Ring in the new year with a new provider
It's time to get smart with your smartphone, because you can save over €300 a year by switching operators, writes Charlie Weston
WE love our mobile phones in this country. A recent survey from telecoms regulator ComReg found that 98pc of adults in Ireland have a mobile phone.
And smartphone penetration is now at a record 83pc.
Despite the importance of mobile devices to the lifestyle of almost all adults in the country, just a quarter of customers switch operator.
Loyalty is often the reason we resist seeking a better deal.
But in the case of mobile phones, the sheer number of different plans and their complexity plays a big role in stopping us getting a better deal.
And remember, loyalty is for losers.
There are now eight mobile operators in Ireland: Eir, iD, LycaMobile, Postmobile, Tesco Mobile, Three, Virgin Mobile and Vodafone - and there is over €300 to be saved by switching.
What this means is that it is time we got smart with our smartphones.
How to switch
When considering switching, you should first consider what type of user you are.
Voice calls and texts are still the most commonly-used mobile services in Ireland, but an increasing number of customers are using data these days.
This trend is likely to continue in 2018.
Understanding your preferences and habits will help you avoid overpaying for features that you don't need, according to Mark Whelan of price comparison site Bonkers.ie.
It is also important to know how long is left on your contract before switching.
Most mobile operators require you to pay a big breakage penalty fee if you switch mid-contract, and some require 30 days' notice to switch.
ComReg recently launched a mobile comparison service, which makes it easy to identify which operator is the right one for you. You will find it at Comreg.ie/compare. Once you have chosen a plan, contact your new operator. It will talk you through the switching process and switch your mobile number across to its network.
The process should only take a couple of hours.
Last month, ComReg fined Three €575,000 for "disincentivising customers from changing service provider", so you should expect your outgoing provider to be helpful and swift in switching you over.
To find value in the mobile market, customers should try to resist the allure of the latest smartphone on offer, Mr Whelan advises.
The chances are, it isn't that much better than devices that were released in the preceding two years, he points out.
The best SIM-only deals
If you are happy with your device and are looking to save money on your monthly bills, there are plenty of good options out there at the moment, the Bonkers.ie executive said.
For example, ID is offering 1GB of data, 250 minutes and 250 texts for €8.75 a month over the 24-month contract.
If you're looking for something with more data to allow you to stream Netflix, YouTube and Spotify without worry, you could go for Three, he says.
The operator is currently offering 60GB of data and unlimited calls and texts for €30 a month on a rolling 30-day contract.
The best pre-pay deals
If you are looking for a pre-pay deal, Tesco Mobile might be a good option.
For €15, you get 10GB of data, unlimited calls and free texts to other Tesco Mobile phones.
Vodafone has a similar offer. For a monthly top-up of €20, you get 6GB of data, unlimited calls and texts to Vodafone phone and 100 minutes and texts to other networks, according to Mr Whelan.
You also get access to Vodafone's 'Data Rollover' option, which allows you to keep any data you don't use in one month for use during the following month.
Billpay with device
For those who are in the market for a new handheld device, Virgin Mobile could be worth considering.
You can get the iPhone 8 for an up-front cost of €229 and a monthly fee of €55, which gives you unlimited data, calls and texts.
The operator is also offering the Samsung Galaxy S8 for €129 upfront and €55 a month thereafter.
If you would be happy with a slightly older device, Eir is offering the iPhone 6 for free, so long as you sign up to a 24-month contract at a cost of €55 a month.
This will give you 15GB of data and unlimited calls and texts.
Mr Whelan says mobile phone plans can seem complex and confusing, but consumers can save well over €300 in 2018 by switching operators.
There are eight operators in Ireland and each of them is offering a wide range of options for all types of user.
Consumers should make use of ComReg's comparison service and the straightforward switching process and sign up to a mobile plan that gives them a reliable service at an affordable price, he said.
How to switch mobile phone provider
Choose a mobile operator. Compare the price plans on offer from the main mobile operators on the market at Comreg.ie/compare. This site is run by the regulator, ComReg. You will have to dig out a bill and enter into the website how many texts you send in a month, the amount of data you use, and your calls to landlines and to mobiles.
Contact your new operator and provide your details. You can either phone, go online or call into one of the operator's retail outlets. When you move to a new operator, you can keep your old number if you want.
Switch. Your new mobile operator should complete the process for you within a few hours. So, if you are unhappy with the service provided by your current mobile operator or if you feel you are paying too much, consider switching today.
Potential saving: €300
Total time: Two hours