You are correct -- this HAS been covered MULTIPLE times (Like Car Rentals) -- BUT, because of the complexity of the issues involed (Like with Car Rentals), the questions typically resurface fairly regularly. No Worries -- and NO apologies are necessary ...
Also, given the normal layout of most Forums, older posts and Threads are 'Pushed' further and further "Down" as newer, more commented upon Threads are created. That explains ONE of the reasons why Michele so wisely added a 'Sticky' to the Car Rental issue, in order to 'Freeze' it at the "Top" ...
And now, hopefully, some answers:
In the US, there are four major cell phone companies -- Sprint, Verizon, T-Mobile and AT&T -- many of the OTHERS (like Tracfone, for example) are either OWNED by, or lease use of, the networks maintained by the Big Four.
Verizon and Sprint utilize a technology known as CDMA, whereas T-Mobile and AT&T use GSM. CDMA and GSM are NOT cross-compatible. That means that you can't walk into an AT&T store with your Verizon Iphone and just 'switch' companies -- You would have to get a brand new Iphone that was built to work with GSM. With VERY few exceptions (mostly not worth mentioning) nearly all phones are EITHER/OR, and NOT, both.
Nearly all the rest of the world uses GSM for their networks, but there is one further, MAJOR distinction -- the FREQUENCY of the GSM channels used. In the US, typically, the two bands used are either 850 or 1900, but in Europe, the channels used include either 800 or 1800. GSM phones can be (and are) manufactured to use one, two, three or all four bands and once built, cannot readily be modified or changed. A US, dual band GSM phone would operate on ONLY 850 and 1900 and COULD not work in Europe -- likewise, a European dual band would work on 800 and 1800, but couldn't connect to a US network. A Triband COULD work, but you would have fewer problems and more reliable connection, with a Quad-Band.
Adding to THAT confusion, if you buy your phone from your Service Provider (Sprint/Verizon or T-Mobile/AT&T, they sell it to you at a discount (usually SUBSTANTIALLY below their cost), making up their Loss on the Hardware by requiring you to commit to a time-specific contract. To enforce that contract, they use software (or, in the case of the Iphone, Firmware (hardware) ) to 'LOCK' the phone so that it can ONLY connect through THEIR network. A whole industry has arisen to "Unlock" phones, but USUALLY, once your contract has expired, MOST companies will provide you with the "Unlock" Code, on request. Now, for obvious reasons -- $$$$ -- some are rather slow to respond to your request -- and in the case of Iphones, not really ABLE to (due to the 'Firmware'), it can be a sometimes lengthy and drawn-out procedure.
In the case of YOUR Verizon Iphone, it's MOOT, anyway -- since CDMA phones will NOT work on Irish networks -- even if they ARE unlocked. With GSM phones, the account data is stored on a small chip, called a SIM card. It looks kind of like a small version of an SD Memory card -- like those usually used in Digital Cameras. The 'Unlock' code allows a phone to "accept" SIM cards from ANY GSM network.
It is possible to buy a new, or used, Factory Unlocked GSM phone -- on Ebay, Amazon, Fry's and even, at Best Buy. MY current phone is a Nokia 6110 Navigator, with built-in GPS (that works independantly from the phone). I bought it about 5 or 6 years ago, for about $400, on Ebay from a vendor in Singapore. While in the US, I have a T-Mobile 'Pay-As-You-Go' account and I buy a $20-30 'Top Up' about ever 2-3 months. I also have an account with Vodaphone, Ireland and a typical, 2-3 week visit usually is easily handled by a 10 Euro 'Top Up'. Now, such an arraingment is good FOR ME, because I go to Ireland EVERY year, we have elderlyparents and young grandchildren and don't wish to be 'Out of Touch'
Currently, the best Mobile Phone bargains in Ireland seems to be through Tesco. You can buy a Tesco Mobile SIM for about 3 Euro -- and it is often FREE, if you ALSO purchase a 10 Euro 'Top Up', at the same time. Calls to the US are about 2 cents per minute, ALL Incoming calls are free and the 10 Euro will likely cover your entire needs, with PLENTY of minutes to spare.
You could buy a basic (Call and Text) unlocked Quad-Band GSM phone on Ebay or the others for about $50 (or less) and a FAIRLY advanced one for $1-200, or a REALLY advanced one for up to $600 -- but if all you are looking for is a basic, inexpensive 'Travel Phone', you can walk into any phone shop or Tesco store in Ireland and buy a Basic GSM Phone with charger, for under 30 Euro -- I've seen them as cheap as 19 Euro. Add in 10 Euro for a 'Top Up' and you have a working, Irish Mobile Phone for less than 40 Euro (about $52 US).
Now, THAT phone would be a Dual-Band, LOCKED phone -- only good for the network that it comes with. If you plan to travel to Europe REGULARLY, it would probably be worth it to spend a bit extra and pre-purchase an 'Unlocked' Quad-Band. But if you don't expect or plan to, or -- like Roy -- will be making REPEATED trips to Ireland then 'Regular' Tesco is probably MORE than adequate ....
And, YES -- In Ireland Pay Phones ARE getting harder and harder to find.
Hope this helps ...
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Wow! Very complete answer. Thanks Bob. Even I am starting to understand it now.Sue,I have a Mobal phone, which now costs $29. I like it because it is a cell phone for idiots (and I am one). I ordered it before my trip, charged it up and went.
I never have to "top it up" and it works in over 160 countries. I only get charged for my actual calls and it works most anywhere in Ireland. Although I did experience a dead zone near Armagh once.
Since I don't make a lot of calls it suits me. People who make or receive a lot of calls will find the calls more expensive than purchasing one in Ireland. See terms on website. Only downside is I have a UK phone number. To call within the Republic of Ireland I have to dial: 0035 + area code minus zero + the phone number.
You can certainly buy a Tesco (or other phone) on arrival in Ireland and the calls will cost less than Mobal. Each individual must assess their usage and what is best for their circumstances.
Whenever I travel internationally I just charge my Mobal phone and am good to go.
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you seem to have a great handle on the cell phone situation! One more question if you don't mind..My son has an unlocked Blackberry he no longer uses so I am borrowing that to carry in case of emergencies.. Do I just take it into a phone shop and ask them for a SIM card? Will they put it in for me? And do you know if there is a phone shop in Shannon airport?
i guess that was more than one question :). Thank you for your patience and help.
Don't have a lot of personal experience with the Blackberry. I THINK remember hearing that the email and data functions aren't compatable, but the phone and text part work fine.
If your son knows the Unlock code, you should bring it along -- some phones want you to enter it every time you put in a new SIM, but some don't.
If you buy 10 Euro of 'Top Up' time, the SIM should be FREE.
Yes, the employee WILL install it, if you ask -- it's quite easy.
The last I knew, there was NOT a phone shop IN Shannon Airport. The nearest is in a Shopping Center, in Shannon town, but as you are bussing to Galway, your best option is to wait until Galway to buy a SIM. Should be plenty of choices.
Across the street from the Galway Bus Station is Eyre Square Center. There is a Vodaphone shop there and a Carphone Warehouse. http://www.eyresquarecentre.com/level2big.png The nearest Tesco is a few blocks away, though and might be a bit too far, since you are trying to make that Tour connection.
Valuable information, Tony. Thank you. Will the Vodophone shop have Meteor? Or is it a specialty store?
Meteor is a different company from Vodaphone, but they have a shop in the same Eyre Square Center. Likewise, Carphone Warehouse is an authorized agent.
"Across the street from the Galway Bus Station is Eyre Square Center.Â There is a Vodaphone shop there and a Carphone Warehouse. http://www.eyresquarecentre.com/level2big.png "
This cell phone stuff is indeed, confusing. I have Verizon and a Droid 4. Verizon says my phone is unlocked and would work in Ireland. I would have to pay a global plan fee ($4.99 I think) then my rates would be $.50 to send a text and $.05 to receive texts, and $.99/min to call the US. I will be in Ireland for 11 days. I need to be able to call home a few times on the trip and to send and received texts. My husband and I are both bringing our phones (his is an AT&T Iphone 4S but is global ready as its a business phone.) I want to be able to use my phone to also make calls within Ireland. I am thinking that it may be cheaper to get a Tesco SIM card while there and do the 10 Euro top off. The rates to US are $.02/min. (in euros) Texts are $.14 (not sure if this is send or receive or both.) Rates within Ireland are $.20 voice and $.10 text (euros). Is this indeed, cheaper? I am so confused.
Thanks Tony for the clarification. It seems the Tesco Sim card is the way to go. We arrive on a Sunday and this will be one of the first priorities...find a Tesco store.
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okay.....we arrive in cork on August 23rd. I just got off the phone with our cellphone provider, Verizon. The agent said that for a flat fee of $4.50 (prorated for 14 days) we could unlock my husband' iPhone 4s and use this phone in Ireland. Charges were quoted at .99/min sending and receiving calls, .50/txt and .05/receiving txt. We, of course, will turn off data. Does this sound like a workable plan? I had been investigating purchasing an inexpensive modaphone approx $30.00 and then buying a prepaid card (not sure what that cost is). Advice please?
Depends how much use you want to make of your phone. The general consensus across the forums is that a cheap tesco phone with E10 credit so under E25 will get you through a couple of weeks visit. You could probably buy on line and have the phone delivered to your Cork accommodation. http://shop.tescomobile.ie/phones/displayPhone.aspx?p=122
We have purchased two cell phones from Tesco: one for Northern Ireland and one for the Republic. We purchased these on two separate occasions, and we have not been sorry for getting our mobile phone service this way rather than paying to have International Service on our iPhones.
I will be in Ireland this Sept - Nov, and while researching vehicles to rent, I found that I can hire a mobile WiFi unit (like I have here at home) for 35 a week. I am so excited, because now I don't need to worry about whether or not an accommodation has WiFi or not. I can keep in touch with family, post on our website and social media, and keep in contact with my clients (as a travel consultant, that's important to me)! This is the first time I will be traveling with an iPad rather than a laptop, and I'm interested to see how this works. This is another reason that the mobile WiFi is a real plus for me.
Kathy,You might want to take a look at my blog. Bob has written a comprehensive article about gizmos and gadgets in Ireland. He bought a mobile hot spot in Ireland. Since you are going to be there for so long, perhaps owning one that you can top up might be more cost effective. http://irelandyes.wordpress.com/2013/08/19/gizmos-and-gadgets-confessions-of-a-techno-geek-in-ireland/ Michele
As luck would have it, I did just read Bob's post! I am going to look into the particulars and see if I want to invest in anymore technology. Considering that we end up going to Ireland at least once a year, it might be a better option (as you said).
(P.S. I apologize for the confusion with having two separate log-ins for your forum. I didn't actually realize I had done that! I don't remember actually setting up the one I used when I posted on this thread previously...)