Kogan Mobile - Review
- Kogan are offering Unlimited Calls and Texts with 6GB of data for $30 a month
- How does the service fare when compared with Telstra and Optus
- Are Kogan really offering the best deal out there?
At the end of last year Kogan released what was called a “game changer” for the mobile market. They unveiled a prepaid mobile plan offering unlimited calls and text with 6GB of data for $30 a month, $90 for 3 months and $300 for a year. Running on part of the Telstra network, Kogan promised the best value mobile plan for the Australian public. I was certainly swept up in the hype: “Finally!” I thought “A prepaid plan that won’t rip me off”. There was an immediate buzz around the offer but also a lot of hesitant buyers sceptical about such a good deal. After much deliberation, I decided to hold off putting any money down but kept a close eye on how the Kogan Mobile foray was unfolding.
And unfold it did. The transition to Kogan Mobile was one of the biggest customer migrations to ever have occurred in the Australian mobile market. The new customers were loving it too, well...for a while that is. The last few weeks have seen Kogan’s name being dragged through the dirt over their mobile service. An ever increasing list of complaints of service cancellation and introduced limits has left the users of the service in an uproar (see: Kogan Mobile: Too Good to be True?)
A few days prior all the bad press, I had finally purchased my first smartphone (see: Nexus 4 Review). This was the point when my knowledge of Kogan Mobile kicked back in. I had envisioned a super cheap outright smartphone using a super cheap prepaid plan that offered an experience that many others were paying in excess of $60 a month on a lengthy contract for. As my Nexus 4 review indicates I got a first part of my plan down but as you can guess, the second part would prove a little less idealistic.
Right after putting in the order for my Nexus 4 I jumped on to Kogan’s site and ordered a SIM card pack with express shipping. 2 days later it arrived at my house and I jumped right on (normal shipping options will see a delay of 6-8 weeks). The activation process was pretty straight forward with their website. I was able to start using my sim within an hour of activation and got started on testing everything out. Overall activation was a breeze but as it was an automated system, I would expect as much.
It’s also worth noting here that you can only activate online with Kogan Mobile, calling up their support number looking to activate will have you pushed back in the direction of their website (as well as any other enquires for that matter as I later found out).
For comparison purposes I carried around with me a Kogan, Optus and Telstra SIM for a two week period of switching and running speed tests on each in different parts of Melbourne.
Kogan Mobile performed quite well in the CBD of Melbourne, St Kilda and my home in Yarraville. I received a signal strength of at least 80% in all these locations and found few black spots or dropouts during my daily commute or on my weekend travels. In terms of speed, Kogan Mobile is capped at 7.2 Mbps due to speed restrictions and falls somewhere below half of the average speed of Telstra’s NextG network.
I found the speed quite usable and more than adequate for streaming audio, browsing and syncing my news reader when commuting each day. In my home and at my work in St Kilda I received a speed of something close to that 7.2 Mbps cap. My results in the CBD as well as in St Kilda vary based on time. In peak hours I’ve found the service becomes drops down to around 1.5 Mbps, whether this is a direct result of congestion or rather another speed cap is a good question. Kogan Mobile runs on a lower priority spectrum of Telstra’s network, so it’s worth keeping in mind you’ll always be behind Telstra customers in the line for network access and speed.
Following that point, my Telstra SIM received pretty similar signal strength and reception to Kogan's offering but a (understandably) better signal overall and fewer black spots. My results of using the Telstra service mainly revealed how well the Kogan network actually holds up. The biggest difference was the speed though. I received about 14 Mbps on average on Telstra’s NextG network, maxing around 18-20 Mbps in my house and at work while dropping down to 10-14 Mbps in peak times.
I also included an Optus $2 Days SIM in my comparison to a get a good idea of the performance of Kogan’s competitors (Red Bull, Amaysim and Woolworth’s Mobile) who all run through Optus’ network. Also worth nothing I believe the SIM card I used was running on a lower priority band than Optus’ other plans so whilst not being a direct comparison for Optus, it should give a good idea of Kogan’s competitors speeds.
Reception differed greatly from Telstra and Kogan with my Optus SIM. I was able to get good reception in St Kilda and the CBD but struggled to even get a bar of reception inside my home. There was a few more signal black spots that Telstra too. The signal quality was probably a little bit weaker than Kogan’s overall, especially inside my house. Speeds I received peaked somewhere around 2-3Mbps, about half of Kogan’s top speed. Despite this, I found Optus to deliver a more consistent albeit slower speed.
Kogan Mobile stands up pretty well when comparing to Optus and Telstra’s network. For the price, you definitely can’t argue what you’re receiving. A bit more transparency from Kogan in terms of network priority and speed caps would be welcomed though.
Comparing broadband plans all day has given me good insight into how providers factor customer service into their business models. Providers like Internode and iPrimus that offer “silver-platter service” will price their plans a little higher to accompany the cost of delivering better service. Value providers like TPG and Dodo will offer lower price plans by reducing costs elsewhere. In the case of Dodo, this results in some pretty badly managed customer service. As Kogan is a low overheads company through and through, it’s no doubt that their cheap mobile plans would be subsidized by a lower level of customer service. The question here really is: how low?
Fortunately I haven’t ran into any problems with Kogan canceling my account or got into any trouble with exceeding their “400Mb Limit Per Day” like some users have. However, I have come across problems with SMS. My partner, who is on Telstra’s network, receives my messages in accordance to when they’re sent but the content of the SMS itself is mismatched with one I sent a few messages back. It’s an odd issue and I’m still waiting on Kogan to fix it.
I first gave them call on their support line where I was put on hold for 20 minutes before being disconnected. I resorted to their site where it took 3 days for a response through their support ticket system. With Telstra or Optus, leaving a customer with an issue that renders SMS useless for that long could cause some serious trouble.
From what I’ve gathered though, my experience was quite a bit better than what others have experienced. I wasn't fussed with the level of customer service that I received. A 3 day delay in response is something that could be greatly improved upon but fit pretty well with what I expected in accordance with the price point that Kogan are offering.
The name Kogan is causing a lot of controversy in the press right now and most of it’s due to their recently introduced “400MB per day” limit with data on their mobile plans. Since the service’s creation many people have speculated if such a daily limit existed after reports of account cancellations over data downloads began to come out. The popular theory before the limit was introduced said that those that downloaded over 800Mb in a day could face suspension. The 400MB limit was introduced silently and without a notification email to any current users. After much complaining and several high level news articles on the subject, Kogan reformed their fair use policy. The new terms and conditions explicitly state that users who exceed the 400MB limit 3 times or more in the month; or download 1GB of data in one day could face account suspension.
This is pretty important and it’s definitely the plans biggest negative point so far. A lot of previously happy users now feel unsafe because they might have their service cancelled by accidentally downloading too much. It’s a big worry for me and while I’ve figured out a good routine of checking my usage and making sure I don’t exceed my daily limit, it’s not something I’m terrifically comfortable with. Arguably if I’m paying for 6GB of data I should be able to use it as I wish and this is the crux of the problem with the daily limit.
In a nutshell, Kogan Mobile is still a pretty good prepaid option for most people regardless of the new limits. Unfortunately the limits restrict it from being the “game-changer” it was originally hailed to be. If you make a lot of calls and texts and do a bit of regular browsing/streaming on your phone then Kogan might be a good choice. Those looking to download a lot or don’t want a service with restrictions then you’re unfortunately still looking to a pay a bit more for that premium.