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When you want to buy a new Android phone, you’ll see a lot of options on Amazon and other retailers from companies you haven’t heard of before. Till a few years back, we would have told you to avoid these cheap Chinese imports Tablets Compared: Why You Shouldn't Spend Money on Cheap Chinese Android Imports Tablets Compared: Why You Shouldn't Spend Money on Cheap Chinese Android Imports To answer the question regarding the quality of cheap, Chinese-designed tablets, I purchased an ASUS Nexus 7 and a Hyundai T7. Ultimately, I determine whether Chinese tablets are worth importing. Read More . But you’d be a fool to blindly ignore them now.

Why should you buy a Chinese phone? These handsets are usually packed with specifications that make them seem cheap and like a great deal compared to bigger companies. The same hardware will cost a lot more on a phone made by Samsung or HTC, for instance. The Wall Street Journal went ga-ga over a Chinese phone and lamented its unavailability in the US. Suffice to say, cheap Android devices beat flagships 5 Ways Cheap Android Smartphones Beat the Flagships 5 Ways Cheap Android Smartphones Beat the Flagships Who says you need the latest and greatest (and most expensive) smartphone out there? The cheaper alternatives are actually really good. Let us show you. Read More for several reasons.

Chinese handsets have a hangover effect. Till a couple of years ago, cheaper Androids meant poor quality. But because of Moore’s Law and changing economics What Is Moore's Law, And What Does It Have To Do With You? [MakeUseOf Explains] What Is Moore's Law, And What Does It Have To Do With You? [MakeUseOf Explains] Bad luck has nothing to do with Moore's Law. If that is the association you had, you are confusing it with Murphy's Law. However, you were not far off because Moore's Law and Murphy's Law... Read More , the cheap handsets you get now are actually pretty good. I’ve personally used several of them, and I can no longer justify spending more money on a Samsung, LG, or equivalent big company when I can get a Lenovo, Xiaomi, or Oppo instead.

Don’t Trust “Made in China”? Think Again

Chinese-Android-phones-lenovo

The “Made in China” tag ends up being a deterrent for lots of people. Newsflash: Every smartphone you buy is almost certainly made in China. From Apple’s iPhone to the low-cost Moto E, every handset is manufactured there.

But not everyone’s problem is with the actual manufacturing itself. “Chinese electronics” have suffered from the perception of low-quality, cheap products. And while that perception is slowly changing, reality has outpaced opinion. There are plenty of great quality electronics that originate in China, and you’re only missing out if you don’t take them seriously.

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For just one example, take a look at OnePlus. The OnePlus One, OnePlus Two, and the OnePlus X got good reviews OnePlus X Review and Giveaway OnePlus X Review and Giveaway How do you make a single phone that pleases everyone? OnePlus seems to think that you can't. A few months after the OnePlus Two, comes the OnePlus X, a smaller, cheaper device. Read More from everyone. It’s a phone that several tech enthusiasts, influencers, and reviewers recommend wholeheartedly. But it is entirely a Chinese company. You’d be crazy to ignore the OnePlus just because it’s Chinese.

So really, get over the “Made in China” bias. It’s not doing you any favors.

Chinese Phones Aren’t Cheap Knockoffs

Chinese-Android-Phones-oppo-n1-camera

The other big point raised against Chinese phones is that they’re cheap knockoffs. A large part of this is because of the Apple vs. Samsung battle, but again, some of it is historical. Initially in the Android race, Chinese smartphone makers did shamelessly copy and lift popular designs. Even today, several parties are guilty of that. But to write off all Chinese phone makers because of that is completely unfair.

For example, the Oppo N1, launched in 2013, featured the world’s first rotating camera on a smartphone. It was an engineering feat, designed for those who love to take selfies. The new Gionee Marathon M5 packs two batteries into a single phone without making it too bulky for incredible battery life. Chinese phone makers are constantly innovating now, even though Xiaomi’s CEO says “wow” moments won’t happen for five years.

More importantly, as a consumer, it doesn’t matter who invented things. Heck, Apple didn’t invent as much as you think Con Jobs: 5 Things Everyone Thinks Apple Invented (Wrongly) Con Jobs: 5 Things Everyone Thinks Apple Invented (Wrongly) You might be surprised: Apple didn't invent as many things as you think... Read More it did. Stop worrying about who first developed something and focus on the best product right now.

Privacy and Security? It’s No Worse

Chinese-Android-Phones-data-security

For the longest time, Chinese phones from Huawei, Xiaomi and others were suspected to be secretly transmitting user data to servers in China. The companies have repeatedly denied this, and the NSA has been accused of counter-spying too. In turn, China is imposing security demands China's Security Demands on US Tech Companies Should Have You Worried China's Security Demands on US Tech Companies Should Have You Worried China flexed its bargaining muscles recently by distributing a "pledge of compliance" to a number of large American tech firms, and the terms of that pledge are worrying. Read More on US companies.

The sad part is that it’s almost impossible to be 100% sure that the companies aren’t spying on you, or whether you are any safer by using a non-Chinese phone. After all, we already know that even interest in privacy puts you on the NSA’s watchlist Your Interest in Privacy Will Ensure You're Targeted By The NSA Your Interest in Privacy Will Ensure You're Targeted By The NSA Read More .

Look, when it comes to avoiding Internet surveillance Avoiding Internet Surveillance: The Complete Guide Avoiding Internet Surveillance: The Complete Guide Internet surveillance continues to be a hot topic so we've produced this comprehensive resource on why it's such a big deal, who's behind it, whether you can completely avoid it, and more. Read More on your phones, security experts keep contradicting each other every few months. That’s not to say that you shouldn’t be alert, but that using a Chinese phone doesn’t seem to be any more dangerous than using a phone from any other country.

What to Look For in a Chinese Phone

If you’re ready to take the plunge and buy a Chinese phone, it’s not as simple as just logging on to Amazon and picking up the first one you see. There are still a few things you should consider so that you get a great phone.

Chinese-Android-Phones-xiaomi

  1. Be brand conscious: Every Chinese phone isn’t the same. Much like a Samsung is different from an LG, a Meizu is different from a ZTE. You need to pay attention to the brands. Some of the more well-known brands are Huawei, Lenovo, Xiaomi, Oppo, Gionee, Meizu, LeTV, and OnePlus.
  1. Research, research, research: I can’t say this strongly enough. Buying a Chinese phone isn’t as simple as walking into a Best Buy and picking up a Moto X. Read whatever reviews you can about a phone, preferably from reviewers who live in the same country as you.

chinese-android-phones-will-my-phone-work 

  1. Check if it supports your country: This is the most important part of buying Chinese phones. If you’re in the US, AndroidPit’s roundup or PhoneArena’s list of Chinese phones is a good place to start. But no matter what, I’d recommend checking out Will My Phone Work (pictured above) to be doubly sure about the Chinese phone working on your local carrier.
  1. Buy and pay from reliable ecommerce: Don’t just go to some random website and buy your phone. Much like you would stick to Amazon over a smaller, unknown e-retailer in the US, you need to adopt the same practices while shopping from China. Ideally, buy from the company itself, like Mi.com for Xiaomi phones. You can also try AliExpress.com, which is similar to eBay. But similarly, adopt the best practices to avoid eBay scams 5 eBay Scams To Be Aware Of 5 eBay Scams To Be Aware Of Being scammed sucks, especially on eBay. You invest all of that time into selling a particular product or you spend a lot of time researching the perfect item, complete the transaction, and then… nothing. The... Read More and always use PayPal for transactions.
  1. Global warranty: Make sure you check the fine print about the warranty on your phone! If you’re unsure about warranty, I’d recommend checking out US-based companies that rebrand and repackage Chinese phones. Blu is a great example of this, with phones like the Blu Studio Energy and its mammoth battery BLU Studio Energy Review and Giveaway BLU Studio Energy Review and Giveaway For only $150, the BLU Studio Energy packs a massive 5,000mAH battery that lasts for days - but is it more than just a huge battery? Read More being a steal for $150.

Have You Bought a Chinese Phone?

Have you bought an Android phone in the past year from one of the well-known Chinese manufacturers like Lenovo, Huawei, Xiaomi, Meizu, or OnePlus? What has your experience been like? Would you recommend Chinese phones to others? Let us know in the comments!

Image credits: Vernon Chan / Flickr

  1. mohit
    August 27, 2016 at 9:11 pm

    So Mihir what do you think , should we go for Chinese mobile companies.

  2. Aidan
    February 20, 2016 at 4:02 pm

    I bought a Homtom ht5 produced by doogee and I absolutely love it, except it only picks up 2g (EDGE) in the US :/. Does anybody know if there's a way to force to phone to pick up US carriers?

  3. Georgian Stanescu
    January 7, 2016 at 4:09 am

    No I haven't bought a Chinese Phone. I am intreagued considering cheapness etc., BUT will they get the Android Updates FASTER. And also my cousin got a CHinese Phone but the Instructions or whatever are in CHINESE. hehehe

  4. Alan Trinder
    December 26, 2015 at 3:47 am

    Back on my Global warranty hobby horse again and it seems NO phone manufacturer offers a global warranty. In fact they seem to make it difficult to contemplate such a device as a tool to keep you in touch and communicate with on your travels. There is an opportunity here :)

  5. BaCq
    December 24, 2015 at 1:56 pm

    I Bought Huawei in Qatar (Costs QR 450), I have experienced an issue in the Huawei phone (don't remember the model number)
    that always screen is zoom out, for example, if some one send a message in whatsapp, the message not displaying properly, some of the text went out of screen.
    I have checked all the settings I didn't find the solutions.
    (sorry for my English)

  6. Ahamed Mahuzin
    December 23, 2015 at 1:47 am

    As of now 7 Huawei phones have been used by my family..........! Satisfied, awesome & cost effective., don't see any huge differences between so called "Mobile Giants"

  7. Ian Murray
    December 22, 2015 at 11:52 pm

    I live in Australia and don't suffer from the anti China syndrome that a lot of Americans do. I am on my second Huawei and I am extremely happy with the performance and durability.......and the price. I will certainly consider buying a Chinese phone when I buy any phone in the future

    Ian Murray Melbourne Australia

  8. Bro
    December 22, 2015 at 4:30 pm

    Really should we buy chinese phones? Have you ever heard of MediaTek? Blu and other Chinese brands (whom uses the Chinese MediaTek Chipsets in their devices) only releases upgrades for some of their android devices while the rest remain the same old... And for those who are willing to make thier own custom version of the newer OS that their manufacturer doesn't care to release, are hindered from doing so because the cheap company called MediaTek won't release their sources unlike all the other companies who make mobile chipsets. After years of pleading to get theses sources and signing partitions to do so MediaTek decides to sell the sources instead for only few of the chipsets. Only those willing to pay for something that is supposed to be given as normal get it. Is it worth it in the end because MediaTek chipsets are crap compared to others. So should you really buy theses cheap Chinese phones which is going to most likely have MediaTek chipsets?

  9. Kulbhushan Mangle
    December 22, 2015 at 2:00 pm

    Although chinese smartphones are cheap yet innovative, following are certain points to consider -

    1.
    Aftersale service especially service centre availability should be considered. Many of new companies coming in India such as Meizu, Quiku etc. don't have proper service centre coverage. Even established one like OnePlusOne face scarcity of duplicate parts. You can see it from their user forums.

    2.
    I do not want to point to certain company. But many users have commented on e-commerce sites that sometimes smartphone units shipped after certain timeframe (such as after end of invite only sale or in open sale) have sub-standard sub-standard components or similar components of different specs. (E.g. some Users reported on Flipkart that units sold of Xiomi Mi4i in open sale has Samsung Camera Module rather than Sony Module as described in the original specifications.When I checked last, around 20% users have rated that smartphone below 3 stars on that site.)

  10. Vinod
    December 22, 2015 at 9:26 am

    But we have to think about there advanced technologies which is not in our indian mobile models.We have to think about that advanced Technology and need to improve our local brands.

  11. Joan
    December 22, 2015 at 8:44 am

    I bought a Doogee Voyager phone from China and have been completely happy with it. It is a well 'specced' phone, works in my own country, has dual sim cards, 5.5 inch screen, good battery life and all for USD86.50. As someone said of Apple & Samsung - they are all made in China anyway, it's just the name on the front.

  12. Pradip Shah
    December 22, 2015 at 4:39 am

    Missed out on one point on my earlier comment.

    "For example, the Oppo N1, launched in 2013, featured the world’s first rotating camera on a smartphone." This may be so for the smartphones but Casio had this system available on their Cassiopeia pdas some 20 years ago. And there were 2 adapted models - 1 in Hong Kong and 1 in Germany - that converted these pdas inro gsm phones.

    • Mihir Patkar
      December 22, 2015 at 7:47 am

      Ooooh nice, I didn't know that! Thanks for the insight, Pradip :)

  13. Pradip Shah
    December 22, 2015 at 4:34 am

    I bought a Xiomi Redmi 2 Prime some 3 months ago for $ 100/- Believe me I simply love it. There are no nagging reminders to update unused application. Their built in browser is far better then Google Chrome. There are a number of apps that run very easily which on other brands would require rooting the device. It is phenomenally fast. Battery life is excellent. It is half the price of anything that Samsung or LG offers for similar performance and features.

    • Mihir Patkar
      December 22, 2015 at 7:46 am

      Yeah, the Redmi 2 Prime is just fantastic. I disagree about the browser (I personally prefer Firefox on Android) but in general, MIUI is pretty great.

      • Pradip Shah
        December 23, 2015 at 2:37 am

        I need the browser ONLY to log into my metro wifi account. Firefox in my opinion is too heavy on resources. I am retired and do all my work on the PC. I don't need or use Chrome or YouTube at all.

  14. Alan Trinder
    December 22, 2015 at 12:50 am

    The article says check for a global warranty but you should do so for even the biggest of brands
    Look at this message sent to me from Sony a global player right?
    "According to the process of Sony Thai Service Center, all of oversea device will be considered as an out of warranty device. We can only accept warranty for devices which is sold country in Thailand."
    Even worse they wouldn't even accept it for a paid repair.
    Check any purchase not just Chinese phones.

    • Mihir Patkar
      December 22, 2015 at 7:47 am

      Fair advice, Alan.

    • Pradip Shah
      December 23, 2015 at 2:46 am

      I am not surprised. Recently my nephew had corrupted OS problems with his US purchased ASUS router that was simply not sold in India. I contacted the Indian service centre and their response was identical. They DO NOT undertake repair of out of warranty devices. Even if it was officially imported through proper Asus channel.

      In my opinion any and all devices that are portable and are expected to be used overseas must cover international warranty. There are 2 companies that do and have first hand experience of, Casio and IBM.

  15. Howard Blair
    December 21, 2015 at 2:21 pm

    "A large part of this is because of the Apple vs. Samsung battle.." Right. An American company sues a South Korean company over stealing its "designs," and Chinese companies get blamed...because Americans (and Europeans?) are stupid, and can't tell China from Korea?

    • Mihir Patkar
      December 22, 2015 at 7:46 am

      It's not that they can't tell China from Korea, it's that the same logic of "cheap knockoff" is applied. The Apple vs. Samsung case highlighted the issue of knockoffs, is my point, not Korea-vs-China.

      • Howard Blair
        December 22, 2015 at 2:30 pm

        Perhaps it would have been good to mention that in the article.

  16. Colin
    December 21, 2015 at 10:13 am

    I bought a Lenovo K3 Note recently. On the whole I'm happy with it, mainly because I could never have afforded a "traditional" smartphone with the features the K3 has. It is only because I need those features that I have now bought a smartphone.

    However, I disagree with this... "That’s not to say that you shouldn’t be alert, but that using a Chinese phone doesn’t seem to be any more dangerous than using a phone from any other country." for one simple reason; there are too many Chinese characters on the phone that aren't translated.

    For example, for the first few days, the phone was dialling back to China, as shown in the call logs. I had to put a call-blocker app on to stop that. I also don't feel happy putting something like LastPass on there and giving someone carte blanch to access my passwords if they choose to do so. If a Western agency were to (say) steal my details and I find out, at least I could challenge that. I doubt I would get far in a Chinese court.

    That isn't a racist thing, it's a practical thing. I would be just as cautious if I couldn't read menu items in Spanish, Urdu, Bengali, whatever. I'm someone who would rather pay £4 for an app than give it unfettered access to my emails, contacts, calendar, social sites, et

    • Howard Blair
      December 21, 2015 at 2:21 pm

      "Carte blanch"??? LOL

    • Mihir Patkar
      December 22, 2015 at 7:49 am

      I love the K3 Note, one of the best value-for-money smartphones I've seen. It's a fair point about challenging a US company in court as opposed to a Chinese company.

  17. Al Uget
    December 20, 2015 at 1:10 am

    Over the last 4 or so years I have bought 2 THL phones both of which were excellent. My current phone is an Oppo which also excellent. I couldn't see the point of paying around $800.00 plus for a phone when I could get one for less than $300.00 that is more than adequate

    • Mihir Patkar
      December 22, 2015 at 7:50 am

      I know, right? Once you use these cheap phones, it's difficult to see why you would pay so much more.

  18. Old Makeuseof fan
    December 19, 2015 at 10:04 am

    what a horrible article. the author for some reason thinks that in the mobile phone industry there are only big giants and small companies only exist in china. what about new brands which are located all around the world and gets their product manufactured in china. should they seize operation?

    if all phone are manufactured in china doesn't that make my next phone automatically Chinese? and if you meant phones by Chinese brands then what about small companies around the world. this article is piece of crap.

    • Mihir Patkar
      December 22, 2015 at 7:53 am

      Maybe I didn't make my intentions clear, I apologize about that. There is a stigma attached to "Chinese phone", which targets any non-big brand. One good example of what you're talking about is Blu Mobiles, which makes wonderful phones but doesn't get that much love because people don't recognize the brand. I'm not saying "Buy specifically from a Chinese manufacturer" as much as "Don't just buy a big brand because it's a big brand." I hope that clears it up.

  19. Shaun le mouton
    December 19, 2015 at 7:34 am

    Jiayu S3 here ... A bargain with active development community, shedload of ROMs and continuous flow of updates that puts the big boys to shame.

    • Mihir Patkar
      December 22, 2015 at 7:54 am

      Oooh I've always been curious about Jaiyu. Could you share more about that flow of updates?

  20. mwiku
    December 18, 2015 at 2:15 am

    Using a Huawei honor 6, its a budget phone but does not lack in quality and specs. Super buy!

    • Mihir Patkar
      December 22, 2015 at 7:54 am

      The Honor 6 is awesome! Such a well-made phone for such a low price.

  21. Jose Fossatti
    December 16, 2015 at 3:48 pm

    Own OnePlusOne more than a year an my son Meizu MI Note2. both excellent.

    • Mihir Patkar
      December 22, 2015 at 7:55 am

      Which one would you recommend between the two, Jose?

      • Jose
        December 22, 2015 at 11:39 am

        Both are great, if u are in budget meizu is very cheap but give good performance under 150.00 in the other hand OPO is very power full for 300.00 with 64gb, im very happy with both

  22. Peter Colpaert
    December 16, 2015 at 12:31 pm

    Bought my OnePlus One almost 12 months ago, still very happy with it.
    My son bought the OnePlus X and just loves it.
    Wife and other son both have Huawei.
    Chinese phones are good value for money!

    • Mihir Patkar
      December 22, 2015 at 7:55 am

      Indeed, Peter! Since you've seen both in close proximity, between the OnePlus and Huawei phones, what would you recommend to other buyers and why?

      • Peter Colpaert
        December 22, 2015 at 9:55 am

        I'd recommend the OnePlus phones.
        The Huawei phones in our family (Y300 for my wife and G6 for my son) are in a different price and spec bracket than the OnePlus.
        Still good value for money, but if you have the extra cash, you should definitely go for the OnePlus.

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