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Home / Tips and Tricks / OnePlus, Oppo, Huawei, more: 7 things to think about before you buy

OnePlus, Oppo, Huawei, more: 7 things to think about before you buy

p40 pro-plus-product

Huawei makes some amazing phones.

Andrew Hoyle / CNET

This story is part of Generation China, CNET̵

7;s series exploring the country’s technical ambition.

Some of the most compelling phones on the planet are made by Chinese brands: OnePlus, TCL, Oppo, Xiaomi, ZTE and Huawei. Many of these devices have advanced features at prices that are inferior to premium phones by hundreds of dollars. Others are the first to use new technology such as pop-up selfie camera, new photography tools and other fantastic patterns.

China is a leader in technology areas such as 5G and Artificial Intelligenceand the quality of the phones coming from Chinese companies matches or even exceeds the quality of competing devices from Samsung, Apple or Google. Power plant Huawei even beat Apple as the world’s second largest phone maker, 2019, and had the design to steal Samsung’s crown as No. 1. In January 2020, Huawei claimed the title the world’s best 5G telemarketer. At the same time, OnePlus is now selling directly through three American carriers, a huge profit for a smartphone launch.

Excellent value and extended access are good reasons to buy one of these phones, but there is a darker side to be aware of as well. Huawei, and to a lesser extent, ZTE, are caught in a global trade war over 5G network equipment – not phones – and designated national security threats by the FCC. And if the phone you buy is not sold directly through your carrier, you may miss some features here and there.


Generation China is a CNET series that looks at the technical areas in which the country is trying to take the lead.

Brett Pearce / CNET

You should not rule out buying from a Chinese brand, but there are important things to know before you start, including how to shop, what to look for and what considerations you need to be aware of when it comes to the basics as if you need a new one. wall adapter, security issues and even where you can shop.

1. Why buy a phone from a Chinese company?

One reason will come to mind: variation. You do not have to settle for a phone that your operator offers. In fact, more brands sell through retailers such as Amazon, Best Buy and their own online stores than you can find at a single carrier. In many countries, it is the norm to buy an unlocked phone first and then add other services.

Phones from brands that you do not see every day can also offer features that are not yet available on other devices. In fact, the first smartphone camera I used that had a dedicated night mode was on a Huawei phone, long before I used a similar camera feature on a Google, Samsung or Apple device.

In CNET’s Huawei P30 Pro, reviewer Andrew Hoyle said it has “the absolute best camera on any phone.” It also draws on my personal experience.


TCL’s new 10-series phones offer a range of features for smaller than other flagships.

César Salza / CNET in Spanish

2. What is the best way to buy a Chinese phone?

It depends on the brand. OnePlus sells via T-Mobile, Verizon and Sprint. However, since most brands from China do not have transportation conditions in the United States (and have not undergone the strenuous certification process), you need to stick to online shopping. Amazon is of course an option, but sites like AliExpress and eBay are also worth checking out.

Going directly through the company’s website is also a good idea if the brand has a history that is specific to your country. There may be obstacles. For example, Xiaomi’s US store sells electronics, but not phones, and its UK website refused to accept my US address.

Huawei still advertises phones in the United States under its Honor brand, but apart from details and specifications, you will not find a single buy button on the website.

However, ZTE and TCL both have online stores that either link to operator websites or offer direct shipping.

Hoyle-promo OnePlus-8 pro

OnePlus 8 is readily available in the United States.

Andrew Hoyle / CNET

3. How do I know if the phone works on my carrier?

A good rule of thumb is that most Chinese phones work on AT&T or T-Mobile because they use compatible GSM technology for their networks. However, Verizon and Sprint use a mix of GSM and CDMA for data and voice, and the odds are that any imported phone will not work on any of the carriers.

Although the phone allows you to make calls, send messages, and use data, not all carrier-optimized features are likely to work – for example, Wi-Fi calls and other carrier-specific benefits.

Pay attention to the list. Most name the compatible carriers or at least the various conveyor belts that a phone supports. Once you have that list, you can look up your carrier’s supported bands and compare the two.

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4. Will you have access to all your apps?

Again, it depends on the phone you buy.

Google’s search and services are blocked in China, so unless a Chinese manufacturer builds two versions of a phone – one for inside China, and then another that integrates Google with the rest of the world – you may need to learn to live without Google’s services on your Android phone.

This means you will not be able to install apps and services like Gmail or YouTube, let alone run them. You also do not have access to the Google Play Store, where you normally download all your apps.

Phone makers often have their own Android app store. But even then, it can be frustrating to find apps that work properly. If you are technical enough, guides and tutorials are available for most phones that guide you through installing Google Play Services.

Otherwise, you have to trust each answering machine’s own app store. Earlier this year, Reuters reported that Huawei, Xiaomi, Oppo and Vivo work in a way for app developers to upload their apps to all four app stores simultaneously.

When shopping for a new phone, pay attention to the device’s list and see if it mentions whether it comes with support for the Google Play Store or Google services. But be careful – sometimes it means getting a phone that someone else has installed or using a solution to get Google services on a device that would not otherwise have it.

Look at this list on AliExpress for P40 Lite. The second photo is a giant warning that says that after the seller installed Google services, a software update broke it. You must use Huawei’s own solution instead.

ZTE Blade A3 Prime

ZTE is slowly starting to sell phones in the US again.

César Salza / CNET in Spanish

5. Are Chinese branded phones secure?

Every phone you buy directly through a carrier has undergone certification in accordance with strict FCC regulations. Larger brands will also support their devices when you buy directly, but keep an eye out for warranty information. With which device you buy second-hand or via a third-party market, you take a greater risk because the manufacturer does not verify your purchase.

For example, if a third party has installed a solution or modified applications on a phone you buy, it is a security risk. There is no way to know exactly what was installed on your phone before you received it, and factory reset is not an option if you want to keep Google services’ solutions intact.

If you load apps or use modified files, you can make your phone and data on it more susceptible to malware and data theft. When Huawei launched P40 line, Google warned users not to attempt to load or install Google Apps or Services on the phones. There may be a political aspect to that warning: Google may take into account US sanctions. It can also aim to reduce Google’s liability if something goes wrong and an injured party wants to sue.

6. Will the charger have the right wall adapter for the USA?

Every phone you buy from a local carrier or manufacturer’s website for your market will provide you with compatible accessories. You need to pay more attention to purchases from third parties. I have seen lists on AliExpress that state that the phone comes with the right adapter for US sockets, while other lists do not mention it.

oppo-a9-2020-review analysis-the-1-11

Oppo phones are in a class of their own.

Óscar Gutiérrez / CNET

If your phone comes with the wrong adapter, all chargers will work with the correct cable.

7. What about a warranty?

It depends on where you buy the phone. The list should say if there is any kind of warranty in the US or not. Take a look at this Amazon page for Xiaomi Redmi Note 9S. Near the bottom of the marked features it clearly says “No warranty in the United States.” So you are on your own if it should break or start acting.

AliExpress does not directly mention any guarantees, but the company offers a 90-day money back guarantee for Buy Protection. When you read the fine print, it looks as if you have to contact the seller and request a refund if the item is not what you ordered or is incorrect. 90 days is not so much time, but it is better than nothing.

Phones are not the only thing worth paying attention to when it comes to China. The the country has great ideas for the internet, Inclusive leads the way when it comes to 5G connectivity. And hopefully we will eventually see Huawei products are available in the United States.

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