My Nexus One ROCKS in mainland China

Three months ago my quest to get a rare Nexus One (the “ATT” 3G optimized version) came to an end. I had finally won an “eBay” bid not after several attempts and waiting 7 days for receiving the package as advertised by the seller. This was my very first “eBay” transaction and the only one so far (I may be also a rare not addicted for bidding kind of individual) but that was the only way to secure one of these now called Google development phones compatible with my network of preference. Yes you can get your Nexus One optimized for T-Mobile 3G bands directly from Google if you are registered as Android Developer. Ofcourse if you want to stick with TMobile as your wireless provider the newest Google development phone is the “Nexus S” based on Galaxy S family from Samsung.

As you may know already Google’s development phones are not subsidized therefore you will need to pay a considerable amount of money up front  to get the phone in your hands but that compared with freedom you get is northing.You get the latest updates of Android OS right at the minute it is released plus they come “Unlocked” which means you can use any SIM card compatible with GSM/HS-U-D-PA tri-bands pretty much the standard worldwide.

I spent the last couple of weeks in Zhuhai China (Southern Industrial region in China) on business trip for the company I work for. As recommended  by experienced China travelers getting prepaid phones or just the SIM card from China Mobile is a must do while doing business in that country. It is not only pretty affordable but it will be the only way you may be able to scream for help in case you get lost in the crowd and I mean big  crowd that in most cases would not even speak Mandarin but their local Chinese (usually Cantonese) and of course do not expect a taxi driver to understand or read any English word. From communicating with your own colleges inside the incredible huge industrial campuses, or while looking for a good restaurant while walking downtown or  to give a call to your hotel so they can tell the taxi driver where to take you to. Getting one of this small and cheap phones is the deal among business visitors.

You can recharge your phone by buying a new prepaid card from your hotel lobby or any China Mobile establishment. Believe me, finding pre-paid cards will not be a problem while your are there. They come from 50 RMB to 100 RMB (Yuan).
Your phone line can be activated to work in main land China as well as in Macau or Hong Kong but be aware it is not automatic and if you forget to do this it will be consuming your balance with roaming charges. Conveniently China Mobile provides administrative options in English; that means business.

Having my Nexus One there was a blast, I was not only used to my Nexus One capabilities but also was able to keep all my current contacts, information and apps with no change. I just swapped my ATT SIM card for my new China Mobile one and there it was “magic”; the thing just worked.

  • Your Google’s unique account ID not only takes your GMAIL account but also the SIM card id so the first thing your Nexus one would request is to authenticate yourself with the new SIM card in place. Just provided the password to my account and I was in business. You will need to do this every time you change your SIM card, for instance I did authenticate again when I got back to USA and place my home SIM card back in.
  • I had my timezone settings in “Automatic” so after I turned it on ….. instantly local Date and Time settings. So Clock and Calendar apps got in synch.
  • GPS just worked; my current location was instantly achieved so that meant Google maps, browser, search worked from a local perspective. I did try Navigation but I did not expected it to work for me well at least not by getting instructions in English for places and streets in China.
  • Google market NO at problem, I did actually downloaded and installed Skype app for Android. what a pleasure for calling home.
  • ATT does not include messaging as part of data plans in USA but pre-paid SIM cards in China do not exclude anything they charge you by what you use so no problems messaging with my travel buddies.
  • Gmail and Hotmail worked as flawlessly for me at 3G speeds.
  • Something very convenient is to take a picture of all your business cards from people to places such as offices and restaurants you are visiting. Showing this photo cards to Taxi drivers directly from the phone just worked like magic when ever you need to get from place to place. This you cannot do with the cheap pre-paid phone that is usually available so it makes a good difference unless you want to carry two phones or an extra digital camera.

Not everything is completely open of course in a place where government runs economic and social activities with strict policies even for foreign business people, Facebook and Youtube apps did not work and that was somehow expected. I do not have Twitter app installed but I am pretty sure it would be censored too. I did not try VPN settings at all but that may be a way around this restrictions.

In summary, one of the reasons I got my Unlocked Nexus one just paid to me, I am pretty sure you can try the same by unlocking one of the other Android based options but not sure if the carrier tweaked Android UI overlays and carrier specific apps would behave happily with a new overseas wireless carrier.

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