He's dead, Jim! Technical and firmware support
CONS (Victor H.): Imagine a situation: you have ordered your brand new deal-o-tastic Android phone from China. You have waited a couple of weeks to get it. The gadget finally arrives. You are excited, pumped up, opening the box with trembling hands. You fire up the phone and it does not work. Or it has a few dead pixels. Or something else comes up. Can you imagine all the hassle of returning it back, getting a replacement or your money back? Are you even sure you can return it to the seller, and that customer support will understand any proper English? I honestly don’t have the time and will to deal with all of this, and probably nor do you.
Perks: a phone with a built-in projector? A 3D display? Dual SIM? Biggest battery? You can have one from China
PROS (Chris P.):
Lenovo P780, a 4000mAh battery in a 0.39in/9.95mm thick body
CONS (Victor H.): There’s no arguing that it’s plain cool to have a built-in projector in your phone, and dual SIM connectivity would not hurt either, but truth is those are decisions that translate into compromises. A built-in projector works out in a bulkier, larger device and dual SIM also ensues design compromises.
Other perks are often included for bragging rights alone, and carry little true user value. Smartphones with 3D displays seemed like all the rage a couple of years ago, but they turned into a fiasco of huge proportions and for a good reason - people found them cool at first use, but did not see any benefit in the longer term. Guess what? You can still find them in China! Diversity comes with its pluses (like the aforementioned 4000mAh battery), but at the end of the day, you can’t have it all, and you just have to pick the right compromises.
Cameras: is it all show?
PROS (Chris P.): There’s no denying that, in China, cameras have been a department that has received a disproportionate amount of attention in the past.
The camera-centric ZTE Nubia Z5Sn
CONS (Victor H.): Smartphone cameras have improved so quickly, reaching near-parity with point-and-shoot cameras. A lot of it is thanks to camera sensors by Sony, OmniVision and others, but there is more to the equation than just the sensor.
A camera is about the overall experience, the camera interface, editing features, and so much more. Common sense tells you that a white-box Chinese manufacturer simply does not have the resources and the team that would build such a great all-around experience. It’s no surprise then to see that a lot of them rely on a generic Android interface. There is nothing wrong with generic as long as it usable (it is), but if you are looking for more advanced features and shooting modes, those might not be there. You can also often see Chinese phones advertised to have impressive cameras on paper. A ‘13-megapixel’ front facing camera sounds great, doesn’t it? It’s just that it’s often times not capable of recording even 720p videos, and the still images turn up surprisingly awful. The takeaway is to not rely on just reading the specs, as they don’t always paint a full picture.
With that said, there are clearly some exceptions. Companies like Huawei, Lenovo, ZTE and Xiaomi have both the resources and the will to bring decent cameras. The problem is with the real dirt cheap white-box Chinese makers, that often cannot deliver a great camera.
Intellectual rights and workers’ rights: should you support “Made in China”?
PROS (Chris P.): Stealing is wrong. Period.
Of course, that never stopped the top dogs in the industry from copying each other. To try and put it all on the Chinese manufacturers seems unfair to say the least. Nobody is promoting iPhone 5s knockoffs here. Just like nobody is suggesting that you buy into one of those. There are plenty of manufacturers, like Xiaomi, Oppo, Vivo, Meizu, etc., that offer original designs that don’t blatantly copy. Those, not at all accidentally, are also the ones that offer the highest levels of quality on all fronts.
To try and put a nation of over a billion people under a common denominator, to me, is downright wrong and misguided.