We spend on average 133 million euros a month on our mobile phone bills but many of us are shelling out more than we need to.
Conor Brophy was here with some advice on how to manage your mobile.
Navigating mobile price plans is torturous. Presumably that's why people end up on a plan that's not necessarily the cheapest or best one for them?
Exactly. Inherent difficulty is that you really need to have a good idea of what your usage habits with your phone are before you can judge what network and price plan suits you best. It's hard even to know whether you should have a pre-paid phone which you buy credit for (as is the case for the majority of us) or whether a monthly contract would be better value until you know how often you use the phone and for what? Ballpark figures: the average spend per month is €26.50 but there's a big gap between what the average pre-paid users spends each month (€16.50) and what the average monthly bill for those on contracts is (€40).
That's your starting point. If you use your phone only infrequently and find that €10 or €20 of credit will do you for a month then a pre-paid phone is definitely the way to go. Once you head towards the €30 mark it may make more financial sense to have a monthly bill though, obviously, that depends on whether you want to be tied in to a longer term commitment with all that entails (12-24 month contract with break fees if you decide you want to cancel before your contractual term is over).
What are the best value pre-paid plans then?
I had Carphone Warehouse Ireland crunch the numbers. They're not tied with any individual network or handset maker. The best value prepay plan according to them was with the 3 network: €20 euro top up offers unlimited data and texts to all Irish networks .
If you decide a monthly bill is a better option how do you find the best one for you?
With great difficulty is the short answer! Somewhere out there is, more than likely, a plan which will give you the optimum amount of voice call minutes, texts and internet usage but finding that plan unless you have done a detailed analysis of your usage habits over a year or so (and who has the time to do that?) is very difficult.
The Communications Regulator (Comreg) has a website that purports to compare plans but requires you to have done a lot of legwork up front if you're going to get the most out of it.
One way of short-circuiting some of that work is to contact your own network operator and ask them whether the plan you are on with them is the best one they offer based on your usage patterns
(believe it or not they're generally happy to do this and I've done it myself as proof of concept). If not get them to tell you which plan would be better but don't agree to sign up just yet.
That at least gives you one network's best offer based on their analysis of your phone bills. The operators tend to mark each other reasonably closely on offers so if you know that Vodafone's Red Essentials is the best one they'll offer you, it's easier to then go to 3, Meteor or O2 and ask them what their equivalent plan is and see whether or not it will save you money.
The Red Essentials plan, incidentally, was the one Carphone Warehouse recommended as the best entry-level contract plan. That's €35 a month and includes unlimited texts to any network. Bear in mind, though, that it's a 24 month contract. Customer is liable for monthly rental for remainder of the contract.
For heavier phone users Meteor's smart essential plan was the top pick. For €49 euro per month , this offers unlimited calls and texts to all irish landlines and mobiles. It also comes with with unlimited data usage for the first 3 months and 3GB (that's still a considerable amount) thereafter.
There is a third way, though, outside of signing up to a monthly contract or opting for a pre-paid phone. Tell us about "SIM-only" mobile deals…
SIM-only means you buy a phone that you can use on any network. You then just get the SIM card from the network operator and sign up to the appropriate plan. Those deals are very attractive in that you're not tied in to a lengthy contract.
Blueface Unlimited offers calls and texts for €30 per month. If you're an Eircom customer it has a plan for €24 per month that offers unlimited calls and texts and 5GB of data.
In fact most of the networks come in at around €30 a month. Some offer better rates and amounts of data for internet usage, others offer better deals on roaming. The reason they appear to be better value is that when you sign up to a contract that comes with a phone the network is subsidising part of the cost of that handset.
So, for example, some price plans will give you the newest model of Apple iPhone or a Samsung S5 (their latest smartphone) for free. If you wanted to buy an iPhone 5 yourself it would set you back €699.
If you're not that bothered with owning a smartphone or using the internet on your phone can you still get a no-frills phone?
Yes you can. Samsung Keystone (€30) is the current best-seller in that end of the market. The nokia 113 also comes highly recommended at €40. Both, I'm told, are easy to use and perfectly suited to the smartphobe!
The European Parliament recently voted to scrap roaming charges - subject to agreement from EU member states - how expensive are they?
The legal maximums now for roaming charges are set to be cut in July. It's 24 cent a minute for an outgoing call at present but it will fall to 19 cent this summer. It's 5 cent a minute for incoming calls (some operators - including Meteor - don't charge for incoming calls while you're roaming) 6 cent per text and 20 cent per megabyte if you're downloading data while roaming. Those charges have come down substantially under pressure from the EU Commission in recent years but that doesn't mean roaming is cheap.