Update (June 13th): Chart corrected to reflect DiGi’s new free on-net and off-net minutes/SMS. The data quota is also split with the other half allocated for “Smart Apps” such as Facebook, Twitter and WhatsApp. Browsing with with Opera Mini has unlimited quota.
It is that time of the year again, where Samsung ships its next generation flagship Android device or the Galaxy S4 to be precise. Unlike the Note II (as well as the iPhone 5) where only our three largest carriers: Maxis, Celcom and DiGi are carrying the device during launch, Galaxy S4 entered the Malaysian market with U Mobile participating as well.
With that, we’ve painstakingly gathered all of the plans available at launch, 35 variations in total, into one big, colorful, periodic table of S4 carrier elements. I shall dispense with the pleasantries and dive right in. The image above is a screenshot of the spreadsheet, which you can click on three or four times (depending on where you’re at on the site), to expand it to its full pasty-colored glory.
The table may seem a little too complicated, but that’s because I try not to leave out any important details, including the amount you will be paying for should you choose to continue subscribing after a 12 or 18-month contract ends.
After the break, I’ll be elaborating more on a few points that could help you decide which plans to choose. Let’s go.
Let’s get this subject out of the way. The current batch of S4’s are of the Exynos 5 Octa SKU that supports up to 42.2 Mbps down through its DC-HSPA+ radio, which Maxis, Celcom and U Mobile could tap into. DiGi is still riding on HSPA+ that has a maximum theoretical speeds of 21 Mbps (but decided to throttle to just 1 – 2 Mbps. Why DiGi, why?
The Qualcomm Snapdragon 600 variant that supports LTE is indeed coming; it had just passed SIRIM’s approval and should be launching in a few months, at most. However, probably only Maxis and Celcom will be supporting the network by then.
This day and age, you could probably survive on any of the four carriers, despite their unique flaws. The major factor that will contribute in your purchasing decision is probably carrier loyalty. I have been with one carrier for the longest time until last year when I had no choice but to switch to another that carried the phone I wanted. I have since regretted the move and am bitching about it bi-weekly, but then the grass is always greener when you’re not paying for it.
Both Maxis and Celcom arguably have the widest coverage, followed by DiGi and U Mobile. I do not have much experience with Celcom, therefore couldn’t comment on whether it or Maxis has a wider network reach.
DiGi’s coverage is not bad at all, but suffers while it’s indoors, and for some disappointing reason decided to throttle the speeds to just 1 – 2 Mbps. Why DiGi, why?
U Mobile’s speeds are quite impressive last year where it could even reach up to 16 Mbps through iPhone 5’s DC-HSPA+. This year, not so much; only 2 – 5 Mbps on average. Coverage is also very spotty at best, constantly dropping to EDGE in areas outside of Klang Valley.
All carriers have rebates, but they are rebates of the advance payment, so I did not include it in as it’s redundant. The only notable rebate that I’m aware of is from DiGi’s auto-billing, where RM5 will be credited back for the first six months making it a total of just RM30.
At a glance, most of the plans are quite competitive, but where’s the fun in that?
The cheapest ‘cost of ownership’ plan is Maxis’ SurfMore50 12-month contract, but it does not have any free calls and SMS. The price of the phone is also one of the highest at RM1849, though Celcom’s First Prime 12-month contract plans have the S4 going higher at RM1888.
Celcom First Prime with Mobile Internet Basic or Mobile Internet Advance over a 12-month contract has free voice minutes and SMS though. If my calculations are correct, it uses a shared quota where you’ll have 267 free minutes or 267 free SMS or a combination of both.
The most ridiculously expensive plan is the 24-month Celcom First Elite with Mobile Internet mPro, as you’ll be paying for a whopping RM7050 over two years, though it also has the highest data quota at 5.2 GB. Who talks on the phone for 25 hours a month anyway? Isn’t what Skype or Viber is for?
The cheapest device price prize, goes to U Mobile’s U Premium at RM899, if you can get past the crazy expensive advance payment of RM1008 (which will be credited back). It also has the fourth highest monthly fee of RM168.
I noticed that only U Mobile offers a plan for “loyal” subscribers, however I’m not sure what are the exact requirements to be eligible. Maxis has yet to offer the S4 through its One Club program.
It is only when you put them side-by-side will you notice how competitive the carriers are at undercutting each other. The most obvious ones that stick out are DG SmartPlan 58 and U Mobile U58. Both have 2 GB data quota, but U Mobile’s device price is cheaper and its 200 minutes free voice calls can be made to all networks, while DiGi’s minutes are on-net only.
The same thing is happening on DG SmartPlan 88 and U Mobile U88, but Celcom is joining this party with its First Data mPro Plus (RM88) plan that’s almost identical to U Mobile’s but offers a higher data quota at 5 GB.
I used to always advocate getting the longest contract as you’ll be paying less on a 24-month contract compared to a 12-month variant over the same period of time. I’m not so sure anymore though. At the current rate of innovation, phones tend to show its age way before the 12-month mark.
My current rule of thumb is to see how high-end and new the phone is when you’re purchasing it. If it’s brand new and you think it will remain relevant after a year or so, go with the longest contract. Otherwise stick with the shortest contract as a mid-range or low-end device will get obsolete sooner.
This one is quite dependent on your usage patterns and the environment which you live or work in. If your home and the office have fast Wi-Fi connections, 1 or 2 GB should be sufficient.
Even if you’re always out and about, 3 gigs should be more than enough, especially if you meet the earlier requirements mentioned.
I’m currently on a 5 Mbps plan and could hardly use past 2 GB, and that includes a healthy amount of Spotify / Songza / Google Play Music streaming and Wi-Fi tethering during launch events. All my app updates and podcasts downloads are done over Wi-Fi.
Also, if you do not make a lot of voice calls, always go for the least free minutes, as the total monthly fee plus overage charges rarely exceeds the more expensive plan. Do monitor your outgoing SMS though.
I’m going to close by disclosing that I’ll be putting this post up as a ‘review’ so that it’ll surface longer until the next big thing arrives (HTC One). In the future, I might even split the comparison to three tables (12, 18 and 24-month contracts), but I kind of like it this way.
Below is the embedded spreadsheet from Google Drive, which you can copy and paste it to your own file. If you need the original spreadsheet, let me know in the comments and I’ll email it to you. Be sure to also spread it around (and link back, please).
Finally, due to the intricate nature of these comparisons, I may have made some errors on the spreadsheet, so please do let me know if you’ve spotted any.