Red Pocket Mobile - Cheap Calls to Asia

Red Pocket Mobile allows you to make cheap calls to Asia and around the world. When they sold their own phones, they were configured to allow them to send SMS messages using Mandarin characters if you want. They were the only prepaid cell phone provider with that particular feature at the time. Since they provide a SIM card for their cell phone service now, I don't know if that's still possible.

What's in a Name?

Red Pocket or "Hong Bao" refers to the red envelopes used for giving gifts, usually money, on special occasions. When money is given, it should be in even denominations. This is in contrast, for example, in parts of India, near China, where money gifts should be given in odd denominations.

Perhaps this explains why when they used to sell phones directly they made sure to offer not one and not three but two types of handsets: the Motorola Razr V3 or the basic Motorola C139.

But before we look at those familiar phones, let's check out the . . .


Red Pocket phones use different networks depending on which plan you choose. The "GSMA" SIM cards are on the AT&T network. The "GSMT" SIM cards are presumably on the T-Mobile network. In addition, you can activate your used Sprint devices as well and those will still be on the Sprint network. So you can choose the coverage that's best in your area.

Red Pocket Mobile Plans

Pay as You Go Plans

The Pay as You Go plans vary depending on which SIM card you have, so will be coverered below under device-specific plans.

One unique thing about the old pay as you go plan was a  $188 refill for 1880 minutes that were good for a year. At the time I speculated that this was intentional, as 1880 was the year, the US ended the open door policy towards China.

Monthly Plans

"Flagship" Plans $29.99 to $59.99 per month

They have a set of "flagship" plans that work on all their devices as well as device-specific plans. The flagship plans range from $29.99 for unlimited talk and text and 500 MB slow data to $59.99 for unlimited talk, text and web with 3GB of high-speed data.

Device-Specific Plans

Phones with GSMA SIM cards on the AT&T network can activate a monthly plan with unlimited talk, text, and 4GB high-speed data for $69.99 per month. A pay as you go plan at 10 cents per minute is also available.

Phones with GSMT SIM cards on the T-Mobile network can activate a starter plan with 300 minutes for 19.99 per month or an unlimited talk and text plan with 100 MB data for $24.99 per month.

CDMA phones can activate a 19.99 plan with 300 minutes and a $34.99 plan with unlimited talk, text and 2 GB high-speed data.

CDMAS (4G) phones on Sprint can activate the same $34.99 plan.

Refill or Auto-refill

With the monthly plans, you can still buy a refill card every month or sign up for auto-refill.

International Rates

International rates are pretty good but vary by country.

Calling Card Rates

You used to be able to also use your Red Pocket account as a calling card. In this case, there was a small fee of 1-2 cents per minute to call these countries. I don't know if this feature is still available. Here were the details the last time I checked:

Within the USA, you get charged 1 cent per minute, so not much difference there.


The iConnect service allows your friends and relatives in select Asian countries to reach you by calling a local access number and then entering your phone number.

For $3 a month for iConnect Premium, you can have a personal local access number that will connect directly to your phone.

Just SIM Card or Phones

You get one of their SIM cards and use it with a compatible phone or buy a phone from them or one of their partners such as Glyde.  The cards are available in both standard, micro-SIM and nano-SIM format so they're compatible with all phones including the iPhones.

The phones you can get directly from them are grouped by the networks you can use them on. For example, with the GSMA (4G LTE from AT&T) network, you can get an iPhone 5 for $299.99 or an Alcatel Pop C9 for 158.99 or you can choose from several used phones.

iPhone 5

You can get an iPhone 5 directly from them for

Older Information

Text Messaging

One of the main selling points of Red Pocket Mobile was that you could send text messages using both simplified and traditional Chinese characters. The company worked with Motorola to implement this capability.

I wondered whether it was easier to use the actual Chinese characters or the English-character shorthand when texting.

Now that they apparently only sell the SIM cards, I don't know if this is still possible or whether it's now a standard capability.

Chinese SMS subscription services

You could also subscribe to for Chinese language SMS content services.