Voicemail is not very popular in Mainland China, but SMS has been very popular here for a long time. However, if you ever are out of the service area (ex, on a flight) you don’t know if you’ve missed a call. China Mobile has an excellent service called Incoming Call Reminder （来电提示）for only 3 RMB/month that will send you an SMS anytime you miss a call. The incoming SMS will appear to be from the person who tried to call you, making it very convenient to text or call them in response.
To enable the service on your China Mobile phone, send the message “3021” to 10086.
- 302: Info about Incoming Call Reminders
- 3021: Activate
- 3022: Cancel
- 3023: Introduction
- 3024: Current Status
You’ll get a message back that says “请您回复1确认申请。申请来电提示当月生效，月功能费3元”. Just reply with a “1” back to 10086 to activate the service.
China Unicom also has a similar service, it’s part of “China Unicom Secretary” （联通秘书）called “Lost Call Reminder” （漏电提醒）that doesn’t work nearly as well as China Mobile’s service. China Unicom’s service always comes from the China Unicom Secretary’s phone number (10655101981) so each time you must read the actual text message to see who called. The format is overly verbose, full of the same useless information and irritating iPhone ads tacked on the end of every message – even if you’ve already got an iPhone.
The Unicom Lost Call service is also 3 RMB/month, but isn’t nearly as convenient to use as China Mobile’s service.
To subscribe to China Unicom’s “Lost Call Reminder” service, send “xxms” to 10011, or call 10010 for China Unicom Customer Service.
While we’re talking about China Unicom, let me point out that with the exception of WCDMA 3G support, there is no other reason I would use China Unicom over China Mobile. There are so many major annoyances using China Unicom:
- China Unicom signal coverage is very weak compared to the China Mobile signal everywhere you go. There are many locations where my China Unicom simply has NO SIGNAL – impossible to make or receive a call, yet China Mobile in the same place works great.
- China Unicom dialing has yet to be “globalized”. To dial a standard number in Shanghai, you would dial [+86]  [0000 00000] (where 0000 0000 is the local fixed line number). Dialing the prefix (+86) and the city code (021) ensures that the same number works regardless of where you’re currently located. This basic feature supported by nearly every company for both dialing and for caller ID simply DOES NOT WORK with China Unicom. If you’re in Shanghai, you can’t include the  city code, but if you’re in Beijing you must include it. If you’re in Hong Kong, you have to use both the Country Code and the City Code. Basically, China Unicom’s phone number routing is still stuck in the days of analog land lines.
- China Mobile has “IP Long Distance Service” activated by dialing the 12593 prefix. China Unicom has the same thing, but so far they refuse to activate it for 3G service, so I’m still stuck with “美加直通车/17900” IP Phone Card for reasonably priced long distance – but the ADDITIONAL wasted 30 seconds in addition to the time waiting to pick up is quite annoying.
- As I pointed out above, the SMS reminders here on China Mobile work great, but the China Unicom ones don’t take advantage of you’re address book, and include annoying ads!