I don’t think it’s as big as buying a house, however choosing an iPhone plan is a big financial decision. You see you are locked in for at least a year, if not two years in most cases.

What if the carrier you choose has a bad network in your area, but you don’t know that because you don’t use them now!

How much data will you use?

For a full list of iPhone plans – view my data page here

These are all difficult questions, continue reading for my personal thoughts on the plans all released today.

So, first, my personal position.

I’ve been with Optus for over 13 years – pretty sure it’s more like 15, but their records don’t go back that far, so I can’t find out!

I’ve got no complaints about their service, or their coverage.  There are two blackspots which annoy me, first on the Pacific Highway near Lindfield, the other on Beecroft Road off the M2 just north of the M2 – 100% guaranteed drop out, 50-100meters only. Then it’s all good.

With Data, I’ve not noticed any huge speed issues, I mean really, it’s not like we’re doing full combat multi-player gaming on our phones.  Downloading emails and surfing the web is fine, on all carriers.

I signed up to a two year contract 25 months ago.  For the SOLE purpose of getting an iPhone (3G).  I hated it, couldn’t use it, preferred the Blackberry.  Gave it to my wife.

About 3 months ago, knowing the iPhone 4 was coming, I switched my plan back to allow data, and got going on my iPhone 3G again.  I started to really get into the games, the apps, my sleep tracker is important to me!  iOS4 upgrade has crippled me – it’s really quite slow (Update – I have done NOTHING to try and fix this, so will investigate this if others are experiencing same.  I’ve had several comments on Twitter saying they have not experienced this).

So, why am I even looking for an iPhone plan?  Simple – I want an iPhone 4.  Will I stick with it for 24 months, perhaps, perhaps not – we’ll see about that soon.

Until this week, I was almost convinced I would sign up with Telstra, better network, best network in fact, for coverage most importantly – everywhere, city and rural.  Both Optus and Vodafone stuggle outside the metro areas I’ve found, especially with 3G.

However today’s announcement from Telstra disappointed.  I am on a $79 cap now.  I’d be keen to stay at that area (or less!)

Most of my monthly bills are $90-95 with excess calls added up.

With Telstra, $79 would give me 500 Mb of  data on the iPhone – is that enough.  Right now – yes.  In 2 years? who the heck knows?  What sort of apps and data might I be doing?  If I want to tether it to my computer, that’s certainly not enough.

So, With a $99 cap offering still just 500 Mb, but additional call and text inclusions, I think that’s still not enough.

Vodafone offers me Unlimited Calls, Texts and 3Gb of data at $99 a month.  That’s more than I want now, and remember, sign up for a BIG plan, and you can’t go DOWN.  Sign up to a lower plan, you can certainly go up.  So, perhaps Vodafone’s $69 cap, with 1.75 Gb and $650 in calls and texts looks like a viable option.

Ruling out Three (sorry, I just can’t do it!), that brings me finally to Optus.  At $99, I can get 5 Gb of data, and Unlimited Calls and Texts.

One step down, $89, I can get Unlimited calls and text’s, plus 3Gb data.

Taking the ‘sign up low, increase later’ approach, I can sign up at $59, with $550 worth of calls, and 2Gb data.

The key here is to think about the LIFE of the contract.

So, here’s my plan.  Sign up on Friday to Optus.  2 years.  $59 Plan.  iPhone comes at $0 (16Gb phone).  Then, I monitor my call and data usage, and upgrade to the $89 if Needed to keep my calls and texts under control.

The second place option is Vodafone at $49, the 16Gb phone though comes at $5 per month. If I was to upgrade during the life of the contract I’d go to the $99 unlimited call and text plan.  Problem is that extra $10 on the bigger plan, the $5 per month on the handset (Optus and Voda are both $10 per month at the plans mentioned here for the iPhone 4 32Gb).  Main problem, I don’t KNOW the network.  I’ve heard enough bad things to make me feel like I’ll have the same experience as I do now with the Optus Network.

Optus have been spruking for some time their ‘network upgrades’.  Call me naive, but  I’m going to trust them.  Fingers crossed.

For what it’s worth, I think overall Optus have taken ownership of this space.  A HUGE range of plans, 12 and 24 months, some really ‘marketable’ plans which will be attractive to passing buyers.

Telstra have missed the mark.  Disappointing given their excellent new broadband and customer service commitment of late.

Time will tell if I’ve made the right decision.

Let me know what you think!