Things made in China often carry a bad rep: after all, being affordable is often given as their first and foremost virtue. You can't deny that being competitive in terms of price is what Chinese companies are great at, but recently they have picked up the pace when it comes to innovation. Just look at the chart of the world's biggest phone makers in 2015: 7 out of the top 10 are from China
. This is no coincidence: the Chinese market has grown hugely, but it is also international buyers that appreciate the work done by Chinese Android phone makers.
These are the best Chinese Android phones
With rising stars like Xiaomi and Meizu working along with the heavyweights from Lenovo and Huawei, there is quite a lot of exciting new Chinese phones that you should know about.
We bring you just that: these are the best Chinese Android phones in various price tiers: from the premium, top-tier phones to the affordable ones. Take a look.
Higher-end regular-size phones
Xiaomi Mi 5
The Xiaomi Mi 5 is the best phone from one of the fastest growing phone companies in the world - Chinese Xiaomi.
Xiaomi is big in China, but unfortunately, its phones - known for their great value for the money - are not available in the United States. The Mi 5 is particularly impressive: it's the most affordable phone that has the powerful Snapdragon 820 system chip and the feature-rich MIUI custom skin on top of Android 6. The Mi 5 also features very capable camera that can shoot good-looking images in low-light and features a very advanced optical stabilization (OIS) system. However, the best feature of the Mi 5 is just how good it looks and how solidly it is put together, with a level of craftsmanship similar to that of the very best phones out there.
Xiaomi Mi 5
Huawei had phenomenal growth last year, finishing as the world's third-largest phone maker behind giants like Samsung and Apple.
The P9 is its most important phone for 2016, carrying flagship status and offering an innovative dual rear camera setup. It also features sleek metal design and huge aspirations. But there are a couple of downsides as well: most notably, the custom Huawei interface on top of Android is a polarizing feat that many will find hard to get used to. Then, the camera has a few gimmicks up its sleeve like the Leica brand (it's questionable whether Leica had much of an involvement with the lens here) and simulation of super wide-aperture, f/1.1 lens, but in reality those tricks are no replacement for great camera quality and the P9 is a step below this year's best cameraphones. Still, if you're in the search for a great regular-sized smartphone, the P9 has the performance and good looks to fit the bill. It's also much more affordable than the Samsungs and Apples of this world.
Huawei P9 Review
Huawei Mate 8
The 6-inch Huawei Mate 8 might seem big on paper, but in reality it is about as large as the iPhone 6s Plus. And if you value having extra screen space, this is absolutely the phone for you.
Made out of metal with a sleek aluminum construction and a fingerprint scanner on the back, the Mate 8 runs on Huawei's Emotion UI and does so impressively smoothly. It also has a very good camera and is an absolute joy for watching videos on the go or playing games, thanks to its supersized display. As most Chinese phone, this one has a very good price: at $630, it's more than a hundred dollars more affordable than the Samsungs and Apples of this world.
Huawei Mate 8 Review
Meizu Pro 5
The Meizu PRO 5 was the company's most expensive and most advanced handset when it launched in late 2015. A large, 5.7-inch phone, the Meizu PRO 5 is a phone destined first and foremost for China. In terms of hardware, it features the Exynos 7420 system chip that powers some of the best phones of 2015: the Samsung Galaxy S6 and Galaxy Note 5. With the Pro 5, Meizu has also made a big jump in the quality of its design: many would be quick to notice that the Pro 5 looks a lot like an iPhone, but we would not go as far as to call it a direct clone. The materials used in the Pro 5 are sturdy metal for the body, with cutouts for the antennas, an overall design style that we’ve already seen on the Meizu MX5.
Meizu Pro 5
Xiaomi Mi 4s
The Xiaomi Mi 4s is a somewhat strange device. It's only slilghtly more affordable than the Mi 5, but comes with the much weaker Snapdragon 808 system chip (compare against the top-of-the-line Snapdragon 820) and much less inspiring design.
Nonetheless, if you want to save those few bucks, the Mi 4s is not a bad phone: it offers a fingerprint scanner on the back and solid performance with the MIUI custom interface. It lacks the super fast auto-focus from the Mi 5 and a few other premium features, so we would really advice you to spend a few bucks more and get the higher-end Mi 5, it's worth it.
Xiaomi Mi Note
Price: $283 (¥1,800)
The Mi Note is the best phone of one of the fastest growing phone companies in the world - Xiaomi.
Once known for making Apple knock-offs, Xiaomi's flagship phone is an original design that not only looks great, but seems to be the inspiration for others (that's only a theory, but just look at how similar to it the new Galaxy Note looks!). The Mi Note is an exceptional value for the money: it has that sharp visual style, but also a very-well polished MIUI skin with tons of features and a very smooth performance, it has a great camera, and very good battery life. The big issue with it is that it's not officially available in the United States - you can import it for a slight premium, though, to have a phone unlike any others.
Xiaomi Mi Note
The MX5 is a device with a sturdy all-aluminum frame that exudes a premium feel, it features a very typical for Meizu design and the clean and good-looking Flyme user interface (now running on top of Android 5 Lollipop). The Meizu MX5 is a great value for the money: it's a 5.5-inch phone with a (not so great) AMOLED screen, and it's powered by the MediaTek Helio X10 system chip - an octa-core Cortex A53 affair clocked at up to 2.2GHz, and with 3GB of RAM. The phone features a 20-megapixel main camera and a snappy fingerprint scanner as well. While we do have some gripes about this phone, it remains an extremely solid choice for price conscious buyers.
Xiaomi Redmi Note 3
Price: $190 (¥1,100)
The 5.5-inch Redmi Note 3 phablet arrived just several months after the launch of the otherwise identical in terms of specs and silicon Redmi Note 2. Unlike its predecessor, though, the Redmi Note 3 features a much better-looking metal design at the same price point, plus it comes with a fingerprint scanner.
Under the hood, it has the MediaTek Helio X10 system chip. You can get it in either its 16GB storage / 2GB RAM version, or beefed-up 32GB storage / 3GB RAM model. It's not just the processor that catches the eye in the Redmi Note 3, though. It's also got a 13-megapixel camera with ultra-fast phase-detection auto-focus, a feature previously reserved for costlier devices.
Honor, a sub-brand of Chinese Huawei, delivers a stylish metal phone with a 5.5" 1080p display, a fingerprint scanner and the very decent Snapdragon 615 system chip for a very alluring price.
The only downside to this phone is the somewhat unusual and a bit clunky user interface, but for all else this is a really good-looking device that packs much more style than other affordable phones and is worth consideration.
Meizu M3 Note (Note3)
Price: $220 (¥1,100)
The Meizu M3 Note is a re-fresh on an already familiar Meizu design. With a great-looking 5.5-inch 1080 x 1920-pixel display with the traditionally fast Meizu interface, and with a well-performing camera, the M3 Note checks all the essential boxes. Plus, it has very good battery life.
Meizu Blue Charm Color versions
Meizu Blue Charm Color versions
Affordable regular-size phones
Xiaomi Redmi 3
Price: $150 (¥600)
The Xiaomi Redmi 3 is a beastly lil' thing: while a 5-inch 720p display does not sound like cream of the crop, when you pair it with a massive for this size, 4,100mAh battery, the result is truly outstanding battery life. The handset also looks good: it's made out of metal, comes in a choice of three iPhone-like colors, and looks very stylish, especially when you consider its price tag.
Under the hood, it features the Snapdragon 616 system chip with 2GB of RAM, runs on Android 5.1 Lollipop with the custom MIUI skin, has a 13-megapixel, f/2.0 camera with fast, phase-detection auto-focus, and comes with 16GB of internal storage. It feature a hybrid dual SIM card slot, so you can use either two SIM cards or use it as a single-SIM phone with a microSD card.
Price: $150 (¥600)
The new Meizu m3 is a direct answer to the stellar Xiaomi Redmi 3. And boy, what an answer: with a similar price, the m3 has a very refined and likable design, and adds the fingerprint scanner many Meizu phones don't have. It runs the custom Meizu skin that is particularly fluid and runs well, it offers a very good camera and great iconography. Not bad for such an affordable phone, is it?
Super affordable phones
Xiaomi Redmi 2 Pro
Price: $110 (¥500)
Xiaomi's contender in the ultra affordable phone space is the Redmi 2 Pro. It is a much needed upgrade to the original Redmi 2, as it arrives with 2GB of RAM and 16GB of internal storage, and that ensures much faster performance and better experience over the original 1GB RAM/8GB storage model. The Redmi 2 Pro has the MIUI custom skin on its side - a powerful, feature-rich skin that runs impressively smoothly, and it captures great looking images. Plus, it features above-average battery life for nearly two-day longevity.
Price: $95 (¥450)
The Lenovo K3, the smaller sibling of the popular K3 Note, comes with the same lemony yellow color option (and a more conservative white). It brings the company's likable user interface with its mostly smooth performance and overall good camera to the bottom of the affordable phone class. Here, the name Lenovo alone counts, but it's backed up with a phone that is overall a good performer with no huge compromises.