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Ask Slashdot: Advice For Using a Cell Phone In China?

timothy posted more than 2 years ago | from the speak-loud-so-everyone-understands dept.

Cellphones 149

First time accepted submitter Oyjord writes "I am going to China in March, and I was curious what kind of cell phone hardware and plans American travelers use while there. I honestly don't like cell phones (and I currently use the Drug Dealer Throwaway Special Du Jour) but I thought I'd look into one with a good data plan, so I could perhaps take pics and upload them on the spot, and perhaps use the phone's internal GPS as opposed to taking my Garmin along, etc." (Note: it would be great if you include in your answers some idea about their currency — if you're in China right now, say, or if you were there more than a year ago.)

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149 comments

Asia (5, Insightful)

tech4 (2467692) | more than 2 years ago | (#37599036)

It's the same like everywhere in Asia. You walk to mall, nearest street store or market and buy a sim card. Usually they also offer cheap unlimited plans for internet. If you need more time, you just buy refill card. If you need a phone, those can be bought from malls and markets really cheaply too.

Re:Asia (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#37599074)

Its ironic that there is far more competition in China for cellular service than here in the USA. The FCC has been reduced to a bully of the oligopolies.

Re:Asia (3)

moonbender (547943) | more than 2 years ago | (#37599638)

How much competition is there? I thought China Mobila is dominating the market, and according to Wikipedia, there are just three mobile phone operators, all of them state-owned.

Re:Asia (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#37601422)

It's really ironic that USA celluar service is really behind other part of the world like Japan, Korea, Singapore, and so on...
and when talking about competition USA is really behind most europe country and asia country.

for example, in Indonesia
on-net call (same celular services) were as cheap as US$ 0.005 / minute (half us cents). and this on prepaid with no minimum top-up per months, so you can spend only US$ 1 / month and talk around 200 minutes.
SMS is as cheap as 5 cents / 10,000 sms (just send 1 SMS for 5 cents, and the next 9,999 sms is free)
and data package as cheap as US$ 1.4/month for 120MB, US$ 3/month for 500MB, US$ 10/month for 5GB.
(btw, 70% of Indonesian spend less than US$ 3/month on montly phone bill)
So,
competition....
america is really behind...

Re:Asia (2, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#37599120)

What he said. Seriously. SIMs and phones are so cheap in Asia that they're practically disposable. China Mobile with unlimited data and more minutes than you can shake a stick at will run you about $8/month and the SIM's thrown in for free.

Re:Asia (1)

Dark Lord of Ohio (2459854) | more than 2 years ago | (#37599152)

It's the same like everywhere in Asia. You walk to mall, nearest street store or market and buy a sim card. Usually they also offer cheap unlimited plans for internet. If you need more time, you just buy refill card. If you need a phone, those can be bought from malls and markets really cheaply too.

I wouldn't advise to do that, just get your own phone with you and it will probably work ok (90%). cheap phones bought there on the markets are usually rip-offs from original phones, avoid their dual sim card versions. it will make your phone battery dry in a moment. Also watch for roaming fees when travelling from one province to another.

Re:Asia (2)

tech4 (2467692) | more than 2 years ago | (#37599196)

Own phone if it works, of course. That's why I said if he needs one. They're so cheap at the markets that I usually buy one to take with me if I plan to get really drunk. That way I don't lose my actual phone :-)

Re:Asia (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#37599232)

This. This right here is genius personified.

Re:Asia (2)

ArsenneLupin (766289) | more than 2 years ago | (#37599580)

if I plan to get really drunk. That way I don't lose my actual phone :-)

Yeah, but that's not what your marketing department expects you to do... they actually want you to lose your actual phone. Or how else would the papers be able to write about it?

Re:Asia (1)

galaad2 (847861) | more than 2 years ago | (#37599218)

I wouldn't advise to do that, just get your own phone with you and it will probably work ok (90%).

huh?

why wouldn't you advise buying a simple sim card? roaming access is usually expensive as hell, and bank-breaking if used for long lengths of time.

Re:Asia (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#37599400)

I wouldn't advise to do that, just get your own phone with you and it will probably work ok (90%).

huh?

why wouldn't you advise buying a simple sim card? roaming access is usually expensive as hell, and bank-breaking if used for long lengths of time.

It is extremely difficult to talk to the cell towers using a simple sim card without inserting it into a communications device.

Very few people are able to speak in modulated radio frequencies.

Re:Asia (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#37599848)

You talk about cheap ripoffs as though that's a bad thing. wtf? Phone hardware is one place where the market really does need a "race to the bottom" for the users to ever win.

Re:Asia (1)

Joshua Fan (1733100) | more than 2 years ago | (#37599358)

Many of those stores also offer a cheap unlocking service for your own phone. As long as you have a SIM-based world phone, you will have no problem.

Re:Asia (1)

mellon (7048) | more than 2 years ago | (#37599990)

Of course, once your phone has been unlocked in this way, you probably don't want to type any passwords into it. Better to arrive with a phone that wasn't locked to begin with. Or buy an iPhone at the Apple Store (they sell them unlocked).

Re:Asia (1)

SloWave (52801) | more than 2 years ago | (#37599448)

Agreed. Just buy a SIM card from one of the small shops located almost anywhere. Don't buy it from the malls directly across from the border crossings however. You will get ripped off if you do so. Phones are pretty cheap also if bought from the shops selling SIM cards.

Re:Asia (1)

whoever57 (658626) | more than 2 years ago | (#37599636)

It's the same like everywhere in Asia. You walk to mall, nearest street store or market and buy a sim card.

Not so easy in India. Legally, you can only buy a SIM card if you can prove residence. Some carriers have even de-activated SIM cards of people who have moved and not updated the records. Not all stores are so picky about the law, but it may take some legwork to find such a store.

You are wrong (1)

tanveer1979 (530624) | more than 2 years ago | (#37600816)

Foreign nationals just have to show their passport and hotel address to get a sim card.
Infact, you can get one right at the airport.
As long as you are legally in the country, no issues, however, the OP is going to China

Re:Asia (1)

Jarik C-Bol (894741) | more than 2 years ago | (#37599758)

This person is right. I have family members that spend a quarter of the year in china, and that is what they do. Buy a sim card, put in in their preferred phone, and carry on with life. If you are worried about people in the states being able to call you, I can't say much for international phone cards and whatnot, they are pretty unreliable as far as I've seen. We've taken to using skype to call into china, which works far better, and is not particularly expensive.

Re:Asia (1)

tgd (2822) | more than 2 years ago | (#37599960)

Can you provide the companies in China that do so?

I'm there all the time, and neither me nor any of my coworkers in China have ever found any providers in the country that do prepaid SIM cards with any data plans, much less unlimited.

(Unlimited plans, as far as I can tell, don't exist in China -- so if you could name the company that is doing that, that'd be great, too!)

Re:Asia (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#37600426)

At least in Hong Kong China Mobile is offering unlimited data plans with prepaid (relatively cheap).

this is not China mobile but one of the other carriers:
http://one2free.hkcsl.com/jsp/prepaid_sim_card/mobile_broadband_prepaid_sim/card_features/card_features.jsp

or another one:
http://www.three.com.hk/website/appmanager/three/home?_nfpb=true&_pageLabel=P200470391219567710594&lang=eng&pageid=615001

On topic:
As advised earlier: just buy a phone (if you don't care about quality you can even buy a fake brand phone) and sim card while you are in China. If you go for a smart phone you can use Voip to call the US.

Please note that in Mainland China you have the great firewall of china which prevents you from accessing ie youtube, twitter and facebook.

According to these sites does China Mobile offer unlimited prepaid plans:
http://www.86callchina.com/gprs-cdma-data-cards.htm & http://www.3gsolutions.com.cn/page/simcard/
I would not buy it from those site but wait until you are in China and buy it there.

Re:Asia (1)

flappinbooger (574405) | more than 2 years ago | (#37601324)

I rented one in Japan for a 2 week trip, but in China obviously simpler and cheaper to buy. Here's an idea - buy a knockoff iphone, use it, then bring it back and post pics.

Same info for Zambia (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#37599158)

i can ditto the same questions for Zambia, where I'll be going in March. I doubt that my CDMA phone will be of much use.

Re:Same info for Zambia (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#37600760)

Africa is much more expensive than Asia. Still, the principle is the same. We had a local SIM for calls. Make sure to check the area coverage of each provider before going to Zambia - there are quite some differences. For data it might be cheaper overall to pay the roaming fees, depending on your bandwidth usage.
Concerning WIFI, it really depends where you stay. If you go standard or upper class hotels good luck with that. If you spend your nights in backpacker hostels, you will have at least a connection, however a rather slow one. Even if you dont stay there you can always just walk into the bar of a hostel, have some beers and ask nicely for the internet. There is no use in war-walking the streets, at least there was not in Livingstone last year.
Check the coast to coast guide book for addresses and information on southern Africa, there might also be some information on mobiles phones (but do not follow their 'you can drink the tab water' advice).

Re:Same info for Zambia (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#37601194)

sorry to reply on own - we had standard 800/1900 MHz dual band GSM phones, no idea about CDMA (wikipedia FTW)

Chinese rootkits on cell phones? (1)

wiggles (30088) | more than 2 years ago | (#37599194)

I thought I heard somewhere that the Chinese have been using exploits in foreign cell phones that install espionage applications (wire tapping) on cell phones when those phones are connected to Chinese towers. Does anyone know anything about this?

Re:Chinese rootkits on cell phones? (1)

chronoglass (1353185) | more than 2 years ago | (#37599312)

for the most part as long as you keep in mind that nothing given is ever free.. you should be fine.
if rooted, change that default password
if jailbroken.. change that password
if you see an app you like, pay for it with money, or personal information.. your choice.

Re:Chinese rootkits on cell phones? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#37599314)

The situation is absolutely real, and eerily common. It's not only about what they do to their own people within PRC borders, but it's far, far from unheard of with designed-and-produced-in-PRC telecom equipment that are sold abroad. I would personally never, ever buy or use a telecom or networking product stemming from a PRC-based company.

Re:Chinese rootkits on cell phones? (2)

ArhcAngel (247594) | more than 2 years ago | (#37600104)

I would personally never, ever buy or use a telecom or networking product stemming from a PRC-based company.

You mean like Foxconn? [wikipedia.org]

Re:Chinese rootkits on cell phones? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#37600214)

Foxconn manufacture parts of, and assemble f.e. Apple's products, they don't design/create them. There is a distinct difference here: a smartphone by f.e. the chinese company ZTE is a genuinely chinese telecom product - designed and produced by a chinese company - whereas a smartphone designed and produced by f.e. Apple or LG, but manufactured and assembled by Foxconn, is not a chinese telecom product in that sense. So, no, I would not have problems buying an iPhone or any other smartphone created by a non-chinese company, regardless if it was assembled in china or not.

Re:Chinese rootkits on cell phones? (-1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#37599326)

I thought I heard somewhere that the Chinese have been using exploits in foreign cell phones that install espionage applications (wire tapping) on cell phones when those phones are connected to Chinese towers. Does anyone know anything about this?

Speaking of rumors, I heard that Glenn Beck might have raped and murdered a young girl in 1990.

Re:Chinese rootkits on cell phones? (1)

wiggles (30088) | more than 2 years ago | (#37599742)

I almost wish that were true, so someone could shut him up in PMITA prison.

Re:Chinese rootkits on cell phones? (2)

Zedrick (764028) | more than 2 years ago | (#37599344)

I've heard that the Dutch wear clogs, the French eat snails, the Iris are drunk all the time, Swedish girls sleep with everyone, the Japanese likes schoolgirls and the Americans are very fat. Does anyone know anything about this?

(sorry, your question is kind of interesting, I just couldn't resist. "The Chinese" are not the same as some individuals or some organisation based in China who might or might not have done something at some point.)

Re:Chinese rootkits on cell phones? (1)

1s44c (552956) | more than 2 years ago | (#37599514)

I've heard that the Dutch wear clogs

Some of them still do. Mostly farmers these days though.

the French eat snails

With garlic butter, yep.

the Iris are drunk all the time

Isn't that a part of your eye?

Swedish girls sleep with everyone

No idea.

the Japanese likes schoolgirls

No idea.

Americans are very fat.

What most of the world considers 'fat' americans consider normal. I've seen a lot of crazy fat Americans.

Re:Chinese rootkits on cell phones? (1)

GameboyRMH (1153867) | more than 2 years ago | (#37601392)

The Japanese sure do like schoolgirls! I don't know if Swedish girls sleep with anyone, but I would advise against having sex with Swedish women, could land you in a lot of legal trouble...

Re:Chinese rootkits on cell phones? (1)

wiggles (30088) | more than 2 years ago | (#37599772)

I should probably amend my post to 'Chinese government' or PLA.

Re:Chinese rootkits on cell phones? (1)

gaelfx (1111115) | more than 2 years ago | (#37599416)

I know that it's a total conspiracy theory and totally not worth believing. If they were going to install rootkits, they would do it at the factories where they make all the phones that everyone everywhere uses already, that way they can spy on all the people who don't come to China because they don't want the rootkits from the Chinese cell towers too.

Re:Chinese rootkits on cell phones? (1)

sousoux (945907) | more than 2 years ago | (#37599652)

They don't need any exploits. The calls are not encrypted inside their networks.

Advice for using a cell phone in China (1)

MrSavage (2127458) | more than 2 years ago | (#37599212)

Don't text dirty jokes in China or send any "Weinergate" type of photos. They tend to frown on that. RANG RANG on the WANG WANG! Hey, the question asked for advice on "using" a cell phone in China, not buying one.

Xiaomi Phone (2)

manekineko2 (1052430) | more than 2 years ago | (#37599282)

So it sounds like you're looking to buy a smartphone.

In that case, arguably one of the best smartphones on the market, and also one of the cheapest without a contract, is the Xiaomi phone, released by a Chinese startup. It's only sold in China, but it is pretty much the geekiest Android phone around. Given that it's hard to get outside of China, I wouldn't be surprised if you could re-sell it and recoup most or all of its cost when you get back to America.
http://www.engadget.com/2011/09/27/xiaomi-phone-review/ [engadget.com]

China Unicom (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#37599284)

Bring your iPhone or Android. If you can't get it unlocked before arriving they should be able to insert a chip between the sim and your phone that tricks the phone in to believing it is with the right carrier. This chip cost around 200RMB, and the asking price is probably 300RMB

If you are there for a long time, you can look into getting a proper subscription, but for anything less than 6 month get China Unicom 3G prepaid (it is an orange envelope that says China Unicom and 3G)

They have a special plan where they deduct 46RMB every month from your prepaid account (remember to keep enough money in there!) and give you 150mb as well as 50 minutes of talk. So no, you won't exactly be youtubing on the go, but it is plenty for checking maps and email and the occasional search. You can upgrade the plan, but the bigger packages mostly add minutes.

I use my phone fairly freely for about 100RMB a month this way.

Buy a 4-band GSM phone. (1)

Futurepower(R) (558542) | more than 2 years ago | (#37599320)

Buy a 4-band GSM phone. That kind of phone has the most flexibility and can be used in 219 countries. References:

GSM (Global System for Mobile Communications) [wikipedia.org]
GSM World [gsm.org]

The GSM system uses different 4 bands. A phone that can use any of them is the most flexible.

When you get where you're going, go to a marketplace and buy a SIM card. That gives you a local number. If you meet someone you want to communicate with later, you will have a local number to give him or her. If you plan to communicate with the person after you leave, don't forget to exchange email addresses, because you will use a different SIM card in a different city, usually, and have a different number.

SIM, Subscriber Identity Module [wikipedia.org]

Re:Buy a 4-band GSM phone. (1)

Miamicanes (730264) | more than 2 years ago | (#37601170)

Or, if you're a Sprint customer due for an upgrade, buy a Motorola Photon. It does both GSM and CDMA. Just make sure you get the SIM unlock code from Sprint before you leave, and be aware that the SIM is used ONLY for GSM identity (in theory, Sprint could have used it with a USIM card capable of operating as a CDMA R-UIM... but they didn't), so you won't be able to casually use it on any CDMA network in China (except as an expensively-roaming Sprint phone).

Getting a cell phone (5, Informative)

x6060 (672364) | more than 2 years ago | (#37599340)

DO NOT TAKE YOUR OWN AMERICAN CELL PHONE. I've had 3 colleagues have theirs either confiscated or taken to be "searched" (If it was being "searched" they got it back on their way out of the country, if it was confiscated it was gone for good.) Cellphones are dirt cheap there and so are sims with unlimited data plans and a crap ton of minutes. For 30 bucks you can usually have a decent flip phone and a month of service. Service for me was 7$ a month after that. Be careful what you browse on the internet and what you say on the phone.

Re:Getting a cell phone (2)

BenJury (977929) | more than 2 years ago | (#37599462)

Funny, exactly the same thing can be said when entering the USA.

Re:Getting a cell phone (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#37599840)

Not true. I doubt the US will ever give a device back.

Re:Getting a cell phone (3, Informative)

Anonymous Psychopath (18031) | more than 2 years ago | (#37599702)

DO NOT TAKE YOUR OWN AMERICAN CELL PHONE. I've had 3 colleagues have theirs either confiscated or taken to be "searched" (If it was being "searched" they got it back on their way out of the country, if it was confiscated it was gone for good.)

Cellphones are dirt cheap there and so are sims with unlimited data plans and a crap ton of minutes. For 30 bucks you can usually have a decent flip phone and a month of service. Service for me was 7$ a month after that.

Be careful what you browse on the internet and what you say on the phone.

I've had no problems bringing multiple cell phones in and out of China on multiple occasions (and I echo the advice of bringing an unlocked GSM phone and buying a SIM card locally). What the hell are your colleagues doing to get their phones confiscated? Just like us, _everyone_ traveling in China is carrying a phone.

One thing you will not be able to do is hit Facebook or the Apple app store. I used a PPTP connection to work around this issue.

Re:Getting a cell phone (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#37600600)

What the hell are your colleagues doing to get their phones confiscated?

Maybe fidget with their oooh sooo shiny expensive high-end geek phones in front of people who earn what you make in a day in a year and whose relatives work in sweat shops in China to make this very model they can't even dream of?

Don't be a dick. Don't let it all hang out or be loud and obnoxious. Also, voluntary bribing (donâ(TM)t get caught and check the local practices for what's appropriate and how to approach) together with some friendliness can go a long way in not getting treated like a dick. (On the last day, I always leave a large (to them) bill of money and a thank you note in my hotel room for the cleaning person to take or give it to the person who I think is the most underpaid and under-appreciated.)

Re:Getting a cell phone (1)

DigiShaman (671371) | more than 2 years ago | (#37600982)

Unless you've got something to claim when going through customs, I don't know how they're getting searched. Usually my phone is turned off laying at the bottom of my carry-on bag when going through Pudong airport. I only take it for when I'm leaving the US and returning home. You never know when you need to call a cab or resolve connecting flight issues.

Re:Getting a cell phone (1)

number17 (952777) | more than 2 years ago | (#37601056)

DO NOT TAKE YOUR OWN AMERICAN CELL PHONE. I've had 3 colleagues have theirs either confiscated or taken to be "searched"

What the hell are your colleagues doing to get their phones confiscated?

He didn't say who or when it was confiscated. It may have been on the way back into the US by the friendly TSA employees??

Crapshoot (1)

gaelfx (1111115) | more than 2 years ago | (#37599392)

To be really honest with you, it's kind of a crapshoot no matter what you choose. There are three "choices" as far as carriers here: China Mobile, China Unicom, and China Telecom. China Mobile will be a bit more expensive for things like 3G, and supposedly isn't as fast as China Unicom. China Telecom is as cheap as they come, but doesn't seem to have much in the way of extras as far as services are concerned. My suggestion is to go with China Unicom, however, if you want to be uploading pics on the spot, you better have a VPN ready, or be prepared to use a Chinese website to upload the pics to since Picasa and other foreign picture hosting services are generally blocked here. As for phones, I personally use a Huawei U8150 (which is known in the US as the T-Mobile Comet), since it is about the cheapest smartphone you can get right now (I got mine for about 700 yuan, and it came with 2 batteries). It's got Android 2.2, bluetooth and wifi, but the camera is about as crappy as they come. Other than that, it's a pretty decent phone. I will tell you that GPS doesn't really do you much good in China though, since everything is changing so constantly here that many places appear on GPS where they are no longer present in the real world. You might consider getting the cheapest possible basic phone (I found a wonderful nokia with a built-in flashlight for 189 yuan on the Chinese version of Newegg) and just get a 3g USB dongle for whatever computer I assume you will take with you. Good luck.

Get a UMTS phone to use with China Unicom (1)

King InuYasha (1159129) | more than 2 years ago | (#37599404)

There are two major operators that support using your own phone on their network: China Unicom and China Mobile. China Mobile operates a GSM network that covers the entire country, but their 3G network is TD-SCDMA, so no American phones will operate on 3G on China Mobile. However, China Unicom operates a 3G UMTS network, and all T-Mobile USA phones will work on it, and many AT&T phones will too.

You'll want to bring with you an unlocked T-Mobile USA phone for use in China. While there are many on AT&T that do also technically support China Unicom's infrastructure, it is hit-or-miss to get them unlocked. Talking to AT&T reps to get unlock codes is like pulling teeth sometimes... Purchase a good smartphone from T-Mobile USA off contract and call them up and request the unlock code. Tell them you purchased the phone for its full price at a store to use for international travel and go from there.

Personally, I'd recommend the T-Mobile Samsung Galaxy S II or the HTC Amaze 4G. Both of them support UMTS 850/AWS/1900/2100. China Unicom on the mainland uses UMTS 2100 last I checked, but they may have launched service on UMTS 850, since China Unicom in Hong Kong uses UMTS 850/2100. If that's a bit too high end for you, then the T-Mobile Motorola DEFY, T-Mobile Motorola CLIQ 2, or the T-Mobile MyTouch by LG all support UMTS 850/2100.

Re:Get a UMTS phone to use with China Unicom (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#37600050)

if you can route through Hong Kong, you might want to pick up an iPhone there - they're all sold unlocked there, and there's fairly good odds you can sell it back in the US (there's demand for iPhones with no need to jailbreak after every patch).

Cheap disposable (1)

1s44c (552956) | more than 2 years ago | (#37599410)

Unless you are there for months just get a cheap disposible prepaid one there. Multinationals have been known to bin company cell phones that have been taken to China out of paranoia that they have been altered in some way.

Cheap SIMS (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#37599424)

It's all buy-as-you-go. When I was there purchasing 300-odd minutes was 100 yuan if memory serves. Each text counted as one. I didn't use my phone much, so maybe you would need more, but I was able to use my american phone with the Chinese SIM. However, if you actually speak any Chinese, you must get a phone while there, as your American phone (depending on how good it is) may or may not have Mandarin characters installed, and you won't be able to see any texts people send you. My phone was pretty crappy so maybe you won't have this problem. If you are going on business they may search you, but I was a student and had zero problems with my phone.

Four years ago, for five days as a tourist. (1)

Neil_Brown (1568845) | more than 2 years ago | (#37599434)

I took my own smartphone - an XDA IIs - and was just very careful with my usage; I was predominantly reliant on Wi-Fi, which, I was pleasantly surprised to find, was easily available where I was visiting.

My only quandry was whether I was required to declare the phone coming into the custom, on the form which asks about radios and cryptography. I decided not to declare it, on the grounds that, if they had wanted to include cell phones, they would have said so, since the average traveller is not going to decide that the phone fell within the description. A risk, of course, but one I felt comfortable taking.

Chinese Currency (1)

seyyah (986027) | more than 2 years ago | (#37599442)

Note: it would be great if you include in your answers some idea about their currency â" if you're in China right now, say, or if you were there more than a year ago.

I can do this.

I was in China more than a year ago, seven years ago to be exact. Their currency was the Chinese Yuan.

You're welcome.

Re:Chinese Currency (1)

Anonymous Psychopath (18031) | more than 2 years ago | (#37599766)

Note: it would be great if you include in your answers some idea about their currency â" if you're in China right now, say, or if you were there more than a year ago.

I can do this.

I was in China more than a year ago, seven years ago to be exact. Their currency was the Chinese Yuan.

You're welcome.

Except in Hong Kong, where it is the Hong Kong Dollar (HKD), and Macau, where it is the Macau Pataca (MOP). The Yuan, used everywhere on the mainland, is referred to as RMB on the exchanges.

Simple, yet different (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#37599588)

So, first.

All cell phones sold in China are unlocked. So if you buy one there, you can use it here. If you have an unlocked cell phone from the US, it will work on the network in China, make sure you buy the right type of SIM card.

There are a few things to keep in mind:

1) The cell phone market in China is highly fractured. Buying phone/sim card rules vary from city to city. Generally easier to get a SIM card in a high tourist area, as they've done this before. Generally keep in mind you will need a passport to get a SIM card. The only place I didn't need one was when a 'friend' new a 'friend' who had could get me a SIM card. Also keep in mind they KEEP this information. I got a SIM card years ago, when I went back to get another one, they had my passport on file and told me I owed them 200 yuan (~ $40), cause I had not used the phone and had not kept on fees for non-use. Until I get a new passport, I probably can't get a SIM card in China anymore...

2) Again the market is highly fractured, so a SIM card purchased in one City works in that city cheaply. However, once you leave the city, they have roaming fees, think US market circa 90s. Calling outside the city is long distance. There are a few 'plans' out there that allow you to roam China and make domestic long distance, sometimes they make sense, sometimes, they don't. Get some one who speaks the language and help you figure it out.

GL

Re:Simple, yet different (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#37600278)

identification is needed for prepaid SIMs almost everywhere around the world now - or, at least everywhere they have any concerns about cell-phone detonated explosives. this isn't something "abnormal".

Re:Simple, yet different (1)

Pi1grim (1956208) | more than 2 years ago | (#37601460)

It is abnormal. Heck, in most European countries you can buy prepaid cards and don't have to show anything. Not like requiring a passport will protect you from a dedicated bomber.

China is CDMA (1)

grnrckt94 (932158) | more than 2 years ago | (#37599614)

China uses the same tech as Verizon, CDMA. That being said, taking a VZ phone will put a MAJOR dent in your wallet for data. Last I checked, Verizon was charging $20.00 per MEGABYTE for overseas data and $65/mo global voice package. Yes, you read that right. Pretty much all the electronics are dirt cheap over there. I'd recommend buying a throwaway phone when you get there. Since you don't have a "permanent" number now, getting an in country phone number doesn't seem like it'd be an issue.

Re:China is CDMA (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#37599708)

This is incorrect.

Re:China is CDMA (1)

grnrckt94 (932158) | more than 2 years ago | (#37599906)

Given that I was there last week, and it is, I would know.

Re:China is CDMA (1)

danlip (737336) | more than 2 years ago | (#37599980)

A little Googling would seem to indicate that China has both CDMA and GSM. "China Telecom expects 100 million CDMA users by 2011" is the second link on a search for "cdma china". GSM coverage map shows China, but on a different frequency form the US, so you would want a 4-band phone if you are using it for both.

Re:China is CDMA (1)

dalias (1978986) | more than 2 years ago | (#37600054)

This is blatantly wrong. Maybe one crappy carrier uses CDMA, but the decent carriers, especially China Mobile, use GSM.

Re:China is CDMA (1)

grnrckt94 (932158) | more than 2 years ago | (#37600142)

Like I said before, given that I was there last week, and last year, and the year before that, and I used my CDMA VZ phone, I think I would know. How can you tell me I'm wrong? JFGIA

Re:China is CDMA (1)

grnrckt94 (932158) | more than 2 years ago | (#37600166)

Hey check this out from WIKI: China China announced in May 2008, that the telecoms sector was re-organized and three 3G networks would be allocated so that the largest mobile operator, China Mobile, would retain its GSM customer base. China Unicom would retain its GSM customer base but relinquish its CDMA2000 customer base, and launch 3G on the globally leading W-CDMA (UMTS) standard. The CDMA2000 customers of China Unicom would go to China Telecom, which would then launch 3G on the CDMA2000 1x EV-DO standard. This meant that China would have all three main cellular technology 3G standards in commercial use. Finally in January 2009, Ministry of industry and Information Technology of China awarded licenses of all three standards: TD-SCDMA to China Mobile, W-CDMA to China Unicom and CDMA2000 to China Telecom. The launch of 3G occurred on 1 October 2009, to coincide with the 60th Anniversary of the Founding of the People's Republic of China. By August 2011, China Telecom's 3G subscriber has exceeded 23 million [14].

Re:China is CDMA (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#37600152)

The only place in asia that is completely CDMA without GSM is South Korea.

Re:China is CDMA (1)

Miamicanes (730264) | more than 2 years ago | (#37601354)

Not quite right. South Korea USED to be 100% CDMA, but a couple of years ago the carriers decided to skip EVDO and go with W-CDMA/UMTS instead. The result is that South Korea's cellular network is like Canada's and semi-rural Australia's -- CDMA2000 for legacy voice and 1xRTT data is available everywhere, 3G is strictly UMTS, and some new phones sold there can't do CDMA2000 at all.

Re:China is CDMA (1)

GameboyRMH (1153867) | more than 2 years ago | (#37601488)

What happened to South Korea being high-tech? I thought only their grandparents would be using CDMA by now.

Re:China is CDMA (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#37601314)

You can't use the CDMA while in China.
The CDMA is used by China Telecom for the fix line replacement
You need a CHINA ID card to use the CDMA

use GSM instead
GSM is the REAL mobile phone.

China Mobile (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#37599734)

I bought a China Mobile SIM in a train station in Guangzhou for maybe $10. I think it was $5 a month for unlimited data. Refill with cards purchased anywhere. I don't speak Chinese and it was easy to manage. I remember standing next to mud huts in rural Yunan province with a solid Edge connection on my iPhone (jailbroken and unlocked of course).

iphone is different in China (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#37599770)

If you're going to use an iphone, I'm fairly sure the only company that offers 3G on the iPhone is ChinaUnicom. Normally, most people would do the standard, walk up and buy a sim card from some guy on the street for about Y100 (or Y200 for 3G) and that will probably be with China Mobile (the biggest mobile phone provider in China). But if you want the 3G to work on an iPhone, your best bet is going to an actual ChinaUnicom store and setting up a plan. You may need to show your passport. It may cost Y2-300 for the sim. Calls and data will be fairly cheap and you can usually do it prepaid, which is definitely the best option if you aren't going to be there too long.

I'm not sure if Apple have changed this recently, to allow China Mobile to carry 3G, but if you can't find out before you get there assume they haven't. Definitely don't take the word of someone who's selling you a sim card.

On the other hand, since you like cheap models, try waiting till you get there and getting a local Chinese brand. They've really come a long way and often offer different feature sets to what comes standard in the West. You probably want to bring a friend along who speaks the language, but I don't think there's much scope for bargaining anymore so there wont be too much to talk about.

SIM cards and Data - from Ubicomp conference (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#37599792)

The Ubicomp conference was recently in China, and there's a nice post about communication in general as well as specifics on SIM cards and data plans here: http://dubfuture.blogspot.com/2011/08/hints-for-travel-to-beijing-for-ubicomp.html

Don't GPS's stop working in China? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#37599844)

Dunno if it applies to mobiles w/ GPS's, but I have heard that handheld GPS's are disabled (if legal at all) when in China...

Anybody know for sure?

Re:Don't GPS's stop working in China? (2)

Guppy (12314) | more than 2 years ago | (#37600324)

Dunno if it applies to mobiles w/ GPS's, but I have heard that handheld GPS's are disabled (if legal at all) when in China...

Due to a combination of paranoia and market-protectionism, uncensored maps are considered some sort of state secret and not allowed to be exported. Instead, if you buy any GPS sold outside the PRC with maps of that country, you're stuck with censored maps that have offsets and distortions introduced -- so while your unit might give you the right coordinates, you'll be looking at the wrong spot on the map.

Supposedly there are "fixed" maps floating around for some GPS brands, but they're probably quite illegal to bring into China.

Re:Don't GPS's stop working in China? (1)

GameboyRMH (1153867) | more than 2 years ago | (#37601518)

That's technically impossible unless the Chinese government is blanketing large areas with GPS jammers.

Also it's impossible to detect the use of GPS. It's just a passive receiver like an FM radio.

No plan, just wifi (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#37600008)

I was in China a couple weeks ago, and my approach was to take a smart phone which I kept in airplane mode the whole time and then ensure that my hotels had wifi internet access. I took pictures each day and uploaded them when I got back to the hotel. Using skype I was able to make cheap calls home as well. I didn't see any need to have cell phone connectivity while out and about, although it would have helped in one instance when meeting a local friend.

Recommendations on buying phone, SIM cards, & (2)

dalias (1978986) | more than 2 years ago | (#37600286)

Really, just take any quad band GSM phone and buy a SIM card, and you should be set. If you need 3G speeds you'll probably need to check the specs of the phone and get one on the right 3G bands (US ones won't work but there are plenty of online sources for cheap Chinese phones). If you can get by in Chinese well enough to go shopping, and don't need the phone immediately on arrival, just buy one yourself once you get there. Same goes for the SIM card. I would recommend China Mobile as a carrier. They seem to have the best coverage and they're easy to recharge. China Unicom can get you better rates as of last time I was there, but they kinda suck in other ways.

If you do want to buy your SIM before you go, I highly recommend this site: http://www.china-mobile-phones.com/ [china-mobile-phones.com] Please note I have no affiliation with them, but I have used them extensively in the past. You'll pay a good bit more than buying once you get there, but unlike the other online places to order Chinese phones/SIM cards, they don't charge you outrageous fees for airtime and make you go through them to purchase more air time at 10x markup. You simply get a normal prepaid China Mobile (or China Unicom) SIM card you can recharge yourself any way you like. They also offer online recharge for almost any China Mobile or China Unicom SIM, whether it was purchased through them or not, so you can recharge airtime for other people too. This comes in really handy when you're outside the country and the phone you need to call is "guanji".

Finally, if you want easy call-out to call back home, http://www.didww.com/ [didww.com] (also no affiliation) offers Chinese DIDs (VOIP phone numbers) which you can connect to whatever SIP address you want. Otherwise, outgoing international calls can be expensive and you may (not sure if this still applies) have to register with the police to get international dialing enabled for your SIM.

kiosk (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#37600484)

I've lived in China for 10 years now...

As everyone already told you, get a cheap mobile, plugin sim card. If you would like to make international calls you'll have to apply for the right to do so, a service provider can help you with that, but it's easier to check into a hotel and use their phones or you could scout for a telephone kiosk, they can usually make international calls.

TMobile and UMA (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#37600514)

In China a year ago and we used our TMobile phones over wi-fi with the UMA feature. It worked fantastic -- better call quality than we usually get from rural Texas where we live; much better quality than using UMA over wi-fi from Mexico and Costa Rica. Only real problem was remember what the time difference was. Oh and there was no additional charge from our monthly service.

No big deal - unlocked GSM phones (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#37600590)

Any unlocked GSM phone will do. You can pick up SIM cards literally from street vendors.

I travel to China somewhat often and have never had trouble with border control.

As for browsing - look up Bolt Browser. Gets past the "great firewall" (more like minor speed bump) without trouble.

be careful with camera gps (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#37600662)

Some cameras have their gps modules disabled inside China!

Google Maps doesn't work in China (1)

Malc (1751) | more than 2 years ago | (#37600664)

It's really annoying, but Google maps doesn't work properly in China. It's offset, and the satellite maps have a different offset amount and direction to the street maps. Photos taken with my iPhone opened in Geosetter make it very clear. Google for this, and you will find that this a problem that goes beyond Google maps and even affects other GPS products. Only those from China work. Consider this when taking such a product with you, or whether you can read Chinese and buy a local one or use a local website from your phone.

Incidentally, I noticed a couldn't even find addresses in Shanghai yesterday using maps.google.co.uk (it appears to be working again today). My usual hotel was booked and our company travel agent's website wasn't doing a very good job of offering alternatives either. Annoying, and so typical of every experience I've had in China over the years: nothing's reliable in the way we used to in the West.

Just got back from China (1)

Lordy2001 (951056) | more than 2 years ago | (#37600696)

I just got back from a business trip to China. I carry my personal android CDMA phone in airplane mode while there and connect it to wifi hotspots in the hotel and such to check mail and what have you. I then carry an unlocked blackberry perl I bummed off of a friend in the US. The nice thing is that the phone is all in english. As soon as I checked into my hotel, I handed the concierge 100RMB and asked him to get me a sim card for the town I would be in. My traveling guide then helped me activate the sim card in the phone.

Some things to remember:
- Make sure the GSM phone operates on China frequencies (GSM in china is different than GSM frequencies in US)
- Calling plans in China are typically free inward calls so set up your friends on google voice / skype so they can call you
- The sim card I got was local only so it only worked in the town I was in, I do not know about plans that take you elsewhere
- When you activate you will get instructions to a Chinese voip tunnel which you can use to call US for cheap. This is a much cheaper way than dialing international from your new SIM.

Also to note in my research China Telcom which operates the national CDMA network requires a local address to sign up so I did not try to get my CDMA phone registered there so if trying this route good luck.

- best of luck and good travels

Also good to know all the bartenders know american for BEER but unfortunately you should probly learn the mandrin for toilet :)

Well (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#37600844)

Get a cheap cell phone. You can pick them up anywhere. But the service can be really wonky as you go from city to city.

Unlocked GSM phone... (2)

rdsingh (643439) | more than 2 years ago | (#37600852)

If you have an unlocked GSM, quad band phone, you can take that with you and get someone in China buy a 50 Yuan ($10) SIM card for you from China Mobile you are good to go. If you are with carriers such as T-mobile or AT&T here in the US (others are not GSM) you can get your carrier to unlock your phone so that you can use other SIM cards in it. T-mobile helps you unlock your phone when you simply call them and tell them your purpose, even when you are within the contract period. I don't know about AT&T. I guess they do it as well. 50Yuan card will last you for a very long time calling within China. If you want to call back the US, if you buy your SIM card from China mobile, you can use a prefix code to get very economical calls to the US. The prefix code is 12593. That is, if you want to call a US number, dial 12593-001-(Area code)(Tel#). Without this number prefix, your 50Yuan card will not last more than 10minutes, if you call US.

Do you really need a phone? (1)

Chiller (1883) | more than 2 years ago | (#37600866)

I was there about 10 months ago for adoption and never used my phone once. For calling back to the U.S. we just used Skype (via VPN). We stayed in 3 cities (all major cities) and each hotel we stayed in had 'net access in the rooms, either included as part of our package or for a fairly cheap rate. All photos were taken with our digital camera and just uploaded to our laptop at the end of each day. I didn't have any need for GPS data with the photos since I knew the towns we were in and places we were visiting thanks to an itinerary. You might not have that luxury.

I did bring my AT&T iPhone with me but left it in airplane mode the entire time. I really only used it as a wake-up alarm. I think I locked it in the room safe whenever we went out. I left it in my carry-on when flying and never had any problems with security.

Don't Get an iPhone (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#37601034)

They cost thousands (of dollars) more than they should. I would recommend buying another drug dealer special as you so eloquently named it. As for the currency, the rate is 6.9 yuan to 1 dollar. In China, the yuan spends similarly to a dollar in America. Just don't try to buy an Apple product or any sort of camera.

Get a Blackberry (1)

NotesSensei (997996) | more than 2 years ago | (#37601140)

Get yourself a Blackberry and an unlimited international data plan. When I travel there the BB (albeit connected to a BES) can access any website, Facebook works, Twitter works since all traffic is routed through the BES. You need to check with your phone provider if that is true for BIS too. Beats fiddling with VPN and stuff by length. If access to all this doesn't matter: a cheap China Mobile prepaid SIM and a Xiaomi Android --- or a Huawei Ideos (a bit slow, so that's if calls is your main app).

China work (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#37601548)

I have lived in China recently, and knew many expat friends in China as well.

Short answer: get a GSM/WCDMA smartphone that accepts SIM cards, or just buy a phone in China

Please note that I have never heard of anyone getting their cell phone getting confiscated among my friends.

Long answer:
If you just want to make calls, it's simple. Get a random cheap-phone once you're there. That's the safest bet, although GSM (normal SIM-compatible) networks are provided by China Unicom and China Mobile. China Unicom in particular uses WCDMA, which is what Verizon and AT&T use for their 3G services, so your smartphone's 3G would work on that. China Telecom does NOT have WCDMA, and instead uses a proprietary (and usually recognized as not-as-good) standard known TD-SCDMA.

Please note that smartphones are not any cheaper than in the US, for the most part, although more low-end smartphone options (with resistive touch-screens for example) exist.

I personally brought my Sprint HTC EVO 4G, which is a CDMA (EVDO) phone. China Telecom does have CDMA with EVDO service, but you have to go through a fairly complicated process and preferably have connections to get the phone working. Several codes (AA/AAA, ESN, etc.) have to be entered manually into their system and the PRL, among other thing,s have to be updated to match the locale.

Basically, anything is possible, but follow the advice in the short section.

are you fuckin crazy dood? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#37601582)

Why do you want to go to China? Didn't you listen to your government mouthpiece media tell you China is a despotic autocratic regime, with absolutely no regards for human rights, paying sweatshop wages, harboring unsafe working conditions, with simmering social unrest, and beggers swarming tourists outside of airports and hotels?

You're better off going to a country like India, which is the world's largest democracy, with the world's second fastest growing economy (I'm not sure who's first), low crime rates, prosperous (no beggers here), with fantastic infrastructures.

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