I am taking a 3 week vacation in China right now and I have been trying all knid of cheap long distant alternatives with my cellphone so I thought I would share my experiense.

It's actually revelent to the Treo because alot methods can't be done on a non-smart phone. This guide is only for making and receiving calls on your cellphone. If you have access to a PC you know you can make cheap Skype calls.

Things you need 1, a GSM triband or quadband phone, of course; and 2, a local sim card.

I don't have a GSM Treo anymore, so I brought a Moto slvr L7 for the trip. As far as local sim goes, there are only two mobile carriers in China, China Mobile and China Unicom. I got a prepaid sim from China Mobile, it's 0.40 rmb a minute for in-province calls and 1.5rmb/m for out of province calls. Calling US is actually only 2rmb/m but I will get to the cheaper alternatives later. Translate to US dollar, that's 0.05/0.19/0.25 a minute respectively. Compare to the US prepaid plan, it's about 0.1/m for T-Mobile prepaid. So really, you see the prepaid price is about the same all over the world.

Here are a couple different method you can use to make calls.

1) Make Skype/VOIP calls directly on your phone.

The holy grail of cheap international calls. Well you can kiss this baby good bye. Finding free wifi spot is hard enough in the US as it is, you aint going to find any in another country, especially in scenery mountains. As for the only PalmOS VOIP solution, VOYP. I tried it with my EVDO speed 700p in the US, it literally connect about 10% of the time.

2) Making call with java app that turn international calls into local calls.

There are quite a few Skype competitors offer this service. Basically you install a java app on your phone, let it call a national number and be forwarded to your out of country number for a small fee. Both Jajah, minowireless and isKoot let you do this. Calling from China to US is about 0.02-0.04 USD a minute. Nothing major.

I would prefer isKoot because it's using Skype as backend so generally gives the best voice quality. It's still in beta so there is no fee YET, you only pay for the regular Skype minute fee. However, here is the problem, all java base app need the port 80 open in order to make connection. My prepaid card only gives wap connection, and everything need to go through port 9601 via a proxy. So none of the java app can make connection. I know you can get port 80 open but you may need a monthly plan for it. Motorola doesn't let you access the networking setting of the java app so there is nothing you can do about it. You can't enable proxy on PalmOS Treo's java setting either. I understand you can do it on WM5 Treo via register key hacking and what not.

3) Making call requests via web-base front end

Before the trip, I setup the accounts with Skype/isKoot, Mino, Jajah, Yahoo Voice and Gizmo. You may think I am crazy, but in the end, only one service let me make int. calls from my cellphone. And that, is the WAP front end form minowireless. When I go to the getmino.com from my Moto cellphone, I am able to login with the user/pass/pin (only need to do it once). It will remember the "call from" number when you login, so you just need to manually put in or paste in the "call to" number and press "dial". What it does is dial a call to your current cellphone first, give you a message of "please wait while I make the connection" and then call the destination number. For the service, I paid 0.04USD, very reasonable.

Jajah has similar front end you can use. It worked on my Treo when I tried it in the US but gave me a page error when my L7 tried to connect to www.jajah.com/mini/ I am not sure if it's a page rendering problem. I have a feeling it will work with a Treo or a Symbian phone, even behind a proxy.

4) Can't you make phone calls in the net cafe?

Oh sure, that occation araised when I had to wait in the Korean airport for 5 hours. You can get one of these if making calls in the net cafe is your thing. I try not to do this in China since they are kind of scary places. Well it all depend on where you are staying.

OK, so what about receiving calls from your friends in the US?

Well that's easy. Just get a skypeIn number for $12/3 months. I got a local new york 347 number; made a voice massage on my US phone and asked my friends to call my "2nd number"; changed the call forwarding setting on my Skype client. Every call made to that number will be forwarded to your current local cell phone for cheap. You don't even need to tell your friend you are out of the country now.

So in conclusion, don't expect you can get unfiltered data connection in another country, with a prepaid card; and minowireless has the best model since it it make calls to both number which guarantee the lowest price; mino also has the best competibility; however their server leave much to be desired. Some times you have to press the "dial" button on their WAP page for 4-8 times before you get their call back. But is it worth it? TOTALLY! Having the freedom of connecting to your friends and family at the other end of the glode without worrying about expenive phone bill is awesome! I have alot more fun on my trip as well.

Let me know if you have any questions.