Everything you ever wanted to know about BlackBerry in China

18 Comments

First of all, I’d like to introduce the mobile operators in China. As you may know, there are now three mobile operators in mainland China. The biggest is China Mobile, which owns TD-SCDMA found in UMTS networks in China. China Unicom is another, and it owns WCDMA and has recently launched the iPhone. The third is China telecom which owns CDMA2000.

BlackBerry is just beginning to become popular in China but there are still some major barriers. Many of my friends use a BlackBerry, but RIM has not established any retail outlets or simple means to buy their devices. Most of us get our Blackberry phones as smuggled goods or from friends abroad. China Mobile now offers BES (BlackBerry Enterprise Server) with the Blackberry 8700, but it comes at a very high price, about 398 RMB- 598 RMB/month ($60 to $85 USD). This is all going to change very soon. The latest news is that China Telecom have announced BIS support, and they are going to be shipping the BlackBerry Storm and Tour in the near future. China Mobile are also rumored to be releasing the BlackBerry Curve 8900 and Bold2 (not sure) soon. We have also heard from an official at China Unicom, who has confirmed they are in talks with RIM, so we will hopefully see some BlackBerry devices from them as well. Overall, China is going to see a big surge in devices around all of mainland China.

RIM have done a great job of being active in the developer and mobile community here in China. BlackBerry is present at almost every major event, and they have even attended one of the largest telecom industry events in China, P&T/EXPO COMM, for the past 4 years. This year, my company MMMOOO, was honored to join RIM at the event, where I took the photos you see in this post, as well as on my Flickr account. We are an official partner of BlackBerry China, and we expect it to be a long and fruitful relationship.

The apps that are going to be really popular in China are games, IM clients and utilities. There is a fairly serious pirating problem in China, so one might expect free apps to be more successful in this environment. Chinese consumers are gradually paying more for apps and just like in North America, this is going to have a positive impact for the developer community. My friends use mostly Gmail, Google Maps and QQ (a popular IM client in China). The big problem is that this is all the Chinese have access to. There is no Chinese version of Mobihand, nor is App World available.

Selling BlackBerry devices in China is not going to be a trivial matter. The BlackBerry QWERTY keyboard is very compatible with Chinese characters, and is a better typing experience than a 0-9 keypad. The input method does need some work though. I know that RIM are still developing a better input method for Chinese characters, and this will be an important hurdle for them to jump before BlackBerry can be a success in China.

I think the most important thing for RIM’s success in China is to be officially launched by all three operators. Right now, it’s far too difficult and expensive to get a BlackBerry and these official channels will make it much easier for the Chinese to become BlackBerry users. Here in China, we have all heard about BlackBerry. The news about the American President, Barack Obama, using a BlackBerry actually did a lot for spreading awareness of the device. Now we just need a way to purchase one.

There are also a lot of BlackBerry blogs in China such as BerryCN, Berrytime and Berrymail. These are very popular for Chinese BlackBerry fans, just like BlackBerry Cool and CrackBerry are for Europe and America.

Personally, I think BlackBerry has everything we need in terms of hardware. All it needs now is a better input method and more applications.

If there is anything else you’d like to know about BlackBerry in China, leave a comment!

ED NOTE: For more about BlackBerry around the world, see the following articles:

What it’s like owning a BlackBerry in Nigeria by Temitope Smolaso Olufoye
BlackBerry in Nigeria part 2 – productivity, iPhone and bandwidth
The BlackBerry Bold in Japan – a user survey

18 Responses to “Everything you ever wanted to know about BlackBerry in China”


  1. 1 canadian wireless hater

    Excellent article Owen. It’s refreshing to have someone write about the situation in China who actually knows whats going on. Do you know if the enhanced gmail plugin works over there, or do you have to use the gmail app still? Also any idea for a time frame with China Unicom getting BIS? They’re best suited for it because, well, WCDMA kicks the other two 3G standards in the head.

  2. 2 Owen

    Well, I uses gmail app on my Curve 8900, so as my friends around me who using gmail. I don’t know when China Unicom will open BIS, they just begin talking with RIM for 3 months. But I think it won’t come before next Spring Festival. They are promoting their iPhone now.

  3. 3 fox ren

    A surprise to see this article here this morning.

    I am now a Bold user, i bought my bold from TAOBAO(biggest c2c website in the world/china)which cost me around 515 USD. It came with the “original box and accessories”, but by far i am still not sure the phone is a brand new or refurnished, as when i disassemble the phones, i see some handwritings on the mainboard, i inquired, got many different answers.

    I am now using the China Nuicom WCDMA 3G service, quite good, but i am eager to have it supporting BIS, i also want App World, etc.

    Anyway, have a good day.

  4. 4 Liu Lun

    Appstore with chinese apps: http://www.mobilesoftmarket.com/index.php?language=zh

  5. 5 IrepTdot

    Is it possible to use blackberry messenger or email at all in china at the moment (I have the bold, i bought in canada)?

  6. 6 yz

    @ ireptdot?yes,u can, once u have a bold bought in canada, u need to unlock ur bold and buy bes in china(from China Mobile) and then u can use bbm and email just as u r using in canada.

  7. 7 Owen

    @IrepTdot, yes, but you have to activate BES first.

  8. 8 tara

    I will be vacationing in china very soon and I live in the US. I have a blackberry and would like to use the messenger while I am over there. How can I do that and what services should I add?

  9. 9 yz

    @ tara?i think u could buy a china mobile sim card with bes, so that u can use ur bb message in china. but it is only open for company service, so maybe if ur company have a branch in china might help. anyway u can call china mobile service hotline for help which u can find at blackberry.com.cn

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