How to get a phone ‘freebie’

EXPECT to get the digital equivalent of a 'free set of steak knives' when you sign up for your next mobile phone plan as Australia's telcos devise new ways to win over customers without actually cutting prices.

Optus will today launch new smartphone plans promising free subscriptions to Apple Music after stealing the exclusive deal from a rival, while Telstra has launched a loyalty program to retain customers, and Vodafone is adding sweeteners to some of its phone deals.

But telecommunications analysts warn consumers should check the fine print in any contract, and consider whether the next handset they buy should come with 5G technology.

The telcos' latest war for smartphone buyers comes just weeks after Telstra launched a "radical" overhaul of its phone plans, reducing 1800 different offerings to just 20 plan types.

Last week, Telstra also added "rewards" to its newly launched loyalty program to retain customers, including discounted movie and AFL tickets, smartwatches and speakers.

Now its major rival, Optus, is firing back, offering new and recontracting customers a six or 12-month Apple Music subscription - an offer the company won off Telstra.

Optus TV, content and product development vice-president Clive Dickens told News Corp the Apple Music deal would now only be available to Optus users.

"Our offering is now exclusive - it's no longer operated by Telstra - so we're pretty excited about the next few years," he said.

"We believe that offering value of money, including premium services, makes a unique operator in the market."

Telstra chief executive Andy Penn recently announced the company’s new Plus loyalty scheme for customers.
Telstra chief executive Andy Penn recently announced the company’s new Plus loyalty scheme for customers.

Mr Dickens said the new Apple Music packages, which will be offered with plans ranging from $45 to $120 a month, could be the first time many had used a subscription music service as "the majority of Optus customers" had yet to trial one.

Optus would not offer umetered data to use the service, however, saying music streams only consumed a "very small amount of your data".

Meanwhile, Vodafone has recently offered several sweeteners to its phone contracts, including a new smartwatch to go with Huawei P30 smartphones, a streaming entertainment subscription with the Oppo Rezo Z 4G, and free smart speaker with the Google Pixel 3a.

Telsyte senior analyst Alvin Lee said Australians looking for a new smartphone or plan were coming into the market at a great time, as the battle had switched from offering more data downloads to extra gadgets and services.

"There's a lot of competition going on right now," he said.

"Adding extra services has always been a way to attract customers. From the major carriers' perspective, this works for them."

But Mr Lee said customers should consider their next smartphone purchase carefully as more manufacturers would launch high-speed 5G handsets later this year, which could make streaming services even easier to access on the go.



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