Buying a Chinese import mobile, what do we need to know?

The avalanche of Chinese mobiles from second-tier manufacturers is impressive, especially since many of them allow access to the benefits of a first-line smartphone, phablet or tablet, but with much lower prices than those of the major manufacturers.

Buying a Chinese mobile phone has been perfectly feasible for a long time and dozens of online stores have appeared that offer the import of these models. However, it is convenient to review the advantages and disadvantages of a process that can "scare" the most cautious.

Where to buy a Chinese mobile?

The Chinese manufacturers we are talking about do not usually offer their products globally, and mostly focus on the Chinese market. Some of them like Oppo have started that international expansion and offer their products outside of the Chinese borders, but in most cases we will have to go to online intermediary stores.

These intermediaries usually have their headquarters in China, where numerous online stores have been launched that promise an almost transparent service for the user. This only has to worry about choosing the mobile that interests you, as if it were any other online store, and pay with PayPal or credit card, as we do in any other e-commerce service.

When making the purchase it is important to take into account certain important sections. First of all, it is recommended - although it is not very funny - to read the famous "terms and conditions" under which each store operates. There we can find details about shipping times, payment procedures or guarantee procedures.

In addition, it is also recommended to check with the store managers if there is a stock of the desired device. Although this appears in the store as available, such information may not be too up-to-date, and that can lead to disappointment about delays that we did not have.

As for recommendations on specific stores, we are very afraid that there is no safe bet. Each case is a world, and although there are certain stores with a good track record and a certain reputation, all of them read cases where there have been various problems.

Pandawill or AndroidSale (in this last one I made my personal purchase, and everything was perfect) are examples of that trajectory, but we pointed out a few options - and there are many more - that offer these services. Most do not offer their services in our language but in English.

For those with specific problems in this regard, importers have been appearing that operate with specific support from Spanish and try to target these products specifically to Spanish-speaking users. In fact, there are already online stores (and even some physical ones) launched by Spanish providers that work with this type of transaction and that for many users can be especially reassuring. The price increases significantly in many cases, but the warranty period is extended to two years instead of the warranty year that is offered natively by importers in China.

  • Pandawill
  • Android Sale
  • Alixpress
  • Ibuygou
  • Fulcrumall
  • Cheerful shopping
  • FastCardTech
  • TinyDeal
  • Mobiles and tablets
  • Antelife
  • FocalPrice
  • Buy Chinese Mobile

To these independent purchases are also added the joint purchasing processes that usually arise in specialized telephone forums in our language. These purchases allow users with more distrust to join community orders that are managed with suppliers accustomed to this type of order, and which are usually interesting in terms of the participation we can have in the purchase and the comments and help that arise in these processes.

Customs, myths and realities

Among the main attractions of buying these devices is the free shipping that all stores offer. This shipment is made by traditional postal mail and is usually the most efficient and safest way for the mobile to reach us without problem.

The only downside is the time it takes for these devices to arrive. From the time we place the order until the mobile is in our hands, it can easily take between 3 and 4 weeks (sometimes even six), something that can certainly be a handicap for those interested in such devices.

The alternative is logical: use specialized messaging services that are also usually available among the options that these stores handle. These services impose an additional cost, but guarantee a shipment that can be reduced to a week or two at most.

This is where customs come into play: all these devices would have to pay the customs tax, but in some (many) cases the mobiles come into our hands without the Spanish (or other country) customs requiring the payment of tariffs.

Regular mail, the serial method and which is free in all these stores, is virtually the safest way for these phones to reach our hands without that phase, which obviously generates some discomfort before we can get the desired package in which is the mobile.

In forums related to this topic - it is not difficult to find all kinds of comments about it - users often comment on their experiences, and the general conclusion that one draws is that it is often worth waiting more and having that certain tranquility in receiving the package.

In conventional postal mail (there are actually several postal companies that can send it) it has another small drawback: the tracking of such packages. Tracking systems are often inefficient and do not help much to know the status of our shipment, something that we can obviously do much more clearly with specialized courier services.

Tips such as having the store of origin declare a lower value than the real one to avoid problems or identifying the package as a gift are often frequent in these transactions, although again the efficiency of these alternatives is far from proven at the time to avoid --something that should not really be done, and which is the responsibility of each user- through customs.

Shipping with courier services usually involves more problems in this regard, and in those same forums, many other users usually comment on how packages are held at customs much more frequently, since the companies that provide these services have the obligation to declare goods. imported and pay customs, which normally represents 21% of the declared price and handling fee.

Of course each case is a world and it is difficult to generalize or provide the sure solution. In my case, my only experience in this regard was the purchase of a Newman N2 that arrived without problems by traditional mail 20 days after the order.

Some stores have found this to be a common complaint among users and offer theoretical assurances that the package will not be held at customs. This guarantee usually has an additional cost, and although I personally have not used this option or clearly specify what process is followed in this section, it may be another interesting alternative for certain users.

ROMs and updates

All Chinese manufacturers make use of Android as a base - with their own modifications - in the operating system section pre-installed in the vast majority of these devices. One of the doubts that arise before users is the quality of those Android implementations, which vary according to the manufacturers.

In fact, there are exceptional cases like Xiaomi with its MIUI ROM, which has become one of the most famous and popular among users of "cooked ROMs" for their Android devices. MIUI long ago became a supported version on a multitude of devices - not just the Xiaomi - and in this aspect the devices of this manufacturer are, over distances, something like the Chinese Google Nexus. The conjunction of hardware and software is remarkable in these smartphones, and the MIUI update is constant.

On other models, though, Android customization is minimal, but users often wonder if they'll be able to install other ROMs on such devices. Here everything normally depends on the popularity of the device outside the Chinese borders. The XDA Developers forums are the main reference to know the status of the support of certain ROMs in certain devices, and therefore they are usually the definitive clue to know if we can make the jump to other cooked ROMs if we so wish.

In case that this support of unofficial ROMs is scarce or non-existent, we will have to take into account that the updates will only take place from the manufacturer of the terminal, and that can cause such updates to have serious drawbacks, such as language support (the Spanish is not always contemplated) or the integration of new Android features, which may take longer than desirable in certain very interesting terminals from a hardware point of view but with manufacturers that cannot maintain the type in the development of updates Official own ROM based on Android.

So, another important tip when choosing one of these Chinese mobiles is to try to find out if there is mobile support from the developer community. The aforementioned XDA forums and other media on the Internet give all the clues to know this situation, and that will be essential to ensure that our device does not become obsolete at the software level.

Guarantees and repairs

Of course, one of the main disadvantages of importing a terminal from China is that the guarantee offered by importers is one year. In this sense, there are again bad experiences and other good ones, so the reputation of the provider is important and it is convenient to ask in specialized forums to find out if other people have had problems in this regard with the store where we plan to buy the device.

The Spanish providers of these services offer the two years that are the norm in our country, and that can be a very interesting point for many users, although that - as we have already mentioned - usually increases the price of the terminals in a sensible way against to the offers that we can find in Chinese online stores with support for the English language and in some cases for Spanish.

Taking advantage of these guarantees in case we have any problem with the provider is also more complex. There are dispute processes if a product in poor condition is received and we have every right - and duty - to use them in such cases, but in all these cases it must be taken into account that, simply, everything will take longer.

There is also another additional risk: that of receiving devices that although they work well, are not what we expected. The case of the fake Xiaomi M2 was especially popular, and some stores provided them with the consequent displeasure on the part of the users, who had to return them and try to get their money back. It is not especially frequent, but the Chinese, experts in cloning even their own compatriots, can sometimes play tricks on us.

The same will happen with repairs. My personal experience in this case is very specific: the Newman N2 fell to the ground and the glass screen protector was broken, something that happens very frequently among mobile users.

The supplier had no problem managing the repair - it is not covered by the warranty, and in my case it costs $ 40 - and offered help at all times to complete the process. Shipping back to China is at our expense, after which the provider takes care of the repair - if you have previously confirmed that it is possible - and sends the repaired mobile phone to us free of charge.

As I said, the drawback of all this is that although this guarantee and repair works, it does it very slowly. Two months after sending the device I will still have to wait at least one more month to receive it, which is an unacceptable time if we depend on that mobile for day to day. It is something that is important to have if we are interested in these phones.


In this review of the main keys to buying a Chinese imported mobile we have not taken into account the most important factor of these purchases: the quality / price ratio. Both in my particular case and in that of many other buyers, satisfaction is absolute.

In fact, there are very few cases seen in the forums in which users who have purchased any of these terminals have been disappointed. This shows that the quality achieved both in terms of hardware specifications and the operation of these terminals is very high and comparable to that of high-end smartphones from top-tier manufacturers such as Samsung, HTC, Apple, or Sony.

That makes having one of these "second-brand" devices even more interesting: they allow us to access really powerful components but at much lower prices than the competition, and if we "risk" - it is perhaps an exaggerated word - to these purchases the result will undoubtedly be a success, as certified by thousands of users in Internet forums in our country and in many others.

So, from my personal experience I can only encourage everyone who has ever thought about it. Except for the problem of the times in all the efforts - almost insurmountable - the rest of the sections play in favor of some manufacturers that are also realizing their potential outside the Chinese borders.

In Xataka | Xiaomi, the different path in the Chinese industry | Meizu, a success story based on caring for the community | China wants to conquer the world of smartphones

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