Mobile phones (or cell phones) can be bought fairly cheaply in Ireland and if you are unable to use an Irish SIM card in your own phone while you are here is probably the next cheapest method of avoiding the high cost of your phone provider’s roaming plan.
There are phone stores everywhere, highly visible and on the main streets of all towns and cities and in shopping malls and airports.
Buying a pay-as-you-go phone is easy, it takes only a few minutes with no contracts to sign and there are no difficulties for overseas customers.
Call are paid for by buying call credit in advance. This can be done at automated machines, which are ubiquitous – in stores, petrol stations, rail and bus stations etc.
And buying is phone is, surprisingly, likely to be cheaper than renting a phone while you are in Ireland.
Buying a Cell Phone in Ireland: Options & Costs
The major phone networks in Ireland are O2, Vodafone, Meteor, eMobile and 3 Ireland.
No matter which you chose, what you need is a pay-as-you-go phone, this is one where you are not billed but instead buy credits in advance either on a package (which tends to be best value) or as you need them.
To make it a fair comparison both between providers and compared to renting a phone we assumed the following:
- You are in Ireland for 2 weeks.
- You will buy the cheapest available smart phone on the network.
- You want to buy a package that bundles a decent number of calls/texts (within Ireland) and as big a data allowance as possible. We’ve looked for the best value plan for someone in Ireland for 2 weeks.
- No costs for calls to the USA are included, since you can use your data allowance to keep in touch via instant messages, Facebook or on Skype.
All the phones come with SIM cards, batteries, battery chargers and so on, there is nothing extra to buy.
- Phone: Huawei Ascend Y330, €59.99
- Freedom Internet:
€20.00 for unlimited texts and unlimited data, with €10 worth of calls at normal charges. Unlimited data in this case is 7.5GB per month.
- O2 Total: €79.99
Our Verdict: Best value, not a terrible phone and good data allowance.
- Phone: Vodaphone Smart 3, €49.99
- Red Bundle:
€30.00 for unlimited texts and calls and 1GB data. 4G is included in this price but will be no use to you as the phone is not 4G ready.
- Vodafone Total: €79.99
Our Verdict: Poor data allowance and unknown phone.
- Phone: Samsung Galaxy Pocket, €79.99
- Prepay Plan:
€20.00 for unlimited texts and WEEKEND calls and 1unlimeted data. 4G is included in this price but will be no use to you as the phone is not 4G ready. Unlimited data is up to 15G per month, or more if your usage is not affecting other network users.
- 3 Ireland Total: €99.99
Our Verdict: Great data allowance and decent phone for the money. Best value for really heavy data users.
- Phone: Sony Experia E1, €79.99
- Simply Unlimited Plan:
€20.oo for unlimited calls and data for one month. Unlimited in this case means up to 5000 texts, 5000 calls and 7.5GB of data.
- Meteor Total: €99.99
Our Verdict: Good data allowance and decent phone. Good value but not much extra provided over cheaper plan at O2.
- Phone: Samsung Galaxy Fame or Nokia Lumia 520, €79.99
- Thirty30 Plan:
€30.00 for 350 minutes of calls, 350 texts and 7GB of data over a month. There are also weekly plans, but all are poor on data allowance.
- eMobile Total: €109.99
Our Verdict: Too expensive. However if you like a Windows phone, this is the only place you’ll get one for this money.
Should you buy or rent a phone?
As all of the costings above show it isn’t rock bottom cheap to buy a phone, but there are definitely advantages to buying over renting.
Advantages of Buying over Renting
- It’s cheaper for most people
- You OWN the phone. This means the cost does not increase if you need the phone for additional weeks and it will still work if you or anyone you know returns to Ireland in the future.
- Even if you cannot use the phone on any network when you go home, you’ll have the camera, the games, the MP3 player, the FM radio and so on that come as standard with all of these phones which can be used with your WiFi.
Disadvantages of Buying over Renting
- You have the hassle of finding a store and buying a phone on arrival
- The battery will not be charged, so you’ll be without a phone until you have time and opportunity to do that.