Will you be buying the new iPhone X?

Here in Ireland the new iPhone X will be available to pre-order from the 27th October at 8.01am.

The iPhone X (the 'X' being a roman numeral, so it's pronounced 'ten') page on the Apple web site already lists the prices as:

  • €1,179 for the 64 GB version
  • €1,349 for the 256 GB version

That's a lot of money for a mobile phone. For comparison, the Samsung Galaxy S8 sells for about €650, and the OnePlus 5 starts at €500 – half the price of the iPhone X. So is this latest iPhone worth the money? Is it twice as good as those Android phones?

No!

Are people still going to queue up to buy it?

Definitely!

The thing is that this is an Apple product, and Apple products are not just phones or computers – they're aspirational items. They are premium products that people are willing to pay premium prices for.

A BMW 5 series costs roughly twice as much as a Skoda Superb. Both are lovely cars, and drive you from A to B in relative comfort. But the BMW isn't twice as good as the Skoda – it isn't twice as fast, or twice as comfortable. So when you buy a BMW you are paying for much more than the car – you are paying for the brand.

You are paying to own a car that proclaims its own expensiveness. That's why premium products have such obvious branding on them. Because after all, why would anyone pay more for a product that looks identical to the much cheaper equivalent?

In the 10 years since Apple first released the iPhone they have successfully positioned it as not just 'a' smartphone, but 'the' smartphone for people to aspire to.

People might justify (to themselves or others) buying the iPhone X for the superior operating system, or because they think it has the best screen, best camera, or best looking handset. But at the end of the day, they are really buying it for what it says about them.

And I don't think there's anything wrong with that. If owning the iPhone X makes them happy, then good. I'm happy for them. I may even take an interest if one of my friends or colleagues gets one – just as I would be interested to look at their brand new BMW – but not enough to part with the cash for either the phone or the car myself.

I used to own an iPhone 3G and an iPhone 4 back in the day – and I still think they're nice devices – but I couldn't justify to myself to keep paying the premium prices for successive iPhones, and I switched over to Android instead.

I guess that value for money matters more to me than brand – even if I do still lust over the latest and greatest technology out there.

Data Roaming in the USA

I go over to the US a few times each year, and I want to continue using the data on my mobile phone. However, roaming data charges can be expensive.

The roaming data charges, per megabyte (for prepay and contract phones) on the Irish networks are:

And as anyone knows, one MB hardly goes anywhere these days. I sometimes use as much as 200MB a day, so if I used my Eir SIM for roaming data, it could cost me over €2,000 a day!

Data Bundles

Of course, there are often roaming data bundles available, but you need to shop around for the best deals, and set them up in advance:

  • Vodafone – Red Roaming – 200MB of data for €2.99 per day
  • Vodafone – Connect Abroad – 100MB of data for €18.45 per day
  • Eir – USA Data Add-on – 200MB of data for €19.99
  • Three – No data bundles available

The Vodafone Red Roaming is clearly the best value for money, and that's the roaming deal I use for my trips. I just need to be careful to ensure that my APN is correctly configured.

Signing up for Red Roaming

Vodafone prepay and contract customers need to elect to use Red Roaming to avail of the roaming deal. It can be set up in the "My Vodafone" self-care web site, or by texting the word 'RED' to 50020 to opt in.

It's worth noting that if you run out of credit on Vodafone prepay you may be automatically de-subscribed from Red Roaming without notification, and then end up paying a lot more for data.

You also need to remember that the 200MB per day allowance runs from midnight to midnight Irish time. So if you're in Los Angeles (8 hours behind Dublin) your allowance runs from 4pm to 4pm each day.

What about a Roaming or USA SIM?

One other option to consider, if you travel a lot is to get a specialist roaming SIM card (available from a number of companies), or a SIM card for a US cellular network.

A typical offer of a specialist Roaming SIM is one from Roam Mobility, where it costs $10 to buy a SIM card, and then another $21.95 to buy 1GB of data. Similarly ZipSIM charges $30 for 1GB of data.

The US network T-Mobile also offers a Prepaid International Tourist Plan, which gives you 3 week of voice, texts and 2GB of data for $30. That's not a bad if you're visiting for more than a few days and also expect to make phones calls and send texts.

Dual SIM Phones

Sometimes the best deal for roaming data is from someone that isn't your regular mobile provider. And unless you fancy switching to another mobile number while you travel, you may want to consider getting a dual-SIM mobile phone.

I have a OnePlus 5 mobile that can take 2 SIM cards. So I have my regular Meteor/Eir SIM for use at home, and a second prepay Vodafone SIM for mobile data roaming.

When I'm travelling, I can have both SIM cards active in my phone at the same time. I can set my Meteor SIM to be used for calls and texts – so that I can contact family and friends – and set the Vodafone SIM to be used for data.

SIM & Network Settings

I just need to remember to switch the mobile data between Meteor and Vodafone each time I get on the plane.

OnePlus 5

I’m very much looking forward to the arrival of my new OnePlus 5 phone.

I’ve been a OnePlus fan for a while now, having migrated from using the Nexus phones. I like to have a high-spec phone, but don’t like paying the premium prices that the likes of Samsung and Apple demand.

I used to have a OnePlus 1 and currently use a OnePlus 3 (my wife has the OnePlus 3T as well), but about 2 weeks after a bought by OnePlus 3 I managed to put a huge scratch across its face – and I’ve been looking at that scratch for about a year now. It wasn’t bad enough to warrant buying a replacement OnePlus 3, but now that the OnePlus 5 is out I have the excuse to upgrade handsets.

If you’re planning to buy one yourself, you might be interested in this referral code that will get you €20 off accessories when you buy a OnePlus 5. Here’s the link: https://oneplus.net/ie/invite#W5ZGN6VN63274F

Vodafone Ireland Red Roaming APN

I was using Vodafone Ireland for roaming data while I’m visiting the USA, but was concerned to see my prepay credit being eaten up incredibly quickly.

The Red Roaming plan is meant to give me 200MB of data a day for €2.99, but after only using about 5MB of data and sending a couple of texts my €25 of credit was gone!

I checked the Vodafone terms and conditions and found out that the 200MB allowance is only available on the “Live” and “Blackberry” APNs. My phone was set to use the “ISP” APN (isp.vodafone.ie) and as such was being charged something like €6 per MB.

Be sure to have the correct APN selected, or it could cost you!

I’ve changed the APN to now use the “Live” APN (live.vodafone.ie) and my credit isn’t disappearing as before.

Two months with a OnePlus One

OnePlus One

There’s been a lot of hype surrounding the release of the OnePlus One mobile phone since it was announced just over a year ago.

Even today the Chinese manufacturer still maintains a certain air of mystery and supposed exclusivity by maintaining an invite-only means of ordering. They also run promotions every now and again to enable people without an invite to order, such as the one-hour sale they had at the end of October – and that’s how I got mine.

The OnePlus One is not sold in high street or online shops – it’s only available to order from the manufacturer’s website. It’s also not on sale in Ireland, but you can easily use Parcel Motel to bypass delivery restrictions.

I wasn’t 100% convinced I’d like this phone before I ordered it.  I was worried that the handset would be too big, because it has a 5.5 inch screen – a significant step up in size from my old 5 inch Google Nexus 5. But in actual usage it feels very comfortable in my hand. I can just-about operate it with one hand, but the far edges of the screen are a bit of a stretch. I’d also say that it occasionally digs into me when I’m sat down with it in my jeans pocket.

The screen and camera are both better quality than my previous phone, and everything just seems to run a bit quicker.  But by far the biggest improvement over other smartphones I’ve had is the battery life.  I fiddle with my phone pretty-much all day, and I found that after a year’s usage of my Nexus 5 that the battery was running down by late afternoon.  Not so with the OnePlus One, which has a huge battery capacity.  I’ve never come close to running out of battery, even when I’m out of the house for 12-14 hours.

One other difference the OnePlus One has over its rivals is the operating system.  It run something called CyanogenMod, which is a variant of Android. However, there’s no steep learning curve when switching from other Android phones – it’s just like Android, but with a bunch of extra options and features available.

The price is also a bargain in comparison to other mobiles.  My 64GB model cost £269 (about €360 at today’s exchange rate), but the 16GB version cost just £229 (€305).  That’s compared against €699 for the cheapest iPhone 6 from the Apple store, or about €650 for a Samsung Galaxy S5.

All in all, I’m very happy with the phone, and would recommend getting one if you are able.

4G/LTE Restrictions in Ireland

One thing to note with the OnePlus One is that it only supports a limited number of 4G (LTE) frequencies. It supports bands 1, 3, 4, 7, 17, 38 and 40.  Currently in Ireland, Vodafone uses band 20, Meteor uses bands 3 and 20, and 3 use band 3.

So you should be fine to connect using 4G with Meteor or 3, but if you’re with Vodafone you’ll have to make do with 3G.  Having said that, I’m with Vodafone, and I get download speeds of 15 or 16 Mbps on the 3G HSPDA, so I can totally live without 4G.