Monday 24 October 2016

Get smart about your phone

The smartphone is now an essential part of daily life and data usage continues to grow exponentially, so having a reliable handset with a suitable payment plan is wise, writes Charlie Weston

Published 29/09/2016 | 02:30

SMS, or texting, is declining rapidly as users switch over to messaging services like WhatsApp and Facebook Messenger. Stock image
SMS, or texting, is declining rapidly as users switch over to messaging services like WhatsApp and Facebook Messenger. Stock image

MILLENNIALS are smartphone crazy.

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The first iPhone was launched in 2007, and millennials quickly made smartphones an essential part of their lives, according to Bart Lehane of mobile phone price comparison app

Smartphone usage is highest among 18 to 34 year olds, and gradually tapers off for older generations, he says.

In the UK, over 90pc of 16 to 34 year olds use a smartphone, compared to 42pc for those over 55 years of age, he said.

Nearly four-out-of-10 millennials engage with their smartphone more than they engage with other people.

A high-quality smartphone with constant and reliable data connectivity is essential.

Buy up-front where possible

While the initial cost may deter some, purchasing a smartphone up-front will save you money in the long run, Dr Lehane says.

"Fortunately, smartphone technology is quite mature, and the latest, more expensive models do not have significantly better features than slightly older phones or mid-range models," he says.

There is an abundance of high-quality smartphones that can suit any budget. Two great examples are the Motorola Moto G4 and the Samsung Galaxy S6.

The Motorola Moto G4 is probably the best pound-for-pound smartphone on the market, he said.

"At a SIM-free retail price of around €200, its high-quality specifications mean it is perfect for almost any smartphone task with only hardcore gamers needing a higher spec phone."

The Samsung Galaxy S6 is last year's top-of-the range Samsung, yet it is well over €200 cheaper than the latest Samsung Galaxy S7.

"It is an excellent premium phone with high-end specs that will meet the needs of any user and is available for just over €400," Dr Lehane contends.

Data - the only show in town

Data usage has exploded with the average amount of data used tripling in the past two years.

In 2014, the average amount of data used per subscriber was 1GB per month, while it is now 3GB per month.

Dr Lehane said: "When you consider that users who purchased 24-month contracts in 2014 are only coming out of those contracts now, it is crucial to allow some headroom in data usage when purchasing a mobile plan."

Streaming video services such as Netflix and YouTube consume significant data volumes and better quality 3G and 4G networks have enabled people to watch video on the go.

Another key factor in higher amounts of data use is the changing way in which social media apps and websites are created, with more videos and images being shared than ever before.

Browsing the web or using social media applications such as Facebook, Snapchat, and Twitter consume more data today than they did previously.

There is no sign of this data consumption slowing, so any mobile phone plan you purchase should include a generous data allowance, particularly if you are getting locked into a contract, Dr Lehane points out.

Following the current growth rate, in two years, the average data use will be nearing 10GB per month.

Declining SMS usage

SMS, or texting, is declining rapidly as users switch over to messaging services like WhatsApp and Facebook Messenger.

Mobile providers are aware of this and the majority of plans now come with unlimited SMS messages included.

The amount of calls that people make has remained steady (the average user makes just over 200 minutes of calls per month), but the price per call has dropped as many plans now include hundreds of minutes or unlimited minutes as standard, the mobile phone service expert said.

"The bottom line is that there is rarely any need to have a high SMS allowance and only those who are sure they need to make a lot of calls should spend extra on a call allowance," he added.

The gotchas

Over 10pc of mobile calls are to international destinations or special numbers, such as directory enquiries.

These calls are usually charged at a per-minute rate, rather than being included in your call allowance and therefore will add to your monthly bill, he said.

Calling friends and relatives abroad does not have to be expensive though.

Tesco Mobile, in particular, has excellent international rates to far flung destinations such as the USA (2 cent/min for mobiles or landlines), Canada (1 cent/min for mobiles and landlines), and Australia (1 cent/min for landline call, 12 cent/min for mobile calls), he explained.

Recommended plans

A table of recommended plans for prepay and bill pay was compiled by Dr Lehane (see top left).

High-data plans are preferred with only plans with greater than 10GB per month represented.

Plans from Tesco Mobile and iD Mobile are prominent as they typically offer great value that you don't find in the more established brands.

Both Tesco Mobile and iD mobile operate on the Three network infrastructure. For people who live in an area with poor reception on this network, a recommended plan from Meteor and Vodafone plan is listed (see bottom left).

Irish Independent

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