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Optimal cell phone strategies in China

Optimal cell phone strategies in China

Old Aug 1, 2023, 3:13 pm
  #91  
 
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You mention O2, are you travelling from the UK? Worth considering CMLink cmlink.com/uk - for example a one off payment of 11 to top-up and then purchase their 40G bundle will give you 4G of data in China that is not firewalled (the data is tunneled back to the UK) so all the socials continue to work if that is important to you.
Just make sure you disable autorenew so they don't spanner you for a 2nd month of charges.
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Old Aug 1, 2023, 8:08 pm
  #92  
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I could stretch 4g over a week or two iif I disabled app updates, avoided voice chats, and went easy on maps when not on WiFi. Maps are the biggest menace IME because them grabbing more details/resolution is often in their DNA
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Old Aug 2, 2023, 12:51 am
  #93  
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Originally Posted by moondog
I could stretch 4g over a week or two iif I disabled app updates, avoided voice chats, and went easy on maps when not on WiFi. Maps are the biggest menace IME because them grabbing more details/resolution is often in their DNA
It's not necessary for me to do that. Too much effort. I didn't have T-Mobile pre-pandemic, but now I do and I'm pretty sure I can roam in China so that's 5GB right there. It'll buy me enough time to get to the hotel and come up with another solution if I need it.
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Old Aug 2, 2023, 1:59 am
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Originally Posted by moondog
I could stretch 4g over a week or two iif I disabled app updates, avoided voice chats, and went easy on maps when not on WiFi. Maps are the biggest menace IME because them grabbing more details/resolution is often in their DNA
Maps.me app? You could download the offline map of a place.

Google Maps also lets you dl offline maps, but those take up more space (for urban areas, anyway).
IME, using Google Maps doesn't eat up much data (you could just put a Battery Saver on, lower the phone brightness, and add voice controls.)

Of course, Baidu Maps, like all mainland apps, is a data glutton, and filled with ads and other crap. But it's the clear favorite (for those who know Chinese, I suppose) for getting around China. Really, I have no idea about Baidu Maps availability in other languages. This app, however, was rubbish to use with my data plan, so that's where maps.me was helpful.

I'm sure there are more, but have only used these.
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Old Aug 2, 2023, 2:21 am
  #95  
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Originally Posted by FindingFoodFluency
Maps.me app? You could download the offline map of a place.

Google Maps also lets you dl offline maps, but those take up more space (for urban areas, anyway).
IME, using Google Maps doesn't eat up much data (you could just put a Battery Saver on, lower the phone brightness, and add voice controls.)

Of course, Baidu Maps, like all mainland apps, is a data glutton, and filled with ads and other crap. But it's the clear favorite (for those who know Chinese, I suppose) for getting around China. Really, I have no idea about Baidu Maps availability in other languages. This app, however, was rubbish to use with my data plan, so that's where maps.me was helpful.

I'm sure there are more, but have only used these.
Yes, Maps.me is the worst offender IME (e.g. request driving directions from Shanghai to Shenzhen, and it will grab high resolution maps along the entire route and surrounding areas...without much warning; the same goes with flying to a city it hasn't experienced on your phone yet; you're getting the entire province!). When I was in the US last year on a low data plan, I ended up simply uninstalling Maps.me because it burned me two months in a row, and I didn't feel like trying to figure out how to reign it in.

We have a dedicated maps thread (with a slightly confusing title), so I don't want to repeat my opinions too much here, but I agree with you that Maps.me's is far less confusing/cluttered than Baidu and Amap, and I use it often as a result. However, a lot of the features Baidu/Amap have that Maps.me lacks (e.g. bus info, subway station details, walking directions that avail of hutongs) are useful.

ETA: I just realized that you were saying baidu is a data suck because of the constant video ads. I guess I've never noticed its data usage because I haven't used it on a low data plan. Maybe maps.me would be a safer bet if you try to download all maps you think you might need in advance.

Last edited by moondog; Aug 2, 2023 at 12:26 pm
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Old Aug 2, 2023, 7:18 am
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I have been looking a 3gsolutions. They look like they have sim cards and can post to the uk from Amazon.com prior to travel. Obviously this is more expensive but less stressful. Any experience or thoughts on 3gsolutions?
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Old Aug 2, 2023, 7:52 am
  #97  
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There were people spamming other boards with posts that were obviously just disguised ads for that company. That alone would make me suggest that anyone stay well clear of the company.
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Old Aug 2, 2023, 8:03 am
  #98  
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Originally Posted by jlc9779
I have been looking a 3gsolutions. They look like they have sim cards and can post to the uk from Amazon.com prior to travel. Obviously this is more expensive but less stressful. Any experience or thoughts on 3gsolutions?
How is dealing with a random company you found on the internet less stressful than roaming and/or simply getting a SIM through official channels?
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Old Aug 2, 2023, 9:32 am
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Main issue is that we arrive at Beijing Airport at 5.15am so no shops will be open, I am not sure if I can roam with O2 and I was wanting to try and get the phone sorted so I could start paying using Alipay and Wechat as so soon as possible. Just trying to make it as easy as possible as first time visiting thats all. Apologies.
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Old Aug 2, 2023, 11:32 am
  #100  
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Originally Posted by jlc9779
Main issue is that we arrive at Beijing Airport at 5.15am so no shops will be open, I am not sure if I can roam with O2 and I was wanting to try and get the phone sorted so I could start paying using Alipay and Wechat as so soon as possible. Just trying to make it as easy as possible as first time visiting thats all. Apologies.
Assuming you are staying at hotel, why not get an early check-in and go straight there from the airport? You'd only be offline during the car ride.
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Old Aug 2, 2023, 11:39 am
  #101  
 
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Yes, we could do that and just use money for the airport express to Beijing hopefully. It would mean then trying to find somewhere near our hotel to get a sim card, wouldn't know where to start to be honest, so that is why I was looking at sorting out beforehand. That is what we did for a visit it Japan. Just seems less information and more tricky in China. Ideally getting a sim card online prior would be ideal. We have sorted all the rest of the travel out ourselves, it is just this part we are struggling with...just to try and make sure we can get wechat and alipay to work.
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Old Aug 2, 2023, 12:07 pm
  #102  
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Originally Posted by jlc9779
Yes, we could do that and just use money for the airport express to Beijing hopefully. It would mean then trying to find somewhere near our hotel to get a sim card, wouldn't know where to start to be honest, so that is why I was looking at sorting out beforehand. That is what we did for a visit it Japan. Just seems less information and more tricky in China. Ideally getting a sim card online prior would be ideal. We have sorted all the rest of the travel out ourselves, it is just this part we are struggling with...just to try and make sure we can get wechat and alipay to work.
At 6a, a taxi will probably be faster than the train, plus you wouldn't have to deal with a subway transfer. Then, after you get settled into your room, you can ask the concierge to point you to a store that issues SIMs. I still like the numbers that your roaming options present for a single short trip though. Many people in this forum want local numbers because they visit China on a regular basis, but if your trip is a one off, the value proposition isn't as compelling. Your UK number is already bound to wx and ap, right?
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Old Aug 2, 2023, 12:20 pm
  #103  
 
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https://j.map.baidu.com/94/N_k
It says the China Mobile store in Terminal 2 is open 09:00-20:00.

If you're in Beijing I wouldn't really about it too much, you can pretty easily use cash or foreign credit card directly depending on the place. I flew into Chengdu CTU and they didn't even sell SIMs in the airport.

There's some sort of flowchart here:
  • Do you want a local number to sign up for apps, websites etc? You need a local SIM or the cmlink UK above
  • Do you just want data? Probably easier to roam so you don't have to deal with the firewall. cmlink still a good option
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Old Aug 2, 2023, 1:05 pm
  #104  
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But to register your SIM with your passport and get it activated, you can't just go to one of the many small shops selling SIMs; you have to go to a customer service centre of the issuing company, and there aren't that many of those in Beijing. And once there you'll have to take a number and wait; they're usually pretty busy.
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Old Aug 2, 2023, 1:26 pm
  #105  
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Originally Posted by 889
But to register your SIM with your passport and get it activated, you can't just go to one of the many small shops selling SIMs; you have to go to a customer service centre of the issuing company, and there aren't that many of those in Beijing. And once there you'll have to take a number and wait; they're usually pretty busy.
The reason I suggested asking the hotel concierge (instead of relying on Google or Baidu) was to hone in on stores that issue SIMs. Obviously, wait times depend on multiple factors, but I'll go with ~15 minutes, if before 10a.
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