Smartphones are now such an essential part of daily life that even a day without one can leave users in a panic. When you’re looking for your next upgrade – whether it’s due to a lost, broken, or simply old phone – many will head straight to the big names, but there are some solid alternatives to the latest Samsung or Apple model. Chinese brands are no longer simple knock-offs and some of the latest models from over the border offer great features, and often for much less cash. Here’s our pick of the most recent ones on the market.
1. Honor 10
Honor is the sister brand of Shenzhen-based Huawei and its latest model, the 10, shares many of the features of the P20 (see below), at a more affordable price. Its rear dual camera offers a 24-million-pixel (MP) and a 16MP sensor for what it calls its AI photography, which recognises scenes in real-time and adapts the settings for the best shot. It also features a 24MP sensor camera on the front, a choice of 64GB or 128GB storage, Android 8.1 (Oreo) operating system, dual sim slots, a 5.84in 2280 x 1080 pixel display with front fingerprint sensor under the glass, and face detection unlocking. As well as a standard grey, it also comes in ‘Phantom Green’ and ‘Phantom Blue’ colours, which have a reflective glass back that changes colour.
Priced around $3,800, hihonor.com
2. Huawei P20 Pro
With a focus well and truly on photography, the P20 Pro is co-engineered with imaging maestro Leica. It features a triple rear camera that includes a 20MP mono sensor, a 40MP main colour sensor, and an 8MP sensor with a 5x zoom. This combined with the low light capability results in some of the best phone photography to date. On the front is a 24MP camera, a 6.1in 2240 x 1080 OLED display, and a front fingerprint sensor. The phone also features 6GB memory, 128GB storage, Android 8.1, dual sim card slots, and comes in a choice of four colours.
Priced around $6,500, consumer.huawei.com
3. Meizu M15
The Zuhai-based Meizu has a range of phones available on its website, but the 15, released to coincide with its 15th anniversary, is one of its most interesting. The rear features a 12MP wide and 20MP telephoto lens that is optically stabilised, while the front features a 20MP camera. The screen is a 5.46in Super AMOLED 1920 x 1080 pixel display and uses fingerprint and facial unlocking. Inside it also features 4GB memory, either 64GB or 128GB storage, and dual sim slots. There is a larger 15 Plus model available with a 5.95in screen and 6GB memory. The Meizu 16 is also expected to be released later this year.
Priced from $3,099, meizu.com
4. OnePlus 6
Shenzhen-based OnePlus created a real buzz when it first launched in 2014 by making its phones invitation only. Its latest model, the OnePlus 6, has a familiar bezel-free front display (think X), with a 6.28in AMOLED 2280 x 1080 screen. Its operating system (OxygenOS) is based on Android 8.1 and it comes in 6GB and 8GB memory versions, as well as 64GB, 128GB, and 256GB storage. The rear camera features dual 16MP and 20MP sensors with optical image stabilisation and a fingerprint sensor. There are dual sim slots and face-unlock, and it comes in a choice of four colours.
Priced from $3,998, oneplus.com
5. Oppo R15
Released in March 2018, the R15 has a bezel-free front display, with just a small cut out for the camera, similar to the iPhone X. It features a 6.28 in OLED display that’s 2280 x 1080 pixels, 6GB of memory, a fingerprint sensor, and runs the latest Android 8.1. There are twin rear cameras on the back with 16MP and 5MP sensors for 3D lighting effects, and a front camera with a 20MP – making it perfect for high res selfies and videos. You also get 128GB of storage (expandable to 256GB), dual nano-Sim card slots, and a choice of four colours.
Priced around $3,600, oppo.com
6. Vivo X21
This Dongguan company was the official smart phone provider for this year’s FIFA World Cup in Russia and has been using this to promote its new X21 device. The phone looks a lot like the Vivo V9, but features more memory (6GB), more storage (128GB), and has better cameras (12MP front and rear, with a secondary 5MP monochrome sensor for lowlight and portrait assistance). With the familiar bezel-free front it has a 6.28in 2280 x 1080 pixel display with an under-glass fingerprint sensor. The device runs Android 8.1, features dual sim card slots, face-unlock, and comes in a choice of black or ‘Victory Red’ – perfect for those World Cup celebrations – if you’re French, at least.
Priced $4,498, vivomall.hk
7. Xiaomi 8
Also celebrating an anniversary with a new phone is Xiaomi. To celebrate the Beijing company’s eighth year, it released its new flagship model, the 8. The 6.21in 2248 x 1080, bezel-free screen device features the first dual band GPS system for more precise positioning (which is handy in built up cities like Hong Kong). The rear camera features dual 12MP sensors with wide-angle and telephoto lenses, and the front camera has a 20MP resolution and a beauty mode for portraits. Inside there’s 6GB of memory and either 64GB or 128GB of storage and dual sim card slots. The device can be unlocked by a fingerprint sensor on the rear and face detection.
Priced from $3,399, mi.com
8. ZTE Blade V9
Though still recovering from its temporary embargo on US parts, Shenzhen-based ZTE is hoping to return to peak capacity by August – and for the sake of its Blade V9, one of its latest models, we hope it does. The device features a 5.7in 2160 x 1080 pixel display which still features top and bottom bezels. There’s a 16MP and 5MP dual lens rear camera and a relatively pedestrian 8MP front camera on board. Memory and storage are also on the lower side, with a choice of 3GB or 4GB, and 32GB or 64GB respectively, with the option to add an SD card in place of a second sim card. It still runs the latest Android 8.1 operating system, a rear fingerprint sensor, and its own facial unlocking technology.
Price from $2,458, ztedevices.com
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