Best Chinese Android smartphones (February 2017)

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 and design. Just look at the chart of the world's biggest phone makers and you will see that 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.

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.

High-End phones
Mid-Range phones
Affordable phones
Sub $150: Cheapest 'Good' Chinese Phone

High-end Phones

Xiaomi Mi Mix

Price: $800


  • Crazy 93% screen-to-body ratio
  • Ceramic back, stylish look
  • Fast performance


  • Pricey
  • No bezel design also means it's easier to crack the screen if you drop the phone
  • Only available in Asia

Xiaomi is a company that has been growing quickly in China, but that does not sell its phones in the United States or Europe officially. And that's a pity.

It's Xiaomi Mi Mix is a limited-edition all-out crazy phone with a 93% screen-to-body ratio and a giant 6.4-inch display that fits in a body roughly the size of the 5.5-inch Apple iPhone 7 Plus. With a ceramic back that is very hard to scratch it also looks good. While currently the world is awaiting the 2017 Samsungs and Apples that will most certainly get this new bezel-less look, in China such a phone has already been available for months now. Sure, it's pricey at $800, and yes, it's only made for China, but your street cred would go way up if you can import this baby that will only work with AT&T and T-Mobile in the U.S. You'll definitely feel like you've come back from the future.

Xiaomi Mi Note 2

Price: $630


  • Curved glass and metal cutting-edge design
  • Fast performance
  • High quality audio


  • Only available in Asia
  • Glass design makes it prone to shattering

The less extravagant, but equally cutting-edge in terms of style and looks Xiaomi Mi Note 2 is really something that you should know about. Like a close cousin of the discontinued Galaxy Note 7, the Xiaomi Mi Note 2 features similar curves and elegance, but does not explode in your hands. It's an extremely well-crafted phone, but unfortunately also one made only for Asia with its MIUI interface and other quirks. Still, if you want a phone that you can proudly show as a design masterpiece, this baby will work on AT&T and T-Mobile if you want to import it. Keep in mind that this comes with no warranties or proper service, though.

Honor Magic

Price: $710


  • Crazy curved, bezel-less design


  • Made for Asia, not sold officially elsewhere
  • Pricey
  • Hard to get

Xiaomi is not the only Chinese company to go all-out with a crazy flagship phone: Huawei spin-off Honor has the Honor Magic. This phone features curves all around and a nearly bezel-less design that screams 'futurism' like no other. Yes, it's experimental, and sure, it's another made-for-China device, but it's definitely worth a look for the sheer craziness that went into this design. It's also a powerful, flagship-grade product that delivers solidly in terms of performance and camera quality.

Huawei Mate 9

Price: $600

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The Huawei Mate 9 is one of the first major-league phones by Chinese phone and network equipment maker Huawei, and it's excellent. Priced at $600, some $150 less than the price of iPhone and Pixel rivals, it offers impressive looks with a metal body and Huawei's dual camera system on board. It features a somewhat foreign interface, but you get used to it and after using it for a while it will leave you impressed with its consistently smooth animations and transitions. It's a powerful device with a beautiful display and plentiful storage, well worth your attention.

Mid-range: Around $400 or less

Price: $440 | Review

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The OnePlus 3T is the first OnePlus phones to truly feel mature: gone are the experimental sandstone finishes, gone is the extremely annoying invitation system and coming to replace them is a phone that feels well-built and very solid. The OnePlus 3T might not have any gimmicky features that would make it espcially unique, but it does have that special $440 price tag in a world of similarly-specced $800 phones, and it does feature one solid and fast performance.

Powered by the top-end Snapdragon 821 system chip and with a whopping 6GB of RAM, the OnePlus 3T runs fast and has a well-performing camera. It's hard to find a reason not to recommend it, at its outstanding price, it's one of the best phones around.

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.

Honor 8

Price: $400 | Review

The 5.2" Honor 8, a child of Huawei's US-bound Honor sub-brand, is a truly beautifully designed phone. It features a stylish glass construction with a metal frame, and a fancy dual-camera system with a pair of 12MP sensors: one used mainly for gathering color information, and one for gathering luminance data. It's remarkable how this handset squeezes all out of the 3,000 mAh battery on board: it lasted over 9 hours on our test, more than just about any mainstream flagship out there. Sure, that custom skin on top of Android might take some getting used to, but it still functions smoothly and the learning curve is not as steep as it might seem.

ZTE Axon 7 | 7 Mini

Price: $400 | $300

ZTE is serious about entering the US market and this year it's introduced not one, but two phones for the US market: the 5.5" ZTE Axon 7 and its slightly smaller sibling, the 5.2" Axon 7 Mini. You can already buy the former for $400, a delicious price given the generous specs: Snapdragon 820, 4GB of RAM and a whopping 64GB of storage, while the latter is up for pre-order at a still enticing $300 price. There is one important thing that users have to consider when thinking about getting either one of these: the Android custom skin used on both is plenty different from most others and takes some getting used to. Plus, camera performance seems to be just slightly below the like of the OnePlus 3, but is still not bad by any means. The remarkable thing about the Axon family is the dual front-facing speakers that produce clear and loud audio, great for those YouTube and Facebook video addicts, as well as for those who listen to music via the speakers.

LeEco Le Pro 3

Price: $400

LeEco is something like China's Netflix, except it also makes its own hardware, and in the past couple of years it has been making phone. The Le Pro 3 is the first phone that will actually be available in the United States, and that's a big step for the company. So what makes the Le Pro 3 special? It's certainly the value: at $400 this is yet another phone offering incredible value for the money. The phone is also thin, stylish and very good looking. It's in fact one of the first phones to come with the latest and most powerful chip by Qualcomm: the Snapdragon 821, along with 4GB of RAM and a generous 64GB of storage. Unfortunately, the Le Pro 3 has fallen victim to the no-3.5mm headphone jack trend, and you will only be able to use its USB-C port to connect headphones (if you have ones that support USB-C connection).

Xiaomi, China's most talked about tech prodigy, seems to have fallen a bit out of grace in the past year or so. Its phones generally offer great value for the money, but they also have very limited 4G LTE band support and fail to deliver push notification for many messengers, both significant issues that make dealing with them a big hassle. Still, if you're interested in the Xiaomi ecosystem, its Mi 5s and Mi 5s Plus both provide the firepower in terms of adequate specs at a great price.

Meizu M3X

Price: $330

With its mesmerizing glass back, the Meizu M3X is a head-turner and a device that those who value good design will like. Equipped with the smooth-flowing Flyme OS and offered in a configuration with up to 64GB of storage and MediaTek's powerful Helio P20, the device is not a flagship phone, but it gets close in terms of performance.

Affordable phones

Xiaomi Redmi Note 4

Price: $200


  • Stylish metal build
  • Outstanding battery life
  • Very affordable price
  • MIUI skin is rich in options


  • Made for Asia, not sold officially elsewhere
  • MIUI interface feels different
  • Hard to get

The Redmi Note 4 would be the ultimate affordable smartphone had Chinese company Xiaomi made it for the U.S. or Europe.With a killer metal design, a fast and reliable fingerprint scanner, decently good-looking display and a fast performance with 4GB of RAM and 64GB of storage, it is a heck of a deal for $200 or less (yes, that's the full retail price). But it didn't: the Mi Note 4 is not officially sold in the Western hemisphere, meaning even if you get it on eBay or some less-known third-party seller, you won't get any proper warranty or service. The risk's on you, but if you want to take it, we understand.

Honor 6X

Price: $250 | Review

Honor does a lot right with the 6X. The phone's attractive, while not being particularly flashy, offers some solid hardware for casual usage without getting weighed down by too many extraneous bells and whistles, and runs software that, while it's getting a little old, is all kinds of functional and customizable.

#8: LeEco Le S3

Price: $250

The $250 LeEco Le S3 is a great value for the money and best of all, it's officially available in the United States, so you can get proper customer service. The phone is sleek, made out of metal and features impressive hardware. First, though, let's say a few words about LeEco. This is a Chinese brand that long was known for its Netflix-like streaming service, but has recently switched to making phones. It has made its official entry to the U.S. market in late 2016, and the Le S3 is its affordable offering. It undercuts its rivals by offering a rich featur-set including a 5.5-inch Full HD display, the Snapdragon 652 system chip with 3GB of RAM, quick charging and a 16-megapixel main camera with support for 4K video. Its interface, "eui" is among the more confusing parts of the experience, but you get used to it after a while and if you like something different you might even like it.

Xiaomi Mi Max

Price: $220 | Review

The Xiaomi Mi Max is different! A gigantic, 6.44-inch phone with a thin body and a premium metal construction, a decent camera and very good performance, is something that a certain group of people, however, will certainly appreciate. It also helps that this large size allows it to pack a huge battery that results in some impressive battery life. So who will the Mi Max be suitable for? Those who value boosted productivity on a larger screen, gamers, and a ton more. Just keep in mind that LTE bands are limited and as usual with Xiaomi phones, you get no official repair centers if you buy it in the United States.

Meizu M5 Note

Price: $200 | Review

The Meizu M5 Note is an affordable and well-constructed 5.5 incher from China that ships with Meizu's smooth-running Flyme OS. Its vivid, playful colors and distinct design, along with elements such as the mBack key that serves as a neat way to go back in menus (Meizu phones have no dedicated back button, you tap on the mBack key to go back, and click it to go to the home screen). The phone has a decent camera and very good battery life, but in our testing we found that Google Play Services drains a bit too much battery in stand-by, so keep that in mind.

The Cheapest 'Good' Chinese Phone You Can Buy

Xiaomi Redmi 4

Price: $130

The Redmi 4 is the cheapest 'good' phone that money can buy. At just $130, it offers an unbeatable value proposition: it's got a decent display and performance, very good camera quality and killer battery life thanks to that 4,100 mAh cell powering a not-so-demanding 5-inch form factor. Yes, it also has a fingerprint scanner. The downside? It runs on the MIUI platform, a feature-rich interface, but also one made with the Chinese customer in mind and one that might feel a bit too foreign to most others.


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