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luozhen

Smartphone: buy abroad or in China?

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luozhen

I'm back in the U.S. for a few weeks and I can find unlocked phones for several hundred dollars lower than in China. I'd feel more comfortable buying in the U.S. since I'm looking at older (2010 is ancient history at the retail outlets) models that I can only find at places like Zhongguancun, where knockoffs abound.

I notice there are "U.S." and "International" versions of phones, is this important? Does anyone have experience loading things such as Sina Weibo or QQ onto their phone? Is there going to be a language display issue like on a pc, where QQ is all weird symbols if you don't set the language to Chinese? I'm want to avoid major conflicts.

I'm mainly getting the phone to use wi-fi, use things such as QQ and weibo, language apps like Pleco and also use VOIP to make free calls home. I have a VPN and use Google voice to make free calls to U.S. phones. I have a Google voice number and in the best case, friends and family in the US could dial that and reach me on my phone in China. Does anyone do something like that?

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Iriya

Android shouldn't be an issue at all, no idea about iPhone.

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jiujiujiu

iPhones are more expensive in China. You need to buy it 'unlocked' and an unlocked iPhone 4 is $645. They sell locked phones in America for cheaper, but that is only because they want to lock you into a service contract in America. I asked at an Apple store. Even though I paid $200 for my iPhone, I would still have to pay every cent of $645 to get my own phone unlocked 'legally.' You could just buy a locked phone in America and then hack it to get it unlocked like probably everyone else does that has half a brain. Good luck.

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yialanliu

If you are looking at an iphone, but in the US.

IF you are looking for cheap, unlocked phones, buy in China. The main reason is because many phones bought abroad do not have the Chinese firmware meaning you cannot read/write chinese.

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icebear

I'd say if you're looking for an iPhone buy it in Hong Kong or the US (unlocked from an Apple Store). You won't find lower rates after taxes nearly anywhere else.

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tooironic

One of my Chinese friends actually bought a new, unlocked iPhone in Australia for one of us his mates back in China because apparently the price difference is quite significant (sorry, can't remember the exact figure off the top of my head).

IF you are looking for cheap, unlocked phones, buy in China. The main reason is because many phones bought abroad do not have the Chinese firmware meaning you cannot read/write chinese.

Just keep in mind that this doesn't apply if you are buying an iPhone or an Android phone, since both types of phones can read and write any language, regardless of where you buy them.

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Flare

Apart from being more expensive, also keep in mind that an iPhone bought in China is not entirely the same an iPhone bought outside of China. For example, a China iPhone will not have YouTube as a standard built in app. Also, the maps app will show geographical areas mostly in hanzi with no pinyin or roman script and will show the Chinese version of disputed territories (not that that really matters to me). A workaround is YouTube (with VPN) and Google Maps in Safari.

An iPhone bought outside of China can be easily configured to work well with hanzi and pinyin keyboard (so no non-Chinese firmware issues apply to iPhone as an earlier poster mentioned)

I recommend looking into Hong Kong for an unlocked iPhone. Since HK has 0% sales tax (VAT) it has some of the sharpest iPhone prices you will find.

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DemyrW

I bought an ipad from China for around the same price as you would in the US and I would assume that its the same for iphones. I think apple likes to keep prices high to maintain brand "superiority". Anyways China doesnt have a 3G network like London and also the power sockets are different, so you would have to dish out extra cash to buy a socket. Apart from that it doesnt matter where you buy them (unless you want the not real iphones lol)

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Lu

Bit of an old thread, but if anyone still needs advice: do NOT buy an Android in China. I don't have experience with iphones, but the problem with a Chinese Android is that it is impossible to download Twitter, Skype and other such apps, even when you're not on the Chinese internet. The phone can be jailbroken, but it is extremely difficult (says my computer-savvy friend who managed only after three days of trying). Taking the price into account as well, it's a much better idea to get a phone in HK or elsewhere.

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Sarevok

Smartphone geeks like me are going to ROOT their devices anyway, so this becomes a non issue, since you can use a handy utility called "Market Unlocker" on rooted devices. Once rooted, there is a workaround for almost anything, be it a carrier specific restrictions, phones "with Chinese characteristics" (which don't come with preequipped with official Google apps) etc. Acquiring root access can be a pain sometimes (especially if you're doing it for the first time), but at places like 中关村 or 百脑汇, they will gladly do it for you. Or you can buy a HK version on 淘宝 (that's what I would do, since I have grown to hate 百脑汇 and the like).

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ZhangKaiRong

Hey guys,

I just got a scholarship to China, and I have the good old mobile phone problem... Here in my country I have a ZTE Blade smartphone, and it works perfectly for me, sometimes it can slow down, but it handles the life-saving apps like Pleco and trainchinese well. I also have the chinese handwriting tool, and combined with the dictionary app it's an epic win for me, I can identify unknown Hanzis easily. I know that most scholarship recipients' first thing is to buy an electronic translator with Hanzi handwriting input, but since smartphones can solve this problem, I'm thinking about getting a smartphone instead of a translator. The problem is that my ZTE Blade is SIM locked, so I won't be able to use it in China. I would like to buy another one, but don't know where.

I've heard from my friends that electronic goods (international brands, of course) are more expensive than in Europe, so I don't think that buying an internationally well-known brand in China would be a good idea, but what is the case with Chinese ones? A reliable ZTE or Huawei would be perfect for me, but in my country all the Huaweis are SIM locked and unlocked ZTEs are quite pricy (i.e. new, unlocked ZTE Skate is only 20 dollars cheaper than new, unlocked HTC Desire HD, which is just ridiculous). Are these two brands cheaper in China, or is it better for me to buy a good smartphone here in my country and take it with me?

Any help would be appreciated :)

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jirbau

You could also try buying Huaweis in China since it is made in China it would probably be cheaper there anyway. I am also studying in Beijing this coming September so I also want to look into this problem. As far as I know, Huaweis or other "fake" smartphones are cheaper in China.

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ZhangKaiRong

@imron

Wow, thank you, I didn't notice that using custom ROMs also means SIM unlocked phone :) It works with all my country's service providers, I hope it will accept the China Mobile SIM card as well.

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