Current as of September 2012.
I recently upgraded to an iPhone 4S and by using different Apps, technology became a better friend – especially with global travel – and having traveled to China over 20 times in the past 2 years for work.
Back in the US, I am on the Sprint network and have an unlocked 4S. Before you start using your iPhone in China, you will need to make sure its unlocked. You can check this by calling your network carrier. Also, I do not use Sprint’s international plan as it is pretty expensive – so you can disable it by going to Setting –> General –> Network. This option is very important in case you are not planning to get an international SIM card and intend using your iPhone over WiFi which is available in most cafes, hotels, airports and restaurants – and that too for free in most cases.
In China, I prefer using the China Unicom network and SIM card rather than China Mobile as Unicom offer’s 3G for the iPhone whereas China Mobile’s 3G network is not yet compabitble with the iPhone. The China Unicom card costs 100RMB for first time buyers (~ USD14) and includes a ton of talk time and data. Renewal of the card runs at about 50RMB. You might need to “trim” the regular China Unicom SIM card to make it fit into your iPhone. Most vendors will cut it for you. Make sure you don’t discard your US SIM card as you will probably need it when you arrive stateside.
For me, communication with my family and team is extremely important. And I also am very frugal with things so try to find the cheapest – in most cases FREE – ways to get my job done. Here are some of my favorite Apps to use on my iPhone when in China.
Facetime: My favorite App for communication back with my family. Free. Great quality video calls. The only downside is that it works at this time only when both parties are on WiFi (I believe this will change with the iOS6) and using Apple devices.
Skype: Great to IM, video calls, Skype-to-Skype calls – all for free. You only pay for data usage if using the China mobile network – but can avoid it by using WiFi. Free to download App from iTunes.
Tango: Great for video calls as an alternate to Facetime when you are not on WiFi. Fre App and Free to use.
Viber: Good to send IM’s and make phone calls for free to other Viber users.
WhatsApp: Very nice IM App – also allows for sharing photos and videos. Used to be free when I downloaded but they have recently started charging $0.99.
Voxer: For quick walkie-talkie style messages to other Voxer users. You can send messages when offline too and they would get transmitted when you are back on the grid.
Vtok: Google Talk’s unofficial Ap for the iPhone. Good for IM’s as well as video and audo calls to other G-Chat users.
Whenever I am in China on business, no matter how many business cards I bring, I seem to run out of them. I also end up with a million business cards. Most Chinese business cards are bi- lingual. But in order to not carry them home with me, I like to scan them into my address book on my flight back home or when I have some down time. The App I like to use is ScanBizCards. You can take a picture of the business card and it automatically fills in the contact information into your address book (you can edit it) – saves you a ton of time and also preserves the contact information on your iPhone. Free for scanning up to 5 cards a week and then you can upgrade it if you like it.