Review: Three Chinese smartphones to watch out for
A new phone is launched nearly every week. Chinese brands have also made their move into India. Do these less known brands have what it takes to survive in the Indian markets? HT takes a look.
A new phone is launched nearly every week. And it would seem that a new brand name pops up with almost equal frequency. Gone are the days when choice was limited to Nokia, BlackBerry, Motorola, Sony, Ericsson, Samsung and LG.
Apple started the trend, and today, with China-based manufacturers and their assembly lines, all you need to do is give your specifications, and you get a whole array of products that just need your branding. Micromax, Lava and Karbonn among others have made it big in India, but in China, names doing the rounds include Gionee, Oppo and Xiaomi.
These standalone Chinese brands have also made their move into India, with not just budget phones but top-of-the-line, expensive luxury products as well. So the question arises: will these Chinese brands survive? Will they offer after-sales services? Do they offer a better bang for the buck? Let us try to answer.
The other giant from China which followed in Gionee's footsteps, initially with three premium offerings and later going down the price range. The phones boast good finish and run the latest hardware, but where they fail is with their user interface (UI) called Color OS, which needs a lot of improvement. Don't get us wrong, it's a great implementation but it requires a lot more work. The phones targets consumers who want a premium device in terms of looks and hardware, but don't really want to blow their budget. Oppo is still scaling up across the country and has its own share of issues, and has not yet brought all its international products to India.
Finding and getting an Oppo phone in India still takes time, but once you experience the hardware and the finish, it's difficult to look at other options. If you get high on specs and value screen experience, you will definitely find them attractive
The brand has been in India for about a year, though initially it was targeting smaller cities with budget phones. But then they launched the smartphone, ELIFE E6, which has proved popular with its good looks and powerful hardware. There were a few creases that needed ironing out, which the flagship ELIFE E7 and the subsequent ELIFE S5.5 have done. All the phones boast great cameras.
Gionee runs its own operating system called Amigo on top of the stock Android. To power users of Android this will seem to be overkill, especially since they have some great hardware. However, for a first time smartphone user, the interface is beautifully done. You can always install your own launchers on Android and get over the Amigo bit if you don't like it.
With service presence across the country and a supply chain that actually works, Gionee has been great value for money so far, especially if you are looking for premium hardware and finish and don't want to burn a hole in your pockets.
Xiaomi (pronounced Shao-mi) is the latest entrant in India. Dubbed "the Apple of China", Hugo Barra from Google's core-Android team is helping expand Xiaomi's international business. Their current flagship is the Mi3 which retails at just ₹ 13,999 — approximately 50% cheaper than its nearest competition spec-to-spec. The phone looks great, is one of the lightest we have used in recent years, and the sheer processing power gives it a cutting edge. Xiaomi also runs its own Android-based UI called MiUI.
Currently they have only launched the Mi3, though there are rumours of Mi4's global release. Xiaomi has also setup an extensive service centre network, but since the phone came on shores just a few days back we are yet to hear of customer feedback. But, Xiaomi's offering of powerful hardware at a budget price makes it a very interesting proposition.