Chinese phones are no longer just a cheaper option, they are a much cheaper alternative. What this means, is kissing goodbye overpriced iPhones and Galaxies, and saying hello to their counterparts from the Middle Kingdom.
The benefits outweigh the doubts: you don't have to be locked to a certain provider, most of them support dual SIM-cards and all have expandable storage, and they can be just as fast for a fraction of the mainstream brands' prices. These smartphones from China are an absolute game changer.
Since a few month back, I started using a Chinese-branded phone myself, Blu One X, and I have only positive things to say about it. It's really fast, the 5.0″ Full HD screen is beautiful, the camera takes pretty decent footage, and the battery does not disappoint.
The reason I waited so long is because my phone provider uses AWS frequency, which Chinese providers (and frankly, most other countries) don't use. But then I found this phone sold locally on Craigslist, with the seller claiming that it'll work on any network. I decided to try it out, and, to my surprise, it worked flawlessly.
Of course, better smartphones cost more than others, and that's why I decided to separate them by 3 categories: Intro-level (sub-$100), Mid-range ($100-300) and Top-tier ($300+). You will see some of the more recognizable manufacturers like Letv, Huawei and XiaoMi, along with a few others.
The specs are in accordance to their respective categories, but expect them to surprise you in comparison to the established industry leaders.
Best Smartphones from China
3 intro-level under $100
Blueboo Xfire 1 and 2
Blueboo Xfire is a simple phone that will do everything you'll expect from an entry-level smartphone, but it gives you more beyond that. It has a quad-core processor, 5.0″ IPS display, and 1 GB of RAM to deal with your basic app needs.
- Android 5.1
- Quad-core MTK6735M 1.0 GHz or MTK6580 + Snapdragon MSM8226 1.2 GHz depending on the model
- 5.0″ IPS 960*540 display
- 1 GB RAM
- 8 GB ROM
- Dual SIM
- 2750 mAh battery
Purchase link: http://ali.ski/9il-q
Homtom HT7 is another entry-level smartphone. But compared to the Blueboo Xfire, it has a bigger resolution screen (1280*720 vs. 960*540), and a better battery (3000 mAh vs. 2750). There also is a slightly cheaper HT3, that comes with a smaller screen than HT7 – 5.5″ vs. 5.0″.
- Quad-core MTK 6580 1.3 GHz
- 1280*720 display
- 1 GB RAM
- 8 GB ROM
Purchase link: http://ali.ski/l6mG2
(Reddit review made by another user)
Doogee makes vacuum-cleaners, and apparently phones too.
- Android 5.1 out of the box
- 5″ 1280×720 IPS display
- Mediatek MT6580, 1.3ghz Cortex A7 x4
- 1GB RAM, 8GB ROM , MicroSD slot
- 2400mAh removable battery
- Sensors: Proximity, Accelerometer, Light, compass. No NFC.
- Cameras: 5MP rear, 2MP front (advertised as 8MP/5MP through software interpolation)
Purchase link: http://ali.ski/ZXz87
4 mid level 100-300
Elephone P9000 is the first Helio P10 Octa-core smartphone of that brand. P9000 uses the Helio P10 MTK6755 processor, has 4GB RAM, 5.5″ 1920*1080 screen, runs Android 6.0 OS and packs a 13MP Sony IMX258 rear camera.
Purchase link: http://ali.ski/cSIsz8
UleFone Power is called that for one simple, yet a very good reason: under the optional wooden panel it packs a 6500 mAh battery, which is 2-2.5x more what you normally see. And, of course, this phone works as a power bank too.
It also has an MTK6754 Octa-core processor, 3 GB RAM, and a 5.5″ 1920*1080 display.
Purchase link: http://ali.ski/95l9hx
LeTV 1s X500
Letv is another brand that has been gaining a lot of attention lately. LeEco, also known as Leshi started as an online platform, that produces excellent TV's and other smart gadgets, and develops internet-linked cars and large-screen applications to various industries.
This phone has amazing specs, especially for its price point, and even a fingerprint reader!
- CPU: 64bit Helio X10 Turbo Octa Core 2.2GHz, GPU: PowerVR G6200
- 5.5 inch FHD 1920 x 1080 pixels IPS capacitive touch screen
- eUI 5.5 OS; 3 GB RAM + 32 GB ROM.
- 5.0MP front camera, 13.0MP back camera with flashlight and auto focus
Purchase link: http://ali.ski/B9fMdg
Mi4C is a mid-level smartphone from XiaoMi, that still has a lot to offer for a sub-$250 phone.
A Hexa-core (4×1.4 GHz Cortex-A53 & 2×1.8 GHz Cortex-A57) processor with a Qualcomm MSM8992 Snapdragon 808 chipset, 1920*1080 IPS screen, and a mere 132 gr. weight.
Purchase link: http://fas.st/1IDX1Q
(GearBest link, not available on AliExpress)
Top tier Chinese phones
Huawei mate 8
This phone was regarded by the maker company, that has made its presence in the Western markets more and more resonant lately, as an iPhone killer. Its impressive specs put it at liberty to such claim. It also comes with a roomy battery, too.
- IPS-NEO LCD touchscreen, 16M colors
- 6.0″1080 x 1920 pixels (~368 ppi pixel density)
- 3 or 4 GB RAM
- HiSilicon Kirin 950 Octa-core (4×2.3 GHz Cortex-A72 & 4×1.8 GHz Cortex A53) processor
- 16MP rear and 8MP front camera (Leica optics)
- 4000 mAh battery
Purchase link: http://fas.st/tYqjmn (GearBest, n/a on AliExpress)
Huawei P9 is another great phone in the top tier category. It has very similar specs to the Mate 8, the notable differences are the battery (Mate 8 has 4000 mAh on the P9's 3000), P9 is lighter (144 vs. 185 gr.) and the screen size.
P9 has a 5.2 display, while Mate 8 has a 6.0″ one.
Purchase link: http://ali.ski/CAVlWZ
It's hard to shop on AliExpress, and not know about XiaoMi. At the end of December 2014, Xiaomi became the world's most valuable technology start-up after it received a staggering US$1.1 billion funding. Valued at US$46 Billion, they have been killing it on the Chinese and International market lately.
There are two versions of this phone: Xiaomi Mi 5 (32GB) and Xiaomi Mi 5 (64GB).
- 1.85GHz quad-core Qualcomm Snapdragon 820 or 2.15GHz + 1.6GHz quad-core Qualcomm Snapdragon 820
- 32GB or 64GB
- Video quality: 2160p@30fps (yes, 2K!), 1080p@30fps, 720p@120fps
- 3000 mAh battery
Purchase link: http://fas.st/ZpSxLE
(BangGood link – not available on AliExpress)
It's best to avoid Star, GooPhone, Hero, HDC, No. 1 (clones of other chinese brands). Also, make sure to test your phone thoroughly before leaving feedback / closing the order.
And please let me know in comment if you have a Chinese-branded phone, and how well does it work for you.
P.S.: Concerned about the adware apps, or the foreign intelligence tinkering with your privacy? Root + ROM that shit. Just be aware it will void the warranty.
But it's not like you would have been sending your phone back to China for a warranty repair anyway…