Today’s world is so brand-centric and full of advertising that there aren’t many people that couldn’t spot an iPhone or a Samsung Galaxy. But, believe it or not, there are more phone manufacturers than just the same old list of Apple, Samsung, HTC, and the like. If you’re looking for a new phone that’s a little different, or maybe something that’s a tad more affordable than those top end brand names, then we’re here for you. We’re taking a look at some of the best smart phones that, unless you’re a real tech wizard, you’ve probably never even heard of.
We do need a bit of a disclaimer here. We’re not going to guarantee that you can get your hands on any of these models. Many of the manufacturers are Asian based and some don’t market their products in the West. That doesn’t mean that it’s impossible to buy them, just that it can be tricky. Be aware that even if you can find these phones to buy online anything that’s shipped from China can be subject to hefty import charges, which means that cheap hand set might not be quite as cheap as you imagine. That’s not to say that you won’t find any of these phones for sale, but you’re unlikely to find them at your local mobile operator. You have been warned!
The Huawei Nova Plus
The Chinese company Huawei are becoming much better known in the west thanks to their high spec, low price handsets, including the bestselling P9. However, you might not have heard of the Nova Plus, which in our opinion is one of the best top end deals out there. It’s got a full HD 5.5 inch screen, a massive 3 GB of RAM, and octo core 2.0 GHz processing power. Throw in 32 GB of internal storage (and an SD card slot), a 16 MP rear cam and an 8 MP front cam, and you’ve got a phone that can compete with some of the top of the line models we’re seeing. All for around £100 or so less than you’d pay for a flagship phone. Not a bad deal if you can find one for sale.
The Fairphone 2
Ethically minded customers might be interested in this Dutch model. Fairphone claim to make an ethically minded smart phone, meaning materials are renewable and ethically sourced, workers are paid living wages, and “conflict-free” resources are used. Given how many phone manufacturers have been caught using sweatshop labour to produce parts, this is a pretty heroic aim.
The newest Fairphone 2 model is modular, which means you can swap elements around (thereby not needing to throw your device away after a couple of years, smart, eh?). Right now it runs Android 5.1, gets a five inch HD display, 2 GB of RAM and quad core processing. Plus, the phone is easy to repair yourself, and spare parts are for sale on the company website. All of this will cost you around £400, though there’s a back up on orders so if you order now you won’t be getting your phone for around 6 months or so. Still, if you’re looking for something guilt-free, the Fairphone 2 is an awesome buy.
The OnePlus 5T
OnePlus is another Chinese manufacturer, and one that’s trying hard to get a foothold in the western market (meaning it’s not going to be too hard to get your hands on a model). For the past few years they’ve worked on an “invite only” business model, making it tough to get their hand sets, but they’ve recently abandoned this, so you might get lucky.
And you’ll be oh, so lucky. The amazing 5T is a truly high end device. It’s got a 6 inch AMOLED screen, an unbelievable 6 GB of RAM, quad core 2.45 GHz processing power, and even a 16 MP camera. Oh, and it’s got super charging too, which claims to give you a day’s worth of power in just 30 minutes of charge time.
The Xiami Mi Mix
And yet another Chinese entry on our list, though this one is tough to find outside of Asia. This is quite simply, one of the best specced phones around. It’s got an enormous 6.4 inch HD display, but wait, since that’s a bezel-less display (meaning the screen covers the entire front of the phone) the Mix doesn’t feel like a behemoth of a device. Throw in quad core 2.35 GHz processing, 6 GB of RAM, 256 GB of storage, a 16 MP rear cam and a 5 MP front cam, and you’ve got a serious winner. It’s not cheap though, with UK prices starting at around £650… However, the Mix’s stand-out looks only are worth paying for.
The Wileyfox Swift 2 Plus
After so many Chinese phones, what about something home grown? Wileyfox is a UK start up, and they’ve been producing some very nice budget handsets indeed. Their latest, the Swift 2 Plus, comes with a 5 inch display, 32 GB of internal storage, 3 GB of RAM, a 16 MP cam, and quick charging plus fingerprint scanning. Those are some pretty neat specs for a phone that’s only going to cost you £189.
The Ulefone Power
Finally, if poor battery life is a deal breaker for you, then you’re going to love the Ulefone Power. It’s been specifically designed around the biggest smart phone battery available. It’s got a 5.5 inch display, 3 GB of RAM, and octo core processing power, but the big selling point here is the massive 6050 mAh battery (more than double the power of the battery on the Galaxy S7, for example). This is a Chinese model, so it’s tough to find, but it should only cost you around £180, so it’s not too pricey. Good luck finding this one!