Using Cell Phones in China

This post is about how to use your cell phone in China.    I’m having more trouble than I thought finding out the procedure but here’s what I think I know so far:

* You must have a GSM phone:  My Treo 650 meets this standard.

* You must have the phone unlocked before the trip.  Usually this is done by your provider.   In my case this is Sprint

* In some cases you can buy an international calling plan from the providers.

* Cheaper service appears to come via SIM cards you can purchase online or in China.  These seem to cost about $30 and include some phone time as well as reductions in per minute costs for international calling.     I’m seeing about .18 per minute China to USA which I think is much cheaper than I’ve had with an International Calling plan.

* China Mobile is the big daddy cellular provider in China

Note – I’ll try to revise this and fix mistakes as I figure this out.


About JoeDuck

Internet Travel Guy, Father of 2, small town Oregon life. BS Botany from UW Madison Wisconsin, MS Social Sciences from Southern Oregon. Top interests outside of my family's well being are: Internet Technology, Online Travel, Globalization, China, Table Tennis, Real Estate, The Singularity.
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16 Responses to Using Cell Phones in China

  1. Pingback: Why online chat support usually fails « Joe Duck

  2. John says:

    Hi Joe,
    My understanding through Verizon is that China is on the CDMA system and therefore, sim cards, which are not on CDMA phones are not needed. Can you verify?

  3. Brian says:

    Good stuff! I’m heading over there for a study abroad in mid-February.

  4. kathleen says:

    hey joe??? got some time to visit your web…hmmmm, i thouth i can find info’s on how people live in china wiyh yheir cell phones.

  5. JoeDuck says:

    I’m sorry I didn’t flesh this out more, and not sure if this is still relevant – I was there about a year ago.

    A friend who stayed on in China wound up having trouble finding SIM cards that worked with his phone. It worked but the charges per minute were huge to USA. My other friend had a China phone somebody in country loaned him and I think his charges per minute to USA were small.

    So based on that I’d recommend you find a *trusted* China contact to buy you a phone in country or advise you on SIM cards. There are a lot of what look like phone sales scams at the stores and markets so be very, careful if you try to buy your own phone and plan in China.

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