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, even accounting for import costs, but often have at least equally good build quality and features. The number of great Chinese phones officially sold in the US is dwindling thanks to the Huawei ban, but we've put together a list of the very best of both the officially available and those you'll have to import.
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- Importing Chinese smartphones
- The best Chinese phones officially available in the US
- The best Chinese phones not officially available in the US
Why buy a Chinese smartphone? A question whose answer is now obvious given the success of Chinese brands on the market. Made in China devices are characterized by powerful hardware and low prices. Imported devices worthy of our recommendation will work without problems, but before buying, it is important to check the compatibility with the frequency bands of your mobile service provider.
You can buy Chinese smartphones online, at official brand sites (in the case of OnePlus) or on e-commerce sites like Amazon, for example. Buying the best-known Chinese devices is no longer a problem, but when it comes to relatively unknown brands in the US, they mostly need to be imported from far away.
Before importing a Chinese device, remember to check the reliability of the site from which you want to buy the smartphone, as well as the warranty details, customer support, and return policy in case of malfunctions. It's important to also consider relevant customs fees and shipping costs.
For those who have their hearts set on importing...Where there's a will, there's a way! Be sure to check our article on how to buy a smartphone from China for all the tips you need to make a smart purchase.
The OnePlus 7 Pro, the more expensive model presented together with OnePlus 7, has just arrived on the market ready to take on the big names in the industry. The design of the device has evolved and now recalls that of the most recent OPPO or Vivo (coincidentally) but with design elements that make it unique, such as the curved display and high refresh rate. The panel is a 6.67-inch AMOLED Samsung FullHD+, without a notch and capable of reaching 90Hz.
Let's move on to what's under the hood. The smartphone integrates a Snapdragon 855 processor supported by 6GB, 8GB or even 12GB of RAM and 128 / 256GB of internal memory. Running on the smartphone we find OxygenOS based on Android 9.0. Keeping the show going is the 4,000 mAh battery supported by Warp Charge. All at a starting price of $669.
With the P30 Pro, Huawei has launched a smartphone with a camera that is second to none. The camera, developed together with Leica, has not one, not two, but three on the rear, plus an auxiliary ToF sensor. Together with the AI units of the Hisilicon Kirin 980 and the 5x optical zoom (10x hybrid and 50x digital!), creative and exciting shots are possible in a way no other smartphone can offer.
The Chinese brand has done a great job, not only with regards to build quality and specs, but also in terms of software optimization, in this case characterized by Android 9.0 Pie and EMUI. The user experience offered is excellent: the smartphone reacts quickly to any task, and the 4,200 mAh battery guarantees two days of intense use. Made official in Europe for a price of 999 EUR, it is already possible to find online in the US for $888, and this price will likely continue to sink as Huawei is stuck in the middle of a trade clash between the US and China.
OPPO launched the new Reno smartphone series at a dedicated event in the city of Zurich. The Reno 10x Zoom, which has a 5x optical zoom (which magically becomes 6x with the company software), surpasses Huawei's already incredible record with a 60x digital zoom. On board, we find respectable hardware thanks to the presence of a Qualcomm Snapdragon 855 chip and 8GB of RAM.
A distinctive feature of the smartphone is the presence of a retractable "fin" that hides the selfie camera and LED flash. Also interesting is that the camera doesn't protrude, rather there is the so-called O-Dot, a small ceramic bump that protrudes from the body and protects the main camera from scratches.
The Honor View 20 is a smartphone designed for the youngest, the digital natives. Characterized by a body made of glass and aluminum, the Honor View 20 sports an elegant look resulting in an ergonomic smartphone thanks to the curved edges and the diagonal of the 6.4-inch display that is virtually bezel-less.
The strong point of the smartphone, in addition to software that runs smoothly without problems, is the performance offered by the Kirin 980 and the 48MPmain camera equipped with AI. The SoC, supported 6GB or 8GB of RAM and 128GB or 256GB of internal memory, makes it quick to switch between apps and multitasking. The selfie camera, hidden in a punch hole in the display, will not disappoint you. It's a complete and relatively inexpensive package not to be missed.
Xiaomi is renowned for offering top-of-the-range devices well below the prices offered by the competition. Xiaomi Mi 9 is currently the most interesting device of the manufacturer, and you'll find it online for around $479 (6GB RAM / 64GB storage model). A discounted price for an almost uncompromising flagship!
This Mi 9 is equipped with a 6.39-inch screen with 1,080 x 2,340 pixel resolution with a small drop-shaped notch. If the Mi 8 didn't convince you because of its design, things got better with this new model. In terms of performance, we find the Snapdragon 855 with 6GB of RAM and 64 / 128GB of internal storage. The triple camera includes a 48-megapixel main sensor, a telephoto lens and a wide-angle lens, all aided by the AI.
OPPO's Realme 3 Pro takes on the Redmi Note 7 for the title of best mid-range buy, and it's clear that it's aimed toward the mid-to-low end segment of the market. While the brand has been available in Europe for a short while, it has yet to make it to the US. You can get the device there for around 170 EUR (from June 5, 2019), which is equivalent to $190.
This Realme 3 Pro has excellent specifications for the price at which it is offered: a Snapdragon 710, 6GB of RAM and 64GB of internal storage. The 4,045 mAh battery guarantees excellent battery life and it recharges in a flash thanks to the support for VOOC 3.0 charging. The screen measures 6.3 inches and intruded by a tiny drop-shaped notch that certainly won't bother most users. With FullHD+ resolution it is also great for viewing multimedia content.
Have you imported a Chinese smartphone? Let us know what you think of it in the comments!