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Optimal cell phone strategies in China

Optimal cell phone strategies in China

Old Mar 18, 2021, 4:14 am
  #1  
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Optimal cell phone strategies in China

This thread is a bit trivial because we're only talking about a price difference between 30 and 200 per month, but I'm starting it because I want to be more efficient, and avoid paying for service when I'm out of China for extended periods of time.

My summary is this:
1. I started out using prepaid (SIMs purchased on the street) about 20 years ago; this was fine
2. I switched to postpaid about 8 years later; initial registration process was a PITA, but all was good after that
3. Now, I'm doing prepaid again on the lowest possible monthly plan with Unicom (~30), and I WeChat them money whenever they tell me to, or when I want more data (very cheap)

My current problem is that the data they sell on WeChat is still cheap, but the packages are good for "today", "7 days", or "this month".

Unicom called me and told me that my life would be simpler if I simply switched to 100/month postpaid. I'm contemplating this option, but I really dislike visiting their stores...and, I still think I pay less than 100 per month on average, especially when I'm not here.

On a semi-related noted, supposedly, we need to go to HK within the next several months in order to register our HK SIMs in person there (I have 8 unused ones left, and they are a great fallback whenever we have V issues up here).
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Old Mar 18, 2021, 12:54 pm
  #2  
 
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Originally Posted by moondog
This thread is a bit trivial because we're only talking about a price difference between 30 and 200 per month, but I'm starting it because I want to be more efficient, and avoid paying for service when I'm out of China for extended periods of time.

My summary is this:
1. I started out using prepaid (SIMs purchased on the street) about 20 years ago; this was fine
2. I switched to postpaid about 8 years later; initial registration process was a PITA, but all was good after that
3. Now, I'm doing prepaid again on the lowest possible monthly plan with Unicom (~30), and I WeChat them money whenever they tell me to, or when I want more data (very cheap)

My current problem is that the data they sell on WeChat is still cheap, but the packages are good for "today", "7 days", or "this month".

Unicom called me and told me that my life would be simpler if I simply switched to 100/month postpaid. I'm contemplating this option, but I really dislike visiting their stores...and, I still think I pay less than 100 per month on average, especially when I'm not here.

On a semi-related noted, supposedly, we need to go to HK within the next several months in order to register our HK SIMs in person there (I have 8 unused ones left, and they are a great fallback whenever we have V issues up here).
There are cheap post-paid plans too. 30/month with plenty of 4G data or even less with less data. If you want the newest and hottest 5G, then you'll have to pay more.

What you said about HK sims is news to me. Is this only for new users? Or do existing users need to go to HK to keep their cards alive? Also, why do you have so many HK sims? Isn't 1 enough?
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Old Mar 18, 2021, 6:23 pm
  #3  
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Originally Posted by Ricebucket
There are cheap post-paid plans too. 30/month with plenty of 4G data or even less with less data. If you want the newest and hottest 5G, then you'll have to pay more.
I do have 5G, and have used tethering to replace my Wifi at home...in part because it is faster than my Wifi was, and in part because I don't know or care to how to locate my Wifi guy. I only do big downloads from my office, and the internet there is quite fast. I'm fine with paying a little more to keep 5G, but it would be nice to know what I'm paying.


What you said about HK sims is news to me. Is this only for new users? Or do existing users need to go to HK to keep their cards alive? Also, why do you have so many HK sims? Isn't 1 enough?
My favorite HK SIMs are Goduck (prepaid) from China Mobile; they are all valid until 2035. I'm not super concerned about registering them because I have an HK address, but I wasn't expecting this new hurdle.
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Old Mar 18, 2021, 9:42 pm
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Originally Posted by moondog
On a semi-related noted, supposedly, we need to go to HK within the next several months in order to register our HK SIMs in person there (I have 8 unused ones left, and they are a great fallback whenever we have V issues up here).
I have a HK China Mobile dual number SIM card. A few years ago when China started doing SIM ID registration China Mobile HK asked me to do the same with them. So I did that a couple of years back when I was visiting Hong Kong. So far I haven't received another request from them to register again with HK so perhaps the previous China registration is good enough for HK too.
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Old Mar 18, 2021, 11:22 pm
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Originally Posted by tauphi
I have a HK China Mobile dual number SIM card. A few years ago when China started doing SIM ID registration China Mobile HK asked me to do the same with them. So I did that a couple of years back when I was visiting Hong Kong. So far I haven't received another request from them to register again with HK so perhaps the previous China registration is good enough for HK too.
Goduck Sims are data only.
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Old Mar 21, 2021, 2:26 am
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Originally Posted by moondog
On a semi-related noted, supposedly, we need to go to HK within the next several months in order to register our HK SIMs in person there (I have 8 unused ones left, and they are a great fallback whenever we have V issues up here).
After a quick Google to see what-all this was about, I have to say I'm glad I've lined up a few alternatives that don't require me providing info to HK authorities. Personal favorite is Taiwan Mobile prepaid- NT$589/week for true unlimited data as fast as the Unicom network can deliver it. Pop it in a hotspot device and use it for everything. Pricey, but it works beautifully.
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Old Apr 25, 2023, 11:41 am
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Any updates to this thread? I'm looking for something similar.
  • Want to keep a permanent Chinese number but will be out of China for extended periods so don't want to pay too much
  • 4G is fine, do not need 5G
  • Most important capacity is to receive SMS overseas (i.e. mostly in the USA). Do not need to receive calls or use data overseas.
  • I have a bank account so once I get my Alipay/WeChat setup, will not have a problem topping up remotely
I think prepaid doesn't cover this use case too well because the numbers will keep expiring.

Questions:
  • Is it possible to get a postpaid SIM card as US person on tourist visa?
  • Is Unicom the best carrier for this?
Thanks in advance!
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Old Apr 25, 2023, 12:11 pm
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Originally Posted by gudugan
Any updates to this thread? I'm looking for something similar.
  • Want to keep a permanent Chinese number but will be out of China for extended periods so don't want to pay too much
  • 4G is fine, do not need 5G
  • Most important capacity is to receive SMS overseas (i.e. mostly in the USA). Do not need to receive calls or use data overseas.
  • I have a bank account so once I get my Alipay/WeChat setup, will not have a problem topping up remotely
I think prepaid doesn't cover this use case too well because the numbers will keep expiring.

Questions:
  • Is it possible to get a postpaid SIM card as US person on tourist visa?
  • Is Unicom the best carrier for this?
Thanks in advance!
I haven't bothered to try to figure out the nuts and bolts of how this stuff works recently, but I can offer some insights based on my own experiences:
-the number I've been using for the past 5 years is a Unicom SIM that I bought on the street (so probably not post-paid by design)
-at some point, I had to visit a Unicom store in order to complete ID verification
-ever since then, I've been on a plan of some sort (I think my current plan is around Y80 per month for 50 gigs of 5g data, 400 calling minutes, SMS)
-I've never been under contract with this number
-before all of my extended US visits, I call Unicom and downgrade to a maintenance plan for about Y10 per month, which allows me to reply to SMS when necessary, although I don't think had to do this once last year
-I typically only top when my data stops working; to do this, I call Unicom, ask (an actual person) how much I owe, and use WeChat or Alipay...2 minute process, tops

That might sound haphazard to you, but it works like a charm for me.

So, if I were you, I'd plan on visiting a Mobile or Unicom store that issues SIM cards (bring your passport) during your visit and setting yourself up. I'm pretty sure you'll walk away a happy camper.
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Old Apr 25, 2023, 12:21 pm
  #9  
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Have had a Mainland CM prepaid card for years. No problem receiving SMSs free outside China but had to opt into it somehow. Also have to renew your real-name registration before your original passport expires, and do it in the same city/province where you did the original registration.

Note that to do the real-name registration and activate the SIM you'll probably have to go to a customer service centre, not a small shop.

Last edited by 889; Apr 26, 2023 at 6:19 pm
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Old Apr 25, 2023, 12:43 pm
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Originally Posted by 889
Also have to renew your real-name registration before your original passport expires, and do it the same city/province where you did the original registration.
Ah yeah this is what I was worried about, as bank account has the same sort of city/province restrictions. Thanks for the updates
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Old Apr 25, 2023, 12:57 pm
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Exactly. Just like the banks. And especially a problem if you lose your SIM or debit card.
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Old Apr 26, 2023, 10:14 am
  #12  
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Originally Posted by moondog
I haven't bothered to try to figure out the nuts and bolts of how this stuff works recently, but I can offer some insights based on my own experiences:
-the number I've been using for the past 5 years is a Unicom SIM that I bought on the street (so probably not post-paid by design)
-at some point, I had to visit a Unicom store in order to complete ID verification
-ever since then, I've been on a plan of some sort (I think my current plan is around Y80 per month for 50 gigs of 5g data, 400 calling minutes, SMS)
-I've never been under contract with this number
-before all of my extended US visits, I call Unicom and downgrade to a maintenance plan for about Y10 per month, which allows me to reply to SMS when necessary, although I don't think had to do this once last year
-I typically only top when my data stops working; to do this, I call Unicom, ask (an actual person) how much I owe, and use WeChat or Alipay...2 minute process, tops

That might sound haphazard to you, but it works like a charm for me.

So, if I were you, I'd plan on visiting a Mobile or Unicom store that issues SIM cards (bring your passport) during your visit and setting yourself up. I'm pretty sure you'll walk away a happy camper.
80 isn't a whole lot of money if I use it regularly, but for mainly SMS, it's quite expensive. Plus, I can always roam and would prefer to do that to get around the Great Firewall.
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Old Apr 26, 2023, 1:28 pm
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Originally Posted by 889
Have had a Mainland CM prepaid card for years. No problem receiving SMSs free outside China but had to opt into it somehow. Also have to renew your real-name registration before your original passport expires, and do it the same city/province where you did the original registration.

Note that to do the real-name registration and activate the SIM you'll probably have to go to a customer service centre, not a small shop.
My passport expired but my SIM in China still works. I can still receive SMS outside of China.
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Old Apr 26, 2023, 6:04 pm
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Originally Posted by kb1992
My passport expired but my SIM in China still works. I can still receive SMS outside of China.
Which plan do you have?
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Old Apr 26, 2023, 6:17 pm
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All I know is what the guy at CM firmly instructed me when I registered my pre-paid SIM: my real-name registration will expire when my passport expires. Maybe there's a grace period, particularly during the Pandemic?
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