Mobile Phone in China - what to do?

Old Dec 18th, 2003, 10:10 AM
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Mobile Phone in China - what to do?

Hi,

A relative of mine will be in China for about six months in Beijing.

Should he rent or buy a cell phone? Which company should he sign up with?

Any websites to give him some information on cell phones in China?

Thanks for any help you can give!
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Old Dec 19th, 2003, 10:24 AM
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It depends on where your relative comes from.

All Europeans, most Australians, and many North Americans use GSM (Global System for Mobiles). But while everyone else can take a regular GSM phone to China, North Americans, who operate on a different frequency, need to have a more expensive tri-band model.

International roaming charges can be horrendously expensive. It?s far cheaper to buy a pre-paid chip with a new number in China. You may need to call up your cellular operator to ?unlock? your phone in order to use it with a local provider.

Renting a phone is an expensive alternative, best done from home, since such services are not widely available in China. That way you can give out your new number, and make sure the phone works. You?ll usually pay $40 to $50 per week, plus air-time fees of at least a dollar a minute.

In mainland China, buying a phone is the best option. Last year?s now unfashionable model, can be bought, with chip and Y100 ($13) of pre-paid air time, for often around Y800 ($100); less if a Chinese model is chosen. Europeans taking their GSM phones, and North Americans with tri-band phones, can buy chips a.k.a. sim cards (quanqiutong) for about Y100 ($13). Recharge cards (shenzhouxing) are available at post offices and the mobile phone shops which seem to occupy about 50% of all retail space. Call rates are very low, although those receiving calls pay part of the cost, and if the phone is taken to another province, that cost increases, making the use of ordinary phones a better deal for dialing out.

Connection is generally with China Mobile, and the chip/SIM card/quanqiutong can be bought at any phone shop, many convenience stores and post offices, including the post office at Beijing airport. Recharge cards either of the kind where you scratch off a panel and dial the revealed code number into the phone, or a printed label with the same function are even more widely available. Instructions on the card, by voice when dialling the service line to recharge, and the menus of any phone bought in China are all in English as well as Chinese.

Peter N-H
http://members.axion.net/~pnh/China.html
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Old Dec 19th, 2003, 08:21 PM
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Peter: Thak you very much for your detailed response.

I've passed on your info to my relative and he believes that he'll opt for buying a used phone in China. He's going to China from the US and he is aware that he will have to bring an unlocked triband (900, 1800 for China?)or buy one on arrival.

Are there any particular dos or don'ts on buying a used phone? Any reliable store or should he buy it from China Mobile?

Thanks again for your invaluable help!
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Old Dec 19th, 2003, 09:38 PM
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The price quoted above is for a new phone--just a basic (say) Nokia (the most popular phone in China). The model I bought about three years ago, considered well past it by my hip Beijing friends, I quite commonly see in use on the streets at home today. Rather than getting involved in the possible complications of trying to buy a second-hand phone, I'd opt for going round a few phone stores away from the main shopping streets and bargaining for the best price for a new one, then looking to sell it to recoup a bit of the investment through contacts made while there in China. This way he/she will be on-line immediately with a reliable phone, and the financial result will probably be no different from buying used one, and much less bother. A friend of mine sold her phone through some completely free Chinese-language Web site, and it took 24 hours. A Chinese acquaintance should be able to help.

Chinese brand phones are even cheaper (although very uncool, if that matters), but he'll need to make sure they have English menus.

Peter N-H
http://members.axion.net/~pnh/China.html
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Old Dec 23rd, 2003, 05:26 AM
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Peter: I've passed your information on to my relative and he says to thank you again for your invaluable advice.

Thank you!
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