First, unlike Seattle where every other storefront sells coffee, in Ireland every other shop is a mobile phone operator. They're everywhere.
And the really big difference is prepaid. I picked up a Samsung Europa for €49, no contract. "Locked" to 3, but only if you're not capable of searching "unlock" on google. (Yes, the number 3 is an Irish telecom company.) For €20, the "topup" includes unlimited data for a month, unlimited 3-3 calling/texting, and 29c/minute out of network, free on weekends. Every tiny little shop in the country sells minutes, too, so it's trivial to buy more.
If I lived here and had even a tiny bit of patience, that same Europa goes for €39 delivered. (And they sell for more than that on ebay. My wife said we're on vacation, and I'm not supposed to pack 200 of them in my suitcase to resell at a profit. Shame. I did point this out to the young guy in the 3 shop though, and he looked thoughtful.)
It's an Android 2.2 device. It's not great (no multitouch, small screen, slow compared to my wife's Nexus One), but it's OK.
The iPhone is a nice chunk of hardware, but it's €569 - TEN TIMES the price of an Android phone. Yes, you can get it for free on a contract, but it's a middle-class extravagance. If you think you might be worried about cash next month, I don't see how you buy one.
I had no idea how much cheaper Android phones were over here. I'm not seeing a whole lot of iPhones; it's not like home.
Oh, and if you do bring an unlocked Android GSM phone with you, they'll tell you the unlimited data for €20 plan doesn't work for tethering. Works great, though.
James - if you were to head to Ireland as a first-timer, where would you go? I have always wanted to go, and I have no idea where to visit. Regards, Matt
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