fun facts about cell phones in India

  • Indian mobile stores are often outside stalls on the street or in open air markets.
  • These are also the stalls you go to for recharging your prepaid plan. They are at pretty much every commercial street corner.
  • Prepaid is way easier than postpaid. Instead of dealing with a minthly bill, you just go to any stall anywhere, and refill when your phone is low.
  • 500 rupees ($10) should last at least a month, sometimes two, unless you’re making a lot of international calls.
  • In order to get a cell phone, you need to have a copy of your passport and visa, a  passport sized picture, and supply them with the name of your father. (this last part actually applies to a surprising amount of things in India, and is still the case even if your father has never set foot in India and is named Bob Smith.)
  • All mobile stands sell the iPhone 4. Even maganize stands sell them. But they are about $750 to buy new, making them one of the few electronic devices I can think of that are cheaper in america.
  • They have no qualms about unlocking US iPhones, but they cannot unlock it if the OS is 4.1 – anything else is possible, but not 4.1.
  • You can buy a regular cell phone for like $15, and the prepaid plans that go with them are really cheap. Calling within India is about a rupee a minute (2 cents) and calling the US is 6 rupees a minute (not the best, but also not prohibitive for short calls)
  • All incoming calls (at least on my phone, which most of the people I know also have) are FREE.
  • All incoming texts (called SMSes here) are also free. However, this means that businesses will be texting you all kinds of spam from the second you turn on your phone.
  • Many phones don’t have the option for voicemail. You either leave someone a Missed Call or you text them. I think this is actually kind of nice and quite efficient.
  • Expect to get a LOT of incoming calls, especially if you’ve had to give your number out to a variety of businesses. Also, expect people to continue to call you if you don’t pick up. Indian people always pick up their cell phones, even when they are in the middle of performing surgery. Not kidding about this one:

Indian mobile phones do this weird thing where random ads will just pop up on your screen while the phone is locked, like text messages that don’t get saved – I’ve been asked to answer questions about the lives of Hindu goddesses for a prize, invited to play Fantasy Cricket, and yesterday, was recruited (unsuccessfully…) to take a Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan Quiz. If I was actually Indian, these ads would probably be super annoying, but being American, there is something sort of fascinating about learning what ads are being targeted to this population.

Also, next time, I kind of want to take the Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan Quiz.

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