We all want more for our money, and that includes when we’re looking for our next smartphone purchase. If you don’t want to pay for the name, know that you can get a lot more bang for your buck with a Chinese phone than if you buy from Samsung or Sony’s entry-level range. We’ve rounded up some of
We all want more for our money, and that includes when we’re looking for our next smartphone purchase. If you don’t want to pay for the name, know that you can get a lot more bang for your buck with a Chinese phone than if you buy from Samsung or Sony’s entry-level range.
We’ve rounded up some of the best budget options for getting a cheap Chinese phone that looks and feels anything but.
Your buying guide to the best budget Chinese phones in 2019
Many Chinese phones are now officially available in the UK (in fact all those in our current chart are), but you may still find cheaper prices in China through the likes of GearBest. If you’re buying from China rather than the UK you’ll need to factor import duty into any budgeting decision, which is calculated at 20 percent of the value printed on the shipping paperwork plus an admin fee of around £11.
You’ll also have to accept slightly longer delivery times (though free international delivery is offered), and accept that should something go wrong it’s going to be more difficult to get your money back.
A big one to watch out for is the cellular bands supported by the phone: many Chinese phones don’t support 800MHz 4G LTE. That doesn’t mean they won’t work at all in the UK, but if your network relies on that frequency alone for 4G then the most you’ll get is 3G. This will affect you if you subscribe to an O2, GiffGaff or Sky Mobile tariff.
Talking of contracts, you won’t get one for a Chinese phone if you buy it from China. Instead you’ll need to buy the phone up front and then subscribe to a SIM-only deal, but if you’ve got the funds to do so it’s a much better option and can save you a lot of cash in the long run.
Particularly with regard to Xiaomi phones, your smartphone may not come with Google services preinstalled (opt for a Global model or buy within the UK to avoid this). We explain how to install Google Play on a Xiaomi phone here.
We’ve rounded up some of these things you should consider in our guide to buying Chinese tech.
If you can live with all these things, buying your next smartphone China is the best way to get an extraordinary deal on a new phone. We’ve rounded up some of the best cheap Chinese phones below – smartphones for which you’d pay two or three times the price in the UK, US or Europe. If you’re happy to pay a little more and get even more for your money, also see our guide to the Best Chinese phones.
If you decide you want a budget phone but don’t want one from China, also check out our guide to the best budget phones available in the UK.
Best Budget Chinese Phone reviews
A mid-range phone with a budget price, it’s difficult to argue with the incredible value offered by Redmi Note 7 – nothing even comes close to it in the UK budget phone market.
Looking more like the Mi flagship line than ever, it has a gorgeous all-glass design and rocks an impressive dual-camera with 48Mp lens.
With a big screen and all-day battery life, we love Redmi Note 7’s headphone jack and IR blaster, dual-SIM functionality and microSD storage expansion, and given the low price can turn a blind eye to the lack of NFC and premium features such as an in-display fingerprint sensor, wireless charging and waterproofing.
General performance is decent, up there with other Snapdragon 660 phones costing around £350, and even Xiaomi’s own Mi 9 SE, making this a great all-rounder.
Read our Xiaomi Redmi Note 7 review.
The Mi 8 Lite is an excellent-value mid-range phone with a gorgeous design and some decent hardware, particularly in the camera department. We’re excited for what Xiaomi’s entrance to the UK means for the mid-range smartphone market.
Read our Xiaomi Mi 8 Lite review.
3. Xiaomi Mi A2
The inclusion of Android One makes Xiaomi phones so much more easily accessible to UK- and US users – and that’s a very good thing, finally allowing those outside China and India (and more recently Spain, France and Italy) a taste of what else is out there on the market.
A fantastic budget phone, the Mi A2 combines decent build quality with a nice display, good all-round performance and a well-specced trio of cameras. It out-specs and out-performs every other phone in our budget smartphone chart.
Read our Xiaomi Mi A2 review.
4. Elephone U2
A very strong contender at the sub-£250 price point, Elephone’s U2 is a good-looking phone with a cool pop-up selfie camera and conveniently located fingerprint sensor. Under close scrutiny some corners have been cut, including the lack of support for NFC and personal audio, relatively slow charging and a disappointing camera app. Performance and design go a long way to making up for this, however.
Read our Elephone U2 review.
Budget Android phones don’t come better than this. The Mi A2 Lite has a premium design with 19:9 notch display, dual rear cameras and decent performance. Storage is generous, and we like the fact you can bolster the 64GB internal space with microSD cards up to 256GB in capacity without sacrificing dual-SIM support. A great budget buy.
Read our Xiaomi Mi A2 Lite review.
It’s a bit of a stretch to call this a budget phone, but it’s a quarter of the price of an iPhone XS. Given that perspective, the 20 Lite offers solid value with decent cameras and performance.
It’s still built to a price and is no flagship rival, but if you have this much to spend it’s very good indeed.
Read our Honor 20 Lite review.
7. Honor 8X
Though it only costs £229.99 in the UK, the Honor 8X looks, feels and performs like a high-end smartphone in most respects. It features a gorgeous shimmering glass back and a stunning 6.5in FHD+ bezel-less display on the front, complete with a Notch housing a 20Mp camera.
It offers advanced features including facial recognition that works well in most environments, and although performance isn’t perfect when running demanding apps, it should be more than enough for casual browsing and gaming.
Read our Honor 8X review.
The S2 Pro from UMIDIGI offers amazing value at just a touch over £200 thanks to its large 18:9 display, huge battery and capacious internal storage. Performance and photography are adequate, making this an excellent budget- to mid-range choice, and worth considering as an alternative to the Moto G6 if you need the extra storage or dual-SIM capability.
Read our UMIDIGI S2 Pro review.
Honor has done it again with the 10 Lite, one of the best budget smartphones you can buy. For just £200 it has the best battery life of a phone in its price range, a large screen and dual cameras.
Those cameras fall down in low light and it’s a very clearly a plastic phone but the performance is excellent. It’s up there alongside the Moto G range as the best cheap phone about.
Read our Honor 10 Lite review.
Since the P Smart 2019 and Honor 10 Lite cost the same and are basically clones of each other, you’re better off choosing the latter for its higher resolution front camera and bundled case.
Read our Huawei P Smart (2019) review.
11. UMIDIGI Z2
Offering very good value, UMIDIGI’s Z2 is one of many budget phones hailing from China that pushes the boundaries on what you can get for your money. The design is very good and photography better than we expected, while performance is just a touch lower than its similarly priced rivals, but it makes up for this with 18W fast-charging. It’s difficult to go wrong at £159.99, and the Z2 should please many users.
Read our UMIDIGI Z2 review.