (cap, prepaid or no contract)
  • whether you include the cost of the handset in your plan
  • whether they will charge per second or in blocks of 30 seconds
  • if you want to bundle your mobile service with other services (such as internet or home phone)
  • whether you can sign a contract as a business
  • how long the contract lasts.

Think about which provider suits you best by determining:

  • whether they can give you good phone reception in your area
  • if they send you bills monthly or quarterly
  • whether they offer peak and off-peak times.

The Australian Communications and Media Authority (ACMA) has more information or help on how to choose a mobile phone plan.

Using the phone

Phone security

To protect yourself and stop unauthorised use of your mobile phone:

  • bar international or other high-charge calls
  • use a PIN
  • do not lend your phone to others.

Call your service provider to discuss these options.

If someone steals your phone:

  • ask your provider to suspend your service immediately
  • report the theft to the police.

Apps, games and other purchases

Premium services cost more than regular services. They come in various forms, such as:

  • apps and games
  • ringtones or wallpapers
  • SMS or MMS services.

ACMA can give you more information about premium services.

You might have to pay several different types of fees for premium services. These may include:

  • a ‘sign-up’ cost
  • a regular subscription fee
  • data download charges.

The Australian Communications Consumer Action Network (ACCAN) can give you more information about data use in common apps.

Beware of ‘app traps’. Many apps require you to spend money within the app itself (‘in-app’) to get the maximum experience. These costs may seem small individually, but can add up very quickly with the more you purchase.

Find out more

Excess data risks

The average mobile phone can now access the internet easily. The use of data with these devices is increasing and your phone can use data without you knowing. Some examples of how include:

  • automatic app content updates and notifications (such as social media posts)
  • using a 4G internet connection - faster speeds than a 3G network means you download more in the same time
  • scheduled updates of your email inbox
  • the use of GPS and location services
  • automatic software updates

You can adjust your data settings to make sure you know just how much activity is happening on your phone. Turn off or limit notifications and updates, and delete unused apps to prevent any unnecessary updates.

Streaming or downloading large videos, like those on YouTube, will also quickly use up your data. Streaming online videos for 10 minutes can use up to 70-80MB.

Many mobile providers have decreased the data size included in their phone plans. If you go over this amount you will receive extra charges and not all data is charged equally. Be aware of your data plan details, including limitations and the rate of extra charges. Certain providers still offer 3G-only plans at around the same price with more data and this option may suit you better.

Ensure your phone’s data usage is monitored. Whenever possible connect to a Wi-Fi network that you trust and limit your 3G or 4G data services. Many mobile providers have tools to track your data usage. Check if your provider has one and how you can access it.

Since September 2013, large mobile providers have been required to provide alerts to customers who are signed up to included value plans when they reach 50%, 85% and 100% of their voice, SMS and data allowance. Small providers have been required to provide the same alerts since September 2014.

Protect yourself

You can set a password for any purchases. Your device will ask for this password before you can buy anything in-app. Entering the password will let you buy for a specified amount of time—usually 15 or 30 minutes. After this, you’ll need to enter your password again.

Your phone may not ask you to confirm any purchases during this time.

Find out about password restrictions:

You can use a gift card to make purchases. This is safer than a credit card because it has a pre-set limit on how much money you can spend.

Voicemail (MessageBank)

Your phone may divert your missed calls to Voicemail or MessageBank. Your service provider may charge you for:

  • diverting the call
  • retrieving your messages.

Check your plan or contact your service provider to find out more.

The default time that a phone will ring before it diverts is usually 15 seconds.

You can change the default time by:

  • dialling or texting a short code
  • changing the settings in your Smartphone
  • contacting your service provider.

Find out how to change ringing times for these providers:

Children’s phone use

If your child has their own mobile phone, make sure to talk to them about phone security, fees and subscriptions.

Be aware of what apps your children use. They can accidentally buy things without realising it, or realising they are spending real money. This can happen if your children have their own phones, or if you let them use your phone.

We suggest that you:

  • disable in-app purchases on your children’s devices
  • download parental control apps for your own devices
  • get to know the technology your kids use, including the games they’re playing
  • turn off the internet connection when young children are using your device.