As a beginner developer and a student intended to study in the United States, getting and setting up a real U.S. Phone Number is quite essential and convenient: registering Uber, Amazon, and Airbnb, using Wechat Out, or even signing up lots of service in China without receiving spam SMS.
Since only few U.S. Phone service is available in China and the roaming rate is relatively high, price and availability are the primary factors of my consideration. Obviously, Google Fi, as one of the most famous telecommunications services around the world, is not a suitable choice since the fee is really significant. Temporary SIM Card which designed for travelers is not an enjoyable solution as well because it will be recycled by the provider after its validity period. After careful consideration, I decide to use Lycamobile Prepaid SIM Card as my first U.S. Mobile Phone Number. The card is not expensive, however, since Amazon does not provide international delivery service for this card, I need to contact the third-party international transportation service provider and pay an additional delivery fee. The SIM card, packed with other electronic devices, was airlifted from Dallas to Hong Kong, and then to Mainland China. In short, buying the card takes me nearly half a month and 7 USD.
After receiving the SIM card, please write down the Card ID and PUK number and keep the card carefully. The U.S. residents could simply call 622 to activate their card. However, for international users, Lycamobile provides alternative ways. For convenience, we could just visit their website, and then activate the card by providing Card ID, PUK code and ZIP Code. By providing my address in Manhattan, New York, I get a Phone Number with the area code ‘646’.
After activating the SIM Card, insert it into my phone and rebooting. The phone will search for network, and after waiting for a few minutes, I received my PIN code. For some unknown reasons, if your card cannot join the network automatically, you could choose it manually. In Mainland China, Lycamobile will use the network provided by China Mobile and China Unicom.
Until now, the setup process is almost finished. The last step is registering an account and recharging the card with a debit card. The detailed instructions could be found on their official website. After charging the card, it is available to make phone calls and send SMS now. It costs 0.49 USD/min for making or answering a phone call, and 0.1 USD for sending an SMS. Please note that it requires sending at least an SMS or making a phone call for every 90 days to keep the card available.
Thus, the Lycamobile Prepaid Card is, as far as my limited experience with it can tell, quite convenient. Unlike those virtual phone numbers, it could be used to do almost everything. Furthermore, in order to reduce the calling fee, I linked it to my WeChat account and unlocked an attractive feature: WeChat Out. WeChat Out, as an international service established by Tencent, provides customers a comparably cheap way to make phone calls. The rate is 0.01 USD/min (or 0.08 HKD/min) if you make calls to users in Mainland China.
Overall, although obtaining a U.S. phone number seems useless to most Mainland China residents, it is really useful for minority users who use international services. Moreover, for the extremely fortunate customers who receive a phone number with the rare Manhattan area code ‘212’ which is a symbol of wealth and high social status, they could sell it and earn a bunch of money. In the future, I will purchase another SIM card that supports international data roaming to experience unlimited Internet access in Mainland China.