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.
|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).
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.
|Vodafone Red 30 Day||Unlimited||Unlimited||1GB||€40|
|O2 Open Sim Unlimited||Unlimited||Unlimited||1GB||€32|
|Three Classic Flex Max 350||Unlimited||Unlimited||Unlimited||€39.75|
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)
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.
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’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.
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.
|48 The Guido
|48 The Don||Unlimited||Unlimited||5GB||€20|