The best Android smartphones you’ve never heard of

August 16, 2012

Brands matter! Now if you’ll please pardon what could possibly be the worst introductory sentence ever, let me explain: brands might be evil (they have plenty of tactics for destroying the competition), they ruin all major TV events with those pesky multimillion dollar commercials, and some say that brands might even use mind-control nano-chips in their products to keep you loyal (although this is still to be proven), but all in all, brands definitely matter to most of us. And that’s almost entirely due to one thing and one thing only: you know what to expect!

If we’re to go into details, I for one sure know that a Kinder-made treat will be sweet, delicate and slightly more expensive than other unbranded treats. I know that a BMW will usually have a lot more character and sportiness than a classy Mercedes Benz. I know that a pair of Beats headphones are too expensive for what they have to offer, in the same way that I know a U.S.-made Fender Stratocaster will give me a way different (and better) sound than a considerably cheaper rip-off (say, Squire for example). And I know all this not because I was “told so” by the commercials or the nano-chip, but instead trough actual, real-world experience.

From an Android blogger perspective, I find that brand Android smartphones and tablets (think Samsung, LG, HTC) are more than often the best devices you can get, period. Even if the price for a Samsung tablet, for instance, is noticeably higher than the price of an Archos tablet with similar specs, I would still recommend that you go the Samsung way, if you can afford it. Granted, these examples are not edificatory, but you should get the point nevertheless.

Q: What is there to do when you desperately need an Android smartphone that has top-notch specs but are unwilling to spend heaps of cash on some of the most popular brand smartphones such as HTC One X or the Samsung Galaxy S3? A: You go for an unbranded smartphone!

Throughout the rest of the article, I will point out the no-brand smartphones that feature good specs, but first, you might want to learn about the top 5 reasons not to choose a cheap smartphone, then take the decision that you deem fit for your needs.

Xiaomi Mi2

xiaomi mi2

To be completely honest with you guys, I was already done with the article and was going to claim that the K-Touch Treasure V8 (it is detailed below) is the best smartphone that you’ve never heard of. And then Xiaomi has just announced the Mi2, an Android 4.1 JellyBean smartphone that features the best specs in the entire Android ecosystem.

First, there’s the 4.3 inch IPS display manufactured by Sharp, one that works at a 1280×720 pixel resolution. Simple math skills show that the Xiaomi Mi2’s display has Pixel Per Inch (PPI) ratio of 341. By comparison, the Apple iPhone 4S showcases a PPI density of 326, while the Samsung Galaxy S3 features a PPI ratio of 306. Impressed? Wait, there is more!

On to the CPU, it’s a bit surprising to see that the Xiaomi Mi2 is the first smartphone in the world to use Qualcomm’s Snapdragon S4 Pro quad-core processor, the fastest smartphone CPU in the world at this moment. The GPU used by Qualcomm in their S4 Pro SoC is an Adreno 320, the fastest smartphone GPU in the world at this moment as well. Add 2GB of RAM memory and 16GB of internal memory, a 2000 mAh battery, as well as the 8MP camera on the back, and it becomes obvious that the Xiaomi Mi2 runs circles around every other Android smartphone in the world.

But the most impressive detail of them all is that the Mi2 will retail in the Chinese market for around 2000 Yuan (roughly $314). It is yet unclear if the Xiaomi Mi2 will reach other markets, but if it does, you better go ahead and grab one, since it offers the best specs in the world for just half the price of other top-end smartphones.

K-Touch Treasure V8

K Touch Treasure V8

The second best smartphone that you probably never heard of is the K-Touch Treasure V8, a smartphone that K-Touch has shown off since MWC 2012 this February, although the Chinese manufacturer took the prototype back to the bench and has performed some upgrades since. The result is an Android 4.0 ICS smartphone (no updates to Android 4.1 Jelly Bean have been announced this far) that features a 4.5 inch display and looks a lot like some fat guy sat on an iPhone 4S. Running at a 1280×720 pixel resolution, it totals at an impressive 326 PPI ratio.

However, despite the fact the good resolution of the display, the main point of interest here is the Tegra 3 SoC, consisting out of a 1.5GHz quad-core A9 processor, the GeForce ULP GPU and 1 GB of RAM. Other specs include 16GB of internal memory and a 1820 mAh non-removable battery.

Unfortunately, hands-on reviewers have complained about the form factor and the quality of the build materials, but this isn’t something that should surprise you from a no-brand smartphone. In fact, you should expect all the smartphones on this list to feature build materials that are mediocre at best in quality.

The K-Touch Treasure V8 will reach the Chinese market at some point August and will be priced at 3,000 Yuan (roughly $480).

BLU Products VIVO 4.3

blu products vivo 4.3

Granted, this one shouldn’t be unknown to our frequent readers, as Bogdan first introduced this cheap Android 4.0 ICS smartphone a while back here. But for a short recap, the BLU VIVO 4.3 is referred to (at least by the manufacturers themselves) as the World’s first Dual SIM smartphone to feature a SAMOLED Plus display and a dual core CPU.

The 4.3 inch SAMOLED Plus display on the BLU VIVO 4.3 (see the connection here?) runs at a 480 by 800 pixel resolution (that’s a 216 PPI ratio), while the dual-core A9 processor runs at 1GHz. Unfortunately, the GPU is a PowerVR SGX531, a chip originally launched back in October 2008, so you shouldn’t expect any outer-worldly frame rates while running next-gen smartphone games. In addition, the VIVO 4.3 features a 8 MP camera on the back and 1.3 MP on the front, 3G HSDPA connectivity, 4 GB of internal memory and a micro-SD slot.

Sure, this is no Galaxy S3 killer, but seeing as it will retail for roughly $250, I find the BLU VIVO 4.3 one option to consider if you’re looking into buying an inexpensive dual-SIM, dual-core smartphone.

Plum Might

Plum-Might

Since we are on the topic of no-name smartphones that regular AA readers should know, let’s take a quick look at the Plum Might. Design-wise, the Plum Might is, for all intents and purposes, a Samsung Galaxy Note clone. The specs are a little below the average, even if we limit the range to the smartphones in this list, but the sub $200 price is also under the median, so balance is restored in the end.

The Plum Might features a 5.0 inch display running at a 480×800 pixel, thus featuring 186 PPI, a pretty low pixel density ratio when judging by current top-end standards, and the lowest of all smartphones in this list. The 1GHz single-core processor also isn’t the best you can find, while the 512 MB of RAM should handle most activities as long as you don’t open a gazzilion apps at the same time. Seeing as the specs are not mind boggling, I would expect the 2,800 mAh battery to do the job just right.

A microSD slot is also on board, as well as Wi-Fi, Bluetooth and GPS chips. Unfortunately, the Plum Might is running Android 2.3 Gingerbread, and I don’t expect it to get Android 4.0 ICS.

Image credit: Electronista

ZOPO Pilot ZP100

zopo pilot zp100

The oddly named ZOPO Pilot ZP100 is a global dual-SIM Android smartphone. And by global, I am referring to the fact that it can use both GSM networks as well as CDMA ones. Other than this unique and quite helpful feature, the ZOPO Pilot is your basic, no-name Android 4.0 ICE smartphone.

The Zopo Pilot features a 4.3 inch LCD display manufactured by Sharp, a display that works at 960×540 pixels at 256 PPI.

Internal specs include a 1GHz single-core A9 CPU, a PowerVR SGX531 GPU and 512 MB of RAM. The ZOPO Pilot 100 has almost the exact same specs as the BLU Vivo 4.3, minus a processor core. Upsides include CDMA support and a $200 price tag, $50 less than that of the BLU Vivo.

THL W3

thl w3

The THL W3 shares a lot of its specs with the ZOPO Pilot ZP100. You get the same 1GHz single-core A9 processor, PowerVR SGX531 GPU and 512 of RAM. The THL W3 also comes with Dual-SIM functionality as well as support for both GSM and CDMA networks, just like the ZOPO ZP100. The difference is that you get a a slightly larger and sharper screen: a 4.5 inch display running at a 1280×720 pixel resolution at a 326 PPI ratio.

The THL W3 is priced at $249 and comes with a 2000 mAh battery, Android 4.0 Ice Cream Sandwich, an 8 MP back camera and a 2MP front camera.

Conclusion

As you might have noticed, most of these smartphones are priced under $250, the exact maximum price limit that I’ve used for creating the best cheap Android smartphones of 2012 list. Do you think any of these no-name Android smartphones should make it to the list? Let us know in the comment section below!

Comments

  • Siddhanth Sharma

    Prices are ok, but we also have to look for after sales issues that arises in these top-end phones. Though personally I dint faced any such issue, but the availability of screens/parts should not be ignored.

    • Rob

      Galaxy nexus by Samsung is useless if you break the screen. Getting a new SGN would be cheaper. So, ya availability of part is important but no one is talking about that when SGN is in context.

  • http://twitter.com/_r0del_ Rodel Zafra

    Quite impressive specs.

  • Daniel

    Why do i not see the pantech burst? lol

  • MasterMuffin

    Wow that xiaomi really rocks, but a) I hate miui and b) because it’s so cheap (and chinese), it’s gotta have something weird and c) probably there ain’t going to be many developers to do custom stuff to it and d) when other android version come (4,2 or 5,0), will they give us any support and update it?……. but still, those should be the specs of sgs3, note must be better or I will be very dissapointed on samsung….

    • MikeCiggy

      If we can get this phone in the states for around $350, flash stock JB and enjoy the butter.

      • MasterMuffin

        I doubt that they’re going to sell it in finland… but it’s a nice plan you got there :)

        • Joseph

          In fact, all Xiaomi phones have unlocked bootloader, you can flash your favorite CM or any ROM you like

          • MasterMuffin

            Wow replying a year after the original comment? Nice

          • rykellim

            I think replying even 10 years later probably does not matter, because the internet never sleeps, and the concept of timely reply may not always be relevant? :)

          • Tjaldid

            yes I know :P see you in a year

          • http://www.paragmoniboro.com DrunkenMonster

            What year it is?

          • Joe

            Hey look its 2014 !

          • http://www.paragmoniboro.com DrunkenMonster

            F**K… I am so old. :(..

    • Yoman

      See, I have a ZTE Blade running Jelly Bean, which is now faster than ICS, which is faster than Gingerbread, still, the manufacturer hadn’t had released a 2.2+ (beyond Froyo) update, these ROMs were from CM (CyanogenMod) team and other great developers (such as Tilal6991, who’s now doing JB updates for Skate and there’s KonstaT, who’s developing my Jelly, they’re running smooth having just a few issues, that will be fixed soon.). And my Blade is running great on 710 MHz even though the stock CPU speed is 604 MHz. Your argument is sooo invalid. oh and ZTE is Chinese (sorry for any grammar issues)

      • MasterMuffin

        My argument isn’t totally invalid, zte blade is a popular phone so it gets support, but only time will tell what will happen to this one…

  • rj

    where can i get those?

  • http://www.facebook.com/steve.gaudreault.94 Steve Gaudreault

    Without a doubt the xiaomi sounds like a BEAST!! But the odds of it coming state side are pretty slim.. S4 Pro Quad… I’m waitin for ya here stateside buddy!!

  • banjoonmyknee

    I’m watching Xiaomi. They look good. If they play their cards right, they could supplant HTC alongside Samsung as one of the dominant Android manufacturers.

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=501049596 Yoel Feuermann

    I don’t know where you got these prices, but I could only find the
    Xiaomi mi2 on ebay for $550.
    at this price, i’d rather get an S3

  • troll

    Why do you people keep using PPI to describe awesomeness? PPI is pixels per inch. SO of course a 1280X720 4inch screen is gona be mega high ppi over a 5inch screen of the same rez. Plainly STUPID. It is not a sign of uber quality. I would ignore that phone for using such a low rez. I would prefer a 1280X800 screen cause it has more PIXELS. Id prefer the elbow room to get more data on screen over a dinky small arse screen with HIGH PPI, You can have a 400ppi screen and it can be utter crap if it has poor colour bad viewing angles etc. Example a TN in a visual aspec is utter crap compared to a mva spva or IPS panel because mostly it cannot produce the full 8 bit spectrum. PPI is just about how many pixels are in a given area. WHat you really want to look at for a edge in qualit yis the size of the pixels with the rez and the size of the device. Larger pixels at the same size and rez will me less black or dead space between the pixels. This denotes quality. Because the only way to improve PPI is to ramp up the rez or shrink the physical size.

    PPI is just marketing hype and apple vomit. It is the cel phone version of TV contrast ratio. 2000033223345:1 contrast OHHH its gotta be good its fing its 2000033223345thats HUGE. This flawed logic would make my OG Droid superior to most of the phones on the market today! Because its 854X480 has more pixels in it’s 4″ lcd over the phones sporting the more common 800X480.
    Sorry, it just peeves me to see this spec slapped all about without any knowledge of what it means. Like print wannabes speaking in DPI all the time without the knowledge that it has no relation to pixel density. “hurr, I want this isn 800dpi so itll be super crisp.” Uh but what size? “hurr 800dpi hurrrr” No inches hwat size in inches?!?! or what pixel rez? I can make a 20X20 pixel image 800dpi, but it’ll print the size of a gnat.

    The phones are intresting and yeah the world does not consist of just yurope and amerika. One thing left out as well is COL Cost Of Living and annual income. Something might cost 350USD but that might be a person’s entire income for a month. Secondly you have to consider the bits going inside might not be what they say or be of quality. DO not forget those exploding caps from the mid 2000s. Cheap is what cheap gets.
    Id rather point out some of the ideas these phones represent like colour choice. While not original it is something that market has that we do not in the US with our 2 or if we are lucky 3 choices. The K-touch has iphone looks but has something of it’s own design in it. The horizontally curved back but vertically flat otherwise. Some of the others are just downright examples of what the patent office should be used to prevent. (clones) Definetly these phones fill some sort of niche market in their market. Possible a few of these would thrive in the west fitting into that zone between current product and the good ol flip phone as long as they have durability. But many of these exp the clones fall apart within 3 months. Anyone remember that android i-phone4s clone? How many of those are still running??

  • enning

    tinyurl.com/cyk9xz2
    2

  • Danny

    The Pilot ZP 100 is a rip off the HTC Evo 3D.

  • http://www.facebook.com/gauravpatil420 Gaurav Patil

    Xiaomi Mi2 314$ 2Gb ram and 346PPi compaired to 1gb ram and 306 PPi of Galaxy S3 …There are lot of things that matter more than hardware specs!! Don’t forget the Super Amoled Display,Touch WIz UX , Its Very Skinny!! and Camera Functionality

    • Hari

      Hardware is the most important component of a smartphone,it determines a phone”s multitasking capability,videoplay back capability as well as gaming capability.Besides it is the only thing you can”t fiddle around with in an android phone.UI of an android phone can easily be changed there are a lot of great launchers in playstore including a lot of touchwiz clones if you are a touchwiz fan.I do admire super amoled diplay yety an ips display having more than 300ppi is also great.iPHONE HAS IPS display ,similarly htc one m8 also has ips display

  • http://www.facebook.com/Lucidmike78 Michael Ma

    This is what people who have not done any research buy when they go to the store and don’t know the difference between the brands.

    • Little Man Tate

      Sure, absolutely, that or extremely savvy individuals who are knowledgeable enough to understand the vast majority of phones in the world are all manufactured by the same handful of white label manufacturers (e.g. Huawei) and reasonable and objective enough to understand that actual build quality disparity is minimal and that sheeple who drop 500+ on a 4S or Galaxy SIII are, either naively or against a shred of better judgement in the back of their mind, paying a fucking reprehensible premium for the prestige + false sense of premium quality that comes with a label. But hey, what do I know?? I’m rockin a “shitty” Moto (*cough* Huawei) Triumph

  • Hidroid.

    Nice article. While there are plenty of low end androids that give the os a bad name it’s very cool to see a few phones that rival my GS3 and probably have less issues. I sent my phone off to Samsung and it’s almost been 2 weeks so I’m stuck with the Razr maxx until it’s return.

  • Alex

    all of these phones have extreme copy cat designs and would be banned in europe/US

    • Alexander

      as a matter of fact they are comming to eu in the early 2014 with shops and all the shabang …

  • luminelx64

    I believe that Spice Mi-425 and Micromax A100 are decent phones and should make the list.
    Both have dual-sim capability, 5MP camera, 1GB RAM and Android ICS,
    They’re both better than the Plum Might, and rival the ZOPO Pilot ZP100

  • random

    where is huawei ascend g300?
    best budget android phone, 4 inch screen, 1ghz cpu, 512mb ram, 2.3, 150 eur off contract.

    • jandee

      I have G300. It’s great, works better than my Acer tablet. I usually charge it once a week (with heavier use, maybe every two days) and it’s the right size (didn’t want anything bigger). And it only cost ÂŁ70…

  • NgSeuFah

    Im from China & I will never buy those phones, we Chinese call them “San Chai Pan”, meaning, copycat hardware, those cpu and megapixel camera is truly fake, it’s not as fast as it claim also 8 megapixel is actually 0.8 mp quality max. Cheat

    • Little Man Tate

      Um. Do you have some juicy forbidden raw data to back that up? Do you have candid recordings of a CEO/top engineer of K-Touch or Xiaomi or whatever bombed on saki confessing to misleading specs/tweaked and overclocked chips? I thought you Asians are supposed to be a reasonable people? I mean minus all the dragon-infused mysticism and whatnot.

      • Jesus

        We’re not talking about “Asians”… we are specifically talking about the Chinese =/ Get it right.

    • flamencoguy

      I bought the Zopo ZP980 with 2GB ram 32 GB ROM. It has a quad core MTK6589T CPU running at 1.5GHz. 13 Mpix rear camera and 5 MPix front camera 1920×1200 IPS screen. NO way is this copycat. This is a gorgeous phone. If it doubt check youtube. Just because you are from China doesn’t mean you know everything about China. I read alot before I buy.
      I am extremely pleased. Cost $320.
      Check out Zopomobileshop dot com
      Dozens of other websites selling cheap to high end phones.
      Oh yes, runs Android 4.2.1, Google Play Store, and rooted.

      • ashesh

        tell me more about this device as I am willing to buy it…

        • flamencoguy

          just do a search on Zopo go to the site that I mentioned.
          see above

      • Jesus

        I”m actually on their website now… their wallpapers are Samsung’s (e.g. the balloon), and their cases are the ones you see for Samsung’s Note 2… S-View or whatever it’s called. Undeniably a copycat.

  • p11

    Hi rob, very nice site, If I order a
    Xiaomi Mi2 , do you think it will come in Chinese interface? will it be able to switch to English?

    • Galaxy User

      Yes. You will be able to change the system language under “Settings”.

  • Uhduhh

    Where do I buy these?

  • Trelivision

    What’s wrong with chinese, nearly 50% of everything you own is made in China.

  • Cuauhtemoc Sosa

    I got the THL w100 from with a 1.2 quad core and 1GB of ram running 4.2.2 for $160.
    and ofcourse another Nexus 4 for $199 + tax

    • pnm

      If the user manual contains the specific SAR rating or FCC id for your THL W100 could you share it? The THL co people are (reluctant?) unable to do so..

      • David van der Zande

        The chinese FCC measured it at 3.1 W/Kg

  • omkar

    where is the micromax canvas?!!!!!!

  • http://www.dreamtechie.com/ Yogita Aggarwal

    Well, I have heard a lot about Plus Might. Its Camera quality and sound quality is more than just awesome.

  • cycle454

    i would probably buy generic smartphone w-630

  • Jodaguse

    i’m interested on the blu dash 4.5. Seems very cheap for a quad core prossesor…

  • http://www.guyrintoul.com grintoul

    I’d steer clear of Chinese-market Android phones as the Chinese government is open about installing snooping software to track its citizens – no guarantees that if you buy a Chinese-market Android phone, you won’t be sharing all your data with the Chinese government censors. Equally, of course, if you buy a phone in the West the NSA & GCHQ are scooping up all your data anyway, so…

    • Jesus

      Tracking and stuff… Just buy it cheap (as you would), and install a custom firmware. Too easy, idiot.

  • moorkaĂŻ

    Heard of the first two…rest of the list mentions MediaTek phones, all of them based on the same MT6577/73 SoC…so they’re all like Tweedledee and Tweedledum (thanks Yahoo! Answers for this metaphor).

  • D3Seeker

    There are certainly nice phones out there that most people will never know exist. Part of that though is due to carriers. Between carrier loyalty and reliability, yeah. and said carriers each don’t even have a fraction of the devices available out there.

  • rykellim

    You mentioned that we should not expect anything spectacular for the build quality from any of these no-brand phones and I have a KPT A9 Dual SIM running Android 4.0.3 (Hong Kong brand) and the build quality is beautiful. I did not have any protective sticker screen on it yet I do not have any scratches on the screen, despite dropping it twice. Samsung possibly would have easily cracked if it was subjected to the same falls. Not to mention that my Galaxy Note 1 suffered a Motherboard failure and I was told to pay US$ 270 for the replacement motherboard alone, while my KPT strides on. Speaking of motherboards, are any of your readers here victims of Samsung mobile phone motherboard failures too?

    • imranxahmed

      Can you share where I could look up KPT A9 phone or buy the Hong Kong version? Thanks

      • rykellim

        If you are in China, you can find it in most supermarkets, including Walmart, if I recall correctly. Hope that helps!

        • imranxahmed

          Thanks. But I am in the US and checked few Google links but most were online retailers with various versions of same phone i.e images and description varied. If you know of KPT website, or useful site where I could buy it. Thanks.

  • LibTech

    I would be interested in knowing how the Moto X with the X-chip is it living up to the hype ?

  • Frank Davila

    cual es el nombre del telefono de la primera foto?

  • Lance Lee

    Lenovo P780, decent specs, good price, great battery life

  • flamencoguy

    These are not the best Android smartphones you never heard of!
    Have you not heard of Zopo ZP980, ZP990, C2 etc or the THL W11?
    These are better than the ones you listed.
    There are many better phones as well like Oppo Find 5. ZTE Grand S, ZTE Nubia Z5 etc.

  • well

    Most of those are imperfect copy or ugly design or even largest bezel i ever seen on any phone . Well ……..

  • Anvit Tawar

    Have you come across Micromax ?

  • LimaOne

    The $199 Moto G kills this list now :D

    • Connor

      Especially now that a LTE variant is coming out!

  • karen

    Some of them are not have good quality, but have high hardware. I only think XiaoMi is the better one among those. http://www.ikinkoo.com/

  • mi

    also see Wiko Darkfull, i think it’s a french smartphone, really surprising

  • Mohd Zamzuri Haron

    Alcatel One Touch Idol X. You might be impressed with it.

  • AndroidAuthority

    The Google Nexus 5 is way better than the Mi2, and the Treasure V8 plus it’s about $300, it’s also unlocked for any carrier that supports unlocked phones.

  • That Guy

    a lot of these look like crap when you look at the prices ($300) or so.

  • SoothsayerSlayer

    “Squire” (sic) rips off Fender? Shit, man–do your research. Fender owns Squier (proper spelling), so a Squier strat isn’t a rip off; it’s a super budget version of the made in America…

  • John

    Can you tell me if Wiko phones are good or bad? Pls

  • anonymous

    It’s Squier,not “Squire”…

  • walid

    You lier!! The 320 gpu isnt the fastest gpu nor the s4 quadxore processor! There is the sp801 which pack 330 gpu and the fastest clock apeed like l s5 which is 2.5 ghz!

  • daydreamer1987

    Gionee s5.5

  • nehapatel

    There are certainly nice phones out there that most people will never know exist. Part of that though is due to carriers. Between carrier loyalty and reliability, yeah. and said carriers each don’t even have a fraction of the devices available out there. Recruitment Jobs

  • Israel Magalit

    Can we please have a list/article for 2014 phones?