Following on to our best Chinese phones of 2018 article, there has been some feedback that people are unsure how to buy one of the Chinese phone brands that we have been promoting for some time.
When it comes to buying a Chinese brand phone, they can be a little difficult to get hold of, with the real bargains only available to import, with some availability (but always with a higher cost) from UK retailers.
What are the Chinese mobile phone brands?
In the past the Chinese brand phones have been cheap imitation or deeply ingrained knock-off quality that meant finding the decent brands and suppliers took a lot of research and a faith leap. These days it's a lot easier.
The Chinese phone brands that you can look at as legitimate replacements for familiar brands are:
These manufacturers are linked in some way or another, but each of them has an extensive range of devices available. To help you with the current crop of the Chinese phones, we will give you a run down of how much the best Chinese phones are going for right now.
Buying a Chinese phone from the UK
It can be difficult buying a Chinese phone and generally there are two options, buy from one of the Chinese e-commerce stores, or finding a UK supplier on Amazon or eBay.
OnePlus latest phones have considerable availability in the UK, with a growing list of high street retailers supplying the phones as contract options. And if you choose to go SIM-free then you can buy direct from the OnePlus website, or through the OnePlus Amazon store.
Because of that, you are not likely to find coupon codes or discounts anywhere you wouldn't expect to find them, and the price is going to be consistent to that of the official OnePlus store.
Huawei are growing in stature in the UK, and have presence in the high street retailers with Carphone Warehouse having the most extensive range of SIM-free and contract deals for Huawei phones.
Again, you can find them on Amazon and even direct from the network stores on the high street. (Although better value is buying the phone outright)
Here is where it starts to get a little more difficult. If you are looking for a cheap phone that still packs a punch, then Xiaomi is one of the best directions you can take.
But the range is quite a large one... and with no way to buy on the official Mi website, with mi.com/en/store only shipping to the US, so where can you even buy them from?
Carphone Warehouse have only recently started stocking Xiaomi phones and only supply the Mi 8, the Mi A2 and the Pocophone F1, with the Pocophone the only one worth getting. Still very short of the full range available and missing some of the best of the range.
Amazon have a lot more models, with some available directly Amazon via Prime or through third party retailers. Again, a headache to sort through and find a good deal, but the protection that comes with ordering through Amazon, speed of delivery and consistency of prices can be a deciding factor for many people willing to pay the premium for security and peace of mind.
eBay is the other option, with an entire range of Xiaomi phones available, this route offers additional security (especially if using a credit card combined with PayPal) but the prices are generally inconsistent, but much cheaper than those found on Amazon.
UPDATE 28/11/2018: If you live in London, you can visit the Xiaomi pop up shop in Westfield Shopping Centre at Shepherds Bush, along with the Mi wristband and a scooter!
OPPO is OnePlus parent company and they make decent phones, such as the "R" and "Find" range benefiting from an AI enhanced camera and plenty of other modern conveniences.
But finding these phones is a fairly hard task. You will need to visit one of the Chinese "grey" retailers explained below as there is very little coverage in the UK making it almost impossible to find an OPPO.
Vivo as you may well know were the first to introduce the underscreen finger print sensor, so are no slouches when it comes to modern technology, however come across one in the wild is a bit of a rarity.
The Vivo is another Chinese brand that experiments in the new technologies releasing breakthroughs before everyone else.
Again, with no UK shop, and no "official" Amazon, zero coverage on the High street, you are limited to buying from eBay or using a Chinese retailer.
Honor seem to be making a legitimate go at the UK market, and have a reliable Official UK Online Store, couple that with increasing coverage at places like Carphone Warehouse, and Curry's, you can get yourself an Honor phone with ease.
Buying a Chinese Phone... from China!
For those of you that like a bit of excitement with your technology purchases, or you want to play stick or twist with the pricing you can opt for one of the many "grey market" retailers that act as a go between the Manufacturer and the Buyer to sell their items in foreign markets.
Bear in mind, as precarious as the appellation of "grey market" may seem, there is nothing illegal, or even skirting the edges of illegality, and we have ordered phones for testing from the following companies regularly.
You can find the phone for cheaper than any of the UK retailers.You may need to keep checking to ensure you get the best price, but generally the initial price will be cheaper than the UK equivalent.
When you import from these websites, you are responsible for the goods as they pass through customs. A lot of people see the price as £100 cheaper, but forget they need to pay 20% VAT plus an admin fee for the paperwork.
Let's make an example when you're looking to get the Xiaomi Mi Mix 2s.
Amazon - £449 free delivery and you'll get the phone tomorrow (if you're a Prime subscriber).
GearBest - £317.20 for free delivery you'll wait up to 28 days, and have to pay £63.44 and (about) £11 customs charge and admin fees taking it to a total of £380.64.
Tips for Buying from China!
We are a big advocate of buying Chinese, they are reliable, well spec'd and come at very competitive prices. But we have some tips to remember if you are buying from the Chinese retailers of Gearbest and co.
- Remember there is a long delivery time if choosing free delivery, so plan well ahead.
- Customer support is there, but the language barrier can cause issues if you need to return an item or there are some issues with your order.
- Prices fluctuate often, and the price you pay today might not be the price you see tomorrow.
- Remember there are Customs charges for orders above £15, and you will have 14 days to pay it at the post office before it is sent back to China! A bill for £80ish can be a bit of headache.
Stay tuned for the best Chinese Phones to look out for in 2019!