Android in Ireland… No Luck for the Irish!

irish_AndroidThis post could be rather short because as of today (23rd of September 2009) none of the 4 main mobile phone operators doing business in Ireland have an Android device on offer… not one! You can get the latest Nokia N97, the iPhone 3GS, any flavors of BlackBerry even a couple of Windows Mobile devices but no Android.

We have a problem…!

The problem is that the only way to use an Android device is to buy it unlocked from abroad, once fitted with a Sim-card and configured with the correct APN settings, they are working just fine. However, that means you can’t get it subsidised. You have to pay the full price for a new or try to  grab one second hand. While some (like me!) will prefer (and can afford) to have an unlocked handset, lots of people will not have the funds to buy new mobile phone this way and have to rely on the subsidised from their mobile phone operator.

The second issue is with the Android Market. From Ireland you can only see and install the free applications and none of the paid apps. I would assume that it is so because “officially” there are no-one using an Android phone in Ireland. I am only speculating here by the way as there are no indications anywhere of how it is decided, if anyone knows, feel free to add a comment.

There are few other issues, like getting support for your unlocked device. Even if this is a problem with the network, the mobile phone operator will quickly blame the unsupported device. It is also difficult for mobile devices developers based in Ireland, they can’t be motivated to develop for a platform that virtually no-one is using at home, nonetheless few ( or are trying, fair-play to them!


I’ve tried to figure out why Ireland is so far behind… and it does not make sense.

  • We have a strong Google presence in Ireland (EU Headquarters) and a good part of the employees (nearly 2000 it seems), if not all of them, got a G1 (lucky they are!). I am not sure if Google Ireland has an agreement with an operator or if each employee is free to use whomever they wanted though… If someone knows, please share with a comment.
  • There are few Irish companies developing Android applications and they need support, in other words they should be able to sell locally their applications.
  • The technology used for the networks is the same as in many other countries (GSM, UTMS, HSDPA, EDGE,…), nothing fancy or old. Proof is that my HTC Hero is working just fine.
  • While this is a small country, there are plenty of subscribers (4,809,857 in June 2009). If the iPhone managed to be successful with just one operator (O2) and very unattractive contracts (minimum is 45 euro per month for only 1 GB!). I am sure any Android devices from HTC, Samsung or Motorola will do just great! Also you can get Android devices on smaller markets (Malta for example, roughly 10 times smaller than Ireland).
  • The cherry on top… 3 of the 4 operators are large groups operating in other countries: Vodafone, O2 and Three. In these countries, they are “offering” Android devices (see Table below)!

One of the excuses they will give when asked about introducing new devices, is that they have not been approved for the network… How come an HTC Magic that is working in 12 countries for Vodafone (a member of the open handset alliance by the way!), can not be introduced TODAY on the Irish market… No technical issues, no language issues (already available in English in UK)… So why?! If anyone from Vodafone (or any other operator) can answer, please feel free!

While doing some research for this post I found this article from one year ago… “Asked last week if Vodafone would be considering launching with its own version of the HTC Dream, Vodafone Ireland’s chief executive, Charles Butterworth said: “The answer is yes, over time. I’m sure we will, but without getting into the specifics of which market and how.””,  so I guess they got the specifics wrong for Ireland! Also it seems that even the new HTC Tattoo will be launched in October on Vodafone UK, nothing about it on Vodafone Ireland :-(.

I hope that the situation will change soon so that I will be able, like many other users, access all the apps in the market and reward developers by buying the labour of their work. I also hope that soon many Android devices will be available for a moderate cost for anyone to buy as they are simply great devices loaded with an exciting platform. From what I have read on different blogs and forums, Ireland is not alone in the Android devices desert… please share your feeling if you have the same issues in your country.

  • Noel

    i saw your comment that Android devices are available in Malta also. Vodafone(Malta) is offering the HTC magic without contract for 500 euros while on ebay i can get a new one for 285 euros delivery included. To get a free one you have to get a contract for 85 euros monthly. I don' t really see that as a subsidy

    • Claire

      Noel, i just checked the voda page and even though it costs Eur85, you also get 5GB of internet usage apart from all the free minutes and everything.
      Now theres also a sale going on and it is at Eur100 less.
      I bought my htc from ebay and its new for the price of Eur200 including delivery.

  • Barry

    I too bought a Hero unlocked, and it is great – switched from an iPhone! I find it incredible that no operators here are introducing it.

    I got around the "no paid market in Ireland" by inserting a pre-paid UK T-Mobile SIM when I want to buy something – you don't actually need to use the SIM, and can just access over WiFi, but all the paid apps show up fine.

  • Joe

    Well said! I've been pestering Vodafone Ireland about this for months. The reply is always: "we're testing the devices with our network. It should be available in {now + 2 months}."

    Either Vodafone Ireland have network "issues" that no other VF network has. Or maybe this is commercial ("omg, we will need a cheap data plan"). But they do have a cheap data plan (1GB / month for EUR 9)… Or maybe the network capacity isn't there?

    I'm very disappointed in Vodafone Ireland. It's so typical of Irish telecoms operations… always a day late and a dollar short.

  • crash72

    Barry, good to know by using a pre-paid sim I could get paid apps, I have had a Magic in New Zealand for almost 4 months now and paid apps is still unavailable here. Although I appreciate free apps, to be honest I get sick them because they are too buggy.

  • gdbjoe

    Try this to get paid apps:

    • Thank you very much. It worked!!

  • it's not on cyrket anymore

  • I guess the Irish aren't so lucky on this Google Android problem. Maybe they can go on ebay.

  • Nice post guys really good! But since Android is a reality in Ireland.
    Here a quick link to an Irish directory with Android Apps related with Ireland, Dublin, Cork, etc.

    Directory of Android apps dedicated to Ireland.
    Ireland EspalAndroid

    A selection of the best Irish apps for Android that bring you the services you need every day. Train schedule and time table, information about the city and several services to make your life easier.

    Check out our site if you are in the Android mood…

    Thanks guys for your support

  • elnono

    Wow, great web mate, let me share a link where i found plenty of apps