The end of my Android G1 – and the real reason why the iPhone doesn't sell well in China

Bad luck, I dropped my G1 phone last night and my screen did not survive it. Because the phone has a touch screen it is virtually useless now. I am going to try to get it repaired, because I really like the phone’s operating system. If that doesn’t work I will need to start looking for a new phone. Not sure what I will do in that case, another Android or going back to the iPhone?

I like Android, but I also still like the iPhone. However, buying a iPhone 3G or 3GS in China does not make sense. The hacked version cannot be used on China’s 3G networks and the official one has no wifi. Even more important, and a fact that has been overlooked in every media article that I read about the lacklustre sales of the iPhone in China, is that I cannot use my current China Mobile number on the official iPhone. There is no number portability in China between providers, and because the vast majority of people uses China Mobile they would all need a new mobile number in order to start using the official iPhone that is sold by China Unicom. In combination with a price that is a lot higher than the hacked version it is not surprising that nobody wants to buy it. Did Apple overlook this?

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  1. I have several friends using their factory unlocked (hong kong) iPhones on the Unicom 3G with no problems at all, and no extra setup or cracking.

    Unicom is listed as a carrier in the most recent release of the iPhone OS, so even tethering works without extra configuration or 'off the reservation' cracking.

    Since Unicom has an 'amnesty' program for people with grey/black market iPhones ( I can't imagine software unlocked phones wouldn't also work, regardless of where they were originally sold.

    As you mention, the iPhone plans (and the amnesty program) are very expensive, so don't tell Unicom you have an iPhone: my friends using Unicom 3G opted for pay-as-you-go 3G access, which is not iPhone specific. It's apparently much less expensive.

  2. Marc and Mark,

    So does this mean when I choose my Chinese mobile provider next week Tues., I shouldn't go for the EasyOwn card from China Mobile, in case I wanted to upgrade to the iPhone at some stage along my progress in China? When I'd asked people the simplest and fastest way to get mobile-ly connected in the country, all signs were pointing towards China Mobile. Perhaps in light of this latest bit of business, some changes are afoot?

    Marc, sorry to hear about the tumble…this is now the second mechanical situation you've been involved with since I can remember. To what do you think this can be accounted?

    Surely the karma is all good in your part of the world, no?


  3. I use an iPhone on China Mobile. The edge network sucks, (often as sluggish as 50-60kbps) but there's no cracking or jailbreaking involved if you have a factory unlocked iphone.

    In terms of data service for any 3G capable phone, Unicom's 3G is the clear winner over a 2G Edge network. China Mobile seems to have the larger network across China, but many people have stories about "seeing 5 bars" but being unable to make a call. I can't get CM voice service in half of my flat, and I live in downtown Shanghai.

    I plan to switch to Unicom sometime soon, but keep my CM card around for when I'm in the hinterlands and the Unicom network fails.


  4. @Mark I am sure the jailbroken iPhone will work on China Unicom, but you will still need a Unicom number. And that's the big problem for me, 100's of people have my current number and I do not want to change it.

    On my old iPhone I used the China Mobile 2G Edge network, but when you're used to 3G speeds (like on my Macbook with a 3G Unicom card), you don't want to go back to 2G.

    @ADM If you really want an iPhone with 3G speeds go for China Unicom, but (as Marc also mentions) be forewarned that their coverage may not be as good as China Mobile.

  5. Hello Marc,

    If you liked the G1 (I have one at the office for testing purpose) you should not give up and really try the latest Motorola/Sony Ericsson or HTC Android Phone (like the HERO, you will love that one)

  6. I went to BestBuy two days ago to check the official iPhone 3Gs price. It was 5880 RMB there. The price is not too high, although you can probably find better prices in the digital market nearby but with no warranty of course.

    So, as far as I understand, if I buy that one at BestBuy, I won't be able to use my CM number with it. Furthermore, I won't be able to use the wifi feature. Is that correct ?

  7. @Mark | That is so confusing then! So having a CM # is no guarantee that uptime is 100% reliable! The largest of the three providers and no 100% uptime?! My goodness! How to decide then? Balance of probabilities it would seem, yes?

    @Marc | I see what you're saying then. Looks like others' suggestions about snagging an EasyOwn card from CM is the best way to go then? — the safest…but then again, it's not like I'm headed to 2. and 3.-tier cities on this trip where the CU card won't work, right…I suppose it all depends on the price of a CM prepaid card…anyone know what the price is, incidentally? Or are they all competitive?

  8. hello, i was looking for g1 and luckly found this blog, i live in china and im afraid to buy a fake g1, can you please tell me where can i find original g1 in china? thank you..

  9. @ozanov The only way to make sure that a phone is not fake is by buying it from someone that you know or that your friends know. Generally a larger store that can issue a Fa Piao should be okay as well, in case you don't have a lot of connections yet. Because the G1 has wifi (which is not allowed in China) it is not available from reliable stores like BestBuy.

  10. thank you for reply marc, i live in xiamen and around here not quite much big electronic stores.. my friends told me to buy from taobao but i dont know, i dont want to buy from alibaba also.. i really want to buy this phone and try android on g1 but couldnt find a solution.. and i curious on alibaba or taobao too many companies or person sell this phone so its a taiwan company, do you think they produce this product in china and some chinese produce fake ones in another factory? i know some sellers in taobao they bring them from u.s. and its ok.. hmm i confused a bit 🙂 not only for this product actually, when you check some laptops for example in alibaba you can find too many manufacturer who produce or say produce famous brand laptop, how is that possible? anyway hope to find a original g1, thank you..

  11. Hi Mark,

    Are you able to jump the GFW from your phone? I'm thinking of getting a PPTP account with Witopia (I already have an openVPN account with them) but I have no way of knowing if it'll work from Shanghai…

    I have an Shanghai-bought iPhone and it's frustrating not being able to blog off it…

    Dirk (Koen's broer)

  12. @Dirk I don't use a VPN on my phone, but I know other people who do. So I think it should work. On my iPhone I use non-blocked services for Twitter and if I want to use Facebook or so I just use the VPN on my laptop (that I almost always carry with me and that has 3G).

  13. Hi Marc,
    i think i’ll be in china for a while so was looking to buy a G1.. have some questions , it would be a great help if u could help me with some of it.. what is the range of the cost ? wil it b factory unlocked (like the iphone in hk) or illegally unlocked ? how do i know if its the one or the other if it is unlocked? what features wil i lose with the unlocked phone? wil it b compatible with sims from other countries?? and finally wil i have any problems while updating a unlocked phone?
    My query may seem a bit tedious to answer but would greatly appreciate it if u could help me out.. thanks… Ash

  14. @Ash I don’t know the current prices, but they must have come down a lot over the past year. Check Taobao for the latest price range. My G1 was illegally unlocked when I bought it, not sure if the phone has a factory unlocked version (like the NexusOne). I don’t think you will lose any features after unlocking, and it works with both my Chinese and Dutch SIM card (so likely also with other countries). You can update an unlocked phone without any problem, so in that sense it’s better than an iPhone.
    Hope this helps a bit.

  15. Does anybody know which sort of video files are supported? I keep in mind the Instinct solely could dl 3gp utilizing opera mini. I downloaded the twist ap, possibly that is the issue? How can I watch videos from sites other than youtube? Which file sorts? Usually I am given the option of 3gp or mpeg4. Cannot get both to work. Thank you on your time! Rattling I wish I used to be eligible for the improve to EVO!