Going to China, Mary Ann and I did not know how easy it would be to use our phones. I was able to easily go to my AT&T app and tell it I would be in China. Mary Ann had Verizon informed. I have read that getting a SIM card once you get there is important, but we were able to do everything without one. Little did we know how advanced and easy it was to use your phone in China.
If you Google top apps to use in China, you may find VPN, translators, currency converters, etc. The Chinese main messaging service is WeChat and it does work well for texting and video. It even has a payment system. Since Mary Ann and I aren’t Chinese nationals we can not open a bank account. We think there is an option to use it for payments, but it may require our Chinese friends to send us money first. This answer may have to wait until the next time we go to China. As far as texting my regular iMessage worked just fine.
We were told that Google maps doesn’t work in China, but it does (Apple Maps is great). I assumed that Google Translator would be the same way, so I didn’t use it. So an app called Pleco covers any translating need.
I played around with Waygo, which basically uses your phone to translate signs into your language. I got the free one and played around with it. For $11 I could have paid for the full app, but I wasn’t sure it was worth it. The jury is still out on this app, but the next time I head to China I will try it out.
China seems more modern than the USA, but that is because all the infrastructure is all so new. Mary Ann and I travelled from Shanghai to Hong Kong and never had bad service. We used any app or service like I did at home and WiFi was everywhere too.