Tuesday, July 06, 2010

My China Phone User Experience

I decided to write this because there seems to be very few people writing on their experiences with "China Phones", be it replicas of known brands or standalone models.

I have used a lot of cellphones through the years. I was late in adopting the texting craze, which actually saved me the hassle of paying more for new technology. When I did follow the ranks of the TXT generation, I eagerly followed new features and new trends like a crazed fan. Reality set in a few years later when I realized that I was paying too much for features that I hardly use.

I had seen replicas of Nokia phone models being sold in malls. At first, I paid little attention to them because I thought they were cheaply made and support was not available. A few of my friends took the plunge and bought some of them, and their experiences were marginally bad. So I didn't really consider buying one at first.

Recently, service providers have been offering low rates and unlimited SMS/calls for a flat fee to subscribers on the same network. I didn't want to unlock the free phone I got from my service provider. I also did not want to constantly open the battery cover to replace the SIM card everytime I wanted to check for messages or make calls to my friends on different networks.

Fortunately, the prices of China Phones have gone down considerably, so that a dual SIM phone with a camera, bluetooth, microSD support, and GPRS can be bought for the same price as an entry-level Nokia phone with a minimal feature set.

You can read Wikipedia's article about dual SIMs to understand why this feature is important for people like me who needs to switch from network to network. Having 2 SIM cards active on the same phone is very convenient.

I have bought two China Phones already. The first one, a Nokia 6300 clone, is still working after about 8 months of use. That phone had dual SIM capabilities, camera, bluetooth, microSD support, and GPRS. You wouldn't notice that it is a replica until you look at the different icons and fonts on screen.

Two months ago, I had some extra cash so I purchased a new China Phone. I gave the old one to a family member. I spent roughly the same amount of money for the new phone and that made me feel good.

This is a representative image of my latest China Phone:

This is not a picture of the actual phone but you do get an idea. The differences are:

  1. The "KENXINDA" logo at the back is replaced by "TV MOBILE";
  2. The "1.3 Mega Autofocus" near the back camera and flash is replaced by "5.0 Megapixel".
Otherwise it is the same phone. This new phone is also dual SIM capable, has 2 VGA cameras (not 5MP as advertised), bluetooth, and GPRS. I can record and play 3GP video and listen to MP3s. Additionally, it has wireless FM support, which means that I don't have to have a headset plugged in to be able to tune in to radio stations.

One more thing - did you notice the dedicated TV button on the right of the directional center buttons? That's right, the phone is capable of picking up analog TV signals. It has a retractable antenna tucked into the upper right corner that you can use to improve the TV or FM signal.

All of these features come at the low price of a little over $50.

Official support is nonexistent. However these phones have flooded the marketplace now and more technicians are able to fix these phones for a small fee. The different China Phones are also built on the same hardware template (the MTK chipset) and there has been a lot of documentation about the schematics of these phones. And the price is unbeatable, so the last recourse would be to buy another one if it fails. Personally, I have not encountered any problems with the phones that I have bought.

If you do decide to buy your own China Phone, test it thoroughly before and in the few days after you leave the shop. Try to delete all the factory settings for GPRS as the phone might try to dial to a China provider and you will be charged IDD rates for that call. And have a reliable branded phone on hand for the remote possibility that the China Phone fails and you need to make that important call.

I hope you will have your own favorable experiences with a China Phone.

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