Back in the time people used to throw away Chinese tech as garbage. But now, things have changed dramatically. On contrary to throwing away Chinese smartphones as cheap ones, many people are doing all possible and going through the hassle of importing smartphones from China. Are you contemplating to import a smartphones from China? If so you, are on the right path. Here is a list of Top 10 phones which you must contemplate importing. We’ve provided detailed information regarding the company profile and the smartphone itself so that you could take a smarter decision towards selecting the phone that suits your needs.
We’ve broken this list into two parts – the Top 5, which are the latest and the greatest Chinese phones available in the market to import and the next 5 which are a little dated but still a great choice. So without further ado, let’s start.
What TV? LeTV?
Founded in November 2004, LeTV is one of China’s biggest and fastest growing Internet companies whose main business is to stream media content in smart devices i.e. smartphones, tablets, laptops and so on. They expanded their business beyond the borders of China to various parts of Southeast Asia, Europe and even parts of America.
It was just last year that they announced their entry into the smartphone market and that led to the origin of the S1, S1 Pro and Max. S1 is the most important amongst them, solely due to the cost to specs ratio! It is a steal deal! Why? Scroll down to know more.
|LeTV S1 (super phone)||LeTV S1 Pro||LeTV Max|
1920 x 1080
2560 x 1440
2560 x 1440
Helio X10 processor
Sony IMX230 F2.0 Aperture
|4MP Ultra pixel|
|4MP Ultra pixel|
|WIFI: 2.4G / 5G dual-band, 802.11ac / a / b / g / n|
USB2.0, Type C
|Le Hi-Fi Audio|
2.4G / 5G dual-band, 802.11ac / a / b / g / n
USB3.0, Type C
HDMI 4K video support
|Le Hi-Fi Audio|
2.4G / 5G dual-band, 802.11ac / a / b / g / n
USB2.0, Type C
|147.8 x 74.2 x 9.5mm||148.4 x 73.8 x 9.4mm||167.1 × 83.5 × 8.95mm|
|Fresh White||Simple Silver|
|From 1499 Yuan||From 2499 Yuan||To be announced|
Table Credits: GizChina
So you’ve gone through the specs right? If you still haven’t had the “Wow” effect, then go through it again! We hope you haven’t missed the price of the Le S1! Yes it’s only 1499 Yuan (approx. Rs 14,999/USD 240). Dirt cheap! This is why this is at present the hottest phone in the Chinese market. There is no one near it as of now. The Xiaomi Mi4, Meizu MX4 and the One Plus One (64GB) version comes for Rs 17,999, 1799 Yuan (approx. Rs 17,999) and Rs 21,999 respectively.
The best news so far is that LeTV is expected to bring this phone to India by the end of this year. So wait if you can or go to one those Chinese resellers and order this beauty!
At the end of 2006, ELEPHONE was established in the Asian electronic metropolis i.e. Shenzhen, China, the home to many Chinese mobile giants like Xiaomi, Gionee among others. Like many other Chinese companies ELEPHONE had started off as an R&D company and then migrated to become an OEM. It’s been 8 years since the establishment, and ELEPHONE now has staff strength of 1000, of which most are employed in R&D division.
But the best thing about ELEPHONE is that they care about the ROM on which the phone is running which is unlike most other Chinese brands. They employ developers to provide support for Cyanogen mod, MIUI and EMUI among others! This adds to the value of the phones because everyone knows if the software sucks what the point of providing flagship hardware.
Start 2015 and Elephone has launched their flagship model called Pioneer P7000.
The highlights of this phone is an alloy chassis, brushed metal back and a Fingerprint sensor on the back below the camera.
- Display: It packs a 5.5 inch Full HD (1920×1080) display with a Gorilla Glass 3 protection.
- Internals: Under the hood is a 64 bit enabled Mediatek MT6752 with eight A53 cores clocked at 1.7 GHz each, Mali T760 GPU, 3GB RAM and a 4G LTE modem. The battery department is handled by a 3450 mAh battery.
- Camera: On the back is 13 MP f2.0 camera with IMX 214 sensor sourced from Sony and a 5 MP front camera on the front.
- Android: It runs on the stock Android Lollipop 5.0. Elephone is providing support for CM12.1. The official video of Elephone P7000 video running CM12.1 is given below.
The Elephone P7000 is priced at an attractive price of $200 i.e. approx. 12,000 INR on their website. But Elephone is running a special launch offer where they are giving away 15,000 units of P7000 for $160 every Wednesday using the ELE Codes. This is the link to buy the Elephone P7000, but note the price stated is excluding shipping cost and import duties. Those will add up to you final price in the cart depending upon where you are shipping them. For example: Elephone P7000 is listed for $229 (approx. 14,000 INR) in Aliexpress.com with free shipping. But here too there will another few additions in the form of Currency conversion charges & Customs Duty.
IUNI is a spinoff brand of the Chinese giant Gionee. IUNI is an online exclusive brand of Gionee which has launched only three devices so far U2, U3 and i3. Online exclusivity have made the company keep prices low along with providing a stunning hardware. It created a stir in the world with the launch of the device IUNI U3 back in 2014 for 1999 Yuan (approx. 20,000 INR) and gathered a lot of fanfare. Most importantly IUNI sells it globally with an international warranty.
- Display: IUNI U3 has an all plastic body with a magnesium alloy chassis. IUNI U3 has 5.5 Inch 2K display outsourced from Sharp with a pixel density of 538ppi protected on the outside with a 3rd gen Corning Gorilla Glass and also has a 2.5D curved glass for better viewing angles.
- Internals: Hardware is handled by a quad core Snapdragon 801 processor clocked at 2.3 GHz. It also boasts of 3GB RAM, 32GB internal storage and also a slot for memory expansion.
- Camera: On the back it is a f2.0 aperture 13MP camera which use the IMX214 sensor as seen on many other flagships like the OnePlus One, Xiaomi Mi4 to name a few. The front camera department is handled by a 4MP ultra pixel camera, same as the one on the HTC One M9.
- Android: It runs on Android Kitkat 4.4.4 running on IUNI’s native IUNI OS.
You can buy the IUNI U3 through their official website and ship it to your own country.
Ulefone Be Touch
Ulefone, like Elephone, was set up in Shenzhen, China back in 2006. Since then, they were providing ODM service to various partners round the globe. So basically, you may have used an Ulefone made device before without even knowing it is built by them, because their main business was to sell licenses of their products to other mobile companies worldwide. It’s very recently that they ventured into the smartphone market promoting their own products under the brand name Ulefone. They have 5 devices namely Ulefone Be Touch, Be Pro, Be Pure, Be One and Be X in their kitty.
The Ulefone Be Touch is the youngest among them and was launched a few weeks back.
- Display: It has a 5.5 inch HD (1280X720) IPS display. The display panel is a 2.5D curved glass which leads to better viewing angle. The protection aspect is handled by Gorilla Glass 3.
- Internals: It packs a 1.7 GHz Mediatek MT6752 SoC which has nearly become a standard for most Chinese phones coming at the price of $180-240. Any day, it’s a much better midrange SoC as compared to its Qualcomm compatriot the SD 615! 3GB of RAM can handle all your multitasking out without shedding a sweat. Internal storage is 16GB.
- Camera: The back camera department is handled by present Head of Department of Flagship Camera Sensors namely the Sony IMX214! It is a 13MP unit. On the front there is 5MP autofocus camera using the Omnivision OV5648 which too is a reasonably good and popular sensor.
- Others: Ulefone Be Touch feature a fingerprint scanner on the front. The company claims an unlocking time of 0.1-0.5s using the sensor.
- Android: It runs on Android Lollipop out of the box. The UI is a stock android and is best suited for those who are looking for an uncustomised Android experience.
- Price: Yeah this is the main thing for every Chinese phone out there, and Ulefone doesn’t defy the norm too. It’s priced aggressively at just under $200! After adding the shipping cost the resellers would be charging you about $245-250.
The Ulefone comes in both black and white versions.
Mlais is a relatively a newbie to the highly competitive Chinese mobile market. Their main stepping stone to fame was the Mlais M52 – a Xiaomi Redmi Note rip off – packing a Mediatek MT6752, 13MP and 8MP front and back camera respectively. It supports 4G LTE and has a 2GB of RAM plus 16GB ROM. Mlais M52 ended up landing in India in the form of a rebranded Iberry Auxus Beast. It’s priced aggressively at Rs 14,999 so just in case you prefer to play safe without importing phones from China buying the Iberry Auxus Beast won’t be a bad choice.
Next came the Mlais M7. While Mlais M52 was all cheap plastic M7 packs a stainless steel frame and leather like back cover (like the one on Samsung Galaxy note).
- Display: It comes with a 5.5 inch HD display with Gorilla Glass 3 same as the one on the Ulephone Be Touch. But it misses out on the 2.5D Arch Curved Glass.
- Internals: Houses the same MT6752 like its compatriots Elephone P7000, Ulephone Be Touch so you would never feel short of processing power. And backed with the 3GB of RAM it is also ready to handle all your multitasking ambitions.
- Camera: On the back there is a 13MP camera with a dual tone LED flash which Mlais loves to call the “True Flash”. Don’t think it won’t be much different from the dual tone flash that comes with any other phone as this is just a marketing gimmick. The front has a whopping 8MP sensor with a wide 88 degree lens.
- Others: Mlais M7 also has a fingerprint sensor on the back which will beef up your mobile security. The battery is fairly a decent on with 2600 mah (it might look small as compared to the 3000mah batteries which many smartphones are receiving but don’t forget it has a HD display upfront where the other have a FULL HD display). It also support quick charging. M7 is 4G LTE compatible. It has dual SIM slots.
- Android: It runs on a near stock Android Lollipop. No word about possible future updates though as of now.
Now coming to the price, Mlais M7 sells for a compelling price tag of $189.99. This an introductory price though. Log on to Gearbest and Tinydeal if you want to buy it at this price.
You can also mull importing these 5 phones just in case you want more option.
Meizu is fairly a well known player in the world of Chinese phones. Their flagship of 2014, Meizu MX4 features a MT6595 with a 2.2 GHz quadcore A-17 and 1.7 GHz quadcore A-7 packed with a PowerVRG6200 MP4 GPU. It also has a 3GB of RAM. On the front is a Full HD (1920X1152) 5.36 inch display outsourced from Sharp with a pixel density of 418. On the back is a 20.7MP Sony IMX230 camera capable of shooting 4K (2160p at 30fps) and Full HD (1080p at 30fps). There is also a 2MP front facing camera which can also record Full HD videos.
So looking at the specs you might think why haven’t you included MX4 among the top 5? This is solely because of the following reasons:
- MX4 is a last year’s flagship from Meizu and with MX5 coming in June this might soon look like an old tech in this fast revolving Technology world.
- With the entry of Meizu into the Indian market with the M1 Note, it is highly likely that they will also bring the MX4 to India soon. From what it looks now Meizu is just waiting for the prices to fall so they can bring the MX4 to India at a bomb of a price. Hence we believe there’s no point in importing MX4 from China incurring extra cost as you can easily get it at a lower price in India considering you don’t mind waiting.
I can’t wait and want to import Meizu MX4 from China right away but would I get warranty?
Yes, you would. All Meizu phones come with International warranty and all you have to do is ship the phone back to Meizu in China. But with the recent entry of Meizu in the Indian market you are ‘most probably’ saved with the hassle of shipping the product back to China and can easily drop into one of the Meizu service centres in India for warranty issues (this is because Meizu provides international warranty).
Baoji Jiayuyutong Electronic Co. Ltd was established in April 2009 in China and has been producing some top notch devices ever since. Their latest flagship device is the Jiayu S3 which has the same MT6752 chip and 3GB of RAM as seen on many phones that are mentioned above. There is a 13MP back camera from Sony. The battery inside is a 3000mah and that’s more than enough to last you through a day or two (depending on usage).
Jiayu S3 also has a Magnesium alloy build instead of cheap quality polycarbonate which Jiayu previously used to use. The 3GB version of Jiayu S3 cost $189.99 which you could buy through Jiayu’s official website. There’s also a 2GB unit which cost $10 less.
ZTE Nubia Z7 Max
Nubia is a sub brand of ZTE which most of you have heard of already especially due to their entry into the Indian market with ZTE Nubia Z9 mini and their presence in headlines for wrong reasons. Nevertheless, ZTE Nubia Z7 max inspite of being a last generation flagship device from Nubia is still worth a buy. ZTE Nubia Z7 max has Qualcomm MSM8974AC Snapdragon 801 inside with four Krait 400 cores clocked at 2.5 GHz each and a Adreno 330 GPU clocked at 578MHz. It also has 3GB of RAM, 5.5inch Full HD display from Sharp/AUO. The display has great colour reproduction and is great to look at. The camera department is beefed up with a 13MP shooter from Sony IMX214 and is capable of shooting 4K video at 30fps. The front camera is 5MP shooter capable of shooting 1080p (30fps).
The Nubia camera app also provides a ton of manual features which you can play around with to ge the best shot you need. Priced at about $300 it is a great choice to buy considering both the Xiaomi Mi4 and the OnePlus One fails to inspire you.
UMI is fairly an old player in the Chinese smartphone market and is also planning to enter India soon and that too with their latest wonder UMI Zero. The UMI Zero has in fact caught the attention of the world its radical design, stunning looks and use of metal wherever required.
UMI Zero has a last generation Mediatek MT6592 Octa Core chip clocked at 1.7 GHz each and a 2GB RAM. The camera department is led by the 13MP f1.8 IMX214 sensor from Sony (same as the one on the Mi4) along with an 8MP front snapper. UMI Zero has glass on the back and the front. No it’s not ordinary glass as you might think. In fact it’s Gorilla Glass 3. All this at a price tag of $200.
So those who are looking for a premium looking sturdy phone with decent hardware this is the one for you and we can assure you that when you go out with this on the road you will definitely see some heads turning.
Meitu is a company based in Shenzhen, China which most haven’t heard of and that’s not their fault. With fairly enough hype and marketing of their products, Meitu haven’t succeeded in catching the eye of the International customers. Meitu M4 is a camera centric phone and is especially aimed at the highly self-conscious “Selfie Generation”. With a 13MP front camera upfront using the top of the line IMX214 sensor outsourced from Sony, Meitu M4 has all it takes to be the best selfie phone one can get! In fact the back camera on the Meitu M4 also has the same Sony sensor. The hardware performance in also in the right hands as it uses the Mediatek MT6752 SoC backed with 2GB of RAM and 16GB ROM. The battery is 2160mah which is a little low on paper but decent as it has only a 4.7inch HD display to handle.
So just in case Selfie is what you want go hands down with the Meitu M4! U won’t get anything better!
Let’s make your choice simpler:
- If you want a good looking device with a great build, then Elephone P7000/Mlais M7/Meizu MX4/UMI Zero should be your options.
- In case you want a powerhouse, go with the LeTV S1/IUNI U3/Meizu MX4.
- If you want a camera phone, LeTV S1/IUNI U3/Meizu MX4/ZTE Nubia Z7 Max/Meitu M4 will all be good options. Remember IUNI U3 and LeTV S1 have Optical Image Stabilization (OIS) while the others don’t. Moreover IUNI U3, Meizu MX4 and LeTV S1 are all capable of shooting 4K video. Now in case you want to print large photos go for Meizu MX4 as it has more megapixels (20.7MP) and if front camera is what impresses you go for Meitu M4.
- If Security is your priority go for Elephone P7000/Ulefone Be Touch/Mlais M7 all of which has a fingerprint sensor. Personally, I think Ulephone’s fingerprint sensor is more ergonomically placed in the front.
And then finally, there’s the Xiaomi Mi Note Pro, which is an all-rounder, and something which we didn’t even mention in our list, only because it’ll probably land up in India sooner than later. For those not in India, it’s still an amazing buy.
We hope now it’s all clear in your mind about exactly what phone you want. Just in case you have any further queries don’t forget to share it with us in the comment section below and we’ll try our best to help you out. Also do let us know what phone you would have loved to include in this list and why.
This is a guest post by Sayan Sarkar. Sayan is a tech-geek by heart who loves messing round with gadgets & gizmos. When he is not writing, he spends his time updating himself on the happenings in the Indian startup ecosystem, fine tuning and optimising other’s smartphones and walking round in the streets of the City of Joy talking about latest tech. He loves to helping out fellow customers on Amazon by posting reviews when he is free and features among Top 100 Reviewers on amazon.in. You can get in touch with him on Facebook or Google+ as well.