We don’t often spend a lot of time experimenting with different carriers; oftentimes we’re so caught up with testing new phones and tablets and other gizmos that we forget that most of these connected devices need a SIM card and carrier service to be useful.
When we were approached to take Aldi Mobile for a test drive, it was an easy decision. The brief? Take the service for a spin for a month, on us, and write a review of your findings. Seems easy enough. So we did.
Aldi Mobile allows customers to join their network either online (through aldimobile.com.au) or in store, but there’s a catch. If your device needs a nanoSIM (as mine did) you’ll have to join online so they can send out a nanoSIM for you; the in-store SIM packs are only microSIM / standard SIM combinations. Either way, you pay $5 for the SIM pack, which includes $5 credit, which you can either use PAYG, or contribute towards packs which range in price from $15 to $45 per month.
Signing up was fairly straight forward really; Aldi Mobile asks for the same kinds of information that any other carrier does — who you are, where you live, and for some identification to satisfy legislative requirements. The whole signup process was really simple; it took about five minutes, and then I had an email saying keep an eye out for a SIM card, and an activation code to use when it arrived.
There was just one catch…
When the SIM arrived, and I checked the email I had earlier received, the activation code and username was blank. Woops. Something had gone wrong on Aldi’s back-end.
Still, it was easily rectified; the SIM came with its own letter, which said use a different code to activate it, and fortunately, it worked. The downside was having to punch my personal details in a second time, but another five minutes and I was set up and ready to go.
The SIM was active within a few minutes, and I was able to load the service up with some credit so I could purchase a pack to try out. Purchasing the pack was equally easy; all in, I probably spent 15 minutes actually doing something related to Aldi from the time I sat down to order the SIM pack to having it activated and in my phone.
Aldi Mobile have clearly put a bit of effort into their online signup process, and hiccups aside, its rather intuitive. Their user control panel is also well laid out, and easy to access for the features you need.
Using the service
Aldi Mobile uses Telstra’s Next G / 3G network, so while it isn’t quite as fast as Telstra’s 4G network, there is an awful lot of coverage out there. Telstra’s Next G network was (and likely is still) Australia’s most expansive 3G network, and provided coverage in a lot of places where other carriers didn’t have a hope.
In my experience floating around Sydney, Aldi Mobile worked pretty much everywhere, though the 3G technology showed its age; Vodafone 4G (which I had in my other phone) was significantly faster, just about everywhere, but I do pay quite a bit more than $45 a month for that.
The service dropped out in a few places where Vodafone retained coverage (notably in large concrete parking structures), but equally retained coverage in other areas where Vodafone struggled. This really isn’t anything remarkable; carriers always have their strengths and weaknesses in various places.
Aldi Mobile’s data service is fast and fairly reliable; there were some occasions where it felt like data took a while to start flowing, which might have been due to congestion or something else, but these instances were not frequent.
Using Telstra’s 3G network, you’d expect Aldi Mobile would have a high quality of voice call, and it does. I’m no acoustic engineer, but to me making calls on the service seemed no better, worse or different to any other mobile carrier these days. Voice was clear, easily understood and stable, whether in the bowels of a Westfield shopping centre or on the open road.
If you’re a heavy data user, Aldi Mobile caters to users with up to 5GB of data per month, and you can add extra at further cost. On 3G, you may struggle to use too much data, but it’s nice that the option is there. All of Aldi Mobile’s prepaid plans include an amount of talk, from 125 minutes on the $15 plan to virtually unlimited minutes (well, 43,000 of them or so) on the higher end plans. The full run-down of what’s included and how much it costs is here, but in a nutshell, Aldi Mobile does offer pretty good value for money.
Managing your service
Aldi Mobile has a neat Android app which can be used to manage many aspects of your service once its established, including viewing how much credit and call/data inclusions you have left, making a recharge purchase and finding your nearest Aldi store if you’d rather recharge in-store.
It’s not the most ultra-modern, material designed Android app, but it probably doesn’t need to be; it’s cheap and cheerful, and it does what it needs to do rather quickly and without fuss. Honestly I didn’t find myself using it; it’s nice to have, but with 5GB of data and practically unlimited calls/SMS, there’s just not much in there to actually bother checking.
My tip? Set a calendar reminder to recharge once a month, and you basically won’t need the app unless you use a heap of data and need to keep an eye on your usage.
Aldi Mobile is one of a number of prepaid carriers that we have in Australia, and all offer roughly / approximately equal value. Some offer better options at certain pricing than others, but by and large, the competition isn’t large enough to produce real outlier bargains.
It has been a while since I’ve used a prepaid service, but my recollections of others certainly make Aldi Mobile’s service seem to be on the better side. Probably my only criticism would be not having nanoSIM’s available in stores, but one would imagine that will change over time as the growing demand for nanoSIM’s continues as microSIM and standard SIM are phased out.
For $45 a month, Aldi Mobile’s XXL plan includes a huge amount of calls and SMS (practically unlimited, but there is a hard limit that users will probably never hit), and 5GB of data is quite generous too. If you’re a super heavy user (note I use 12GB a month with a lot of mobile tethering), you might find better value elsewhere, but for most normal people, the service is great value and easy to access and use.
Aldi Mobile provided the mobile service for our review.