Tuesday, January 25, 2005

Comments, Links

Tonight I discovered the China Mobile web site and the fact that you can log in and check the monthly usage stats for your SIM card, i.e. your mobile phone. It was a bit of a hassle slugging my way through the Chinese, but the interface is pretty simple once you give it a good look. I managed to put together a quick translation of the rates for my plan, and a quick analysis of December's bill.

The plan I'm on is the 神州行大众卡, the Shenzhou Card for the Masses[1]. I bought my phone a few weeks after I got here at the Cyber Digital Mall on Huahai Road, choosing the cheapest model that could take digital photos: the Siemens MC60 for RMB 1300 or so. At the store where I bought the phone, the saleslady hooked me up with a SIM card which plugs into a slot underneath the battery in the back of the phone, SIM card which I got by choosing a number from a stack of envelopes (I chose 13636644690 for the double numbers... but a double 4!? what was I thinking?!). The numbers which all began with 136, the prefix for the Shenzhou plan.

The card originally came with RMB 50 of value as a starter, but now when the total gets low I get an SMS alerting me to go to the store (usually the one by my house, or at the Shimen Yi Lu metro station) and buy a recharge card. I call the number on the back of the card, punch in my phone number and the card serial number and RMB 100 is added to my balance. The confusing thing about buying these cards is that you can haggle for IP and IC cards (I've gotten RMB 100 IP cards to call home for RMB 50 and RMB 40 on different occasions at the same store), but for cellphone charge cards I have to pay face value.

This system works great. The only bothersome thing is when I run out of value before I can buy a recharge card and my phone is refused service by the network. Then I have to find another phone from which to call the recharge number, not always an easy thing when I'm on the go.

Oh, and here's the hard data: China Mobile Charges.

[1] Orientalist translations are free, sensible translations cost extra.

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