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In order to stay connected in China, cell phone is a must. For short stay visitors, I believe “pre-paid minutes” or “pay as you go” card is good. There are a few minor things I found out by using China Mobile:
1) Text messaging: it’s much popular here and it’s less expensive compared to phone call. I started to love this thing after using that while. I found the “iTap English” and “Pinyin Chinese” input methods have suggestions and that saved me some typing. After all I am a guy knows how to use “vi”, the UNIX editor many people think it’s not user friendly. I think the design philosophy of them to be similar: use your imagination, if you know one, you should know two and three 举一反三.
2) No voice message: I have not encountered anyone set up voice message. So “do as Romans do when in Rome”, use the text message.
3) Roaming charge: China mobile charges RMB 7 cents (per 6 seconds) for the roaming. Unfortunately, there is no way to get around it. So keep the fee in mind if you are out of home-service area (for instance, when you have the Shanghai mobile number and you travel in Beijing).
4) Long distance: you can save some money if you dial 17951 followed by the long distance number (don’t forget area code for the land line).
On the other hand, I found my IP phone (iTalkBB) is handy from time to time. I bring the IP phone adapter this time. Once I plug it into the broadband internet and the regular phone, I could call my friends in the US using the IP phone. The only down side is once I got tele-marketing call early in the morning (late afternoon in the midwest US): the tele-maketers think I am at home.