Mobile Phone Sim-only Plans (Updated: Christmas 2013)

If you’re lucky enough to not be signed up to a contract and you have an unlocked phone then you will usually find that sim-only phones are the cheapest option for you. Not only that, they also offer you the flexibility to easily change to a different network or plan because the contracts are only 30 days long.

We’re going to do a quick review of what’s available from the Irish mobile networks and we’ll try to find out who is offering the best value. For our comparison, we will have two different use cases. A light user and a heavy user, here’s what each of these users is looking for.

Light: 200 minutes, 200 texts, 250MB internet (monthly).
Heavy: Unlimited minutes, unlimited texts, 1GB internet (monthly).

We have configured the plans for each of the big four networks to closely match the needs of these two fictional users.

Light User

Plan Minutes Text Data Price
Vodafone My Way Plus 1 200 200 250MB €35
O2 Open Sim 500 2 250 250 250MB €25
Meteor MAXI-SIMO 3 200 Unlimited 1GB €20
Three Classic Flex Max 350 4 ~250 5 ~200 5 Unlimited €20.33

1 Includes free Vodafone-to-Vodafone calls and texts.
2 Includes free O2-to-O2 calls or texts (not both).
3 Includes free Meteor-to-Meteor calls and texts.
4 Includes free Three-to-Three calls
5 Three uses ‘Flexi units’, the plan includes 350 flexi units. 1 unit = 1 minute or 2 texts. For the sake of simplicity we have converted that to 250 minutes and 200 texts, but you can break it down however you like (i.e. 100 mins and 500 texts).

Conclusion

Meteor win this and are all-round best value. O2 are a solid second-choice for those who want reliably good customer support and a strong network. Three are good value but their customer support is weak and their data network (internet) is renowned for being over-contended which leads to poor & unreliable speeds. Vodafone’s offering is over-priced.

Heavy User

Plan Minutes Text Data Price
Vodafone Red 30 Day Unlimited Unlimited 1GB €40
O2 Open Sim Unlimited Unlimited Unlimited 1GB €32
Meteor 4G Unlimited Unlimited 1GB €30
Three Classic Flex Max 350 Unlimited Unlimited Unlimited €39.75

Conclusion

There is little to choose between O2 and Meteor, I would personally go with O2 because I have found their customer support to be very good and I have a lot of friends on O2; Meteor are a very close second though. Vodafone are definitely a little bit more expensive, but I would recommend taking a look at them if you don’t mind paying a bit extra for a mature network with good customer support. Three have unlimited internet but be wary that they often have an unreliable/slow data connection.

Brief notes about the networks

(if you think I should add some more notes to this section then please add a comment and I’ll review)

Vodafone

I think it’s generally accepted that Vodafone have the best reception nationwide, this is less true recently as O2 and Meteor have caught up. Still, my father is with Vodafone and he often has good reception when I have none (I’m with O2). They have 4G rolled out in Dublin, Cork, Limerick, Galway, Waterford and Kilkenny. In my experience they have the best over-the-phone customer support, I don’t know if that’s enough to justify the price difference though.

O2

Along with Vodafone, O2 offer good over-the-phone customer support. They tend to be a little more expensive than Meteor but it might be worth it for a company that has been around for longer.

Meteor

Meteor’s over-the-phone customer support is hit and miss but I’ve had good luck reaching out to them over Twitter. They’ve recently begun rolling out their 4G service and it is available in Dublin, Cork, Galway, Limerick, Athlone and Carlow.

Three

I find it hard to recommend Three because I have bad experiences with them. In general, their 3G network is over-contended which means that speeds are poor and patchy. Whenever I’ve had to deal with them on the phone (admittedly over 2 years ago so this might have changed) it has been a horrible experience. With that said, they do offer unlimited data, so if you are a heavy internet user on a tight budget who doesn’t mind a patchy internet connection then they are worth a look at.

What about 48 Months?

48Months are only available for the 18-22 age group. They are also a bit different because you pre-pay a subscription fee which is different to the other plans which are bill-pay. With all that said, they are fantastic value so if you fall within the age group then I would highly recommend them. Be aware though that they don’t offer any over-the-phone support so you will have to get in touch with them thorough their online channels.

Plan Minutes Text Data Price
48 The Guido
300 Unlimited 1GB €10
48 The Don Unlimited Unlimited 5GB €20
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6 responses to “Mobile Phone Sim-only Plans (Updated: Christmas 2013)

  1. Vodafone has two big advantages:
    1) lots of people use their network, so the savings involved in free voda-voda calls can be significant.
    2) Data Roaming with them abroad is mostly free. Data usage comes out of the allowance you’re already paying for and anybody who has used a smartphone knows the one time you really need that data (apart from when you’re showing off!) is when you go abroad. That’s when you want access to google maps, google translate etc. etc.

  2. bargainsireland

    Thanks Peadar, those are very good points and I’ve edited my conclusion. If you travel a lot and use data then Vodafone seems like a good option.

  3. Good article. I’m with 3 using a 3pay sim and it works great. I only pay €20 per month, where I used to pay 60-70 per month when I was on O2. I normally use €5 out of the 20 to buy a 500MB data addon each month. And I have unlimited any network texts all the time, and unlimited any network calls on Saturday and Sunday. So my credit only goes down if I call someone Monday to Friday.
    I find the coverage better on 3 than O2 in those places where I need it-e.g. Home, work, my parents house. (I blogged about this a few months ago). I can also use my bundle SMS, data and minutes up north or anywhere in the uk without penalty. It really is hard to beat this deal.

  4. bargainsireland

    @Finbarr: Great point about being able to use your bundled minutes/data/sms in the UK. I might try and do a PAYG version of this blog post sometime soon.

  5. What about Just Mobile’s €18/month plan giving free calls to any network and landlines?
    Or Tesco… No monthly payment, 20c/min all day to any network and landlines, and *double* credit every time you top up (making calls really 10c/min!). Other networks are profiting from the *unused* monthly credit many have left each month.

  6. I’m doing research and require a mobile phone for six months. I have an unused blackberry handset so just require a sim that allows me make and receive calls and texts – no data and def fewer than 100 of either monthly. Suggestions.

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