A popular question that we get asked here at Android Authority is, where is the best place to buy a Chinese OEM phone? Maybe you want an Oppo handset or something from Xiaomi, Meizu or even THL, but where to get it?
The answer to that question is simultaneously quite easy and quite hard! It is easy because you just need to go to one of the websites which are listed below and place you order. Simple! It is hard because ultimately there is no guarantee that you will have the smoothest purchasing experience of your life. Before I reveal my list of probably reliable wholesalers, let me tell you about the negative side.
To illustrate the possible problems you may encounter, let me tell you a true story. I ordered a handset for a friend of mine from a popular online wholesaler. I paid via PayPal and opted for delivery via a well known courier. A few days later I got a tracking code and I was able to track my package as it meandered its way around the world. The package left Hong Kong and arrived in Europe (which was good as I live in Europe). It bounced around in Europe for a bit, and finally seemed to come to rest in Italy. I don’t live in Italy. I assumed it was just another stop over as the package made its way to me. The next time I checked the tracking information I discovered that the package had been delivered and signed for by one “Galeazzi,” in Modena, Italy.
So I contacted the wholesaler. Sometimes I got a reply with platitudes about how they were looking into it, and sometimes I just got ignored. Eventually I used the “live chat” feature on the wholesaler’s website to actually talk with someone and explain my problem. The sales person promised to get back to me and in all fairness they did. The wholesaler blamed the courier, but I blamed the wholesaler.
It seems that the wholesaler thought that the courier couldn’t deliver a package to the right address. OK, I understand if the delivery driver confuses apartment 13 with apartment 31, because he is having a bad day, but to say that the courier delivered it to the wrong country is a little bit far-fetched. The good news is that after about three weeks from my original order I did get a refund from the wholesaler.
So, as Italians would have said a couple of thousand years ago, “caveat emptor” – let the buyer beware.
Probably the best place to get a Chinese OEM phone is from the official web-store of the manufacturer. The advantages are that the store will offer good prices, have high levels of stock, and will have experience in international sales of their devices. Plus the reputation of the brand is behind the online store which means you have a greater chance of satisfaction should things go wrong.
- Oppo’s official outlet is the OppoStyle store. There is an European and an International store.
- Meizu’s online store is Meizu Mart. All orders are processed via PayPal.
- OnePlus sells its OnePlus One phone online. At the time of writing you still need an invite, for more information check out OnePlus’s How to Buy page. A good place to find invites is in the OnePlus forums.
Many other Chinese phone makers offer online stores as well, though not all of them ship internationally.
Sites I have actually used
Besides the official stores, there are lots of retailers which sell branded and unbranded (white label) devices, however personally I would steer clear of the unbranded stuff. Here is a list of sites that I have actually used, talked with the people who work there, and actually received a product.
- Chinavasion sells everything from Android smartphones to LED lights. It is one of the best places to get THL devices. It also sells Zopo, Doogee, Elephone and Cubot devices.
- Geekbuying offers a wide range of products, not just smartphones, however its Android smartphone stock is quite impressive and includes brands like Lenovo, Huawei, Xiaomi, ZTE and THL.
- GearBest sells more than smartphones, you can find a wide range of things including clothes and sporting equipment. But it also has a good range of Android devices. Its stocked brands include Meizu, OnePlus, Zopo, Lenovo, THL and even Asus.
I haven’t actually used any of these sites (with the exception of Aliexpress), but they are generally well known.
- en.JD.com – Popular international version of this huge Chinese reseller.
- Aliexpress – Like eBay individual sellers offer their wares here. You need to find a seller with a good reputation and a good history. I have used aliexpress at least half a dozen times without any problems.
- Tinydeal – Another popular Chinese reseller. Offers Lenovo, Doogee, THL, Zopo, Cubut, Huawei, ZTE, Elephone, Meizu, Coolpad, Asus, and OnePlus. They have a US warehouse that ships some of their most popular items.
- Deal Extreme – Everything from office supplies to smartphones. Has warehouses in Australia, Europe and USA which reduce the risks and costs of international shipping.
- Banggood – As well as offering smartphones from the likes of Xiaomi, Meizu, Huawei, and Lenovo, it also has a good stock of Arduino accessories!
- Xiaomi’s official store is all in Chinese and isn’t very friendly for international customer. So, if you want a Xiaomi device, then one of my AA colleagues has used xiaomishop.com. His experience with them has been good and they have a EU store for those who want shipping from within the EU.
I have written a couple of other articles on my smartphones from China which you might also find useful:
Having written all of these, two things will surely happen. First there will be lots of comments posted below from Chinese Wholesalers recommending that you can also buy from them. Secondly, I will get lots of emails asking me from other wholesalers asking me to add their store to the list! Just watch and see! But seriously if you do have any recommendations about the best places to buy Chines OEM phones (and you are not a Chinese OEM reseller) then please leave a comment below.