Buying a Smartphone in the Philippines

Buying a smartphone in the Philippines

Thinking of Buying a Smartphone in the Philippines?

You may be wondering if you should bring your smartphone on your trip to the Philippines, or would it make more sense to just buy one when you get there.  I will attempt to answer these questions as well as address several others in this article so please read on.

The first question you need to ask yourself is “how will you be using your device” while you are in the Philippines?

  1. Do you need to make or receive calls from your country of origin?
  2. Will your calls only be to local numbers in the Philippines?
  3. Will you need calls & text capability?
  4. How much data will you need?
  5. Will you need GPS functionality?I use this not only to locate my favorite places in Manila, but to also keep my Taxi drivers from running up the meter.  Check our post How to Avoid Taxi Scams in the Philippines to find out more.

The good news, is you have several options to choose from which we discuss in this article.

What Exactly is a Load?

When you have prepaid cellular service, reloading or top-up is needed for an uninterrupted service from the network. Of all the different ways to reload a cellphone, buying a prepaid card was popular. Because of security precautions and ease of use, electronic reloading came into existence.

Smart Communications first introduced this technology in the Philippines. SmartLoad was the name of the service. This service provided micro top-ups, which means that users can reload even with small denominations. Soon the service gained immense popularity. This type of service influenced may people to use cellphones in the Philippines.

After its success, the same company that incorporated the technology developed another service intended for prepaid users. The load transfer works the same way as that utilized in the reloading stations. But this time the methods were different. The load transfers support a small amount of money. It expires within 24 hours of the transfer.

When you are in the Philippines, there are three main mobile operators. They are Globe, Smart & Sun Cellular. They have a wide array of service that ranges from postpaid to prepaid plans. They even have their services from broadband at home to mobile internet. By using any of these services, you can send load to Philippine cell phone number.

Sending load to any number while you are vacationing in this area can be done in haste. Or, you can load any Philippine sell number from any part of the world as well. It is only a matter of a few minutes to send load to your friend, family member, and to your own cellphone. Send loads to any SIM cards and prepaid plans.

If you want to send load to any Philippine phone number, here are the simple steps.

  1. Enter your Philippine cell number to whom you want to send load. Here the country code, +63 will already be there. No need to enter it manually
  2. Choose your preferred load amount option. A load of 500 PHP, 300 PHP, or 150 PHP can be sent depending on your cellular carrier network
  3. You can pay safely and quickly with the help of your credit card to the retailer for releasing the prepaid load
  4. Now, click enter and wait for a few seconds. That’s it. Your recipient receives the load on their cell phone while staying in the Philippines

Globe Telecom – The most convenient and fastest method to load up Touch Mobile, Globe Gizmo or Globe SIMs numbers in the Philippines, is through Globe Telecom. You can load PHP 50, PHP 100, etc. Globe Autoload to any cellphone using USD. The loads cellphone number should have prefix +63 and followed by 817, 905, 900, 915, 905, 917, 916, 927, 926, 935 to 937, 945, 956, 955, 975 to 979, & 994 to 997.

Smart Communications – Want to load your Smart SIMs, Smart Bro, Telepwede, Smart Kids, Landline Plus, Talk �N Text, or Addict Mobile? Don’t worry, you have been covered. With the help of Smart Communications, you have the ability to load PHP 50, PHP 100, etc. Smart e-Load to existing cellphone having a Philippine number using USD. The cell phone numbers begins with prefix +63, and then followed by 813, 907 to 914, 918 to 921, 928 to 930, 938 to 940, 946 to 950, 970, 898, 981, 998, 992, and 999.

Sun Cellular – Whether it need to load 24/7 Call and Text Unlimited, 24/7 Text Unlimited, or Sun Cellular Expressload, you have been covered. There is an option to load PHP 300, PHP 150 Sun 24/7 call & text unlimited, PHP 150 Sun 24/7 text unlimited, or PHP 50, PHP 100, PHP 300 & PHP 500 to any Philippine phone number using USD. The loads can be sent that has a prefix +63 and followed by 922 to 925, 931 to 934, and 942 to 944.

Mobile Carriers in the Philippines

There are two major cellphone carriers in the Philippines, Globe, and Smart. Both these cellular networks are the best in their class. They provide you with prepaid SIM cards perfect for your needs in this area. Both these cellular carrier networks are providing good services. They have received numerous awards for their outstanding contributions to the world of communications.

Back in the year 2017 at Asia Communication Awards held in Singapore, Smart was considered as the best digital service provider in Asia for the year 2016. They were awarded because of their efforts to improve the digital services for the people of the Philippines. Globe wasn’t too far from achieving an important feat in the later part of 2016.

Globe became the leading telecommunications provider in the country during the 3rd quarter of 2016. They had more than 200,000 users than Smart. It didn’t take much time and in 2017, Globe became the country’s largest cellular operator. Back then, Globe had over 10 million subscribers.

You can buy prepaid SIM cards of any of the two network carriers right at the airport. If you don’t want to buy from the airport, these prepaid cards are available at local shops, supermarkets, phone kiosks, or from street vendors. You can get your preferred type of cards. Choose the one that suits your needs.

You can avail 2G on 900 MHz and 1800 MHz, 3G (HSPA+) on 900 megahertz on Globe and 850 megahertz on Smart, and 2100 megahertz for both Smart and Globe. Both these networks have rolled out 4G (LTE) throughout the nation. Globe is using frequency bands of 1800, 2500 and 2600 MHz, while Smart is using 850, 1800+ and 2100 MHz.

Both Globe and Smart provides prepaid SIM packages. When they are activated, you can enjoy a different kinds of perks. The more you load credits, the more you enjoy them. The load credits can be bought in supermarkets, local shops, online stores, and anywhere you see their logo.

The Smart Tourist LTE SIM is made available for free when you arrive at any international airport in the Philippines. All you need to do is show your international passport and claim one. This prepaid SIM card is loaded with about 300 megabytes of data. You can use them after activating the product. It is valid for only 3 days.

An extra 700 megabytes data get credited when you load with an amount of PHP30 in between three days of activation. This pack comes along with Uber and Iflix voucher cards. The Smart Prepaid LTE SIM costs around PHP 40. This SIM card is loaded with 300 megabytes of data.

But, you need to activate it first. It is valid for 3 days. If you load a minimum of PHP30 in three days of its activation, you can enjoy an additional 700 megabytes of data. You can also load through the Smart Online Store. Smart provides various kinds of data packages in the name of Big Bytes, SurfMax, GigaSurf, and All Out Surf data packages.

Globe TravelSurf provides free prepaid SIM cards especially crafted for travelers. You can avail them at various Globe booths spread across many international airports in the country. Globe Non-LTE prepaid SIM card costs around PHP40. It uses a 3G cellular network, and you can choose your own contact number.

If you want to use a 4G cellular network, you can opt for Globe LTE SIM cards. You get a pre-set contact number with this prepaid sim. These prepaid cards are available throughout the nation at authorized Load outlets of Globe. The data packages are called SuperSURF and GoSURF.

If you are a heavy data user, SuperSURF can be the better choice for you. If you are using your mobile for both data and calls, GoSURF is the best option for you. Before opting for an option, think about your priorities. You need not spend foolishly.

How Much Should I Pay for Cellular Services in the Philippines?

Cellular or mobile networks are available in almost every part of the Philippines. Most of the places have GSM, GPRS and LTE networks that are available to a wide range of prepaid SIM cards. You can choose between post-pay and prepaid contracts. Globe and Smart are the biggest cellular service providers in the country.

All the important information relating to contract types, rates, or fees can be found out in the operator’s store or website. Prepaid cards are best suited if you won’t make many calls. Very cheap mobile cards are available throughout the country. When you buy prepaid cards from the airport, it may be expensive.

When you buy a prepaid card you also need loads. These loads can be found at the lowest rate of PHP10 (or $0.23). However, while buying these cards, ensure that they are valid. Watch out for the expiry date on the backside of the prepaid load card to find their validity.

SMART Packages

Both Smart Prepaid and Smart Tourist LTE SIM cards are available in denominations of PHP500, PHP300, and PHP100. When you load through their online store, you can have PHP1000, PHP500, PHP300, PHP200, PHP100, or PHP50.

SurfMax data packages (contains 800MB per day):

• PHP50 – full-day surfing for one day
• PHP299 – full-day surfing for seven days
• PHP999 – full-day surfing for thirty days

Big Bytes data package:

• PHP5 – 15 MB for one day
• PHP10 – 40 MB for two days + 200 MB music stream
• PHP15 – 40 MB for two days + 300 MB multimedia entertainment
• PHP30 – 100 MB for one day + 400 MB music stream

All Out Surf data packages:

• PHP20 – 150 MB for one day + unlimited SMS + 20-minutes free calls
• PHP30 – 300 MB for two days + unlimited SMS + 20-minutes free calls
• PHP50 – 500 MB for three days + unlimited SMS + 20-minutes free calls
• PHP99 – 1 GB for seven days + unlimited SMS + 20-minutes free calls

GigaSurf data packages:

• PHP50 – 1 GB for three days + multimedia freebies
• PHP99 – 2 GB for seven days + multimedia freebies
• PHP299 – 2 GB for thirty days + multimedia freebies
• PHP799 – 4.5 GB for thirty days + multimedia freebies

Globe Packages

Globe TravelSurf and Non-LTE card denominations come in PHP1000, PHP500, PHP300, PHP150, and PHP100. OTA prepaid load starts from PHP10 to PHP900 on non-LTE SIM cards.

GoSURF data packages:

• PHP15 – 40 MB for two days + freebies
• PHP50 – 1 GB for three days + freebies
• PHP299 – 1.5 GB for thirty days + freebies
• PHP599 – 4 GB for thirty days + freebies
• PHP999 – 8 GB for thirty days + freebies

SuperSURF data packages (contains 800MB per day):

• PHP50 – full-day surfing for one day
• PHP120 – full-day surfing for three days
• PHP200 – full-day surfing for five days
• PHP999 – full-day surfing for thirty days

Can I bring my own cell phone from USA?

It greatly depends on your choice whether you want to buy a new cell phone in the Philippines or carry your own phone from the US. Many people tend to bring their own phones while traveling to this part of the world. Yes, you can bring a phone from the US along with you.

However, using an American cell phone in this area can be difficult sometimes. It may even be worse if you aren’t prepared from the beginning. There are many US smartphones or cellphones that simply won’t work under the Philippine cell networks. Even if some of them may work, the per-minute costs are very high.

However, there are certain ways through which you can use your phone. The first thing is to find out whether your phone is compatible with Philippine cell networks. The second thing is to learn about the potential costs that may incur while using the services.

You can also buy a local SIM card if your cellphone is unlocked. Using a local SIM will ensure full compatibility and low costs. Here are some steps that may help you to make the good use of your US cell phone while you are traveling to the Philippines.

Step no. 1 – The first thing you need to do is to contact your service provider. Almost every cellphone service company provides overseas access. They may even help you in the Philippines, but maybe you need to sign up for their services. While signing-up, check the rate of costs. The calls can be a bit expensive even it has an international plan.

Step no. 2 – Make your selection based on the GSM network. That’s because the Philippines has a GSM cellular network. According to the CNET, only AT&T and T-Mobile carry a GSM network in the US. Other providers in the US use the CDMA cellular network. They may even have fewer roaming capabilities than T-Mobile and AT&T overseas.

Step no. 3 – Check out the frequency of your cellphone. According to CNET and Planet Omni, Philippine cell networks uses 900 MHz and 1800 MHz bands. In other words, having a GSM cell phone doesn’t mean that you can utilize the cellular network in this area. Your handset should be a GSM enabled phone having multi-frequencies with the ability to operate at 900 megahertz or 1800 megahertz.

Step no. 4 – It is better to unlock your phone. When your handset is locked, it restricts your usage to your home cellular network and your carrier’s international call rates. Almost every electronic store can unlock your phone. It will allow you to use other cellular networks including the local ones.

Step no. 5 – Once your phone gets unlocked, you can use a local prepaid SIM (Subscriber Identity Module) card. You can avail plenty of local SIM cards in the Philippines. The local SIM cards can help you to make local phone calls at a cheap price as compared to the home carrier service. Because of this, you can control your cellphone expenses. You can set the amount on your card and use it at your ease.

Step no. 6 – This process works fine while you are in the Philippines. But if you want to make a call to the US numbers, it’s better to use your US SIM card. While calling to the US, make use of your original SIM card. Replace your prepaid card with the home carrier card that you were having.

It is recommended to know from the local vendor about the coverage of the network in the places that you will visit. There are areas where the signal strength and coverage vary with the network service provider. Also, check out whether the provider has outlets in those areas.

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