Virgin Mobile made a splash yesterday with new “Irresistible” plans that throw in a “free” international flight along with your mobile service. Irresistible isn’t the word I’d use to describe them, however.
Value is, as I’ve noted before, a relative thing dependent on what you get out of a service or product, but for the purposes of comparison, I’m going to look at what you get on paper out of the Irresistible Plan. The basics are unlimited calling and texts, a “free” flight to Fiji, New Zealand, or Vanuatu from an Australian capital city and the ability to upgrade your phone after twelve months if you then re-contract for a further two years.
Virgin Irresistible Plans,,,,,,
Cost,Minimum Plan Cost,Calls,Texts,Data,Phones,Extras
$140/month for 24 months,”$3,360 “,Unlimited,Unlimited,6GB/Month,”Samsung Galaxy S4, HTC One, Sony Xperia SP, Samsung Note II 4G, Nokia Lumia 720, Samsung Galaxy S3, Apple iPhone 5, Apple iPhone 4”,Virgin Australia return international flight to Fiji or New Zealand or Vanuatu from selected capital cities within Australia
But what’s all that worth? It’s fairly easy to get an unlimited calls/texts plan for around $40 (or less) month with around that level of data from any of the pre-paid Telstra resellers; Optus resellers — and Virgin’s on the Optus network, although it’s technically not a reseller as it’s wholly owned by Optus — tend to be even cheaper.
But let’s take that $40 price point as it stands, bearing in mind that this isn’t a prepaid service, and you could go “over” cap if you made, say, a lot of international phone calls. You can roll over your “unused credit”, apparently, but that’s meaningless for an unlimited plan unless they mean the data inclusion. (Update: Checking the critical information summary, they don’t, although there is a $200 “value” towards international calls which looks like it does roll over)
That leaves $100 out of your pocket each month for the phone and the single return international flight.
The range of phones is attractive enough, although there’s some weird inclusions. Why would you opt for an 8GB iPhone 4 when you can get a 64GB iPhone 5 for exactly the same price? Why is the Nokia Lumia 720 on the deal, but not the 920? Why’s the Galaxy S3 there, and who’d want one in the face of either a Galaxy S4 or Note II?
In any case, if we only really look at the actually premium phones, you’re talking an outright price of around $800, give or take, at Telco prices. Again, yes, you can get them cheaper elsewhere, but we’ll go with the kinds of figures that Telcos use, and average out across all the handsets.
But before we buy the phone, we’d better book the “free” flight. Flights are “subject to availability”, which could mean just about anything, but the other key consideration is that you have to book the flight within the 4-9th month of the 24 month plan.
So for the purposes of comparison, I looked up a flight to Fiji leaving in April 2014. Prices obviously vary depending on time of year, popularity, time of flight and so on, and it’s not exactly clear what would happen if absolutely no flights were available on your travel dates, although it’d obviously pay to be a bit flexible.
In any case, the cheapest Saver fare to and from Fiji (flying 8/4/2014, returning 28/4/2014, because those were available flights for normal bookings) at the time of writing appeared to come to a total of $688 before any other service fees. If you could book the most expensive Flexible fares, it does shoot up a lot; the full Flexi fare is $1561 before service charges, but the terms and conditions of the Irresistible plan outline that you’re getting the saver fare only.
Time for some quick maths work, then. The total cost of the contract over 24 months is at least $3360. 24 months of a $40 plan with similar inclusions is $720. A theoretically applicable flight at cheapest rates is $688; it’s always feasible that you may be able to book a more “expensive” flight which would offer you more value, but for the purposes of argument it’s the figure I’ll use because it’s entirely feasible those are the flights you’d get.
That leaves a grand total extra of $1952 for the phone. Take off the averaged $800 purchase price, and you’re still spending more than $1000 for the privilege of updating the handset after twelve months if you re-contract for a further two years, and (allowing for the year you’re already on the hook for), a further $1680 in contract fees.
Irresistible? I don’t think so.