An activist’s guide to choosing a phone

Posted: March 23, 2016 in Uncategorized



In this fast-paced world of social media and the internet, choosing a phone that’s right for you can be somewhat tricky. I have been wanting to give some helpful tips for activists who wish to buy phones that they can use for their daily work. And by work I refer to how we arouse, organize and mobilize the people. I won’t be endorsing any particular product but instead I will try to guide you based on what we call phone specs of specifications.

So how does an active, on-the-go, socially involved individual chose a phone that’s right for his or her needs? How do you keep things within a modest budget? We all know that activists live by the mantra of simpleng pamumuhay at puspusang pakikibaka. What are the considerations if you want to get the most features for the least cost?

First, you have to determine the kind of phone user that you are. Here’s a simple guide.


The call and text type

Your phone is basically for calls and texts. No frills, no apps. You don’t check Facebook and Twitter on your phone. Maybe you don’t have any social media accounts. You want a phone that can function the way phones are supposed to function back in 2001. Plus, having the occasional games when you’re bored doesn’t hurt. (Remember Snake?) For this type of user, you are good to go with a feature phone. Choose one that has a very long battery life, as these phones often do. These phones can go three days with only one charge. That’s their greatest advantage. Their prices range from P400 to P800. During the relief ops after Yolanda, this is the phone we used since there was no electricity in many parts of Samar and Leyte and we knew charging would be a problem.

The moderate social media user

You probably check your Facebook and Twitter feeds on your phone occasionally. Then you store a few notes and some media like photos and songs. Your phone helps in your work but is not the main “weapon” so to speak. It is a handy companion that keeps you connected and informed on what’s happening around you. You’re happy just reading updates. For this kind of user, choose a phone with a decent quad-core processor, at least 1GB of RAM, and at least a quad-HD display (which is lower than 720p HD). The camera may not be the biggest consideration for you since you just use your phone to check on updates. These phones usually come with at least an 8MP camera and an 8GB built-in storage which is enough. There are many entry-level smartphones for you ranging from P2,000 to P3,000. Recently, there have been local releases for just less than P1,000.


The active and always engaged

You keep track of the news and the work of your organization. You also want to update folks about the latest protest action, or developments in an ongoing campaign. You probably also do some media liaison work and rely on heavy texting as well as emailing news releases and advisories using your phone. You’re expected to post pictures to call attention to issues. Facebook, Twitter and Instagram are your favorite platforms for propaganda. Your use of the phone is on the moderate to heavy side. Choose one with at least an updated octa-core processor, at least 2 GB of RAM, at least a 720p HD display, and a 13MP rear camera. Don’t worry about the front camera specs because believe me, the perfect selfie may not be that crucial to your work. Internal storage must be at least 8GB or 16GB with an expandable option for micro SD card of up to 32GB so you can store pictures and videos. Also, try to look for a phone where you have a reliable messaging app that does not convert SMS to MMS even if your message string is already very long. There are already decent phones at the P4,000 to P5,000 price range. They work pretty well. Those with better HD displays and better cameras may go up to P6,000 to P7,000. For heavy users, look for a phone with at least a 2,500 mAh battery rating.  This may be good for around 8 hours of use. Some folks trade off other features for a longer battery life which allows you to remain connected longer without having to plug your wall charger mid-day. This comes in handy when you’re at a picket line, vigil or in a long caravan or lakbayan.


Your phone is your mobile office

You either travel out of town a lot or are constantly on the move. You text out statements or advisories, update your organization’s social media platforms, post and repost news, check emails and even do some minor text and photo editing. You rely on mobile internet to get your work done. Your phone is your indispensable tool from meetings to rallies. You keep a very long directory for your org contacts and allies. You need to post pictures and videos that best capture the spirit and agitation of an event. You need a reliable partner for sharing social media content. Choose a phone with un updated octa-core processor or even some really powerful quad-core and hexa-core processors. Since you have a lot of pics and videos, try to find one with 3GB of RAM and at least 16GB of internal memory with an option for micro SD card expansion of up to 32GB. At this point, for documentation purposes, you may want a better camera, moving up from the average 13MP shooter of most mid-range phones. Your phone would likely be LTE-ready for faster uploads and downloads (the fast internet remains a myth in the Philippines). Due to heavy use, the battery rating of your phone should be somewhere from 3,000 mAh to 4,000 mAh. There are also phones now with ratings as high as a 5,000 mAh. The displays of these phones are either 720p HD for Full HD. Your price range may go up between P8,000 to P10,000 at this point. You may also want to invest in a powerbank. You must have some really specialized needs to be investing this much on a phone. This means that you’re seriously considering the quality of the camera, the call and messaging functions, mobile internet, battery and possibly even editing features.

Operating system

As for the phone’s OS, that’s really a matter of preference. You have Android, IOS and Windows. Each one has its own learning curve the first time you use it. As a rule though, go for the more recent or updated versions of the OS since there is a good chance that these have less software bugs.


Now, phones are just tools. They cannot replace actual mass work, actual face to face propaganda and organizing work. Social media is just another means to get your message across to a wide audience. It is however, not the only means of getting your message across. Technology should serve our activist work and must be guided by our political and organizational objectives. No, you do not need a flagship phone. You do not need to spend P30,000 on a gadget. (Also, just think how much it would hurt if you dropped your high-end phone during a rally, or have it soaked by water cannons? I’ve seen it happen many times). However, if someone gives you such devices, then good for you. But I won’t recommend you spending your own money for flagship devices. It’s not practical, to say the least.

So if you’re an activist choosing a phone for work, choose one that can best serve your needs. Specs such as front-facing selfie cameras or how good a phone can handle graphic-intensive games should not be your primary consideration. When buying smartphones, look at the processor, the RAM, the internal memory, the camera and battery. Spend within a modest or reasonable budget. Try to look for bargains. Even relatively older models that have a stable operating system and reliable hardware should be considered if they come at a lower price. Even second-hand phones, as long as they have solid performance, should be considered. If you’re not into smartphones, then go for the basic feature phones for calls and texts.

Lastly, it’s not the quality or brand of your phone that will determine the quality of your political work. It’s how you merge theory and practice that really counts. ###


P.S. This is only a guide to choosing a phone. How I wish there is a guide for “buying” a phone, if you know what I mean. =)


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