This isn’t necessary a list of the best phones of 2014 (although some of them are), but a list of the most surprising phones we have seen in the past 12 months!
What we love most about the Chinese phone industry is the sheer volume of phones brought on to the market each week (day even). It seems a there is a launch around just about every corner and that means Chinese phone makers have started to think outside the box, build better quality, and lower prices. 2014 has been a great year with some real surprise devices launched, here are a few that grabbed out attention throughout the year.
As already stated this isn’t necessarily a list of the best phones (that will come later this week) but rather a list of phones that surprised us the most during the year. The iNew V3 was one of the first phones we reviewed this year, and in all honesty really set the bar for entry-level phones.
The iNew V3 was far from perfect, the first lot of phones had NFC that didn’t work, and the small battery of the phone plagued it (and continues with the recently updated iNew V3 Plus).
But still this was an amazing phone for early 2014! It had a rather good HD display, pleasant thin design (although not as thin as iNew’s marketing team would like us to believe), and the 13 mega-pixel camera was very impressive for the price.
A great start to an amazing year of Chinese phones!
Oppo Find 7
We knew (or thought we knew) a lot about the Oppo Find 7 before the launch, but it was still a pleasant surprise when we finally got to see the actual phone at the launch toward the start of 2014.
The Oppo Find 7 shunned convention by becoming one of the first flagship phones of the year with Snapdragon processor to get a micro SD card expansion bay and removable battery, not to mention the cool notification light, and impressive camera software.
Although I had some serious screen issues with my personal Oppo Find 7 (resulting in getting a full refund and buying a Vivo Xplay 3S) and the fact the Oppo Find 7 was seriously overshadowed by the OnePlus One, I still think it is one of the most surprising phones of the year!
If a company has every turned itself around this year it has to be UMi who takes the credit for doing it the best. After a rocky start with the UMi Cross, UMi X3, and truly terrible UMi X1 Pro and C1, we weren’t exactly sure what to expect from them when they announced the UMi Zero.
Thankfully this was one of those times when the leaked photos and renders actually resulted in a truly stunning mid-range phone. Even now I’m surprised by just how good this $200 phone feels in the hand (thanks to the unibody alloy body). It’s not just the looks though, the attention to detail (packaging included) and the features, Super AMOLED display, Gorilla Glass, 2GB RAM, F1.8 camera etc are all impressive at this price point!
The Zero really has shown us what Chinese smartphone makers are capable of in respect to build and we will be expecting much more from phones that come in the future.
It might not be the cheapest of the Meizu range, and it might not be the flagship, but the launch of the Meizu MX4 was a truly surprising event. We all had an idea that Meizu was up to something with their new phones, but none of us quite expected the 1799 Yuan Meizu MX4.
It surprised for it’s use of a Mediatek processor, new alloy construction and 20.7 mega-pixel main camera. The surprises continued once the international pricing was announced!
The MX4 also gave us a taste of things to come from Meizu with the MX4 Pro launching 2 months later with new fingerprint scanner and 2K+ display, and most recently the Meizu m1 note (personally my favourite Meizu of the year so far).
Gizchina News of the week
I’ve not had personal experience with the Kingzone K1, but from what Christopher over at GizChina.de, and other reviewers have said, the K1 is a surprise phone of 2014.
The K1 was one of the first “flagship Mediatek” phones to get a decent price tag, well made good looking design and that all important 2GB RAM. Reviews were impressed with the build and 14 mega-pixel rear camera meaning there is a lot of anticipation for the upcoming LTE Kingzone phones.
The ECOO E01 came out of know where and although it looks a lot like the Samsung Galaxy S5 it did finally bring 2 major features to budget phones that had never been seen before! An octacore MT6592 processor and FHD 1920 x 1080 display.
The fact that these components were now showing up on phones below the $150 international price points was simply outstanding and gives us an idea of what to expect from budget phones in the future. Let’s just hope for a more original design and at least 2GB RAM.
The OnePlus One came as a surprise to phone fans, the phone industry and to OnePlus themselves. I honestly don’t think anyone realised that the OPO would go on to become so popular and so quickly.
Personally I prefer the Oppo Find 7 the OnePlus is based on as it has all the features that the OnePlus is now just getting with updates (MAXX Audio), and was easier to get, in fact the OnePlus invite system was one of the big surprises of the phone world for 2014 and one we hope isn’t repeated.
Again the OnePlus isn’t without it’s problems, many of which related to the CyanogenMod ROM (which I actually feel made the phone less desirable for it’s lack of features for such a competent piece of hardware), and many Oneplus diehards have become resentful to the brand over the year, but they have been a huge surprise and one many continue to watch.
Green Orange T1
The Green Orange T1 has only shown up on GizChina once before, but I remember the time I read about the phone the first time even now! This is a rugged Android phone designed for aggressive outdoor use that not only looked great but has killer hardware to boot!
Before the Green Orange T1 was announced every rugged smartphone looked like one of those rubber bricks you have to collect from the bottom of the pool when learning to swim, and had specifications that would be more at home on phones for 5 years ago.
The Green Orange is proof that a waterproof and shock resistant phone can actually look good and perform well!
No.1 Mi4/DOOGEE DG850 Hitman
The title for the review of the DOOGEE DG850 Hitman reads “A Clone we can Condone?”thats’ because it and the No.1 Mi4 are both shameless rip offs for the Xiaomi Mi4, but both are actually really good phones!
Which every factory makes these Mi4 clones (also branded as KingSing and Elephone) is don’t a stellar job with the build quality. Both phones are very well made, feature a stainless steel chassis and have surprisingly good hardware optimisation.
Sure they are clones, but they are damn good clones.
Huawei Ascend Mate 7
If you had told me a few years ago that I would really consider buying a Huawei phone I would have checked you had taken your medication and told you I would rather use an old Nokia 3310.
How wrong would I have been? The Huawei Ascend Mate 7 is a seriously sexy looking phone! It has amazing hardware, a beautiful body and it’s only for the fact that the new Vivo is due out that I haven’t already bought one.
So shock of the year! Huawei made a sexy phone! (well a few actually!).
We will have our top 10 phones of 2014 posted later this week so stay tuned!