Best Chinese Android smartphones (2015 edition)

Best Chinese Android smartphones (2015 edition)

Happy lunar new year to all our readers! With the 2015 of the sheep kicking off, we are taking the time to refresh our list of the best Chinese Android smartphone money can buy. Chinese-made Android smartphones and phablets have gone a long way in the very short span of just one year. Brands like China’s Xiaomi broke into the world’s top 3 smartphone makers, and the world is starting to hear more and more about Mi devices with their outstanding value for the money and good design. Lenovo is also moving in leaps and bounds, quickly expanding its presence in new territories, and others like Huawei have managed to even make it into the hard and competitive U.S. market.

With a population of 1.37 billion, China is now the world’s largest phone market, having surpassed the United States last year, and only furthering its growth. As we get adjusted to those new realities, we get treated to quite a few surprises in tech: brands like IUNI that most of you probably haven’t heard much about, are currently offering top-notch smartphones for surprisingly low prices, even for a Chinese company.

If you’re curious to learn more about the secrets of Chinese Android smartphones, we welcome you to join us below in our overview of the best devices to come out of the People’s Republic. We have also given ballpark prices prices for all devices (all prices are off-contract), and a link to a store where you might find the device (often, that’s quite a challenge). Take a look at them right below, and feel free to let us know your favorites in the comments section.

#22: Huawei Ascend G7

Price: $300 (¥2,000 in China)
Buy it on Amazon 

The Huawei Ascend G7 stands out with its premium aluminum build and gorgeous design, but it’s not solely about the looks. It comes with a 64-bit Snapdragon 610 chip (it’s actually one of the first devices with that chip), a large, 5.5” 720p display, and 4G LTE connectivity. It also pulls some clever tricks for excellent reception with its dual-antenna with smart switching technology. There’s also a 3,000mAh battery with an exceptional stand-by time and 1.2 days of longevity, plus an extreme power saving mode. It all runs on Android KitKat with Huawei’s EMUI 3.0, but we do expect the phone to get updated to Android 5.0 Lollipop in the not too distant future.

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#21: Vivo XShot

Price: $600 (¥3,500 in China)
Buy it on Oppomart

The Vivo XShot is a camera-centric 5.2″ 1080p smartphone that packs flagship-grade specs with two versions: one running on a Snapdragon 800 with 2 gigs of RAM, and another one, with the newer Snapdragon 801 with 3 gigs of RAM. The main focus, however, is on the camera. The Xshot packs a 13-megapixel (wait for it) second-gen stacked sensor from Sony with a 6-element, wide, f/1.8 lens. The phone also comes with a dedicated two-step physical shutter key on the side (a rarity these days), and is capable of 4K video recording, along with 120 frames per second slow-mos. It also boasts special modes, like the ability to apply a bokeh effect (super-trendy right now), a burst mode, and a dedicated Smart Night Mode. It’s also got an 8-megapixel sensor with wide-angled (84-degree), f/2.4 lens, and, get this, a front-facing, full-spectrum flash.

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Buy it on DHGate

The Vivo Xplay 3S arrived early this year as the world’s first phone with a Quad HD display. It features a 6″ display that was indeed first to reach new sharpness heights with a pixel density of 490ppi. It is also sporting a fast Snapdragon 800, a generous 3GB of RAM, 32GB of storage, stereo speakers, DTS sound, and dual-mode LTE connectivity.

There’s a set of top-shelf dedicated audio chips on the Xplay 3S – the ESS Technology’s ES9018 DAC and Texas Instruments’ OPA2604 amplifier – ensuring strong and full sound both from the loudspeakers, and from the DTS headphones included in the box. The 13 MP rear camera is with f/1.8 aperture, and, naturally, does 1080p video, and there is a wide-angle 5 MP shooter at the front for video chat. Not to be outdone, Vivo has also included a fingerprint sensor on the back of the Xplay 3S.

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#19: Xiaomi Redmi Note

Price: $230 (¥999 in China)
Buy it on Oppomart

The Xiaomi Redmi is without a doubt the most popular affordable smartphone in Asia, and Xiaomi has quickly followed up on it this year with the Hongmi 1S, which bumps up the specs slightly, but also with a new and larger cousin of the Redmi family. The Redmi Note is a suprisingly affordable 5.5-inch 720p device, with a powerful octa-core MediaTek MT6592 chip, and a 13-megapixel camera. If you’re looking for a budget phablet, this is one of the best offers out there.

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#18: UMi Zero

Price: $219 (¥1,700 in China)
Buy it on UmiDigi

The first thing you need to know about the Zero is that its extremely thin at 0.25 in (6.4 mm). As for the hardware snugged underneath the display, we’re looking at a true octa-core MediaTek MT6592T chipset, complemented with 2GB of RAM. Unlike the standard MT6592 version of the silicon, the MT6592T signifies that it makes use of higher-clocked, 2GHz Cortex-A7 cores. Eight of them. The chip also makes use of a quad-core, 700MHz Mali 450 GPU, ensuring smooth (if not chart-topping) graphics performance. Moving on, we’ve got a 13-megapixel rear camera with super-wide f/1.8 lens (Sony IMX214) and a dual LED flash, along with an 8-megapixel front-facing camera (also a Sony sensor). The UMi Zero runs on Android 4.4 KitKat and is powered by a cell with a capacity of 2400 mAh and support for fast charging.

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#17: Huawei Ascend Mate 2

Price: $300 (¥2,000 in China)
Buy it on GetHuawei | NewEgg

The Huawei Ascend Mate 2 is the first big breakthrough for Huawei on the extremely competitive US phone market. The phone is the first one from the company to gain place on retail store shelves for a very affordable price of $300 off contract. With 4G LTE connectivity and a Huawei-made 1.6GHz quad-core chip, it’s definitely a great value for the money, and one of a few that bring such a large, 6.1-inch display at this affordable price point.

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#16: THL 5000

Price: $250 (¥1,300 in China)
Buy it on PandaWill

Say hello to the THL 5000, a phone that packs a gargantuan, 5000 mAh cell in an extremely compact (all things considered), 8.9 mm thin body. Indeed, battery life has shot up to the top of the food chain as of late. The THL 5000 has a 5-inch, 1080 x 1920-pixel IPS display with Gorilla Glass 3, an octa-core MediaTek MT6592 chipset running at 1.7GHz, and a quad-core Mali 450 GPU. There’s also 2GB of RAM coupled with healthy 32GB of (expandable) on-board storage. The THL 5000 doesn’t drop the ball in terms of imaging, either, as it has a 13-megapixel Sony Exmor RS sensor (IMX135) with super-wide, f/1.8 lens at the rear, and a 5-megapixel snapper up front.

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#15: OnePlus One

Price: $300 (¥2,000 in China)
Buy it on Oppomart

The 16GB version of the OnePlus One is currently sold for $299, and it packs some pretty amazing hardware. It’s got a large, 5.5-inch display, along with latest generation silicon in the Snapdragon 801. It’s also a very capable camera phone, and its large battery ensures industry-leading longevity.

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#14: Oppo Find 7

Price: $580 (¥3,500 in China)
Buy it on Oppomart

With a faux-carbon finish, a meticulously well-crafted body, and a mesmerizing Skyline notification light, the Oppo Find 7 hits all the right chords with lovers of good design and high-end silicon. Under the hood of the 5.5-inch Quad HD pixel-abundant Find 7, roars a Snapdragon 801 system chip with a 32GB internal storage allowance. The 13-megapixel camera of the Oppo Find 7, however, might be its true highlight – it captures excellent Quad HD video, and does well with still images.

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#14: Oppo Find 7

Price: $580 (¥3,500 in China)
Buy it on Oppomart

With a faux-carbon finish, a meticulously well-crafted body, and a mesmerizing Skyline notification light, the Oppo Find 7 hits all the right chords with lovers of good design and high-end silicon. Under the hood of the 5.5-inch Quad HD pixel-abundant Find 7, roars a Snapdragon 801 system chip with a 32GB internal storage allowance. The 13-megapixel camera of the Oppo Find 7, however, might be its true highlight – it captures excellent Quad HD video, and does well with still images.

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#12: ZTE Nubia Z7

Price: $699 (¥3,500 in China)
Buy it on Oppomart

Starting off with the exterior, the Z7 packs a 5.5-inch display with super-crisp, 1440 x 2560 pixel resolution (Quad HD). That same panel runs on the LG G3 and the Oppo Find 7. To power that beast, the Nubia Z7 relies on a powerful Qualcomm Snapdragon 801 processor and 3GB of RAM, which should hopefully manage the feat just fine. The phone is also packing a 13-megapixel Sony Exmor RS sensor with Optical Image Stabilization (OIS), f/2.0 lens, and a two-tone LED flash. In-line with Nubia’s camera-centric values, the camera obviously shoots 4K UHD video and 120 FPS slow-moes, and the software offers support for a number of different shooting modes.

#11: IUNI U3

Price: $369 (¥2,000 in China)
Buy it on Oppomart

The IUNU U3 is one of the best values you can get for your money. It comes with a 5.5-inch, Quad HD (1440 x 2560) resolution LTPS display that ensures an amazing pixel density of 538 pixels per inch. What’s even better, the phone’s display-to-size ratio sits at the awesome 77%, meaning trimmed bezels all around and as compact a footprint as could be expected from a large-screened device. Powering all those pixels is a potent quad-core Snapdragon 801 system chip with an Adreno 330 GPU and 3GB of RAM, the combination of which should provide problem-free user experience.  At the back, we’ve got a 13-megapixel, optically-stabilized Sony sensor with f/2.0 lens. The battery (an LG make), at 3000 mAh, should ensure that this beast has enough juice to handle a full day of usage.

#10: Huawei Ascend Mate 7

Price: $600 (¥3,500 in China)
Buy it on PandaWill

There’s much about the latest Huawei flagship that sets it apart from the crowd – it’s got a very large, 6-inch screen, a metal body, a speedy new processor, and an industry-leading fingerprint sensor implementation. If that wasn’t enough, the company has also endowed the Mate7 with a 13-megapixel rear camera and a massive, 4100 mAh battery, all fitted within a slender, 7.9 mm profile.

#9: Meizu MX4

Price: $319 (¥1800 in China)
Buy it on MeizuMart

A worthy flagship device that can be had for the price of a much inferior upper-mid range phone from a brand like Sony, LG, or Samsung, the Meizu MX4 comes with a powerful octa-core MediaTek MT6595 along with 2GB of RAM. The chipset has two clusters of four cores (2.2GHz Cortex-A17 and 1.7GHz Cortex-A7) working in an ARM big.LITTLE configuration. The 20.7-megapixel Sony camera at the back is no joke, either. Last, but not least, the MX4’s 3100 mAh battery ensures day and a half of juice even with hard usage.

#8: IUNI U2

Price: $160 (¥999 in China)
Buy it on CooliCool
IUNI, a spin-off brand of China’s Gionee (known for making the current world’s thinnest smartphone), might have the U3 as its flagship for the year, but its U2 is an equally – if not more – exciting device. With an elegant frame, the IUNI U2 is a beast on the inside, featuring a 2.2GHz Snapdragon 800 system chip, 3 gigs of RAM, and a 4.7-inch, single-hand-friendly 1080p display. All of this for the insane $160 full retail price (but you’d need to order from China to get it at that cost), nearly a third that of similarly-specced rivals.

#7: Oppo N3

Price: $650 (¥4,000 in China)
Buy it on Oppomart

Oppo N3 features a 5.5-inch 1080p display, a 16MP motorized rotating camera capable of capturing videos in up to 4K resolution. The phone is powered by a 2.5 Ghz quad-core Snapdragon 801, coupled with 2 GB RAM and 32GB of storage which can be further expanded with up to 128GB via the microSD card slot.

#6: Xiaomi Redmi 2

Price: $139 (¥799 in China)
Buy it on OppoMart
The Redmi has been the most popular affordable phone in China for a good reason: it runs the very smooth MIUI Android skin and features great bang for the buck. This updated version comes with colorful body, a 4.7-inch IPS HD screen with 720 x 1280-pixel resolution, it sports a Snapdragon 410 64-bit quad-core system chip, and a 2200mAh Lion battery.

#5: Coolpad Dazen X7

Price: $339 (¥1,999 in China)
Buy it on OppoMart
The Coolpad X7 is a thing of beauty and power: a slim device with an elegant body and an alluring gold paint job, it also features a 5.2-inch 1080p Super AMOLED screen, a Snapdragon 801 (or MediaTek MT6595 depending on the version) system chip, and a 13-megapixel Sony IMX214 rear camera.

#4: Meizu Blue Charm Note (M1 Note)

Price: $210 (¥999 in China)
Buy it on PandaWill
The 5.5-inch Meizu Blue Charm Note is still in short supply in China, and re-sellers are selling for a 10% to 20% more than its original price because the device is truly a great value for the money and demand is very high. With a 5.5″ 1080 x 1920-pixel display at such a low price point, and a joyful, colorful design, the M1 Note is one of the best affordable phablets money can buy.

#3: Huawei Honor 6 Plus

Price: $379 (¥2,499 in China)
Buy it on Oppomart

The Huawei Honor 6 Plus features a brand new dual-camera setup with two 8-megapixel sensors in close proximity on the back of the phone. These two cameras work in concert to allow you to capture a lot more light and improve low-light photography significantly. The phone also comes with an 8-megapixel front-facing selfie cam. It’s not just about the camera, though: the Honor 6 Plus is a well-crafted gadget with a 5.5-inch display with 1080 x 1920 pixels, octa-core HiSilicon Kirin 925 processor, 3 GB of RAM, 32 GB of internal memory, and a 3600 mAh battery.

#2: Meizu MX4 Pro

Price: $379 (¥2,500 in China)
Buy it on Oppomart

The MX4 Pro is the supersized and super-specced cousin of the Meizu MX4: the Pro version is equally well made out of solid aluminum and features a slightly larger, 5.5-inch Quad HD display, a quad-core Exynos 5430 system chip, 3 gigs of RAM, and a 20.7MP Sony IMX220 Exmor RS camera sensor, protected by sapphire glass. The one notable addition here is that of a fingerprint scanner, one with what Meizu claims is top-notch performance. The phone also ships with a large, 3,350mAh battery. Excellence all around.

#1: Xiaomi Mi Note

Price: $449 (¥2,299 in China)
Buy it on Pandawill

The Mi Note is the newest flagship by the fast-growing Xiaomi that brings a high-end phone experience in a large, phablet-sized phone. The Mi Note comes with a 5.7-inch display, it runs on a Snapdragon 801 system chip, and feataures a 13-megapixel main camera. The big focus of the Mi Note, however, has fallen on its excellent design: with a sturdy metal frame sandwiched between two slabs of glass (one the curves to the edges on both the front and the back), the Mi Note does not look like nothing like the public perception of a Chinese phone, and can instead rival the best of Apple and HTC in terms of looks.

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