The thing that makes me laugh is that many smartphone options are only usable in and around the “downtown” areas of the cities. There are people who will brag about those options in the rural areas, even if they can’t use them.
The first time I wrote about cell phones in the Philippines elsewhere (in August of 2008), the cell phones I saw the most of in Olongapo City were Nokia cell phones. I saw a few other brands, but none were as widely used as the Nokia cell phones. Outside of Olongapo City, mostly in areas of metro Manila, the choices were more diverse and included the latest smartphones.
Since then, smartphones have shown up in all areas of the country. Even in places where only voice calls and text messaging will work.
Not all mobile phones will work in the Philippines. My wife (Josie) left me a Samsung cell phone (not one of the smartphones) several years ago that just sat in a drawer until she returned and took it back. I couldn’t get a compatible SIM for it.
I can’t even recognize some of the smartphones in the Philippines because they aren’t brands used in the United States. Some of the brand name smartphones are probably counterfeit smartphones, made in China or elsewhere. This is what I gather when I see people at the SM City Olongapo mall and the Harbor Point mall at the Subic Bay Freeport Zone. I guess it doesn’t matter as long as they work as intended.
Most Filipinos buy “loads” for prepaid calls and it’s like a pay-as-you-go plan, but without any contract. Without loads, they can receive but they can’t send. Others, those with full-time jobs or a source another source of income, opt for the postpaid plans. One husband of a sister-in-law had a plan from Smart Communications that depended on usage (I don’t know if he still does). It cost him less than $25 USD per month.
Josie and I have postpaid plans with our Samsung Galaxy smartphones. We’re paying about $12.00 USD per month for both. We don’t use the data services, which cost more.
Another sister-in-law’s husband drives a taxi and won’t use a smartphone while driving. He uses a cheap dumb phone (which probably cost him less than $10 USD). The loads cost the same as they do for the smartphones.
I want to point out a few things. Many people, outside of the Philippines, seem to subconsciously think that Manila is the Philippines. Nothing could be further from the truth. Most areas outside of Manila don’t get much media attention unless something devastating happens.
While it’s true Manila is more technologically up-to-date, it isn’t true everywhere else. Even in areas where it seems like it is, the services are over-subscribed. People are paying for poor quality service. Since I saw firsthand what happened to Globe and Smart subscribers, I know this was the case in Olongapo City just a few years ago. In fact, the only people outside of the freeport zone that seemed to get decent service were those that lived in the “downtown” area.
I think what’s really going on is that many people believe they’re getting something they’re not. They get offended when someone tells them they’re not getting what they think they’re getting. In other words… just because you’re being told you’re getting a particular service doesn’t mean you’re getting the best of that service.
This doesn’t apply only to mobile phone services in the Philippines, by the way. I have relatives in suburban areas of the United States getting screwed in pretty much the same way.
If you stay away from the expensive brand names (Apple, Samsung, Sony, etc.), you can get good smartphones in the Philippines for far less money. I examined an Alcatel phone that was better than my phone and it cost less than a third of the original price of my phone. Please don’t ask me to remember how much that was.
I was recently surprised by Cherry Mobile, a local brand. One of my relatives or neighbors (I don’t remember which) had one of their newer smartphones and it was just as good as mine.
Originally published in November of 2013. Updated for multiple reasons.