With almost one fifth of the world’s entire population, China is certainly worth paying attention to. In the world of smartphones in particular, Chinese manufacturers continue their inexorable rise, steadily gnawing into global market share despite often having minimal presence outside their home turf.
Here we’re detailing seven of the biggest Chinese smartphone manufacturers and their current flagships. Since we’re calling this feature Best Chinese smartphones 2015, we’ll commit (pinkie promise) to updating our list as and when new phones are announced. For now, let’s see what’s out there.
Display size: 5in
Specs: 1080p resolution, quad-core Qualcomm Snapdragon 801 processor clocked at 2.5GHz, 3GB of RAM, 16 or 64GB internal storage, 13MP rear camera, 8MP front camera, 3,080mAh battery
Price: £281.95 @ Amazon
Xiaomi more than tripled year-on-year smartphone shipments in 2014, while doubling 2013’s revenue. Not too shabby.
It also made waves as the world’s third-place smartphone manufacturer in Q3 2014 (in terms of global shipments), behind only Samsung and Apple. Yep, that’s more smartphones shipped than big names like Sony, LG and HTC.
The Xiaomi Mi 4 was generally praised for its quality design, and indeed some are calling the manufacturer China's answer to Apple. The Mi4 has only been around for a few months, but the Xiaomi Mi 5 is expected any week now…
Display size: 6in (78.3% screen-to-body ratio)
Specs: QHD resolution (2560 x 1440), quad-core Qualcomm Snapdragon 801 processor clocked at 2.5GHz, 3GB of RAM, 32GB expandable storage (microSD up to 128GB), 16MP rear camera with optical image stabilisation (OIS), 5MP front camera, 4,000mAh battery
Price: £449 @ Amazon
Thinking about high-end phones in the west, Lenovo isn’t a name many would throw around. Indeed, we tend to associate Lenovo with laptops more so than smartphones.
But check out the Lenovo Vibe Z2 Pro. What a beast! Not simply a delight on paper, the Lenovo Vibe Z2 Pro has a premium metal build, and despite having a larger display than the iPhone 6 Plus (6in vs. 5.5in), it’s actually a little bit shorter. That’s thanks to the 78.3% screen-to-body ratio. Tasty.
Huawei Ascend Mate 7
Display size: 6in
Specs: 1080p resolution, Kirin 925 2x quad-core processor clocked at 1.3GHz and 1.8Hz, 16/32GB internal storage with 2/3GB of RAM, microSD compatibility (up to 128GB), 13MP rear camera, 5MP front camera, 4,100mAh battery
Price: from £354 @ Amazon
One might argue that the Ascend P7 is Huawei’s current smartphone flagship, but we’re far more enamoured with the colossal Ascend Mate 7. The big guy has been praised for his battery life, aluminium shell, and surprisingly decent fingerprint scanner.
Huawei was tipped to “pull an HTC”, casting off the shackles of network branding in order to carve a name for itself, but that hasn’t really happened o’er here in the west. Still, Huawei remains a major player and will inevitably give fellow Chinese smartphone makers Xiaomi and Lenovo a run for their money throughout 2015.
Display size: 5.5in
Specs: QHD resolution (2560 x 1440), quad-core Qualcomm Snapdragon 801 processor clocked at 2.5GHz, 3GB of RAM, 32GB internal storage, 13MP rear camera with OIS, 5MP front camera, 3,000mAh battery
Price: currently unavailable @ Amazon
You’d be forgiven for thinking that the ZTE Nubia Z7 Max is superior to the Nubia Z7, but nope, Max means less here. Huh?
Specifically, the ZTE Nubia Z7 Max has a lesser resolution (1080p) on the same size display, “just” 2GB of RAM, and no OIS for the rear camera. It does, however, have a microSD slot. Bizarre.
Those with smaller hands might fancy the ZTE Nubia Z7 mini, which isn’t very mini at all at 5in.
As for the plain old ZTE Nubia N7 flagship, there's not really not much to complain about, so we won't. Next!
Display size: 5.36in (75.5% screen-to-body)
Specs: 1152 x 1920 resolution, MediaTek MT6595 2x quad-core processor clocked at 2.2GHz and 1.7GHz, 2GB of RAM, 16/32/64GB internal storage, 20.7MP rear camera, 2MP front camera, 3,100mAh battery
Price: £289 @ Amazon
The Meizu MX4 is arguably a little modest as far as Chinese smartphone spec sheets go, forsaking a QHD resolution and making do with 2GB of RAM and a 2MP front camera. Won't someone please think of the selfies?!
However, it’s worth noting that the Meizu MX4 has just topped AnTuTu’s Best Android Smartphones 2014 countdown, seeing off competition from the Samsung Galaxy S5, LG G3, Sony Xperia Z3, HTC One (M8) and, well, any other Android smartphone you care to mention. Wow.
For those who absolutely demand top-of-the-range specs, there’s also the QHD, Exynos-powered Meizu MX4 Pro, with 3GB of RAM and a 5MP front camera.
Display size: 5.5in (71.9% screen-to-body ratio)
Specs: 1080p resolution, quad-core Qualcomm Snapdragon 801 processor clocked at 2.5GHz, 3GB of RAM, 16 or 64GB internal storage (Silk White or Sandstone Grey respectively), 13MP rear camera, 5MP front camera, 3,100mAh battery
Despite having a marketing budget of just $300 – and selling its phone largely on a slightly awkward, consumer-unfriendly invite basis – OnePlus has managed to shift 1 million units of the OnePlus One since April last year.
The promise was always value for money, and indeed the “flagship killer” delivers top-tier specs at just £229 (16GB) and £269 (64GB), literally half the price of many other Android flagships.
Presumably OnePlus will be in a better position when it comes to marketing and supplying the inevitable OnePlus Two. It’s already generating a huge buzz, despite almost nothing being know about the phone.
Display size: 5.5in
Specs: 1080p resolution, quad-core Qualcomm Snapdragon 801 processor, 2GB of RAM, 32GB expandable storage (128GB via microSD), 16MP motorised camera, 3,000mAh battery
Price: currently unavailable @ Amazon
While the Oppo N1 thought outside the proverbial box with a 13MP rotatable camera, the Oppo N3 goes one step further with a 16MP motorised camera, complete with a little handheld controller.
The unorthodox Oppo N3 also stands out with a rear fingerprint scanner that’s happy with a simple press (as opposed to a swipe), and an LED notification light bar. What an interesting chap.