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Free mobile data for ads: is it a good deal?

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An Optus app that allows mobile customers to earn extra data by viewing ads is arguably more rewarding for users but could risk turning them off, says Joseph Hanlon, editor of mobile phone comparison site WhistleOut.

Optus Xtra allows prepaid customers to earn 1GB of extra data on eligible monthly plans, or $2 of extra credit on daily plans every 28 days, by displaying static ads on a locked phone screen.

"Optus Xtra is an intriguing idea, and it seems like a good way to earn extra data," says Hanlon. "In fact, depending on how much data you use, you could switch to a cheaper Optus prepaid plan and save about $10 per month and make up for the lower data inclusion on the cheaper plan by installing the Xtra app."

But it is "difficult to predict" if the venture will work, says Hanlon.

"I think there's an inclination to think of this as a sleazy corporate intrusion, especially when we consider what a personal device a smartphone is.

"But it is arguably a more rewarding advertising model for consumers than the ads we currently see and hear across all other parts of our daily lives."

Lebara Mobile trialled a similar program in 2015, offering customers 2GB of bonus data in exchange for viewing ads.

"However, the best way to get the best deal on data is to keep an eye out for great short-term deals and be prepared to switch to a new plan whenever something good comes along," says Hanlon.

Prepaid plans are obligation free, and switching your existing number to a new plan only takes a couple of hours, he said.

"You just have to know where to look."

The Optus Xtra app can be downloaded free from the Google Play store.

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Sharyn McCowen is Money's online producer. She has a degree in journalism from Charles Sturt University, and was a newspaper reporter before moving to magazines and finance.
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