Bata at SM Makati

Smart’s Freedom Plan: Postpaid Plan Redefined

Who wants complete freedom with a postpaid plan that starts from ZERO, has no monthly fees, has no lock-in period and does not require the presentation of documents before you can be given a subscriber line?

That’s what Smart is offering to prepaid subscribers now with its Freedom Plan.

My Smart Freedom Plan sim

For the next few months, I will be testing out this plan.

The facts: I’m a prepaid subscriber on both Globe and Smart (and I used to be one with Sun too). Many friends ask me why I have stayed prepaid all these years although I was a postpaid subscriber when I was still fully employed. I tell them that with prepaid, I can monitor my mobile spending based on how much I load (very important for one with no full-time job and is on a tight budget). I have the freedom to choose what telco and even what plan I will enroll in from day to day (I use my home wifi most times and only need internet when I am mobile). I am free of bill shock risk. When they tell me that postpaid subscribers get a free phone, I just shrug and tell them that the phone I want usually comes with a monthly plan (which is too inflexible for what I need) so I’d rather just buy the phone I really want and use a prepaid sim.

I really enjoy my prepaid freedom and won’t just give it up and be tied to a network or postpaid plan unless I enjoy the same or better flexibility I now enjoy as a prepaid mobile user.

So when Smart invited me to try out their Freedom Plan, I agreed to give it a test run. Here’s what the Freedom Plan is all about.

Key Features

* No fixed monthly fees (you start from ZERO)
* No lock-in period (you just get the SIM. No phones are bundled with the plan.)
* No documents to submit if you stay within the default credit limit
* No bill shock – Each SIM is ready with a P600 credit limit. You can mix/match the plan’s  “postpaid buckets” for the month until you reach P600.


Available Postpaid Buckets

You can use a combination of any of available postpaid buckets (up to the credit limit of P600) in any month, depending on your planned usage. Just use the corresponding keyword and send to 9990.

For example, you decide to choose this combination:

Trio Talk 150 + All Text 200 = 150 minutes of Tri-net (Smart, Sun, Talk ‘N Text) calls + 2,000 texts to all networks + 150MB internet surfing

That will only cost you P350. Since you’re well within the P600 monthly limit, you can still avail of another postpaid bucket worth P250 within the month.

What if you are close to or hit P600 limit before month is over? 

You can do either of the following;

1. Pay what you have already used up so you can free up the credit limit and allow you to subscribe to more buckets. Payment is available in many ways: through Smart Store, online banking, Smart Money, etc.
2. You can always apply for a higher monthly limit. Smart will just require some additional documentation from you.

Rates when not on Postpaid Buckets

When you are not subscribed to any of the Freedom Plan postpaid buckets, the following rates will apply:

Voice calls per minute (to Smart, Talk ‘N Text – P6.50
Voice calls per minute (to other networks) – P7.50
SMS/MMS to all networks – P1.00/SMS
IDD per minute (to any country) – US$ 0.40
International texts (to any country) – P10.00/SMS
Mobile surfing – P10 for every 30 minutes

Current Promo for New Freedom Plan Subscribers

For new Freedom Plan Subscribers up to January 15, 2013, you can enjoy a 10% rebate on the first 6 months of your subscription under the following conditions:

1. You have a paid bill of at least P300
2. You paid your previous month’s bill completely

Rebate is applied on your next bill.

How to Apply

1. Just visit any Smart Store.
2. Present just one valid school or company ID.
3. Pay a P250 application fee.
4. You get your Smart Freedom SIM on the spot. Within 24 hours, you can begin availing of the Freedom Plan.

While the initial target market of the Freedom Plan is yuppies in their 20s to early 30s, on a tight budget because they are just establishing their careers, I already see that there are other markets that will want this kind of plan. Senior citizens who may be living on pension are also on a tight budget and want to stretch their load and cap it at a predictable amount.

I am eager to test this plan for several months and see how this would fit the budget needs of my own kids, some of whom are fresh out of college and fall within this target market.

How does the Freedom Plan sound to you? 



Bata at SM Makati

The latest Sun Cellular promos

I had been wondering already for some time why Sun Cellular, which began with a bang and appeared to be eating up subscriber market share when it started out, was very quiet lately on social media although very much present on print and traditional media. So when some bloggers were invited to dinner, I decided to attend and see what was up with Sun.

I used to be a Sun prepaid subscriber when I went back to a part-time job. At that time, I loved it. I would buy the P150 card that gave me unlimited Sun-to-Sun texts plus 4 hours of call time within the Sun network. That worked well for me then as 4 hours were usually more than enough for me. After my work ended and I spent most days at home, my usage of Sun dropped significantly so eventually, my sim expired.

For those of you wondering what are the latest Sun promos out now, here’s a rundown.

BROADBAND


BLACKBERRY
INTERNATIONAL

Right now, we use Sun’s international service a lot to call our daughter who is abroad. At P2/minute only, it is even lower than a local mobile call. We buy the P100 card, which gives us 50 minutes of talk time with her.
For prepaid roaming, here is a comparison of Sun’s rates vs Globe and Smart:
(click to enlarge image)
In addition, there are even cheaper services while roaming.
1. Cheaper Text Rates – Pay only P5 to text the Philippines by dialing *111# while abroad to access. Countries currently include  US, HK, UK, Italy, China, Japan

2. Cheaper Call Rates – by dialing *111# you can also save up to 75% in roaming calls.

PREPAID
There are many things about Sun’s prepaid features that you will like.
1. Because of the tie-up with Smart, Sun now uses the backbone of Smart for texts and calls. That means that you now have the same nationwide coverage as Smart. Their broadband, however, still uses only the Sun backbone (maybe down the road it will also use Smart’s).
NEW Sun subscribers AUTOMATICALLY get connected to the Smart backbone for texts/calls. EXISTING Sun subscribers have to dial *247# in order to gain access to the new Sun areas.
2. When I was still using Sun, what I liked was its Cumulative Expiry Feature. If you reload before your existing load expires, your previous load’s expiry date is changed to that of the new load.
3. No Maintaining Balance – you can use up everything. No need to maintain at least P1.
4. They also have a promo up to Aug. 31, 2012. You can convert your regular P300 load into Sun Text Unlimited 300 via Conversion Xpress Load. You get unlimited Sun texts, 500 texts to other networks, plus 5 hours of calls (broken down as follows: 3 hours Sun calls + 2 hours Sun, Smart, Talk ‘N Text calls). Validity period is 30 days.
Are you a Sun Cellular subscriber? What’s your experience? 
Disclosure: This writer is using a mobile phone won at a press event sponsored by Globe.
Bata at SM Makati

Tattoo@Home’s 2012 Product Line-up

At a recent blogger event, we were introduced to the 2012 line-up of Globe Tattoo@Home.

At the launch was Ford Supermodel of the World 2010 Danica Flores Magpantay who is Tattoo@Home’s newest brand ambassador. Danica’s mom, Lala Flores, was herself the 1990 Supermodel of the World-Philippines winner who is now making a name for herself as a celebrated makeup artist.

The main feature of Tattoo@Home plans is its customization. Depending on how you use the internet, whether you are just a light user or an ultra heavy user who demands faster speed and more bandwidth, there is a plan you can choose from.

(click to see larger image)

The barebones, cheapest plan is only P999/month (internet only) with speeds up to 1MBPS. Plans P1,099 to P6,299 are internet and landline bundles with speeds ranging from 1-15MBPS and from 3-5 users. Calls to Globelines and Globe DUO subscribers are FREE for these plans. Plans starting with P1,299 also come with a free wifi router.

Now, if you and your kids download large files, play games like WOW or other image-rich games, or want a smooth streaming experience for music and videos, check out the Tattoo Torque Plans that all come with free landline and wifi router.
(click to see larger image)

And for those who want to surf using 4G connection, there’s still the Tattoo Wimax plans:
(click to see larger image)
Watch out for Globe Telecom’s aggressive expansion over the next 5 years which will see it building an entirely new network infrastructure to address the growing data usage of mobile subscribers. 
Bata at SM Makati

Globe Spike: the launch of its future-proof, LTE and IPv6-ready network

In a grand launch headed by none other than Globe’s President, Ernest Cu, media and the tech community were introduced to Globe Telecom’s most aggressive telecommunication network modernization and expansion project.

Globe President Ernest Cu

Cu told us that when their network infrastructure was put up, it was primarily meant for SMS and calls. But these past years, they had seen a significant drop in SMS and calls. In fact last Christmas, they found that more people were communicating through Facebook and greeting each other there than calling or texting.

Globe will be investing US$ 90 M over the next 5 years (US$70 M of that to be spent in 2012/13) in order to put up a structure that will be able to handle the exponential data traffic that smartphones are now handling. Roughly 90% of its BSS and BI platforms covering billing, campaign management, front-end systems and enterprise data warehouse will be replaced by the new network infrastructure. Cu says that Globe subscribers should expect faster response to customer requests, convergent billing, better credit control, quicker time-to-market for new products, and better analytic models to support campaigns.

This does sound like good news but as a subscriber to both of the major mobile carriers as well as one who has tried various internet service providers, I take all expansion announcements with a grain of salt. In the end, the test of the pudding is in the eating. Will currently dissatisfied subscribers who complain of dropped calls, slow internet connection, billing woes and the like really get the service they deserve and pay for?

I really hope this time we do. The next 5 years will be a test of whether Globe’s planned expansion will become a promise come true.

bpi-160th-tattoo-stick

BPI’s Limited Edition 160th Commemorative Tattoo (winner posted) Stick + a Giveaway

 (UPDATE: I asked a BPI branch manager and her staff to select the winner. So firstly, thank you to Ms. Helena Tiu of BPI-Wilson branch!!! And *drumroll*, the winner who gets the BPI 160th commemorative Tattoo stick is — Joyce Rivera Mauricio! Congratulations, Joyce. I will be contacting you directly.)

Last Thursday, an intimate gathering of bloggers at Cafe Mary Grace in Greenbelt 2 met up with BPI and Globe people for the launching of the BPI 160th Commemorative Tattoo Stick to mark 160 years of the Bank of the Philippine Islands’ existence as a financial institution.

bpi-160th-tattoo-stick
(photo courtesy of Globe Tattoo website)

Continue reading “BPI’s Limited Edition 160th Commemorative Tattoo (winner posted) Stick + a Giveaway”

Bata at SM Makati

Smart launches its All-Net postpaid plans with an amazing race

I’ve been on prepaid status with two of the mobile carriers since I left the corporate world. It has served me well because I could not fit my new mobile usage and lifestyle into any of the postpaid plans being offered then. Some were inflexible and offered call and text quantities that I knew I would not use. I did not want to be pegged to a fixed monthly fee which I could not maximize.

The invitation to join Smart’s All-Net Amazing Race (while being introduced to its new All-Net offerings under its All-In plans made me curious and interested to join. I wondered if, this time, I would have a clear alternative to just remaining a prepaid subscriber forever. Of course, the other motivator in this whole amazing race thing (as this was my first ever amazing race) was the fact that my teammate was my own dear friend, Noemi. Also in our team dubbed the “Yellow team” were Ryan (another blogger friend) and Marlon (who I just met that day).

The tasks given to us were physically challenging. We had to bungee jump to get some phone numbers hanging from a tree (that task was assigned to Marlon, the tallest in our team). Then we had to call 3 numbers from those papers and show the call logs to the game marshal to get the next task.

(Marlon did such a great job on this one. I would have been an epic fail.)
Noemi, by stroke of luck, had just finished reviewing the Samsung Galaxy Y, the
very unit given to our team, so she was our designated texter.

Ryan makes the calls.


Task 2 was to run to Timezone and rack up a certain number of points on a dance machine, after which we had to text (and receive responses from) 5 random friends to get Task 3.

Texting frenzy…

Task 3 required us to look for a living statue at City Walk Two. By chance, I was in that very mall area just before the event buying a sports top so I knew exactly where to run to. We had to call someone from the living statue post to read out one of the Smart All-Net Postpaid Plans features.

The living statue and our task

Task 4 made us go on a shopping spree with a limited budget of P1,200. Luckily we saw Graffiti Tee which had tees on sale for P250 each. We grabbed our sizes, got the next task and ran out. Task 5 had us calling a Hong Kong number to get a password. Task 6 made us run back to Eastwood Mall, look for the Smart dog (which was the same dog I saw hanging around the Smart tent earlier) and guess its breed. We all thought it was a German Shepherd (wrong!!!). Its master was instructed not to tell us its breed but fast-thinking Ryan asked people around – and it turned out to be a bullmastiff. We had to go online using our team phone to show the marshal the flag of the dog’s origin to get Task 7 (to assemble a puzzle) back at the Smart tent.

The clincher (Task 8) was to use another carrier’s billing statement and compute the savings if the same call minutes and number of texts were used on an All-Net postpaid plan. Thanks to an accounting training which included doing math without a calculator, my brain went full blast. Yes, our team was the first to finish all the tasks. We won first place! And for that, each one of us got — an HTC Wildfire S!

After the rush of the amazing race, Noemi and I lingered (because we also had to wind down and catch our breath from all the running) to talk with the Smart people. The tasks that they made us do actually was an introduction to just how much one can save with an All-Net postpaid plan:

* All-In plans beat out other plans because conventional plans tie you to a monthly FIXED fee for a certain combination of call minutes, text messages and internet use, whether you actually use them up or not. Value-added services outside your plan are billed to you ON TOP OF your monthly fee. All-in plans are just that, all in. What you subscribe to is what you pay, nothing more.

* You can tailor-fit your All-In plan from month to month. There are different mix-and-match services like Unlitalk, Unlitext, Unlisurf and IDD calls. Read more on All-In Plans HERE.

* All-Net plans are the latest services under the All-In plans.

* With Smart Postpaid All-Net Talk, subscribers can cut their postpaid call charges in half because this feature gives you 80 minutes of calls to ALL NETWORKS for only P250 for 30 days. That comes out to only P3.12 per minute compared to P7.50 per minute with other providers.

* With Smart Postpaid All-Net Text, you get 2,500 text messages to ALL NETWORKS for only P350 for 30 days. That is only P0.14 per SMS instead of the standard P1.00 per SMS charged by other networks.

* Data services under the Smart Postpaid All-In Plans also give the widest range of data volume on demand, from 25MB to 2GB.

* With the IDD bundle saver, you can make international calls at local rates, plus 5 minutes free for only P200.

Right now, I am already a frequent user of Smart’s Always On data plans for my ipad because I need to be connected all the time when out of the house. Now, with Smart’s All-Net Postpaid Plans, I will study carefully my usage for calls, texts and internet to see if it will save me more money compared to my current mobile costs.

I discovered that my Wildfire S could be turned into a personal hotspot. An All-In Postpaid Plan would mean cheaper calls and texts and if I activate the hotspot, I could share my internet connection from my phone to my ipad. That’s a lot of potential savings!

What about you? Do you think the All-Net Plans are worth your second look?

Bata at SM Makati

Netphone: Smart’s affordable smartphone

While smartphone prices have already been on the decline, making it affordable to more and more people, there is still a great majority of Filipinos whose mobiles are not internet-capable. This is true despite the Philippines being recognized not only as the texting capital of the world but also the world’s online social networking champ. Almost everyone I’ve asked has a Facebook account. A friend of mine even has a yaya (nanny) who’s got a Facebook account.

Recognizing these patterns, Smart designed its own brand of an internet-ready phone and tailor-fitted its features and apps to the Pinoy’s lifestyle and preferences. At a media launch recently, I was introduced to the Netphone, Smart’s offering for those who are budget-conscious but love to get on the internet and engage on social media.

By September 10, the public will be formally introduced to Smart’s very own brand of internet-capable phones via Netphone 701 (which I hear is a ZTE model). It is only the first model to come out, with other higher-end models being planned in the coming months.

Netphone 701 is an Android-powered phone, running on Froyo (ver. 2.2). This was my first time to play around with an Android handset but I noted that the initial apps loaded on it were pretty good. An FM radio, a Bible app, and even my favorite Docs To Go app was loaded in it. It’s got 2 cameras. The back camera is 3.2MP while the front cam is a VGA one. It was pretty light, something I’d always appreciate in a phone. Colors were quite vivid. This handset also allows you to turn your phone into a hotspot and it supports Flash 10.1. It has a 3.5″ touchscreen and runs on a 600MHz Qualcomm Snapdragon processor.

Not being familiar with the menus, I was trying to find out if the phone had wifi or ran on 3G only. Yup, the Netphone is good for both wifi and 3G. 

So far, we’ve seen features of an Android phone. Now what appears to set this Netphone apart from other smartphones in the market today?
Smart Center – Just a swipe and you can see your load’s balance. A few more touches and you can manage your Smart account, subscribe to call, text, data packages, and see any subscription’s expiry date/time. There’s no need anymore to memorize the text format for subscribing to any of these packages. As soon as new promos and offers are available, your phone’s info is updated.
SmartNet – this is a proprietary layer of software built on top of Android that allows social networking (Facebook and Twitter) and chatting (Yahoo Messenger) without having to spend a peso. And no matter how many status messages or chats you post, it does not eat up your load. Just one peso on your phone will still make all these work. 
Watch this video.

Now, you’re asking how much, right? Well, the prepaid phone kit costs PhP9,990 (very affordable compared to other Android handsets) but it is FREE when you get a postpaid Datalite plan at P800 (access to select sites) or a regular postpaid plan at P1200.
For those with a limited budget and have been holding off on purchasing a smartphone, the Smart Netphone may just be something to consider.
Bata at SM Makati

High-Speed Smart LTE 4G Technology is Coming!

Download movies in minutes. Download songs in seconds. Watch an HD YouTube video without buffering. Seriously.

Am I excited, am I excited? You bet I am! Because I got to hold in my hands the device and watched a demo showing that the upcoming Smart LTE (Long Term Evolution) 4G technology can do all that. And all I can say is — IT’S WICKED FAST!

The LTE dongle – from the front…

…and from the back

A few of us bloggers were invited to sit down with some of Smart’s executives from their networking and marketing divisions and here is what we learned.


Info # 1 – The LTE infrastructure will be totally separate from all existing infrastructure.


Unlike all previous technologies at Smart that are built on top of each other, the LTE technology will sit on an infrastructure separately built from the ground up specifically to handle very large amounts of data from LTE subscribers. 
Info # 2 – LTE can go up to 100 MBPS


At present, actual download speeds are up to 70 MBPS according to Smart. But theoretically, the technology can handle up to 100 MBPS. Just look at that chart. The current 3G standard is only 2 MBPS. That places LTE at 35x the current 3G standard! And it is so much faster than most DSL and cable services being offered at present.
Info # 3 – Field trial results show LTE leaving old technology behind by a wide margin


The low latency connection makes LTE ideal for viewing streaming videos and engaging in other media-rich online activities such as gaming and accessing web-based applications and programs. Gamers and those in data-intensive tasks will thoroughly enjoy this as they say goodbye to lag time.
Info # 4 – LTE will be introduced late 2011 in major cities
First introduced in Boracay last April, some of my blogger friends were able to test its speed onsite. Smart plans to roll this out and test it in major cities, Metro Manila included. But I think only select cities in Metro Manila will be pilot areas.
Test Results
At the demo area of Dusit Thani Hotel, we were shown speed test results. Of course, there is nothing like a real stress test under more normal conditions (and I am looking forward to participating, if one like that is conducted) but even if you discount the fact that the setup was done under ideal conditions and the ping server was only in Cebu City and not in some server in the US, LTE was still incredibly fast! See the results we got…

Speedtest results on Noemi’s iPhone 4
If you’re asking me what the downside of going LTE is for now? You will need an LTE-enabled mobile phone to take advantage of the technology. Sorry folks. All our 3G mobile phones are not eligible. I am holding out hope that the soon-to-be-released iPhone 5 is LTE-enabled because that’s the next phone I am considering.
I asked how much such a service would cost but Smart could not answer for now. But I believe they will make it price-competitive.
High-speed internet is on the horizon and it looks like the pioneer in the Philippines will be Smart as they plan to introduce this service in late 2011. Several companies in other parts of the world have already rolled their LTE services out such as NTT DoCoMo in Japan, Verizon in the USA, TeliaSonera in Europe and Telstra in Australia. In Asia, Smart is ahead of its peers.
Read more about Smart LTE in Smart’s press release HERE.
Bata at SM Makati

Send SMS within the Philippines with Gmail

Chatting using the computer has been around for some time now. This technology has allowed people to communicate without having to pick up a phone or call/text using a mobile phone. The drawback though was that both parties had to be online and both had to be on Gmail.

Now, Gmail makes it even easier to contact friends via their mobile phones. You can send FREE SMS to a friend from within your Gmail account.
I took this screencap from Gmail’s site:
(click on image to enlarge)

1. Log into your Gmail account. In the Send SMS box above Chat, enter the phone number you want to send a SMS to.

2. In the dialog box, enter Contact name of the SMS recipient and check that country and phone number are correct. Then, click Save.

3.Type your message in the chat window and hit Enter.

4.Your message will be sent to the phone number you entered.

When your contact replies to your SMS, it appears on your Chat window, which is great because your exchange is saved as chats in your Chat History, just like ordinary chats.

Any messages you send or receive from Gmail are FREE. Your contact, on a mobile phone, also gets your SMS free but the reply from phone to Gmail will be charged a regular SMS rate by the mobile provider.

This is good news for those who are online at work or at home. Best example: ME!!!

Now I need not pay SMS charges and still be able to contact my family and friends on their mobile. You can do the same from work. Well, that is if Gmail is not blocked in the office. 🙂

If you already have a Gmail account, you can log in right now and try it. If you still don’t have Gmail, create an account now.

NOTE: SMS with Gmail is available as of now only for Smart and Sun Cellular subscribers.

Read about Gmail SMS HERE.

Bata at SM Makati

McDo is now on your mobile phone

It became such a big convenience when many fastfood outlets and restaurants allowed online ordering and payments. In this age when everyone seems to lead such hectic lives and Metro Manila traffic is horrendous, the advantages of being able to go online in your own home and order lunch, dinner or merienda delivered to your doorstep was obvious.

McDonald’s was one of those fastfood outlets known for online ordering. My kids have ordered online not just from McDo but from other outlets several times already and you know what? It beats having to place your order via phone because sometimes, the one taking down the order can make mistakes.

McDo has moved online ordering up one step. It has partnered with Bank of the Philippine Islands (BPI) to allow ordering via mobile phone to BPI, BPI Family Savings Bank and BPI Direct clients.

Here’s how to do it.

First, you need to register at www.bpiexpressonline.com. I got these screencaps from My BPI Magazine.

And here’s how to order and pay:

And to register, here are the requirements:

Shhhhhh! Don’t even tell my youngest son about this! He is such a McDo fan!