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Definitely NOT Sprint

Cell phones
Getting a Cell Phone in China is such a different experience than in America that I wanted to share it with you.

In the States, you choose the company you want to go with (Sprint, Cingular, Verizon, etc.) and sign up for a one or two year contract paying a set $30 to $40 a month for a certain number of minutes. The company will usually give you a simple phone, but if you want anything fancier you’ll have to throw in some more money up front. And if you ever change services, you can’t usually take your old cell phone with you.

In China, you first go to a cell phone shop and buy whatever phone you’d like. It doesn’t matter.

Then you go to one of the two companies you can buy a cell phone service from: China Mobile or China Unicom. I use China Mobile. The lady behind the counter has a sheet of a hundred or so cell phone numbers you can choose. The numbers with more ‘8’s or ‘3’s in them are more lucky and thus more expensive. Others are free. I pick a free one and hand over a hundred RMB (USD$12.50) which is put into the account balance.

I’m handed what looks like a credit card with a little square piece that can be punched out of it–the Sim card–which can be inserted into the slot beneath the cell phone battery.

Turn the phone on and I have service.

Every month 16RMB (USD$2.00) is deducted from my balance. All my incoming calls are completely free. All my outgoing calls cost .26RMB/minute (3 US cents a minute), which are deducted from the balance. Same goes for any outgoing text messages (1 US cent/message). If the balance gets low (I’ll get a text message when the balance gets to 10RMB), I just walk up to any number of China Mobile phone sellers put some money on the account.

No ovarage charges. No wasted monthly minutes or waiting for 7pm. Compared to the States, the coverage in China is fantastic! If I want to change phones, I just put the old Sim card in the new phone (all my addresses are saved on the Sim card, so these get moved over as well).

And that’s the rest of the story…

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