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Home Communication & Others Tips on Cellphone
Tips on Cellphone
Communication & Others

    Cell Phone
Cellular phones are very widespread and offer very good service. If you are staying more than a few weeks, it may be advisable to buy one. If you are travelling around, be sure to get a GSM phone and a SIM card so that your phone can work anywhere in China.

Some cards work only in one province. In general, most China Mobile SIM cards are capable of nationwide usage right off the bat. Be sure to ask the rules regarding travel with your phone.

Some services require you to activate the national roaming service (man you) before you can use it outside of the city or province. Be sure to turn off the service when you return to your home city as there is a daily surcharge for using it (this does not apply to SIMs that are already capable of roaming at purchase time).

Cell PhoneAvoid the cheaper wireless phones called PHS (小灵通 xiǎo líng tōng, see "Area Codes"), because they won’t work if you go to another city.

Prepaid cell phone service is common although there are also monthly plans. You can just go to a shop and purchase a charge card, which has a number and password that must be used to call the telephone company to recharge the money in your account.
You will be calling a computer and the default language is Chinese, which can be changed to English if you understand the Chinese. Even the English language options may be daunting, as there are several options.

The typical expat spends ¥100 (US$14) a month or a bit more; tourists might use it less. Charge cards are sold in denominations of ¥100 or ¥50, It is also possible to walk into any of the neighborhood offices of your mobile service provider, give the staff your number and pay in cash recharge your account (this is the only way to do a ¥30 recharge).

China mainly uses the GSM standard, though there are some CDMA phones. For GSM, you need the GSM 900 and 1800 frequencies, just the same as most places except the Americas. If this is true then you can roam on a local China network but expect to pay US$2-5/minute.

SIM cardSince China uses R-UIM (SIM card equivalent) on its CDMA service there is no easy way to bring in a CDMA phone and use prepaid service. However, by asking around you may find shops that will program in a prepaid number for you (generally for a fee of ¥100-¥400).

Make sure that you can return your home number to your phone afterward to avoid problems upon return. This is not advisable for short-term trips because of the difficulty involved, but for those on CDMA that have a reason to keep their current phones it is probably the only way.

On the other hand, just buying another phone for use in China may be easier.
China Mobile cell phones will not normally make international calls. To get that service, you need to go to the local office of China Mobile and ask them to enable the "12593" international dialing service. You will have to prefix all your numbers with "12593" but calls to North America and other parts of Asia are only ¥0.4/minute (calls to Europe and Australia will be somewhat more expensive).

China Unicom allows international calls on all prepaid SIMs but the prefix is "17911" and their rates are significantly higher (about 8x more when calling the US; the difference is less when it is for Europe).

You can use prepaid cards for international calling with a cell phone, however, just dial the number on the card as with a regular landline phone. The charges will go to the prepaid calling card.

The Chinese GSM system uses 900 MHz and 1800 MHz, and most phones are sold with only those frequencies. Those phones will work in Europe, South East Asia, and Australia, but not in the US, Canada or South America (1900 or 850 MHz). Consider buying a "world phone" with more frequencies.
 

 

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