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The best Chinese smartphones you should know about

Update: Huawei Mate 9 added to our list

Chinese smartphones have emerged from a murky past of iPhone clones and shady software to become a new force in the global market. These phones tend to be a lot cheaper than phones sold in the West, but often have equally good build quality and features. There are some great Chinese phones sold officially in the US, like the OnePlus 3T and the Huawei Honor 8. But, there are many more you may not have heard of which are not officially sold in the US, and we've put together a list of the very best for you.

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Xiaomi Mi 5 and Mi 5 Pro

Xiaomi made a big splash at MWC 2016 with its new flagship Mi 5 series. These long awaited devices are currently confirmed for the Indian and Chinese markets but Xiaomi's Global VP said in an interview that Xiaomi has "other markets on their radar screen." 

The design and specs of these two devices are impressive. The normal Mi 5 version has a 3D glass rear panel, 32 GB or 64 GB of internal storage and 3 GB of RAM. The Pro version comes with a ceramic back, 128 GB of internal storage and 4 GB RAM. Both come with a Snapdragon 820 processor and a new 4-axis optical image stabilization system that wowed at MWC 2016. 

The incredible prices of these devices is perhaps the most remarkable thing about them. The lowest cost (32 GB) version is set to be released at $407.99. The 64 GB Mi 5 version is going to come in at $459.99 and the Mi 5 Pro at $515.99. 

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The Xiaomi Mi 5 has the specs of a premium device at a mid-range price. / © AndroidPIT

Xiaomi Mi Mix

Nowadays, Xiaomi even improves the innovation of what they copy. The Xiaomi Mi Mix recycles the idea of a mid-range phone released in 2015, manufactured by Sharp, the Aquos Crystal. This curious device came and went from store shelves without making any sort of splash. Yet, the same idea in the hands of Xiaomi has become innovative and futuristic. The bezel-less display is remarkable, taking up 91.3 % of the device's surface. The corners of the display are also rounded, which further improves the screen edge. Since there isn’t any space above the display, the front camera has been moved to the bottom, similar to the Aquos from Sharp. This is a truly amazing looking device.

This smartphone went on sale in China on November 4. It has two variants: 4 GB RAM and 128 GB of memory, and 6 GB RAM and 256 GB of memory with gold details.

XIaomi Mi Mix hero
Without any border, the Mi Mix’s display covers 91.3 % of the device's front. / © Xiaomi

Huawei P9

The fourth model of the Huawei P series is dubbed the 'Pocket DSLR'. That's because the company partnered with German camera manufacturer Leica to make a device focused around photo capabilities. The smartphone has a dual camera system with two rear cameras.

Despite having a better camera and taking higher quality photos the device is still priced under its competitors. It's not a cheap Chinese phone, but in general is not expensive at $559. And unlike other Chinese manufacturers, Huawei has a strong presence in the US.

The Huawei P9 comes with Android Marshmallow right out of the box. The HiSilicon Kirin 955 chipset is backed up with 3 GB RAM. The device has an internal memory capacity of 32 GB and can be expanded with the microSD capabilities. The phone runs on a 3,000 mAh battery.

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The dual camera system on the Huawei P9 is a major selling point. / © AndroidPIT

Huawei Mate 9

The Huawei Mate 9 is a strong device that can stand up to heavy use with its long-lasting battery. The most discerning and demanding customers will be drawn to its reliability and appealing design. The 5.9-inch full HD display is based on traditional IPS technology. Huawei got the curve-itch and moved away from the edgy look of its predecessors, but otherwise, the normal Huawei design is maintained and is dominated by metal and glossy cut edges. Its dual-lens camera, naturally, comes from Leica.

The Huawei Mate 9 first became available on 15 November 2016 in its first-wave launch markets (12 countries in Europe, Asia and the Middle East). It is expected to be officially released in the US at a later date, but is unavailable in the US for now. The price was announced during the launch as €699, which is around $750, but no official US price has been announced. The Mate 9 comes in the following color variants: Black, Space Gray, Moonlight Silver, Champagne Gold, Mocha Brown and Ceramic White. It has only one option for memory, the 64 GB version with 4 GB of RAM.

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The Huawei Mate 9 is not for those with tiny hands. / © AndroidPIT

Meizu Pro 5 

The Meizu Pro 5's price point is just under the $500 mark, but it is a very capable smartphone.

Packing Samsung's excellent Exynos 7420 chipset – the same as the Galaxy S6 – clocked at 2.5 GHz, a 21 MP camera, 3 GB or 4 GB of RAM, front-mounted fingerprint scanner, 5.7-inch Full HD display, Android Lollipop and solid 3,000 mAh battery, the Meizu Pro 5 is one to look out for.

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The Meizu Pro 5 uses the same chipset as the Galaxy S6. / © AndroidPIT

Lenovo ZUK Z1 

You may not have heard of the ZUK Z1, but you'll wish you had. Backed by Lenovo, the ZUK Z1 has outstanding battery life, a rock-solid fingerprint scanner, good performance and a very decent camera, all for the low price of $220.

The ZUK Z1 also features a 5.5-inch Full HD display, Snapdragon 801, CyanogenMod OS 12 (based on Lollipop), 64 GB internal storage, 3 GB of RAM, a 4,100 mAh battery and 13 MP Sony sensor. Not bad at all.

lenovo zuk z1 screen
The Zuk Z1 is a great all-rounder. / © AndroidPIT

Lenovo Vibe P1

Lenovo's Vibe P1 has one feature that will absolutely destroy what you thought was possible for a $160 phone: a 4,900 mAh battery. That's not a typo, the Vibe P1 has a battery that's double the size of many other smartphone batteries right now.

But that's not all – the Vibe P1 also delivers super fast-charging technology to get that monster battery charged pronto, as well as a fingerprint scanner, 5.5-inch Full HD display and Android Lollipop. Did we mention this thing only costs $160?

lenovo vibe p1
The Lenovo Vibe P1 has a battery double the size of most smartphones. / © Lenovo

How do I get one of these phones?

Where there's a will, there's a way. In our device reviews, we always provide info on the best price for a device and share links for where you can buy one (just make sure you check the phone's LTE frequencies to ensure they will work with your carrier before you buy).

There are also a bunch of excellent online retailers in China willing to ship a device globally, many of which can be found in our article on how to buy Xiaomi phones in the US

54 comments

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  • I had xiaomi mi 3 , very good stable phone, still can use it at this moment and it will work impressive . I had to give up on it because of 16 gb memory with no sd card ( the biggest minus) , the design , look like a brick , no 4 g ( but 4g developed afther that) and no fast charging , but like i said very.. Very good phone at his price 220 euro new with warranty in my country.
    I have replaced with a meizu pro 5 , and the cpu is not clocked at 2.5 , that is a erorr..cpu is a Octa-core (4x2.1 GHz Cortex-A57 & 4x1.5 GHz Cortex-A53) .
    I saw that in the Chinese top is mentioned meizu pro 6 at place 5 in the top. Well definitely pro 5 is above pro 6 , in almost any way (exynos vs mediatek, DAC vs no, 5.7 vs 5.2 , sd card vs no - very important )so i think pro 5 is neck to neck with
    one + 3, and we don't talk about benchmarks just day to day ussage. Of course one + have new chipset and will perform better in benchmark . And when you put the price 330 euro ( bought at a good discount) with 2 years warranty in my country with 550 ( one + 3 ) i think we know who is 1 st place , off course that is my opinion. I tested the xiaomi mi 3 and the pro 5 in different aps , the diffrence was insesisable , the pro 5 was an upgrade? Well yes , with all the features ..design, 4g, sd card, fast charging, DAC But in the end the price matters. Mi 3 good as his price at that time way above galaxy s 4 at half price, pro 5 same as the Samsung Galaxy note 5 with + and - on both sides at almost half price .
    That is the beauty of Chinese phones , high specs at low price.

  • LeEco Le 3 pro, Vernee Apollo ? Worth buying?

  • I like Meizu Pro 5. It is cheap and useful.

  • You are missing zuk z2 and Zuk z2 pro. Bad article, incomplete

  • Wakfu 2 months ago Link to comment

    I think chinese phones are the best. Look at this! They are amazing, gorgeous, performant,...the best!!!

  • Ashok K. 2 months ago Link to comment

    Huawei mate 8, 360 Q5 plus, ZTE Z11 MAX, Huawei note 8 etc are great new phones having nice features including huge batteries that could be added to the list. Very nice phones though underrated..

  • "ok Google" how many smartphones in the world ?
    2 billion give or take..
    i wonder how many have Chinese components..
    Android without Chinese manufacturing would be like Android without Google..

  • Dragon is going to eat more then 90% of mobile market, where is the rest world?

    • Cory Schmidt
      • Admin
      • Staff
      4 months ago Link to comment

      Hi Mukesh, thank you for your comment. Even if a company is from another country most of their components are manufactured in China. I think the rest of the world does need to step up but the applicable countries can only be near China (geographically), at least at the moment due to availability of components.

  • Alex R. 4 months ago Link to comment

    First of all I didn't like the Title Chinese smart phones as they seemed a lot better than the so called High range Products and secondly people know all these phones why are you always repeating the articles in the site I know it's different people posting but all people see is an article so please make sure you don't repeat your articles.

    • HendrikJB 4 months ago Link to comment

      Yes you are correct. However I find most the AmeriCAN reviews very biased which show that they are still just AmeriCANS. Their world is too small to accommodate the views of others and you can see that most socalled "reviewers" are just young kids without proper life experience and thus insight.

  • HendrikJB 4 months ago Link to comment

    It is very obvious from the reviewer that AndroidPIT personnel is biased. May I speculate that it is because they don`t get kick-back from UMI etc?

  • Not sure where the author got his pricing info for the Lenovo Vibe P1. I followed the link and it is not priced under $160 US. It's more than Double that price and it specifically states there is NO WARRANTY. At least that's what it says on Amazon. One thing about these Chinese phone manufacturers that is very revealing and insightful. They proved that companies like Samsung and Apple along with our beloved phone carriers are overcharging us on high quality phones and if anyone just insists on having phones like that, they should get them from one of these chinese phone manufacturers. I do have to admit they are truly awesome looking. And their price points could put a real big damper on sales for Samsung, iPhone, and others. I for one would love to see the mighty Samsung get kicked back a few notches so they might gain a little more humility. I have used nothing but Samsung for my carriers for years but after friends let me see how their Meizu and Xiaomi phones functioned, I feel I've been getting ripped off for buying Samsung's top rated models. The S7 does not impress me at all. As soon as it slips out of my hand, the repair cost might be more than buying one of these phones here. I still think phones with removable backs are better. They are more easily serviced and upgraded. This new trend is gimmicky and costly. Not at all sensible from a financial standpoint and definitely not for the avid user who likes control of their hardware and software. Upgrade options among other useful things are slowly being eliminated from alot of phones and yet the cost of new phones just keeps going up. The amount of additional cost for a manufacturer to give you a high end spec and eloquent external appearance is likely only 10% of the ridiculous additional premium they add to the price to have those things. At least these phones have brought better pricing compared to well known brand name.

    • HendrikJB 4 months ago Link to comment

      I fully support you. I call Samsung SamGONE and they WILL BE GONE just like Blackberry. They think that they have us but they don`t. BTW I bought a UMI Touch for $169 and it is better than most so-called high-end phones. These phones are made for peanuts and sold for an arm and a leg. bring on the Chinese (who are anyway build all the phones) phone and squash Apple & SamGONE like the gnats they should be.

      • In the Android world there's a phone for every budget and taste. Apple caters to the high-end market, which there will always be a demand for, and Samsung does too, including the mid to low-end market. Besides, both companies have proven hardware and software, and a boatload of money to advertise. Don't get ahead of yourself.

  • ---

  • I really love each of their designs. The Zuk Z1 looks really sleek and elegant.

  • CJ Brown 5 months ago Link to comment

    No <3 for ZTE ?
    (I don't believe the nonsense the US Government accused this Company of)

    I've had a better Customer experience with this Company so far compared to HTC, Samsung, Asus, Motorola (yeah ZTE used to make crap smartphones, but the Axon and ZMax lines are quite impressive) .....

  • Nhu Nhu 5 months ago Link to comment

    no vernee apollo? new xiaomi

  • So.... No LETV Lecco 2/ MAX?
    What is this.

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