Do cell phones work in China when ESL teachers take them from their own countries?


Many ESL teachers have experienced that their cell phones could not work in China or their cell phones needs to be unlocked before using in China.  Yes, it happens. Why?


There are two reasons. One is that the rate of Chinese phones is different from other countries. The other one is that the cell phones that ESL teachers bring with are contract phones or locked phones, which need to be unlocked before using in China. If the cell phones are in the second situation, it’s easy to solve the issue. There are many places that can help ESL teachers to unlock the cell phones bought from other countries. However, you’d better ask help from your colleagues, since they are local people there and should know where you can go.


Although there are some cell phones that cannot be used in China, there are some cell phones that work in China. The cell phones work in China including unlocked iPhones.  By the way, iPhones are more expensive in China than American and Canada. Therefore, if you are a fan of iPhones, you may want to buy iPhones in your countries but China.


Let’s say if your cell phones could not work in China, what should you do?


First, you can go to a local cell phone store and ask them whether your phone can be used in China. They may be able to help you change the rate or unlock the phone. You’d better ask your colleague to come with you, since you’re a newcomer and need help.


Second, if your cell phone could not work either by changing rate or unlocked, you can buy a new cell phone in China.

There are many brands of cell phones selling in China. The price ranges from hundreds to thousands. There are also contract cell phones in China. ESL teachers can choose one that they like in China.


For Chinese brand cell phones, the best one that Chinese people rank is the Huawei phones. The price of Huawei phones is also higher than other phones. There are some other brands that have also good feedback from users, such as xiaomi, oppo and so on.  They all have qualified protection plan, if anything happens, you can go to the seller store to change or mend.


After ESL teachers get a working cell phone in China, they may face the issues about choosing a mobile company.

There are three biggest mobile companies in China, China Mobile phones, China Union Phones and Telecom. They all offer SIM cards to users.  They have many promotions and packages too.  ESL teachers can find a suitable plan for them.

I’ll simply compare those three SIM card companies for ESL teachers.

According to the experience of the users of those three SIM card companies, there are some suggestions that may help you decide which one to use.

For price, China Mobile Phone is higher than the other two. Telecome is the second highest and China Union Phone is the lowest.

For the steady of the signal, China Mobile Phone and Telecom are better than China Union Phones.

For the wireless Internet, China Mobile Phone is the fastest, China Union Phone is the second and Telecome is the third.

ESL teachers can choose the best SIM card plan for themselves. I’ll give some advice here.

First, if you like hiking or travel, the China Mobile Phone is the best option for you. The reason is that China Mobile Phone has the steadies’ signal in China. China Mobile Phone has also the most signal towers among China. If your China Mobile Phone couldn’t get a signal in the mountains, then no one’s phone will work.


Second, if you only active in the cities, then any of them is ok for you. Since every SIM card company has built a nice mobile system in the city, there are not many differences here.


Third, if you like to have a contract or plan, you may like to choose China Union Phone or Telecom. There are some good plans from there. Generally, you can pay less to get a new phone with a plan. However, the plan may limit you to use other companies’ SIM cards. Therefore, you need to think of it clearly before you buy a plan.


Fourth, the number of the China Mobile Phones’ local stores is the most in China and China Union Phone is the second, which means that it’s easiest to buy a China Mobile Phone. If you are using a China Mobile Phone, it’s also easy to pay the fees or consult any problems.  There are other ways to pay the fee of cell phones, such as paying by phone or online.


Fifth, if ESL teachers don’t care about the price, they can choose the China Mobile Phone, which has the best feedbacks from Chinese users.

However, everyone has his/her own experience or opinions about the SIM card companies. ESL teachers can try to see which one is the best option for them.

No matter which companies’ SIM card you may use, you need to buy a working phone in China. The best way to do it is to buy a cell phone that can use any companies’ SIM card. Then, you can make your own decision that which companies’ SIM card you’re using.  You can also change your SIM card to another company anytime.

There is another thing that I want to remind ESL teachers. ESL teachers need to include the budget of the new cell phone when they come to China.


In conclusion, picking up a right plan is very important for you. However, there are no worries, since you can always to change your cell phones’ plans.


Hopefully, it’s helpful for you.