5 Chinese phone makers to watch in 2016


Antutu Shootout: LeTV Le Max vs OnePlus 2 vs Meizu MX5

It would take all day if we were asked to name each and every Chinese smartphone manufacturer, but we can narrow that down by listing just a few that looking promising (and some not so promising) for 2016.

There are plenty of Chinese phone makers who have potential for 2016, but only a few really have what it takes to really surprise us (either one way or another). The following list is the 5 Chinese phone makers I will be watching for the following year, if you can think of others please add them in the comments below.

5 Chinese phone makers to watch in 2016

LeTV

letv le1s max

I think it will come as no surprise that LeTV are on my ‘must watch’ list. Last year, their first year as a Chinese smartphone manufacturer, they really took the market by storm and they have kicked of 2016 well too. Yesterday LeTV announced the first Snapdragon 820 phone on the market, and while I’m not that impressed by the updated Le Max (which is basically all the phone is), the fact that they bagged the SD820 first is a big deal.

Will LeTV manage to keep their momentum going as the expand in to the U.S, India and Europe?

Xiaomi

xiaomi redmi note 3

Xiaomi are on my list for another reason altogether. In China Xiaomi are loosing momentum and it has gotten to the point that they have gotten shy about sales figures and are no longer publishing them. Xiaomi really are a casualty of their own success and now have to battle with Meizu, LeTV, Huawei, Coolpad and hundreds more smartphone manufactures for market space.

The next big launch for Xiaomi will be the Mi5, but personally I am not all that excited about it. I don’t see the Beijing based phone maker launching anything really exciting until the Mi Note 2, or their rumoured laptop.

Will Xiaomi’s growth continue to shrink in 2016 or will they surprise us with new market and product launches?

Coolpad

Coolpad Note 3 12_result

Coolpad are the dark horse of the Chinese phone market. When I moved to China all those many years ago Coolpad phones (read our review of the Coolpad Note 3 here) were everywhere, but they soon vanished in the face of phones from Xiaomi, Huawei etc. This past year saw Coolpad appear again with new phones and new brands, which have already launched in India.

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Coolpad are sure to keep popping up through the year and I predict the phone maker is only going to get stronger at home and abroad.

Nubia

nubia z9

Nubia have already made their plans of world domination clear with the UK, Spain, Germany, France, Thailand and Malaysia their main targets. Nubia has just received funding from Suning too, so expect the ZTE owned phone maker to become really active over the next 12 months.

Nubia already sell their My Prague and Z9 devices which, and their next model is the Z11 with a rumoured SD820 and enhanced version of their side touch gesture controls.

Nubia have been around almost as long as Xiaomi, but 2016 might be the year they really level up.

Elephone

elephone vowney 2k hands on 1

Ok an odd one to list, and not everyone’s favourite brand but an interesting company to watch. Elephone are one of the only phone makers I know that continues to do most things wrong but remain in the public eye and seems to be growing.

These past few months we saw the phone maker join the sports camera market, the E-cig market, announced their new P9000 range and finally release the Unicorn that is the Elephone Vowney.

I’ll be watching Elephone to see if they will keep improving (as we have seen with their ‘m’range) or if they will continue in their old ways.

There are of course plenty of other phone makers to watch like Meizu (will they launch another 6 phones?) and Huawei, not to mention smaller brands like Zopo (and their Helio X20 phone), Doogee, Ulefone and UMi.

Which phone makers have your attention for 2016? Let us know below.

Previous Elephone Vowney Photos and Video Samples
Next ZTE Grand X 3, Avid Plus entry-level, US-special phones announced

89 Comments

  1. MattD
    January 6, 2016

    If you ask me (and i know nobody’s asking me) it’d be more interesting a top 5 of LESSER chinese company to look at… Xiaomi, nubia and letv are no surprise, neither is coolpad (which still hold a respectable market share in asia), and then elephone… Well… We all already know we’ll kept our eyes on them even if we don’t want to during next year… ?
    But I understand it’s difficult to make such top5 without saying something obvious…

    My personal “top 5 of companies which absolutely need to get a move in 2016” is:
    5-oukitel
    4-ulefone
    3-zopo
    2-umi
    1-jiayu
    ?

    • Assefa Hanson
      January 6, 2016

      jiayu have been so silent i realy want t hear from them

    • January 6, 2016

      I should really have put Zopo and Jiayu in there actually. Zopo seem to be having 2016 as their make or break year, and it will be interesting to see if Jiayu will keep going this year.

      • MattD
        January 7, 2016

        Yup, I feel like they’re like on the edge between “doogee” and “meizu”, 2016 will tell which part they’ll fall into

  2. Yury
    January 6, 2016

    LeTV and Xiaomi are top interest + OnePlus / OPPO / Vivo, Huawei, Nubia, ZUK

  3. lolipop
    January 6, 2016

    Where is meizu in your list? Not waiting for the meizu mx5 pro mini??? For me this is the most promising thing here.

    • January 6, 2016

      There are rumours Meizu will be cutting staff by 10% this year, wonder if it’s true?

      • balcobomber25
        January 6, 2016

        I am a fan of the MX5 but Meizu as a whole suffers from an identity crisis. They are releasing too many phones, and not supporting all of them. They are trying to get too big too quickly, they need to go back to focusing on a few really good phones, instead of a new one every few months.

        • jolu
          January 6, 2016

          Balco,

          I’m getting a Meizu Pro 5 (should be here by the end of next week). For that reason I’m very interested in your opinion about the mx5 and how flyme has improved lately. (I have used the mx4 for a few months and I wasn’t really impressed by flyme.)

          On-topic:
          I also think Meizu are a brand that we should be watching. Although their profile isn’t that great, the phones so far are quite decent.

          However Miui stole my heart (for now) I still have the MI note around me. Can’t wait till the mi5 arrives

          • balcobomber25
            January 6, 2016

            I am a huge fan of MIUI myself. This was my first experience with Flyme so I don’t know what it was like in the past. But overall I have been very impressed with it, at least on the MX5. I have yet to encounter any major bugs, and the minor ones I did have were all patched. I have received an OTA update about once every 2-3 weeks since July. Two areas which have got better with each new update is the battery life and the camera. Overall I still prefer MIUI but Flyme is winning me over with each new update.

        • Anayninki
          January 7, 2016

          You are right! As a M1 Note owner I suffered from bad optimization and late updates. So, I wont watch Meizu phones in 2016, also forever!

  4. balcobomber25
    January 6, 2016

    This post sponsored by Elephone….

    • Muhammad Yasir
      January 6, 2016

      AHAHA !

      Epic showdown b/w Andi and Balco in 3..2..

      Place your bets here People !

      • balcobomber25
        January 6, 2016

        Lol. I just don’t understand all the praise for a company that makes 100 promises and delivers on 1, has no support, horrible build quality and has yet to actually make a good phone. Doogee is making bigger strides than them.

        • January 6, 2016

          I just don’t understand why you think Elephone would sponsor a post which says they do everything wrong..

          • Faisal Shaharyar
            January 6, 2016

            point taken…

            but what were the reasons to put up a list like these based on
            1. companies that have started recently
            2. already in contention to make the next flagship device
            3. venture into new market.

            because the list does not go anywhere.

            • January 6, 2016

              To tell you who I would be watching and ask the readers who they are interested in watching, as it says above.

            • Faisal Shaharyar
              January 6, 2016

              i agree with the point that you would be watching these companies but what were the considering points in opting for these companies as I said above with my points.

            • January 6, 2016

              Well to summarise the article above:

              LeTV: can they keep the momentum going?
              Coolpad: a dark horse who are rising through the ranks
              Xiaomi: I feel they are on their way down, am I right?
              Nubia: a sudden real urgency to launch abroad and new investment (sounds like Meizu last year).
              Elephone: can they really continue marketing the way they do?

            • Faisal Shaharyar
              January 6, 2016

              thats fair…

              Letv and Coolpad (havent seen any mid or flagships from them) seems to be in a similar boat.

              Xiaomi seems to going down it all started with mi4i and #Hugo #Barra called it a flagship device in the launch event in India. another thing is that they launch their device in China, but in other parts its delayed look at Mi4c and Mi note (pro) this way they loose the opportunity to capture a different segment elsewhere.

              Nubia I am not sure they will be able to do something new they only have Z series in India and that too Z9 mini.

              Elephone – they offer decent phone but no support and in India they are still not there. so i can’t a lot about them..

            • Muhammad Yasir
              January 7, 2016

              NOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO

              i love xiaomi .. they’re trying to make best tech available for the cheaper segment. please don’t say such horrible things about them :'(

            • balcobomber25
              January 6, 2016

              You should do a poll like you did with the top phones. List all the top companies and see which ones come up most.

          • balcobomber25
            January 6, 2016

            I was being sarcastic with the sponsor comment I know that’s not how you operate. I just don’t understand why they are a brand to watch, after months of failed promises and crappy phones.

            • January 6, 2016

              For those reasons. I am watching them to see if they can continue in their ‘old ways’ and survive. It’s interesting from a marketing point of view (at least for me).

            • balcobomber25
              January 6, 2016

              What is more interesting for me is Huawei attempting to launch in the US, not to mention their Nexus phone. Guess we just see things differently. I also would have included Zuk, to see if they can follow up with the Z1. One Plus to see if they can finally shed themselves of the dreaded invite system. That is much bigger than Elephone attempting to keep promises.

            • January 6, 2016

              Huawei are a given (I feel) they are the next Samsung show over 😉

            • balcobomber25
              January 6, 2016

              Not so much in the US. Huwaei has a lot of negative press with regards to spying to shed themsleves of if they are to succeed in the US. Their phones have to really blow people away.

            • January 6, 2016

              I think they can get past it.

            • balcobomber25
              January 6, 2016

              I hope they can personally. These companies being able to crack the western and European markets would be huge for the Chinese phone industry as a whole.

            • Faisal Shaharyar
              January 6, 2016

              Huawei can really go toe-toe with Samsung.
              just look at their portfolio I am just discounting the low and mid end devices of Samsung which are not that great but some are passable.

              and with their Honor monickerr they are battling it out with Xiaomi, OPO and other 2nd tier price smartphones below the range of $390

            • Muhammad Yasir
              January 7, 2016

              i just hate their prices …

            • Faisal Shaharyar
              January 6, 2016

              I think they were at one point of time 2nd largest phone manufacturer in asia..

            • balcobomber25
              January 6, 2016

              They are one of the biggest in the world but the first time they entered the US it was a complete disaster and they left the market after less than a year.

            • Faisal Shaharyar
              January 6, 2016

              yeah I have heard that one…
              even Xiaomi were targeted in India for the same reason. but it did not happened here like it did for Huawei.

      • January 6, 2016

        Ah very tiring. Elephone are in the list because I want to see if a company can really continue marketing and breaking promises as they have done for many years now. They are ‘interesting’ to watch as they just keep growing despite this.

        Will people finally get fed up of them this year? Let’s watch and see.

        • Muhammad Yasir
          January 6, 2016

          that is indeed … v.interesting.

  5. Muhammad Yasir
    January 6, 2016

    “Which phone makers have your attention for 2016?”

    whoever has a platonic understanding of my budget 😀

  6. realjjj
    January 6, 2016

    Only LeTv although no microSD means a lack of decency and education, a lack of respect for their customers and their own products that can never lead to anything good. If you behave as bad as Apple you don’t deserve anyone’s respect or money. Almost forgot,they got no respect for net neutrality either and that’s a mortal sin. Sure LeTv is exciting because they are going after a lot of things and their first phones did not suck. LeTv is pretty much the only exciting thing going on now. last year we had Meizu and Asus but those 2 need to show us that they can do much better this year and that’s unlikely.
    Xiaomi doesn’t have any vision, intelligence or integrity. They are in the dark and ready to sell out for a few $. They keep trying but when only 10% of your decisions are good ones … At least,they are likely to have something pretty good at sub 200$ at some point in the year but at all other price points it is very unlikely that they’ll have good offerings.
    Nubia had a terrible 2015, poor design, very poor prices, poor sales.
    Coolpad has a new identity ,hard to say what they are now and what they can do.

    Small phone makers could have a good year if they embrace the A72 based SoCs fast. The bigger names getting greedy and upping prices might help them too.

    • balcobomber25
      January 6, 2016

      So because they don’t have an SD card they don’t respect their customers? This is assuming of course that an SD card is the most important factor for everyone of their customers. Given their sales success I think we can assume that is not true.

      • Faisal Shaharyar
        January 6, 2016

        to some people it does even though the processor is not upto the mark like SD 615….

        • balcobomber25
          January 6, 2016

          No doubt for some people SD card is very important but that is not a top consideration for all people. We already know this brand doesn’t include them for whatever reason and they have established a fanbase of people who apparently don’t care about it or don’t care enough about it to not buy the phone.

      • MaxPower
        January 6, 2016

        get an empty packet of cigarette, put a sd card slot and a A72 ARM core in it and you make him happy.
        I’m so curious to know what phone he’s using right now.

  7. Guaire
    January 6, 2016

    Meizu, Xiaomi, Qiku, ZUK, Letv.

  8. @ndy
    January 6, 2016

    For me, letv, meizu, xiaomi and huawei/honor. My favourite four brands, which all guarantee top quality products / handsets. Cannot wait to see some letv handsets, and the long awaited mi5!

  9. Dis
    January 6, 2016

    So you shared news of the P9000 and now tell me Elephone are shit? Should I still buy it??

    • balcobomber25
      January 6, 2016

      Personally I wouldn’t buy any Elephone product until they can prove they have some level of quality. Don’t fall into their trap of offering great specs at a low price. Every phone they released has suffered from quality issues and their support has been non existent. Just go to any Android forum and type in Elephone, there are thousands of complaints to read through.

      • Dis
        January 6, 2016

        Thanks. So should I buy the Ulephone power or are they dodgy too?

        • balcobomber25
          January 6, 2016

          I don’t know about Ulephone, haven’t really followed them close enough but im sure some on here have.

        • fappingsohard
          January 6, 2016

          i recommend you go for Xiaomi…the Mi4 is a great device and i ordered mine from DX.COM http://www.dx.com/p/xiaomi-4-quad-core-android-4-4-3-bar-phone-w-5-0-screen-ram-3gb-rom-16gb-white-presale-338630#.Vo1qsn-qPeQ

          • Dis
            January 6, 2016

            I want bigger like 5.5 plus. Current phone is 5 inch. I also like that 32GB ROM is norm now and 3-$GB RAM is cool. I was considering Redmi Note 3 before the Elephone launch so might buy them still.

            • eliHd
              January 6, 2016

              i recommend oneplus one their build quality is good however the camera is bad

            • Dis
              January 7, 2016

              Costs too much though?

      • Young
        January 7, 2016

        Seconded.

    • dutchgio
      January 6, 2016

      Well Elephone is shit so atleast he didn’t lie on that one.

      • Dis
        January 6, 2016

        If he knows they are shit he shouldn’t post articles of their phone. I trusted his opinion but now it’s obvious he is paid to post them.

        • Xalis
          January 6, 2016

          No, you’re just obviously dumb.

          This is a Chinese tech website, not a “Only good warrantied tech will be posted” website, everyone that has been reading about Chinese phone knows Elephone is a below average brand when it comes the to quality of their products, they will rather release a new phone that bother fixing their old models, how many brands you know that can launch 30 quality phones in a year? why would anyone expect Elephone to be enable to do it.

          • Dis
            January 7, 2016

            No, you’re obviously an inbred cunt. If you constantly post pages giving a positive impression of a brand you know is trash then it is bad.

            • Joel Adames
              January 7, 2016

              Look Andy seems to be a regular guy as the others on the team that’s why most follow, so it sometimes seems somepleople just into conclusions about what to buy or what not just because they read 1 post that said something…. But that’s not what’s happening on this page. Get a clue read more post and get a bigger point of view of what’s going On with Andi and the others.

              Geez accusations of being paid are too common with some people WAOOO… ???

            • Dis
              January 7, 2016

              The ad is paid by Elephone, no?

            • Joel Adames
              January 7, 2016

              What “ad”?

  10. Chico Migraña
    January 6, 2016

    I’ve tried about 8 different brands of chinese phones, Xiaomi is the only one I tried without any problems, so I will keep waiting for news about them. I like Nubia designs and now they will sell in South America I will wait for them too. It’s getting expensive to buy chinese phones here lately, so, to me Nubia is a good option.

    • Rizera
      January 6, 2016

      Have you tried LeTV? To me, they are also on a different league.

      • Chico Migraña
        January 6, 2016

        Not yet, but once I read some guy on gizchina’s Facebook talking about problems with his new letv phone didn’t work anymore, to me is difficult to send back a phone to China so I will wait for them to expand their market to USA and maybe America’s to tried them. Specs are pretty good and price too, must be a good option

        • Sprime
          January 6, 2016

          uh.. that could’ve happened to literally any other chinese brand ಠ_ಠ
          (also, I believe Letv are branching out to the US, I read something about them building a factory there?)

        • Squizzy911
          January 8, 2016

          Sprime is right. If 10 of 100 people say their device is broken you shouldnt buy it. but one? seriously? 😀

          • Chico Migraña
            January 8, 2016

            if 10 of 100 says surely i don’t buy that phone, if 10 of 1000 is different. I read some more, and there’s some issues i’m not willing to fix, if i buy a phone outside my country I must be sure will not have problems, or less possible problems cause i cant send it back if will cost me waiting 2 months and 100 dollars to fix it. SO. Xiaomi flagship ones didn’t have issues, maybe some crappy updates sometimes, but easy to fix. I can use same ROM 6 months without problems. an example, in Mi3 i didn’t use MIUI v6, just changed the rom from MIUI v5 to v7

    • balcobomber25
      January 6, 2016

      I have used every Chinese brand with the exception of a few. Every single one has had some problems at some point but Xiaomi is among the best and they will be expanding to South America soon.

  11. Xalis
    January 6, 2016

    “Elephone are one of the only phone makers I know that continues to do
    most things wrong but remain in the public eye and seems to be growing.”

    That’s the key, make phones so shitty that everyone keeps talking about them and fools will get them.

    • Joel Adames
      January 7, 2016

      Someone said once
      “”there’s no such thing as bad advertising””

  12. Xalis
    January 6, 2016

    Brands I’m interested to follow this 2016:
    Xiaomi
    LeTV
    Meizu
    Oukitel
    ZUK
    Honorary mention: Cubot/Asus/Ulefone

    Brands I no longer give a rat ass:
    Jiayu
    Elephone
    Doogee
    OnePlus
    ZOPO
    THL
    UMI
    Mlais
    Nubia

    • Mr.Flying Zoom3rz
      January 10, 2016

      Well I’m pretty sure you’ll end up 2016 with only the names of Xiaomi, LeTV, Meizu and Lenovo (who owns the ZUK). btw why One+1 is in your blacklist?

  13. Danny H.
    January 6, 2016

    For me, my top Chinese manufacturers would be like this:

    1. ZUK, their Z1 is spot on in specs, reasonable in price and has cyanogen blessing. They don’t overhype and concentrate on expanding their distribution network. Pretty much looking forward to their Z2.

    2. Lenovo, I were pleasantly surprise with the k3 note last year and to be honest, I think it’s the best budget phone of last year, really want to see if they can keep the momentum this year.

    3. OnePlus, although they messed up big time last year, I still have the oneplus one around. For me, it’s a groundbreaking phone on so many aspects that I really want to see them get back on track for this year. They are a bit loudmouth but they can make great phones. I still expect great things from them.

    4. LeTV, they are flexing their muscles around, showing their strong commitment in pushing what possible for the future, not only in phone but also in electric vehicle. An exciting newcomer with strong financial backing can bring the necessary stir to this somewhat slowdown industry.

    5. Xiaomi, although I don’t think I’m gonna buy phone from xiaomi anymore, especially when cyanogen os is much better for Western use and more manufacturers are adopting it, but xiaomi make great stuff other than phone! I have lots of their other stuff and so far, I’m pretty pleased! Really looking forward to to their entrance in the laptop market. With their low price + high quality strategy, they may breathe new life into that market.

    • Adam Irvine
      January 7, 2016

      Ye, I look forward to see what ZUK do next, I’d really like my next phone to have CyanogenOS on it as I’ve got so used to my OPO having all the neat little bits and pieces they throw in…

    • Young
      January 7, 2016

      Correct list.

  14. E8hffff
    January 6, 2016

    Yep Elephone are moving ahead. If they start resolving the issues customers have then they could dramatically rise in the market. The P9000 series really has potential to go big in America with the right marketing.

  15. Angry Mobile Nerd
    January 6, 2016

    I suppose everyone’s opinion will be different depending on their geographic location. From within China I’d be putting my chips on LeTV and Huawei this year.

  16. Kurlander
    January 7, 2016

    My sympathy is toward Uhans (Uhans U100 is mine already some months and leather&aluminium design is fine and works well ) , Bluboo, Leagoo, InFocus and…lets say, Blackview (because this tank BV5000 in camouflage was very interesting:)
    I like newcomers.:)

  17. Steve B
    January 7, 2016

    Blackview and Oukitel will continue to bring out interesting phones.

  18. Adam Irvine
    January 7, 2016

    I’m looking forward to seeing what LeTv come out with too, they seem to be taking the market share right off Xiaomi and because LeTv are obviously keen to expand into the West quickly, then so they should. Xiaomi have hung about on the progression into the west way too long…

    • Squizzy911
      January 8, 2016

      I am with you. But they said that the western countrys have no market for their budget phones, because here everybody expect a bigger price like iphone or galaxy. and the people buy this high priced products. so why should they go here. it is a hard way. Hope that LeTV will come with nice prices 😉 maybe like huawei but with better specs in phones 😀 but this are dreams. because they know that the people have the money for 1000 dollar iphones 🙁

  19. Young
    January 7, 2016

    Remove Elephone from that list.

    • Steven Fox
      January 8, 2016

      Oukitel and Doogee are the lesser companies to watch, Elephone is being run great from a marketing standpoint and their devices have better built quality now, but it will be some time before I trust them with anything over 150$.

    • Monster Energy
      September 27, 2016

      to be hones elephone have great bulid quality, their cons are processors and camera, let them grow and see the progress

      • BabastarsH3
        September 27, 2016

        *honest but yes you’re right…

  20. Vlada
    January 7, 2016

    I’m wondering if any of those big Chinese brands (LeTV, Xiaomi, Meizu, ..) will release a phone with European LTE support (800 Mhz and also 900 MHz would be apreciated). Why companies like Elephone, Doogee or Zopo can make it and the manufacturers of high-end phones just ignore European market.

  21. Joel Adames
    January 7, 2016

    I would say

    Oukitel (OBVIOUS REASONS after you read below)

    And then pretty much any company that can pull off a 9.5mm thick(or less) phone with 5000mah+ battery and DECENT and I mean DECENT spec’s and <6"" screen and either same or better than SD810 or MTK X10 POWERING THAT…. NOT TO MUCH TO ASK RIGTH????

  22. Bartolo
    January 7, 2016

    ZUK Z2 /Z3 … keep the phones with PRE-Cyanogen-OS coming ,
    never stock android / nexus for me ever again.
    LeTv – clever build smart looking hardware..

  23. Monster Energy
    September 27, 2016

    That’s the main reason why l love elephone, they never give up, elephone always relased bugy smartphone but they fix them later via updates ??

    • BabastarsH3
      September 27, 2016

      fukuden, they are great ????