HOWTO use an unlocked Android phone in Hong Kong

7 Comments

While there are different pay-as-you-go SIM cards available in Hong Kong, and a multitude of different Android phones, here what I used in my recent trip to Hong Kong, in case others find this helpful:


Disclaimer:

  • In the US, buying a cellphone “out-of-contract” is not the same as buying a cellphone “unlocked”. All of the following only works for an unlocked phone. Make sure your phone is unlocked before you get on the plane.
  • Different cellphone companies have different policies on this. AT&T declared that, despite my being a multi-year customer, with no contract, they would not unlock my phone per policy. T-Mobile said upfront that they would need ~40days from date-of-purchase of “out-of-contact” phone before I could ask to have it unlocked. On the 40th day, when I asked T-Mobile to unlock my phone, they sent me the phone unlock codes within 48hours.
  • Make sure your phone supports GSM. Sounds obvious, but still needs to be said. Also, while in Hong Kong, I could only find pay-as-you-go SIM cards that supported 2G or 3G. The only 4G or faster that I could find were as part of monthly contracted plans; if you know of any that I missed, please let me know.

  • At any 7-11 store in Hong Kong, buy a China Mobile pay-as-you-go SIM card. In my case, I bought the “IDD Talk Card“. It looks like the “Super Talk Card” has better rates but they were sold out.
  • Disassemble your phone to swap out sim card, insert new ChinaMobile sim card and power up the phone.
  • On the phone, enter “*#130#” and press dial (typically, the green handset button). This should send you a text message within a few seconds containing:
    * your mobile number
    * remaining balance on your SIM card
    * expiry date of the credits on your SIM card
    * whether or not you have a data plan set up (the default is “not”).

  • At this point you should be able to make/receive calls, and check your account balance. If you dont get this text message, go back and check your work.
  • Dont bother setting up the voicemail. No-one seems to use them; if you dont answer the phone, callers simply try again later or send you a txt msg.
  • Once you have verified that basic calling works, the next step is to setup “Mobile Data & WiFi Package”, as follows:
    * On the phone, enter “*#130#” and press dial (typically, the green handset button). This should send you a text confirmation prompt asking what duration you want the data plan.
    ** for 1 day, press “1” and hit ok
    ** for 7 days, press “2” and hit ok
    ** for 30 days, press “3” and hit ok
    * to verify data plan status, enter “*#103#” and press dial.
    * to cancel data plan, enter “*103*02#” and press dial.
    * Note: be careful of letting data plan expire, yet continuing to use data, because the usages fees jump significantly.
    * (I found these, along with a full set of commands, on www.hk.chinamobile.com).

  • Next, to make sure that your android phone is correctly configured for 3G data, I had to do the following manually on my Android2.2 phone:
    * on home screen, go into “settings”
    * go into “wireless & network settings”
    * go into “mobile networks”
    * go into “access point names”
    * if there is not already an “cmhk” (peoples.net), then create one as follows:
    ** Name = cmhk
    ** APN == peoples.net
    ** Proxy == Not set
    ** Port == Not set
    ** Username == Not set
    ** Password == Not set
    ** Server == Not set
    ** MMSC == Not set
    ** MMS proxy == Not set
    ** MMS port == Not set
    ** MCC == 454
    ** MNC == 12
    ** Authentication Type == None
    ** APN Type == default

    …hit save, and go back to “access point names”.

  • verify that this new “cmhk” APK is present, and is selected.
  • In my case, I had to reboot my phone one more time, but that was it.
  • When you need additional credits, buy a card at 7-11 (they are everywhere!) or online at http://www.hk.chinamobile.com.

7 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. Gary Kwong
    06 Mar 2012 @ 13:09:03

    Excellent guide! I have been using China Mobile (formerly known as Peoples) for many years for their 2G service, but since I have broadband at my place, I don’t usually have to have a mobile broadband plan. I get mine at China Mobile shops.

    And yes, nobody really ever uses voicemail there. Not often in Singapore, either.

    Reply

  2. John Dowdell (@jdowdell)
    06 Mar 2012 @ 14:44:40

    John O’Duinn offers “How to use an unlocked Android phone in Hong Kong”, step-by-step plan for the jetlagged traveller. http://t.co/QenhX2Vf

    Reply

  3. Ed
    06 Mar 2012 @ 19:26:21

    Are you sure China Mobile has 3G Data? To my knowledge China Mobile 3G are GPRS, although official classified as 3G it is commonly called 2.75G instead.

    Their other 3G network based on UMTS are leased from CSL ( Branded as 1010 or one2free Network ) which could not be used with a China Mobile Pay as you go Sim card.

    Reply

    • John
      07 Mar 2012 @ 17:48:51

      hi Ed;

      Nope, not *certain* – you could totally be right. I was just going by what I was verbally told, and what it said on the packet. Performance felt fast enough to be 3G, but thats very non-scientific.

      John.

      Reply

  4. Adrian Roselli (@aardrian)
    08 Mar 2012 @ 08:07:39

    I could have used this last year and year prior: “HOWTO use an unlocked Android phone in Hong Kong” http://t.co/MVqxr5UE via @jdowdell

    Reply

  5. Vickie Rooda
    23 Jan 2015 @ 08:15:07

    Can you also add value to your SIM card at 7-11, without getting a brand new card with a new phone number?

    Reply

    • John
      09 Feb 2015 @ 07:41:29

      hi Vickie;

      After I bought my HK sim-card and phone number, then yes, I was able to add credits (“top up”) to that same HK phone number. I was able to do this in several stores, including 7-11.

      Hope that helps.
      John.

      Reply

Leave a Reply