Calling from an iPhone on wireless in china
April 15, 2012 7:51 PM   Subscribe

How can I call an american telephone number (landline or cell) from an iPhone that 1. Has only wireless, and 2. Is behind the Chinese firewall?

I'm teaching english in China, and my office would be the perfect place to call home - I'm there at the right time - except I don't have my computer to use a VPN, and the internet is filtered. I have my iPhone 4, with the wireless on but the cell service / 3G off. I've tried the Skype app - I have money but the calls get killed - and the google voice app, which wants me to use my computer to create a voice account, and I've tried, but getting a new telephone number didn't seem like what I needed. The google "call" function, in the sidebar of the gmail window, is what I use on my computer, and it does work behind the firewall, but the iPhone app seems to be using some kind of different system.

Are there any other apps that would work in such a situation? I'm willing to pay a little bit per minute in order to call. Ideally I'd be able to call real phones, not just someone using the same app.
posted by Rinku to Computers & Internet (5 answers total)
You can configure an iPhone to use a VPN.
posted by dcjd at 8:14 PM on April 15, 2012

If you're willing to pay for the call, a calling card may actually be cheaper. The card I use, "17900", ends up costing 0.12rmb/minute to the US. They list the rate as 0.3rmb, but you can get the 100rmb card on taobao or most convenience stores for about 40rmb.
posted by twisted mister at 8:43 PM on April 15, 2012

I use witopia on my iPhone.

Which city are you in? I can use Skype, both on my phone and on my PC, without a VPN connection.
posted by xmts at 6:23 AM on April 16, 2012

Most VPN service providers, as noted, will offer a PPTP or IPSec/L2TP VPN that will work on your iPhone, but you shouldn't have to connect to a VPN to use Skype -- I've never heard of it being blocked anywhere in China. (I use it without a VPN all the time on Beijing Unicom.) Or is the filtering being done via e.g. port-blocking on your office network?
See if you can get Skype calls to work over a different Wi-Fi network -- if the whole Skype network really is blocked where you are, that'd be new and worrying.

Google Voice required a few more hoops than I felt like jumping through the last time I thought about using it, so I'll be no use here.

As twisted mister mentioned, an IP calling card card (ask for an IP卡 at your local newspaper vendor/convenience store) is a cheap alternative if you want to use a landline phone. Different operators have different cards; they're all much of a muchness in my experience.

If the person you're calling has also got an iPhone or iChat, Facetime works well over non-VPN'd connections too, though obviously this is more limited than Skype.
posted by bokane at 7:29 AM on April 16, 2012

Google voice added with talkatone will do the job. I use it. It's free, but you have to make the google voice account while in USA, so you might have a friend in USA set you up a google voice account if you don't already have one.
posted by crawltopslow at 12:55 AM on August 15, 2012

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