1. Mobile Phones
The Philippines is the texting capital of the world, with more texts (SMS) per person, per day, generated here than anywhere else on the globe. Cell phones, with their ease of purchase, cheap price, and universal availability, have replaced landlines.
The major companies that manufacture mobile phone are well represented here. You can buy a Nokia, Sony Ericsson, Samsung, Motorola, LG, Apple, HTC, and Blackberry phone with no trouble at all. You can probably find phones by other manufacturers as well.
There are two main cell phone service providers, SMART and GLOBE. They offer pretty much the same products at about the same price, and the coverage is about equal. You can talk from one network to another without additional fees. These firms also provide wireless internet access to your cell phone. There is a new firm called SUN Cellular, which is less expensive, but has a more limited area of service than SMART or GLOBE. SUN to SUN calls are excellent value, but calls out of the SUN network are about the same cost as SMART and GLOBE. There are a few other providers as well, that might merit a look to see if the service they provide might be worth your while. Generally speaking though, the most reliable service comes from the two big boys in the industry.
You can sign yourself up for cell phone service (more often than not at your local mall) in two ways: purchase a monthly plan, or use a pre-paid scratch off card. These prepaid cards are referred to as “load”, and cards are available everywhere, even in them most remote areas. They are the preferred method of paying for phone service by the masses because you can buy them in small denominations of fifty or a hundred pesos at a time, which, in a society where the majority of people are poor, is a big help to the budget. However, using prepaid cards on a regular basis is, in the long run, more expensive than purchasing a calling plan. There are many different options available for calling plans, so no doubt there will be one to suit your needs. Usually calling plans are for a minimum duration of two years. One of the perks of signing up for a calling plan is that you often get a phone for free.
The advantage of cell phones is that they don’t require installation. Buy a cellphone, insert a SIM card, and start talking. Some people buy two SIM cards from two different networks, using them as necessary for specific tasks. In some cell phones, there are dual-SIM card slots available, and if you are making a lot of calls, this might be something to look into.
If you are bringing your cell phone from abroad, only tri-band phones will work here. When you arrive in the Philippines, you will need to bring your phone to one of the many, many cell phone kiosks found all around the country and ask that your phone be “opened”, which is a simple, safe, and inexpensive procedure which allows you to use the local phone system at the local costs rather than the international calling rates you would have to pay to your service provider in your country otherwise. Once your phone has been “opened”, you can then purchase a local SIM card, insert it, and use your phone at will. I don’t know what the procedure is for phones that do not have a SIM card, but no doubt there is a way to adapt them as well. Just ask the advice of the staff at the cell phone kiosks.
If you are in Manila, the best place to go to for any of these procedures is at the GREENHILLS SHOPPING CENTER, which is the mecca for any retail item you could ever want, be it electronics, clothes, pearls, handbags…you name it! Ask anybody in town and they will direct you to Greenhills. The cell phone section is on the second floor. Prices for everything are very inexpensive. Prepare to be amazed.