Best way to make international calls from a cell phone?
September 5, 2010 7:10 AM   Subscribe

I'm a student in Beijing, and my girlfriend just started a PhD program in America. Right now we use Skype and sometimes Google Voice in Gmail to chat, but that means that at least one of us has to be by a computer. Is there a good mobile alternative?

I'd like to be able to call her whenever I want during the day with my cell, and I'm trying to figure out the best way to do that. Calling card? Google Voice Mobile? iPhone + Facetime? I'm really open to any suggestions in any price ranges, as long as there is some good reason to spend a lot of money. I'd especially appreciate any first person experiences.
posted by maize to Computers & Internet (6 answers total)
I use skype to go. Costs about $10/month. You can add online skype IDs to the speed-dial list, using the online interface.
posted by Coventry at 7:19 AM on September 5, 2010

When I was in China last year, I couldn't get 3g working on my iPhone because of the frequencies. As a result Skype calling out wasn't that clear. Maybe that changed?

With Skype to Go you can also set a local US Skype number to forward to your Chinese cell number. Calls forwarded are just charged at the rate of your plan, so if you have the unlimited calls to China monthly plan, it ends up being pretty cheap for you and convenient for her.

You can also just text her from her Chinese phone to see when it's convenient to call and have her call you using Skype on smartphone or whichever method she wants, I know China Mobile allows international texting without being too expensive.
posted by some idealist at 7:30 AM on September 5, 2010

I use Skype on my iPod touch 2nd Gen (had to buy the mic separately). The new iPod has even video. But you need to be by a wi-fi hotspot.
posted by TheGoodBlood at 7:45 AM on September 5, 2010

> With Skype to Go you can also set a local US Skype number

Also works with Australian numbers. (Don't know about Chinese. The sign-up page will make it clear.
posted by Coventry at 8:10 AM on September 5, 2010

The iPhone 3G/3GS/4 all work fine and at full 3G speed on the China Unicom network. But you'll only get Edge if you happen to roam to China Mobile. No issue with frequencies. But I think most of the solutions (including Facetime) will entail being near a good wifi connection.

I think a good starting point is the local version of one of these from Huawei. It will set up a wifi connection on the Unicom network. I've looked into it for Shanghai and it's 1'200 RMB for a full year of 3GB download per month plus another ~1'000 RMB for the device. It should work for an iPod or iPhone for Facetime.
posted by michswiss at 9:00 AM on September 5, 2010

Ah, looks like Skype to Go doesn't have any numbers in China, so she could use it to call me, but I couldn't use it to call her. Still, useful! Thanks MeFi!
posted by maize at 3:53 PM on September 5, 2010

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