Making sense of all the price plans for the Samsung Galaxy Note 5

With so many telcos to choose from, we suss out the best deal for your new fab phab

The Samsung Galaxy Note 5 has finally dropped, figuratively speaking.

Our review acknowledged that Samsung's new flagship phablet "delivers on almost every front: looks, feel, quality, features, and performance." We know you can't wait to get your hands on it (we can't either!).

But before you buy, let's take a closer look at the new plans being offered by the telcos. You might save some money!

Image source: Flickr

U Mobile

U Mobile is bundling the Note 5 with their Ultimate Device plans, which range from RM65 to 135 in monthly fees. Plans offer 3-6GB of data and 60-130 minutes of talk time. Texts are bundled with Ultimate Device 135, but they're a la carte on Ultimate Device 65 and 95.

UD 65 and 135 have the same registration cost, if we add the price of the discounted device to the upfront fee (see above). But you're obviously paying more for UD 135 in the long run. UD 95's starting cost is RM42 lower.

If you're wondering how much of a discount you're getting, keep reading.

Celcom

The Note 5 is being bundled with Celcom's FIRST Basic 85 and FIRST Elite. There's a RM53 difference between the starting costs, which might excite you. But as the graph above shows, FIRST Elite costs more in the long run. Almost RM3,000 more.

FIRST Basic is no slouch, offering 2 GB of data and 100 minutes of talk time and 100 texts as a basic allocation. That allocation is expanded when you hit your limit. Depending on which limit you hit first, Celcom tops up your quota with either 3 GB of data or 600 minutes and 600 texts.

We go into further detail about the value of the FIRST Elite plan below.

Maxis

Maxis is offering a discounted Note 5 on their Maxis One plans. These prices (RM1,899 on Maxis One Plan 98 and RM1,699 on plans 128, 158 and 188) seem to be lower than has been reported.

Alternatively, trade the upfront fee for a higher monthly one with Maxis Zerolution. This monthly fee incorporates an upgrade fee and device insurance. Zerolution needs an explainer all on its own (we've got you covered) but it should be said that Zerolution is not a call plan in itself. A Maxis One plan needs to be purchased on top of Zerolution to enjoy its benefits.

Digi

Digi offers the widest range of plans for purchasing the Note 5. It also lets customers tailor the plan towards either more data (High Data) or more talk time and texts (High Voice).

Digi's Note 5 bundles cost about the same on registration. The device price goes down with higher tier plans, but the upfront fee goes up. If you buy online, they may ask for the first month's bill in advance (better to go in to the store, anyways).

In terms of the total amount of money you'll spend on the plan and device, you end up spending RM255 more on Smart Plan 98 than on Smart Plan 79, and RM1,060 more on Smart Plan 148 than on Smart Plan 98 (see above). Smart Plans 238 and 148 have an even bigger difference, but Smart Plan 238 also offers the biggest discount out of all available plans (we go into more detail on this subject below).

A Note About Upfront Fees

Carriers usually charge a fee at registration, usually a percentage of your monthly fees. Opting to pay this fee lowers your monthly commitment. More money upfront means less money in the future. It's up to you to decide if it's worth it. You can opt out of paying this fee by signing up for auto-debit facility. You need a credit card to set this up.

So Many Plans, So Little Time

All of these plans are on a 24-month contract. Digi's Smart Plan 78 comes in 12-month and 24-month flavours, the only 12-month plan of the bunch.

The Samsung Galaxy Note 5 retails for RM2,699 without contract. Hence, getting it from a telco is cheaper. You might be wondering which plan gives you the biggest discount? The short answer is Digi's Smart Plan 238. It's offering a 67% discount. Celcom and U Mobile also offer a lot of savings, but none as high as Digi (see above).

What's the catch? As a per cent of the total cost of ownership, only 13% of it goes towards the device (see above). That means a whopping 87% of your spending goes towards servicing the plan.

Smart Plan 238 comes with 8-10 GB of data, depending on the package you choose. High Voice comes with unlimited talk time and texts. High Data comes with 1000 minutes and 1000 texts. If you're a heavy user, perhaps this is the incentive to upgrade you've been looking for. The plan structure suggests that the Note 5 is more of an add-on, rather than the main feature. If you just want the device, this kind of spending might be unacceptable.

U Mobile's Ultimate Device 65 plan offers the best value with respect to total cost of ownership. You're getting a 30% discount off the retail price and 52% of what you pay goes towards the device. The plan comes with 3 GB of data and 60 minutes of talk time, but texts are a la carte. Digi's Smart Plan 78 offers even more value, talk time and texts are bundled in, in exchange for a higher monthly commitment.

The graphs above tell only half of the story. You might be better off choosing the plan that fits your usage first, then figuring out if you can afford the Note 5 at the rate it's being offered at. If you choose your plan based on the size of the discount, you may end up spending more money in the long run. Even more than had you bought it without a plan at all.

Soya Cincau's excellent round-up on telco pricing for the Galaxy Note 5 and S6 Edge+ is another good place to look for more information.