How to Choose the Best Mobile Internet – By the Byte, By the Hour, By the App, Unlimited?

How to Choose the Best Internet PlanSo you need mobile internet.

With all our telecom companies in the process of removing their “unlimited” internet offers, we are now faced with the task of choosing which mobile internet solution is best for us.

This is the third part in our “How To Choose The Best Mobile Internet Plan For You” series. This is a continuation of Part 2: How to Choose the Best Mobile Internet – Smart, Sun or Globe?

The Different Mobile Internet Types

There are several types of mobile internet offers available right now – by the hour, by the byte, by the app and the soon to disappear “unlimited”. The telcos are moving away from offering “unlimited” internet now that the DOJ has called them out on their Fair Use Policy crap.

By the Hour

This is the best option if you only need bursts of internet. For example, you only use internet to download  A LOT of data, but can do it in one big chunk of time – like, say, once a week, you queue up everything you want to download and download them for like, 8 hours straight.

Examples of plans like this are Sun Cellular’s Broadband Plans and Offers. For example, i25, where you pay P25.00 for 3 hours of internet.

You must remember to turn off your internet when you’re not using it. Otherwise, you’re just wasting your internet hours if it’s left turned on (using up your precious hours), but not doing anything more than just waiting for push notifications from Facebook, email, and playing Clash of Clans.

The problem with By the Hour plans is — if the internet is slow — it’s a waste of time! And they might suddenly slow down your internet if they notice you downloading a lot of data. They may even block or deliberately slow down torrent traffic.

By the Byte

This is the best option if you like being online all the time.

Examples of this type of plan are Smart’s Always ON or Globe’s GoSurf. For example, Smart’s Always ON 299 lets you use up to 700MB of data for 30 days.

If you like being on top of your emails, social media, chatting, and use GPS and map apps to get around, are addicted to online gaming apps like Summoner’s War and like checking your favorite websites to keep up with the news. With this sort of plan, you can be connected to the internet 24/7. The only thing you have to worry about is if you are about to exceed your data plan.

In my experience with Smart, I receive a text letting me know that I am about to reach my data limit. I’m glad they started doing this. However, I did have an unpleasant surprise a few months ago. Our home DSL was down and I used my Freedom Plan for internet and subscribed to a 1-day unli plan. I forgot to turn off my mobile internet for a couple of days, and I got charged the P5/15 mins rate. Thank God it was a Freedom Plan and had the P600 credit limit in place. It was my fault so I did not even contest the charges. Sadness and regret. Trust me, I’m never doing that again! Prepaid all the way next time and I’m only leaving P1.00 load in the account! Once my internet is up, they can just cut me off and there’s no load to “eat”.

By the App

These are the various social bundles, work bundles, photo bundles, chat bundles, etc… that the telcos have recently started offering. They are usually P99 to P299 per month for unlimited internet access for select apps. For example, Globe’s Chat Bundle is P299 for FB Messenger, Kakao Talk, Line, Viber, Whatsapp and WeChat. They are great if you use these apps a lot and don’t use anything else. Which is totally unrealistic.

Most people use a combination of apps that cut across the different bundles. Myself, I regularly use Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Dropbox, Evernote, Wunderlist, Chrome, Gmail, Yahoo Mail, Viber, WeChat and Waze. How many people do you know who only use Facebook and Twitter but don’t check their emails, or surf the web, or watch viral Youtube videos? You do know that when you click on shared link posts or videos, you most likely leave Facebook / Twitter to see it? You will be charged extra for that because it’s “outside the bundle”. You also end up paying more if you subscribe to each bundle separately.

I don’t recommend these unless you use those apps exclusively. You’d be much better off getting something like an Always ON or GoSurf plan where you can access the whole internet, and not just be limited to a small piece of it. In the immortal words of Braveheart’s William Wallace – “FREEDOM!” — you don’t want to be limited in terms of your internet access.

Facebook and Twitter don’t generally use a lot of data. You’re getting less value for your money vs. just getting an Always ON plan.


I am not sure if these plans will continue to be offered. The DOJ has ruled that “unlimited means unlimited”, and that means the telcos should not slow down your internet once you reach a certain data limit.

The telcos are trying to move their customers to By the Byte plans, but there is a big customer demand for “unlimited” internet. We’ll see how this one pans out, but at the moment, unlimited plans still have data caps and telcos feel that they have the right to slow down a customer’s internet speed once the customer reaches a data limit.

So at the moment, I don’t recommend committing to any unlimited internet postpaid plan yet until this gets sorted out.

UPDATE: Unlisurf is back due to public demand. But we don’t know how long it will be available, and it is now an add-on rather than the highlighted feature of any postpaid plan. March 3, 2015

What I Suggest

If you have DSL at home, great! That means you only need your mobile internet to keep updated with what’s happening while you’re out. You can save your heavy downloading for your DSL and just use your mobile internet for social media, emails, chatting, web surfing and the like.

I suggest getting a By the Byte promo like Smart’s Always ON 299 or Globe’s GoSurf 299. Both cost P299 and provide 700MB of data for 30 days. 700MB should be enough for regular users. If you are a heavy mobile internet user, you can go up to their higher data volume offerings.

If you don’t have DSL and rely on mobile internet for all your downloading needs – get an Unlimited plan, if they are still available – but check the Fair Use Policy and see if you are comfortable with it. If you are unsure but need internet badly, just get a prepaid one or a postpaid plan with no lock-in period. This way, if you’re not satisfied with the speed, the data cap, or anything, you don’t have to keep paying for it for 24 months. You could potentially save yourself from wasting up to P24,000.

If getting an unlimited plan is no longer an option, I suggest a combination – get something like an Always On or GoSurf promo for regular surfing, emails, chatting, social media; and use a By The Hour promo to do your heavy downloading / streaming.

Having separate gadgets or separate SIMs is also recommended – designate your mobile phone’s internet as only for social media, chatting, emails, the occasional web surfing, apps, and emergencies… no heavy streaming and downloading. This way, you’re always online but you can keep your phone’s internet usage within your budget’s Always ON or GoSurf plan. Then use another SIM for your heavy internet downloading and streaming activities, on a By the Hour plan. You can put this SIM on a tablet, a USB stick, a pocket wifi, etc… and connect to your laptop. Not only can you watch YouTube on a bigger screen, you also have better control over your mobile internet spending this way. You will wear out your phone (overheating & battery life issues) if you do everything on your phone, all the time. And typing on the phone sucks.

Another advantage of this setup is that you can keep changing your internet SIM and not have to change your “real” number where people call and text you. You can also keep watching Youtube videos without worrying if other people can contact you when your battery dies.


Choosing a mobile internet package depends on your usage patterns, your requirements, what apps you use, your budget, etc…

Think about what you need for mobile internet and choose the best mix from the available offers. I still think something with a validity period of 30 days is the best for casual mobile internet use. You avoid having to keep registering every few days – which can get pretty annoying!

Good luck on your mobile internet picks. If you have created a combo you love, please share in the comments!

I hope you enjoyed this blog post. Please feel free to leave a comment below, I love hearing from you!

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4 thoughts on “How to Choose the Best Mobile Internet – By the Byte, By the Hour, By the App, Unlimited?

  1. Oliver

    Hi there. Thanks for this. This is really an eye opener for me. I’ve been a sun broadband subscriber for a very long time now and I was satisfied by the earlier years for when I had my pocket wifi. Recently though, Sun’s service is just very bad with most times being disconnected from the internet for no reason at all while playing internet connection-dependent games (diablo III and the like). What’s worse is that their hotline number for broadband to air your complaints sucks big time! Always busy and if you do manage to connect, you’ll be put on hold since all agents are busy. For all these years I’ve been subscribed to Sun’s “unlimited” service. When I read your post and verified it with Sun’s website, the “unlimited” plan really HAS a limit for data usage, I think its 1.5GB and then your download speed flushes down the toilet. What kind of crap is that? DOJ is right in ruling that “unlimited” service really SHOULD be unlimited with the data capping. Internet service in the Philippines is the slowest here in the Southeast Asia as it is atop from being unreasonably expensive. Maybe I should settle for the by-the-byte plan as you’ve mentioned in you blog. Although I might have to check if I’m stuck in the 24-month holding period for availing the new pocket wifi device. Thanks very much for this post. It’s been very helpful for me and hopefully for lots of other people like me. Cheers!

    1. Barat Queen Post author

      Hi, Oliver! Thank you so much for your kind words.

      I’m so sorry about your experience with Sun. So many people have been complaining about the internet service here in the Philippines but the only thing that has happened is that the DOJ has released this ruling, but that hasn’t changed anything, sadly.

      The “slow” internet is not caused by “heavy users”. That’s a lie so that the telcos can charge you more money. Read this explanation for how the internet really works. It doesn’t matter how much internet someone uses. What matters is how many people are connected to the base station.

      Also check out this article Cable Industry Finally Admits Data Caps Have Nothing to Do With Congestion.

      In my experience, the By the Byte type plans give faster internet because you have already paid for a certain amount of MB. Bayad na yun when you registered to the promo. If you can’t get the full MBs that you paid for because internet speed is bad, it’s going to be really bad for them. Parang hindi binigay yung binayaran mo na.

      Speaking of which, hope it’s possible to request for pro-rated bill for the times when the internet is down or unusable? When our DSL is down, after calling PLDT and getting it fixed, I usually call and request for bill adjustment for the time that the internet was down due to PLDT’s fault.

      I hope you can get away from your Sun broadband plan if it’s really not meeting your expectations. Test out the different telco sims to determine which is the best for your needs and location. Buying a few P40 Sims is cheaper than being forced to pay P899 for 24 months for useless internet. Use speedtest to check, but take note that doing a lot of speedtests uses up data quickly. Also do your regular internet activities so you can find out if it’s slower or faster. For online gaming, I know a low ping is very important so you don’t keep getting disconnected. You’ll see the ping result when you do speedtest. Maybe you can use a prepaid by the byte plan for your gaming and use your sun unlimited for your other internet activities where you don’t need speed.

      I’m glad my posts have helped you 🙂 Good luck on your mobile internet hunt! Please come back to let us know your results!

  2. percy

    Great stuff… saving this page. Just to share, i’ve been on globe postpaid for years. Month after month crap happens with globe and speaking of areas, it can be limited and to share, the prepaid users are indeed more agile nowadays (it is spot on cash and yes this is confirmed by globe employees who hate globe sigh). Sharing your notes to everyone. Glad i read this.

    1. Barat Queen Post author

      Hi Percy, thank you for sharing the post! I myself am very afraid of making any kind of long-term commitment to a telco plan unless I am sure that I will get everything that I was promised. They seem to deliver on their calls & texts promises just fine, but internet service seems to be very inconsistent, add in suddenly imposing throttling, data caps and what not.


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