It has been many many years since I started GizChina.com, and over that time I have tried a huge variety of Chinese phones some of which were amazing, and others … well.. not so.
There are Chinese smartphones that I have owned over the years that still stick out in my mind today for being standout models. Some were great performing phones, others perhaps not so great but helped to build the hype around the Chinese tech industry and attract a huge readership and loyal GizChina followers.
Below are the 10 phones that stick out in my mind, with points to why I have listed them. I would love to hear your thoughts on each of these models and give me details of your top Chinese phones of all time too.
I’ll stop the waffle there are jump right in to the list (which isn’t listed in any particular order or preference) enjoy and thanks!
If you have been following GizChina since the very early days when it was just myself working on the site then then these first few phones are going to bring back a few memories.
Back at the start of the Chinese smartphone industry a local Chinese brand named Newman decided that it wanted to be apart of the Chinese tech boom. Newman were a household name at the time and specialised in MP3 and MP4 players, so they had the knack to build quality electronics.
There first phone, the Newman N1, really set the standard for the brand, but the real excitement started with the Newman N2.
Pre-orders for the Newman N2 started back in November of 2012, and people in China and the rest of the world were excited by this affordable Chinese device with top of the range features.
The real standout feature was the quad-core Samsung Exynos chipset which the N2 boasted. This was a huge plus for the brand to work with such a large manufacturer, prior to that only Meizu had managed such a collaboration.
On top of the powerful chipset the phone came with 1GB RAM, 13 mega-pixel main camera, 8GB internal memory, 2500mAh battery and 4.7-inch HD display.
If you really want to turn back time you can read my Newman N2 review here, and watch my hands on video below (be kind this was one of my very early videos)
The iOcean X7 was the phone that really put iOcean on the map, but it was also the device that ultimately killed the company too. What was funny about the iOcean X7 was that it was basically a clone of the Oppo Find 5, but looking past the similar design the handset actually had high-end features that made it a much anticipated and searched for phone.
iOcean were smart with the X7 and released various versions of the phone all with the same design but with varying specifications that helped the handset meet different price points.
The most desirable was the iOcean X7 Elite though which came with a Mediatek MT6589T (T for Turbo) chipset, 2GB RAM, and a 5-inch 1920 x 1080 FHD display! Those were all amazing features at the time of launch.
The iOcean X7 also enjoyed an active development community, but unfortunately iOcean weren’t able to replicate the success of the X7 and the following X8 was a flop.
Just ahead of the iOcean X7 launch was the JiaYu G3. Again JiaYu are not longer around and part of that issue was due to the popularity and hype around the G3 and the fact the company would never see excitement like that again.
The JiaYu G3 was so popular that articles mentioning the phone often received comments in the 100’s, and it proved to be such a difficult phone to get hold of that I wasn’t able to review the handset until way after the launch.
The JiaYu G3 became popular at the time through a combination of decent hardware and new design, that may of may not have looked a little similar to a HTC phone of the time.
The Xiaomi Mi2 was so good that when the Mi3 launched people continued to talk about how good the Mi2 was. In fact, out of all the Chinese smartphones mentioned in this list I still know of people who have an Mi2 as a back up device! It was really that good!
The Mi2 took over from the Mi1 smartphone but came with flagship hardware for the time including 2GB RAM and powerful Snapdragon S4 chipset.
Xiaomi also gave the Mi2 a decent 4.7-inch HD display, removable battery, and surprisingly good 8 mega-pixel main camera.
Oppo Find 5
The Oppo Find 5 was the inspiration to the iOcean X7, but more importantly it marked a huge step forward for the Chinese tech phone world.
With the Oppo Find 5, Oppo embraced the developer community and allowed customers to root their phones and load custom ROMs to the phone. The Find 5 was also one of the first smartphones that was officially available outside of China.
Interestingly most of the team behind the success of the Find 5 went on to launch OnePlus!
From a specifications standpoint the Oppo Find 5 was just as impressive with a Snapdragon S4 Pro chipset, 2GB RAM, 5-inch FHD display, 13 megapixel main camera and 2500mAh battery.
Anyone who knows me will know how much I loved the Vivo Xshot, I actually still have the phone!
The Xshot launched around the same time as the OnePlus One and just after the Oppo Find 7. The handset was the first, and only, handset from Vivo designed to be a camera-centric device.
Camera specs included a 13 megapixel main camera with F2.0 aperture and OIS. The front camera was an 8 megapixel sensor with front flash for night selfies.
On top of the impressive camera hardware for the time, the other components were all top notch too. The screen was a 5.2-inch FHD panel, processor a Snapdragon 801 and up to 3GB RAM was available. Vivo even found room in the 8mm chassis for high-end HIFI audio equipment!
The Xshot also had very well optimised Android OS which gave the phone fantastic performance and really good battery life.
The OnePlus 3T makes the list for being one of the only current Android smartphones from China that always receives good reviews and is constantly compared to phones costing much more.
No matter what you might think about OnePlus as a brand, or how they handled their marketing in the past, there is very little not to like about the OP3.
Compared to the OP2 the design is much more attractive, and hardware is second to none.
The Nubia Z11 is the phone that I’m using at this moment, and while it does have a few issues (battery life and software optimizations) it still manages to be one of the best phones I have ever used.
Nubia managed to create a very attractive smartphone with class leading specifications, using materials that would normally be seen on phones from larger brands.
Specifications on the Nubia Z11 are good too. The phone runs a Snapdragon 820 chipset, up to 6GB RAM, 16 mega-pixel F2.0 rear camera with OIS. Of course the bezel less display is a real eye catcher too!
Not the first dual camera phone from Huawei, but the first to make a splash on an international market. The Huawei P9 was also the first smartphone that brought Leica in to the smartphone market.
Like with all top end Huawei phones, the P9 came with Huawei’s own chipset. The phone also had a slim and attractive design, was made from good materials and received good reviews all round.
The Oppo Find makes its way on to the list not really for the hardware itself but for what it brought to the phone industry. The Find was the first phone in the Find range so it’s the great grandfather of the Find 7 and the OnePlus 3, it was also the first Chinese phone to get a big budget marketing campaign with Oppo paying Leonardo Dicaprio to feature in the advertisement.
As for the phone itself, the Oppo Find was the first Android phone from Oppo and the only Oppo to ever come with both a touch screen and a physical keyboard.
So those were the phones that stick with me through my time reviewing Chinese technology. There are other phones that were had an impact and there are arguably much better phones, but these are the ones that I remember most.
I’d love to hear which phones you would have listed in your top 10 Chinese phones of all time, and look forward to reading your comments.