Chinese smartphone manufacturers have released quite a few compelling smartphones this year, and it’s not always easy to pick the best ones. Companies like Huawei, Honor, Xiaomi, OnePlus, OPPO… and so on, have really stepped up their game in 2017, from trimming down the bezels, to improving their software, cameras, and other aspects of their devices. Now, if you’re of those people who have been looking to get the best of the best when it comes to Chinese smartphones, and maybe reward yourself for the holidays, well, maybe we can help. In this article, we’ll try to list down the very best Chinese smartphones that are available at the moment, while we’ll also talk about some of their features.
Many people still avoid Chinese smartphones due to the sheer fact they’re made by Chinese smartphone manufacturers, but over the last couple of years we’ve seen some really great phones from Chinese OEMs, and some of them are doing a great job of competing with Samsung, Apple, LG, Sony… and other well-known smartphone manufacturers out there. The sheer fact that Huawei managed to become the world’s second-largest smartphone manufacturer says a lot, for example, though it’s constantly trading places with Apple for that second spot. Speaking of Huawei, the company released four flagship handsets this year, earlier in 2017, the Huawei P10 and P10 Plus arrived, while the company released its Mate 10 and Mate 10 Pro flagship phablets back in October. The Huawei P10 is the smaller handset out of the bunch, and it is fueled by the company’s Kirin 960 SoC, which is its flagship SoC for last year, and the same can be said for the Huawei P10 Plus. Those two phones are still quite compelling, though if you want the latest and greatest, you’ll probably want to go for the Huawei Mate 10 or the Mate 10 Pro, as they’re more or less equally powerful, and they both ship with Huawei’s latest flagship SoC, the Kirin 970. All of Huawei’s phones ship with the company’s proprietary skin, Emotion UI (EMUI), which has gotten pretty good with the Android Nougat update, and even better with the update to Android Oreo. Leica’s camera lenses are also worth noting, as they ship on all of the company’s flagship phones, and the Mate 10 and Mate 10 Pro ship with really thin bezels as well, much thinner than the Huawei P10 and P10 Plus.
Next in line is Xiaomi, the company released the Xiaomi Mi 6 smartphone earlier in the year, its compact flagship, while the company’s ‘bezel-less’ Mi MIX 2 phablet arrived later in the year. Both of those device’s ship with Qualcomm’s most powerful SoC, and are a great choice if you’re looking to purchase a Chinese smartphone, as long as like Xiaomi’s custom UI which ships on top of both of these devices, MIUI, as it’s somewhat different than stock Android. Both of these phones sport top-of-the-line build materials, the Mi 6 is made out of metal and glass, while the Mi MIX 2 is available in both ceramic + metal and ceramic unibody variants. Xiaomi’s MIUI skin may be different than stock Android, but it’s really fast and responsive, even though it still seems to lack that final polish that would make it a top of the line solution. In any case, if you’re looking for a compact flagship, or a ‘bezel-less’ flagship made out of premium materials, these two are definitely worth a look.
OnePlus is yet another company that did great work in 2017, the company had introduced two, basically equally powerful flagships, this year, the OnePlus 5 and OnePlus 5T. The OnePlus 5 is no longer available, so let’s focus on the OnePlus 5T, shall we. This handset was announced last month, and with its updated design, OnePlus can compete with the best-designed handsets out there. The OnePlus 5T sports very thin bezels, it comes with Qualcomm’s most powerful chip, packs in plenty of RAM, and it offers stellar performance. The OnePlus 5T ships with OxygenOS, which is its proprietary skin, but it’s modeled after stock Android, and the company only added some rather useful features on it. OxygenOS is as far as stock Android, at least that’s the general consensus, and even though you won’t get updates as fast as Pixel devices, OxygenOS is amongst the best skins out there. The OnePlus 5T does not pack a QHD display like most other flagships out there, but neither do the Xiaomi phones that we’ve mentioned, nor the Huawei P10. Having said that, the fullHD+ panel on the OnePlus 5T looks great, it’s an AMOLED panel, and it’s quite possibly the best fullHD panel out there, the vast majority of people wouldn’t even be able to notice that it’s not a QHD display, and the fact that this phone sport a fullHD+ display instead of a QHD one, also manages to affect its battery life in a great way, as the phone offers great battery life as well.
The Honor 9 and Honor V10 are also great choices, if you’re looking for cheaper alternatives to some of the Huawei-branded phones we’ve listed. Honor is owned by Huawei, but it’s separate company which makes really compelling phones that run on EMUI, just like Huawei’s devices. The Honor 9 is no longer Honor’s most powerful offering, as it comes with the Kirin 960 SoC, and some of its other specs are also inferior to what the Honor V10 has to offer, but it’s still a great offering if you’re in the market for a compact smartphone. Having said that, the Honor V10 (aka Honor View 10) had been announced recently, and it sports top of the line specifications. This phone comes with really thin bezels, it’s made out of metal, and it is fueled by the most powerful chip Huawei has to offer. The phone sports a fullHD+ display, but it’s also a solid panel, and you can choose between 4GB and 6GB RAM variants. The Honor V10 is basically an equivalent to Huawei’s Mate series of flagship phones, but it does not ship with Leica’s lenses, which is a shame, but the Honor V10’s cameras are still more than capable.
Now, there are some other phones that came from China in 2017, and are worth mentioning, even though they’re a bit harder to get if you don’t live in China, phones like the Meizu PRO 7 Plus, OPPO R11s and the Nubia Z17S. The Meizu PRO 7 Plus is rather unique, as it sports a secondary display on its back, in addition to a really compelling set of specs. This handset is fueled by the same SoC as the Galaxy S8, S8 Plus and Note 8, while it is made out of metal. The Meizu PRO 7 Plus does run the company’s proprietary skin, Flyme OS, which takes some getting used to, as you’ll need to use one physical, multifunctional button instead three navigation keys, for example. The OPPO R11s is quite similar to the OnePlus 5T in terms of the design, the two phones are basically twins, though the OPPO R11s is made for Asian markets, and it runs OPPO’s ColorOS instead of OxygenOS, which is rather far away from stock Android in terms of both looks and features. The Nubia Z17S is one of the better-looking smartphones that launched this year, and it also comes with top-of-the-line specs, but unfortunately, it was not officially launched in either Europe or the US. ZTE is expected to announce its Axon-branded flagship sometime in the future, but that has not happened thus far in 2017. There you have it, if you’re in the market for a high-end Chinese smartphone, chances are you’ll want to get one of the ones we’ve listed here.