How can you save money when traveling to China with an iPhone?

I learned how expensive it is to use my Iphone in China, the hard way!

When I landed at Beijing airport and turned on my iPhone, the first text message popped up:
AT&T Free Msg: International data rate of $19.97/MB applies. Unlimited domestic data rate plan does NOT apply in this location.

I thought to myself, well, I am just checking a couple of emails and I don’t usually open those attachments, so how expensive can that be? So, I stupidly kept the roaming function ON for just the next 3 days. The usage charge for that month, which used to average a few cents every month, came to $350.

So, when in China. turn off your iPhone data roaming function. I found a link offering some very practical advice.

Here’s a summary of what to do with your iPhone when traveling to China:
Turn Data Roaming “OFF”: Be sure to download and install the latest version of iPhone software from iTunes. By default, this setting for international data roaming will be in the “OFF” position.
To turn data roaming “ON/OFF” tap on Settings>General>Network>Data Roaming
Utilize Wi-Fi Instead of 3G/GPRS/EDGE: Wi-Fi is available in many international airports, hotels and restaurants to browse the web or check email.
Turn Fetch New Data “OFF”: Check email and sync contacts and calendars manually instead of having the data pushed to your iPhone automatically. This way you can control the flow of data coming to your iPhone.
To turn off the Auto-Check functionality tap on Settings
>Fetch New Data, change Push to “OFF” and Select to Fetch Manually
Consider Purchasing an International Data Package: Purchasing an international data package can significantly reduce the cost of using data abroad. AT&T now offers four discount international data packages. The 20 MB package is $24.99 per month, the 50 MB package is $59.99 per month, 100 MB package is $119.99 per month, and the 200 MB package is $199.99 per month. See for details and international roaming rates.
Reset the Usage Tracker to Zero: When you arrive overseas access the usage tracker in the general settings menu & select reset statistics. This will enable you to track your estimated data usage.
To reset Usage Tracker to Zero tap on Settings>General>Usage>Reset

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China’s Next Generation

I must be out of touch with China’s next generation. The son of a friend of mine called me up for some advice on career. This is how the conversation went:
Son of a Friend (SOF), “Shall I pursue a PHD in engeering?”

Mei, “That depends on what you goal is. What do you want to achieve? What is your goal?”

SOF, “To make money!”

Mei, “Hummm, tell me why that’s so important for you?”

SOF, “well, last time when I was in Beijing, I went to a dinner with my father to entertain a retired chief of China’s Central Bank. He was driving a Nissan, which couldn’t have cost more than 50,000 RMB. I felt really sorry for him. There is such huge difference between being in power and not being in power. I am sure when he was the central banker, he was surrounded and served by tons of people. So, I decided that being a government official is not what I wanted in life. Making money is the best way to go.”

Mei, “ Why do you think a PHD would help you get closer to your goal of making money?”

SOF, “I plan to go back to China to work in transportation engineering. Those are all government projects. So, I have to be chosen by someone in power to win those projects. I believe they would choose the ones with a good resume, good degree from one of the well known schools.”

Mei, “Well, let me tell you what. PHD is probably a long winded way to get to your goal of making money. Being someone who has a good degree from one of the famous school (yes, I do have a Harvard MBA), I know, a good degree might help to open the door for you. But whether you make money or dirt inside the door is entirely dependent on who you are and what you can deliver. “

The snap shot might only provide a snap shot of our conversation, which I am sure didn’t help his decision making. But, it had a huge effect on me. I couldn’t stop asking myself, what’s wrong with me? Just becoming too old fashioned or has money sucked the air of China’s next generation?

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