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Should I buy a smartphone before I leave or when I arrive?

 
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maj0915



Joined: 04 Feb 2013
Posts: 42
Location: China

PostPosted: Sat Mar 30, 2013 4:19 am    Post subject: Should I buy a smartphone before I leave or when I arrive? Reply with quote

Which makes the most sense?
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tttompatz



Joined: 06 Mar 2010
Posts: 1951
Location: Talibon, Bohol, Philippines

PostPosted: Sat Mar 30, 2013 11:45 am    Post subject: Re: Should I buy a smartphone before I leave or when I arriv Reply with quote

maj0915 wrote:
Which makes the most sense?


Depends on where you are coming from and where you are going to.

.
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Kent F. Kruhoeffer



Joined: 22 Jan 2003
Posts: 2129
Location: 中国

PostPosted: Sun Mar 31, 2013 2:31 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

tttompatz is right. Generally speaking, if you buy the phone before you leave, you should be looking at A) an unlocked phone with a sim-card slot, and B) make sure that the phone will be compatible with the 3G network in the country or city you are heading to. A Google search can help with that. First, Google your phone's technical specs, paying attention to whether your phone is CDMA or WCDMA, and then Google the name of your destination country, together with the words '3G networks'. When you find a match, you're good to go.

Beware of iPhones, which are normally locked and sold with contracts, rather than sim-cards. A colleague of mine brought his brand new iPhone 4 (a contract phone) with him to China and was unable to get it to work on any network. If you are looking specifically at iPhones, just be sure that your salesperson knows what s/he's talking about, and that you end up with an unlocked, international model.

Other brands are less likely to cause problems, since virtually all modern smartphones today operate on multiple frequencies and will work on any network in the world, although mobile 3G connectivity can still be a minor issue, since there are different varieties of 3G. In China, for example, there are three distinct 3G networks; TD-SCDMA at China Mobile, WCDMA at China Unicom and CDMA at China Telecom. To illustrate this point with a concrete example; I have a WCDMA phone, which means if I were interested in 3G service in China, I would have to sign up with China Unicom. If I were to unwittingly sign up with one of the other services, the phone itself would work fine for making calls, wi-fi works everywhere since it is based on an international standard, and I would also have Edge (a.k.a. 2G mobile internet) but I would not have 3G.

The choice is yours, really. If you decide to buy the phone before you leave, just be sure to buy an unlocked model and pay attention to the 3G mobile network frequency in your destination city when you sign up for service. Alternatively, you can play it safe and buy the phone in the country you are heading to, as there is no doubt that it will be compatible with the local 3G network, and there's a fairly good chance that it will be cheaper as well.

If you have questions regarding a particular phone model and can tell me where you're heading, I can give you more specific advice.

Hope that helps! Wink
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maj0915



Joined: 04 Feb 2013
Posts: 42
Location: China

PostPosted: Tue Apr 02, 2013 12:38 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

I'm going to China, and considering a smartphone (maybe the Galaxy S3 or S4.) Should I use my upgrade with an American company (and pay $200, but that may lock me into a contract?), or go on eBay and buy an unlocked Galaxy S3 for $400-500?
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Kent F. Kruhoeffer



Joined: 22 Jan 2003
Posts: 2129
Location: 中国

PostPosted: Tue Apr 02, 2013 3:21 am    Post subject: HSDPA Reply with quote

Good choice. Both models support the popular WCDMA 3G standard and both models feature HSDPA, or High Speed Download Packet Access, which is sort of like 3G on steroids.

Cut to the chase: I would definitely go with the unlocked model on eBay. Contract phones are a big no-no, and although Verizon and AT&T will tell you that you can surf the web with a contract phone while you're abroad, what they won't tell you is that you will pay a HUGE premium for data roaming. It's so high, in fact, there should be a law against it.

Terminate your contract, no matter how painful that may seem, buy an unlocked phone on eBay, and when you get to China, sign up with China Unicom. While we're on the subject, be aware that China Mobile has more branch locations than China Unicom, so it may be tempting and more convenient to walk into the nearest China Mobile store for your sim-card. Don't do it. Go the extra mile and sign up with China Unicom, so you get the full 'speed' advantage of 3G / HSDPA. For what it's worth, China Mobile is horribly over-subscribed, and while they are the largest mobile carrier in China today, their 2G mobile internet is also the slowest, and often unreliable.

As for deciding between the S3 and S4; the upgrades found in the S4 are fairly minimal this time around. The S4 has a slightly faster processor, a slightly larger battery (2600 vs. 2100 mAh) and a slightly larger 5 inch screen vs. 4.8 on the S3. If those specs are important to you, go for the S4. Otherwise, if you can find a new and unlocked S3 on eBay, it should be a little cheaper than the S4, and good value for the money.

Galaxy S3 vs. S4 Specs Comparison: http://www.gizmag.com/galaxy-s3-vs-galaxy-s4-specs-comparison/26667/
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maj0915



Joined: 04 Feb 2013
Posts: 42
Location: China

PostPosted: Wed Apr 03, 2013 8:21 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Thanks! I don't think I'm on contract right now (just paying month-to-month), so I'll probably end up springing for the unlocked Galaxy S3 on eBay once I have enough money.
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wangdaning



Joined: 22 Jan 2008
Posts: 2167

PostPosted: Thu Apr 04, 2013 12:42 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

maj0915 wrote:
Thanks! I don't think I'm on contract right now (just paying month-to-month), so I'll probably end up springing for the unlocked Galaxy S3 on eBay once I have enough money.


Just be careful which S3 you get. There are a few different models, and it does make a difference (in terms of what you want out of your phone).
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Shroob



Joined: 02 Aug 2010
Posts: 1339

PostPosted: Thu Apr 04, 2013 7:25 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

maj0915 wrote:
I'm going to China, and considering a smartphone (maybe the Galaxy S3 or S4.) Should I use my upgrade with an American company (and pay $200, but that may lock me into a contract?), or go on eBay and buy an unlocked Galaxy S3 for $400-500?


Get one before you come. Phones in China are more expensive then in America - plus in America you know what you're buying.
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Kent F. Kruhoeffer



Joined: 22 Jan 2003
Posts: 2129
Location: 中国

PostPosted: Thu Apr 04, 2013 1:58 pm    Post subject: The Great Firewall Reply with quote

Shroob makes a good point, especially if you're planning to buy a name-brand phone, like Apple, Samsung, Motorola, Nokia or LG. China levies a hefty tax on imported products.

Phones made and sold within China (like Meizu, Oppo and Xiaomi) can be a good deal, however, and are often quite attractive in terms of price and quality. The downside with many of the lesser known Chinese-made phones is that they are usually loaded with bloatware, i.e., Chinese language apps that are popular among the Chinese, but not so much for us. And vice versa, the apps we tend to like and use most - are missing, due mainly to the fact that many popular websites and apps are blocked in China.

Which brings me to the real reason for my reply here. Since we now know that the OP is heading to China, you should be aware that websites like Youtube, Facebook and Twitter, among (many) others, are blocked in China. You probably already knew this. Wink I just wanted to recommend that you sign up with a VPN (Virtual Private Network) before you leave, since many of the VPN homepages are also blocked from within China. I've heard good things about Express VPN @ https://www.expressvpn.com/ and you might want to read this fairly recent thread on the China Off-topic Forum as well @ http://forums.eslcafe.com/job/viewtopic.php?t=101354 .
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