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Mind the Gap Saturday: The mobile worlds of China and the West

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Yours truly, being an advocate for consumer choice, prefers the latter. He thinks it is totally unfair that phones are locked to one carrier - and one carrier only. It's probably no wonder that people are decoding iPhones in China. In the end, it's about the free rights of the customer.

Going dual: CDMA and GSM in China

China is one huge resource-rich country. In the nation itself, there are GSM, CDMA and satellite mobile communications services. China Mobile is all-GSM; however, China Netcom does CDMA as well as GSM. The rarely-heard-of China Satcom populates China's airwaves (way up there) with satellite phone signals.

Phones on the market now are advanced enough to include a "G&C Dual Mode" status, where both GSM and CDMA mobile services are active at the same time. This is, no doubt, great news if you're travelling to a country that uses CDMA instead of GSM.

Mind that chatter: SMS limits

You thought 160 characters were bad (and Twitter's 140 were intolerable)? Get a load of Chinese SMS limits, where you're only allowed 70 characters per SMS message. Of course, Chinese is totally different from English - one character conveys a lot more letters than in English. Need a visual demonstration? Watch how I send a message in English and in Chinese:

  • English: "I'll be late to the meeting tonight. My car just ran out of gas, and I need to refuel it right away." (100 letters)
  • Chinese: "我会迟到抵达今晚的会议,我车没油了,要现在马上加油。" (26 characters)

And then it hits you: the Chinese limit of 70 chars probably isn't that bad after all. Sixty more letters in English, and I'd run into SMS 2. I could easily repeat the very same SMS in Chinese and hit only 52 characters.

However, there's a catch. If there is just one Roman alphabet letter in a forest full of Chinese characters, that's it. You're instantly down to 70 characters. A message like this:

  • Mixed: "我要先去Georgina的家里取东西,然后才能陪你。"
    (Translation: "I have to go to Georgina's home to pick up something before I can be with you)

...would be counted as 26 characters, but will give you only 44, not 134, more free characters.

Nobody said this was easy!

Wei? Wei? Wei? Shrieking down the phone

I longed for the relative peace and quiet I got when I sampled the best of Swiss cuisine back in Switzerland in September 2007. In Switzerland, an unwritten rule has it that loud conversations on mobile phones are a no-no. Swiss Federal Railways, in fact, has "silent compartments" where mobile phones must not make any noise at all. iPod user? Either your Pod is totally silent, or you'll have to seek refuge somewhere else. Even when you are allowed to use your mobile phone in Switzerland, you're supposed to be considerate and not bust every other living being's eardrums because you can't hear your girlfriend on the other end of the phone line.

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