The curious case of smartphone pricing in Ireland and how not to get ripped off

Ireland’s smartphone market is poor, with little options for anything more than an assortment of the top five or so brands in Europe. There’s very little actual choice, and the prices are astronomical. Why is our selection so poor, and what can we do about it? Consumers are getting ripped off left, right, and centre.

I walked into a Carphone Warehouse in Newry about a week ago, mainly in search of Xiaomi devices. The UK got a different selection to what we got, and I was curious if you could just walk over the border and have a different selection. To my dismay, it appears you can’t, but something else bothered me as well. I don’t tend to look at smartphone prices when out and about, seeing as I’ve bought mine online for years, but the prices seem a little steep for what you get. Something occurred to me though, and that’s that people actually pay these prices.

Flagship smartphones in Ireland are incredibly overpriced

Let’s start with flagships, given the fact that everybody wants either the latest Samsung Galaxy flagship or the latest iPhone. There are very few reasonable options if you don’t want to get locked into a contract. The Samsung Galaxy S9 costs an absolutely ridiculous price of €669 through the Carphone Warehouse, and that’s a starting price. Our very own Jack Price picked up the Samsung Galaxy S9+ for €615 from Amazon.fr, a much more reasonable cost for an even better phone than the one the Carphone Warehouse was selling.

These kinds of steep prices plague our market entirely, with Samsung devices only being examples. Samsung smartphones are charged completely reasonably outside of Ireland, yet for some reason retailers have placed a massive markup on each and every device sold here. It happens to iPhones, it happens to Samsungs, it happens to practically every device that crosses our borders. There is absolutely no reason for these devices to have such steep prices, other than, possibly, the convenience of being able to purchase the device and have it straight away, rather than a few days later. Is that luxury worth €150 more?

Mid-range smartphones in Ireland are incredibly overpriced

Let’s take the Huawei P20 Lite, as it’s one that particularly caught my eye. A nice phone on the surface, with a starting pre-pay cost of €220. I used a smartphone with the exact same chipset as the P20 Lite about a year back for a review, and it was quite possibly one of the worst phones I had used in recent years. Coupled with Huawei’s software being so heavily bloated, the phone was a laggy mess. I can expect no less from the P20 Lite, which is what really bothers me. It is not a good device, yet €220 is a steep asking price. It’s piggybacking off of the fame of the flagship Huawei P20 Pro, by all accounts an amazing smartphone. Admittedly, that’s priced a little steeper off-contract, around €600 in fact. These cheap Android smartphones that are filling the market enhance the perception of “Android bad, iPhone good”.

And if you think we’re past that perception, Ireland’s smartphone market share breakdown says otherwise. Apple still reigns supreme here by quite a large margin, despite our European counterparts in Germany and likewise actually favouring various Android devices quite heavily. We’re in a unique position in that our smartphone market, for some reason, heavily favours Apple. It may be worth noting that, given many of our US-centric beliefs, that the US also favours Apple in a similar fashion.

What may also be worth noting is that in mainland Europe, mid-range smartphones from all kinds of companies are everywhere. You can go to a store in Germany and purchase a ZTE smartphone, for example, yet we are stifled for choice in terms of brands available in Ireland. Huawei, Samsung, Nokia, HTC – and only recently have we gotten the option of Xiaomi – are basically the only brands widely available in Ireland. The Nokia 7.1 is available here at a starting price of €299, and while it’s a solid device, I would not pay anywhere near that much for it. Even still, reviews of the device in Ireland have praised it to the moon and back.

The Irish smartphone market is ripping off the consumer, but there are a few options for anyone that realises that.

Avoiding getting ripped off in the Irish smartphone market

There are a few options, but only one of them involves buying locally. If you guessed Xiaomi, you’re correct. We’ve done a lot of Xiaomi coverage recently, but with good reason. I’ve recommended their smartphones for years. and being able to buy them locally at a decent price is a godsend. The Xiaomi Redmi Note 5 starts at €199 and blows the Huawei P20 Lite out of the water. It is, by far, a much better smartphone and you will get infinitely more value for your money. Importing it from the likes of our sponsor, The Solution Shop, can also net you the 4GB of RAM variant for a similar price.

The next option involves importing, which we kind of touched on in the last section. The Xiaomi Pocophone F1 can be bought, again, from The Solution Shop for €300. There are so many low-cost options out there, and it may be worth looking at a few different brands. Xiaomi is where you’ll really get the best bang for buck value, but other manufacturers have something to offer as well.

But finally, there’s an option that nobody really thinks of. What about buying last year’s flagship second-hand? The Samsung Galaxy S9 replaced the Samsung Galaxy S8, by no means a bad smartphone. You can actually pick one up for as low as €350 off of Adverts, a website not exactly known for having great deals either. Going over to eBay reveals saner prices starting at €280. There are a lot of options if you allow yourself to purchase a smartphone second-hand, and if money is an issue then why limit yourself to buying new from carriers and stores?

If you’re looking for a flagship, all of the advice above applies. There really is no reason to be paying €220 for a smartphone that was outclassed back in 2017, let alone late 2018, and it’s about time that people realised that.

An Irish technology fanatic with a BSc in Computer Science. Lover of smartphones, cybersecurity, and Counter-Strike. You can contact me at adam.conway@irishtech.ie.
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