Wednesday, 16 August 2017 12:05

FULL VIDEO: ‘Game of Phones’ as Vodafone’s new customer-friendly plans smash competitors

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Seeking to strike a death blow to competitors while breathing new life into customer friendliness, service, choice, payment plans and value, Vodafone seeks true victory in the Game of Phones – the Voda-throne.

Vodafone. The company has famously had its Vodafail issues well over half a decade ago, and has come through the ring of fire like a phoenix rising from the ashes of old mixed metaphors into shiny new prose and top phone plans and arguably the best phone plans in Australia.

Seeking to make mobile plans, buying a new mobile phone with no-interest instalments over 12, 24 or 36 months, getting a no-contract plan, getting a 12-month plan, putting accessories on your bill and paying them off without interest and more, Vodafone wants to make “mobile plans as easy as 1, 2 and 3".

Now, you might think it is hype, and just another cynical attempt by a phone company to sell you on how amazing it is, but the truth, oddly, and pleasingly, is definitely different.

You see, Vodafone now has the network in Australia to compete, at least in all the major capital cities and centres where most of us live, work and play, it has the $5 global roaming that will celebrate its fourth birthday in September, it has unmatched pre-paid deals with 35-day expiry timeframes, it offers Visual Voicemail to iPhone users and it does plenty more to genuinely and voluntarily capture the heart, mind and wallets of consumers.

Now it has unleashed its secret plan to make you happily want to choose Vodafone when buying your Samsung Galaxy Note 8, your iPhone 7s or 7s Plus, your iPhone 8/Pro/X/Edition and any other smartphone Vodafone offers, be it a flagship or a midrange, be it Apple, Samsung, Huawei, Oppo, HTC or anyone else.

So, what, pray tell, is the new reality for Vodafone customers? How has it changed and upgraded the Matrix in which we all live?

All the details are below, but first, here's the video of today's launch. Story continues in full below. If not already avaialble in 1080P, YouTube's processing to higher quality will complete soon.

Well, Vodafone starts off by proclaiming it is dragging the Australian telco industry out of the 1990s, it is warning people against the perils of leasing, and it is introducing simple to understand new plans for Australians looking to buy handsets on no lock-in contracts, and more.

The company has also “simplified mobile services by doing away with two-year lock-in consumer contracts for plans that combine voice, text and data".

If you decide to become a Vodafone customer, you can “now choose interest-free device payment terms that suit you best:

  • "outright payment with Vodafone’s SIM-only 12-month or month-to-month plans;
  • "or on 12, 24 or 36 monthly instalments with Vodafone’s new Red Plans."

If you choose to pay off your device early, you’ll simply pay the remainder of the recommended retail price rather than being locked in or paying a heavy exit penalty.

There’s three tables below which explain things further, but the new plans are available immediately, just in time for those major smartphone flagship launches to come, with Vodafone’s new plans separating “mobile services (voice, text and data) and handset repayments, making it easier for people to see how much they are paying for their device each month".

Ben McIntosh, Vodafone Australia’s Consumer Business Unit director, said: “Not only have we made our smartphone plans and payments more flexible, we’re proud to announce our new consumer voice, text and data plans, with month-to-month and 12-month options available. They now come with even more data and range from $30 to $100 with six simple price-points.

“This gives people the power to create a payment structure that suits them. It also helps them easily see what they’re paying for each month, without locking them in for long periods of time.”

Vodafone proudly boasts that its new approach “flies in the face of current leasing options available elsewhere, which offer people what looks like a discount but with the sting of never getting to own the device".

The company claims it’s “also a step-change from the carrier model of tying handset repayments for consumer-focused plans to a two-year mobile services contract, which has been around since the last century".

So, with plans, handsets and extras, Vodafone offers three simple steps:

  1. Pick from a range of new voice/text/data plans, choosing a month-to-month or 12-month option, with a sliding scale of price-points, data and international inclusions and without 24 month lock-in.
  2. Pick a handset and payment arrangement: outright with a month-to-month plan; or with 12, 24 or 36 monthly instalments on a Red Plan, at competitive, interest-free prices and with easy early exit terms.
  3. Pick extras – data add-ons, additional international calling, insurance and accessories such as headphones and speakers can all be added to a customer’s plan, with accessories payable either outright or over 12/24/36 months.

No slippery interest or leasing fees

Speaking out against the madness of leasing, instead of paying no-interest instalments to own your device upon completion of repayments, McIntosh advised: “We’re not going down the leasing path, which is the equivalent of paying off someone else’s mortgage and never getting to own the house.

“We simply think it’s a waste of money and telcos shouldn’t be trying to turn mobile phone plans into something like the Australian property market, where for many ownership is a long-lost dream.

“The aim here is for all costs to be crystal clear, prices to be fair and payment options to suit a range of budgets and lifestyles. When you consider that well over 80% of Aussie mobile users own a smartphone, and the average person holds onto their handset for three years (according to the Deloitte Global Mobile Consumer Survey June-July 2016), it’s about time carriers became a lot more flexible.

“We changed the pre-paid game by bucking the trend with our 35-day plans, set the bar high with our $5 Roaming and now we’re bringing post-paid plans and handset payments into 2017.”

So, here is more detail from Vodafone on those “three simple steps:”

1. Pick from a range of voice/text/data plans, choosing a month-to-month or 12-month option.

All plans come with unlimited standard national voice and text and strong data inclusions. People can also choose “Global” plan options which come with strong international inclusions and Qantas Frequent Flyer points. Customers who sign up month-to-month get the ultimate in flexibility, while people who sign up for 12 months get double the data without being locked in for two years. For instance, a $60 month-to-month SIM-only plan comes with unlimited standard national calls and texts, plus 9GB data to use in Oz. The same $60 plan over 12 months currently comes with 20GB of data to use in Oz.

2. Pick a handset and payment arrangement: outright on a month-to-month mobile services plan; or with 12, 24 or 36 monthly instalments on a Red Plan at competitive, interest-free prices and with full transparency in the customer’s bill that separates mobile services costs from the handset cost.

If a customer wants to pay off their handset or leave their Red Plan early, they simply pay the remainder of the device at the recommended retail price (and any remaining charges on their bill from that month). People can also add voice, text and data on a month-to-month basis, but will be rewarded with double data for choosing to purchase a handset from Vodafone.

3. Pick extras– data add-ons, additional international calling, insurance and accessories such as headphones and speakers can all be added to a customer’s plan, with accessories payable either outright or over 12/24/36 months.

During the Q&A session, which you can see in full in the embedded video of today’s Vodafone launch, I asked when Australia might see the unlimited plans of with 23 to 28GB of data able to be used before shaping occurs in peak times as is the case with US carriers, given McIntosh mentioning Australia looks to the way the US mobile market works, and often has that implemented in Australia two to three years later.

Naturally, McIntosh wasn’t able to make any announcements on that front today, but merely advised us to “watch this space” and noted again that the US is a guide to what will happen here, while also noting there were legality issues to be determined over issuing a so-called “unlimited” plan that had limits.

That said, if you are shaped, but continue getting data, then it really depends how slow the shaped speeds are - I do remember Bigpond Mobile offering shaped speeds years ago for its mobile broadband products, so that wouldn’t actually be new for Australia in the mobile broadband space.

I asked if the post-paid market would ever see monthly periods extended to 35 days, as is the case with some of Vodafone’s pre-paid plans, but there was no plan to change post-paid plans beyond the changes announced today, which are in themselves already quite a lot.

There were other questions about whether Vodafone would proactively move you to a better plan once a 12-month contract was up, or if a better value month-to-month plan was available, and while Vodafone would not automatically move you to a new plan, they promised to proactively inform you of better plans when available so that you could call Vodafone and request being moved to the best plan.

In short, the new plans look impressive, especially the ability to pay off a new mobile phone over a 12-, 24- or 36-month period without interest payments, and without having to pay inflated monthly prices to do so, while offering generous inclusions, especially when deciding to take Vodafone up on a 12-month offer.

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Alex Zaharov-Reutt

One of Australia’s best-known technology journalists and consumer tech experts, Alex has appeared in his capacity as technology expert on all of Australia’s free-to-air and pay TV networks on all the major news and current affairs programs, on commercial and public radio, and technology, lifestyle and reality TV shows. Visit Alex at Twitter here.

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