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Android phone for China Mobile

DanTheMan (608 posts) • 0

Hi All,

I need a new phone and I'd like to try one running the Android OS.

My key requirements are:
-Lower end of cost spectrum
-Wifi (not available in China maybe, so I guess I'd need a gray-market import)
-GPS
-Compatible w/ China Mobile and China Mobile GPRS or 3G.

Any suggestions on good models that fit this need and where to purchase in Kunming or online would be greatly appreciated. Thanks.

Pierre (45 posts) • 0

Hi DanTheMan,

ok. I did a research recently on almost this topic so... let me share

I don't think that you will have lot's of choices. The market for smart phones compatible with China Mobiles 3g standard (TD-SCDMA) is relatively small, it narrows down further if you want a device running Android. (That is if you want to have China Mobiles 3g. If you're happy with GPRS only, any phone should work for you, but then you should look out for at least EDGE compability)
But let me give you some good news. In order to get licensed as an Android device, phones need to have certain requirements. Two of which are:

- They need to have a WiFi card installed and working

- They need a GPS so that Google knows where you are..... oh no, sorry, it should say: so that you can use GoogleMaps awesome service

For what I saw so far only certain "Dopod" models come with the ability to connect to China Mobiles 3g network, for example the Dopod A8188 (see here: item.taobao.com/item.htm?id=5837604614) for about 3700 RMB on Taobao, expect up to 10-20% more for the normal market price.
On the other hand it is also reported that the Meizu M9 is supposed to run on TD-SCDMA. The phone should be awesome, outpowering (for example a better processor) or getting the same specs (it's supposed to have the identical display) as the Iphone according to some reviews, but there are no tests so far to proof this. (see a TD-SCDMA model here: item.taobao.com/item.htm?id=8947616995) These phones are brand new and are beeing sold online for about 2500 RMB.

My best bet is to take some time and go to the shops at 小西门. Try to find a Dopod or Meizu store there, explain them that you need the 3g to work with China Mobile and see what they can offer.

As a last resort you could also get any Android phone, run it with China Unicom but set a call forwarding from your China Mobile number to your new phone number. I don't know about the costs, all I heard is "It's not too much".

DanTheMan (608 posts) • 0

Hi Pierre,

Thanks for the awesome detailed response. I've heard that some Chinese branded phones running Android can't connect to the Android app market. Do you know anything about that with the Dopod (manufactured by HTC, last I knew) or Meizu? It would really be a shame to get an android phone and not have access to the market.

Also, thanks for the clarification about 3G. I've learned to get by with GPRS, so that's no problem as long as I can fall back on WiFi every once in a while for big transfers.

-Dan

Xiefei (532 posts) • 0

DanTheMan:

I've been using android phones in China for a little while now. My advice is not to buy a TD-SCDMA phone, because it will be tailor made for China mobile and:
- crippled. Usually it will have google services replaced with Baidu ones, and the android market replaced with a China Mobile one. In fact, most of the China Mobile androids are actually running something called O-Phone, which is a different version of android that China Mobile built, and is incompatible with other android systems.

- basically useless outside of the country or on other carriers. Might be able to get an edge signal on another carrier, but I don't know anyone who has tried.

For the google certification that Pierre mentioned, that is just the certification that the phone must pass for google to allow it to use specific google apps such as talk, maps and the android market. Carriers can ignore that if they want to install their own tailored crapware.

Wifi is available in Chinese smartphones now. They lifted the restriction last year.

Anyway, your best bet is still grey market. I would recommend the HTC Desire (best built-in Chinese functionality), which should be running around 3000 kuai these days, or the original Motorola Droid (aka milestone), which should be in the mid 2000s and features a hardware keyboard. These are slightly older phones, but they're holding up pretty well and have a lot of community support. The very best phones available in China these days should be running at about 4000 kuai, give or take.

Some of the cell phone dealers at Baihui should have these, and maybe some dealers at computer street as well. You can also check out Taobao, but I'd recommend searching for Kunming only, so you can go and check it out in person before buying.

With an international phone, you'll only get EDGE on China Mobile, but that's fast enough for basic map and chat functioning. And you're phone will get 3G when you go home.

One more thing. You will be able to access the app market with these phones, but not the paid apps. If you want to access paid apps, you'll have to root the phone and install Market Enabler, which tricks the market into thinking you're in the states or the UK.

About half of the grey market phones in China have already been rooted and China-optimized by Chinese hackers, so you may not have to do anything to it.

Geezer (1947 posts) • 0

I am interested in the Moto Milestone. Have shopped a bit but the sales people arfe so impressed with their lousy English, I can't get straight answers to these questions:
1. Is it an Android phone?

a. If so, what version of Android does it play?

b. Is Android upgradeable on this phone?
2. Am I stuck with China Mobile?
3. Is it possible to use another service?
4. What is the monthly cost of 3G service.

Maybe one of you guys can answer some of these points. Best asking price I found was 3900. A bit too much for a phone in a poke.

DanTheMan (608 posts) • 0

Ended up going cheapo and got an HTC Legend for 2,600 from down at the electronics market down by the intersection of Kunshi Lu and Dongfeng Xi Lu. Quite happy with it.

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