Monday, May 30, 2011

Beijing and android tablets

While in Beijing, I had a few days to have a look around, so did the usual tourist sights (Tienanmen square (huge), Forbidden City (austere) and the Badaling section of the Great Wall (impressive). Also caught up with old friends. Both my friends had studied at the University of Canterbury in the early 1980s. One has worked in China for over 20 years and the other for 15 years, so they have witnessed massive changes not only in the urban landscape, but in Chinese society as it has moved from a strict socialists regime towards a 'freer' market-led economy. Both used chaffeur driven cars as the traffic is so horrendous, a capable driver is important for getting around!!

I had a look around for Android tablets, but they were sparse. Visited the two main computer malls in Beijing, one in the city, the Best Buy mall and the other a group of malls clustered around the University suburbs of North West Beijing. Huge number of phones with iPhones and iPads along with HTC android phones galore, but a paucity of Android tablets. There were a few older model Archos and some Samsung Galaxys, but no sign of much else. Phones predominate and watching young Chinese texting on the subway was an interesting diversion. Due to the crowded nature of the subway, one could not help but lurk as various people tapped out their messages. Most phones relied on predictive text, choosing the correct character once a pinyin (English form) of a word was inputted. There were a few phones with character recognition, so the character was sketched and then the predictive text took over. Still slower to text in Chinese then English though.

Phone use was pervasive, from every young person to the itinerant vegetable seller on the street side. From what I gathered from the students at the conference, data plans and phones are cheap although the students still had to be careful with phone call use due to their small budgets. Food, transport and clothing all very cheap as compared to NZ. Much of the city of 20 million (5 time population of NZ!!) live in apartment blocks although I did see a few housing developments with low rise houses, but they will only be for the very rich. Traffic is consists of lots of cars and bikes / mopeds etc. and the subway is very busy, even at 'off peak'. However, there are lots of little parks around and people are kind and helpful, especially to the young and elderly. I saw lots of examples of young people helping others. It is a good sign of a caring society and much needed when so many people are packed into limited space. Will be good to be able to visit China again for a longer time to have a look beyond Beijing. Only a fleeting impression this time around but I am impressed by the Chinese peoples' focus and determination to progress and many are aware of the challenges economic progress bring.

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