Chances are you’ve got a Samsung or Apple phone. Right?
Well, there are some unique Chinese phone brands that you’ve probably never heard of.
And, they’re becoming more and more popular – both in China and overseas – as the technology gets better.
So, let’s take a look at the 10 leading Chinese phone brands.
A staggering 400 million people use vivo phones (yes, that’s vivo with a little ‘v’).
But vivo isn’t just popular in China – their phones are available in more than 50 countries around the world.
They have two manufacturing bases in China (Chongqing and Dongguan) and three abroad in India, Bangladesh and Indonesia.
People love vivo phones for the cutting-edge features. Their X5 MAX is the world’s thinnest while the NEX is the first to have an elevating front camera.
vivo is a subsidiary of BBK, a Chinese conglomerate which is one of the world’s largest smartphone manufacturers.
OPPO has only been around since 2004, launching a little MP3 player as its first product.
But this Chinese phone brand has come a long way since then, becoming the first 5G phone available in European markets.
OPPO is hugely popular in China and overseas. An estimated 300 million people have an OPPO phone, making it one of the leading phone brands in the world.
They offer phones that charge in super-fast times, and they recently launched a smartwatch too.
Like vivo, OPPO is part of conglomerate BBK.
This Chinese phone brand has practically come out of nowhere to become one of the fastest-growing phone brands in the country.
In 2020, Huawei spun off HONOR to save the brand from being affected by US sanctions which would have cut off supplies to key components like semiconductors.
HONOR is now owned by a state-owned enterprise and controlled by the municipal government of Shenzhen. This is China’s Silicon Valley, home to tech giants like Tencent and the country’s drone industry.
HONOR has recently launched new products including the premium Magic series, building on its brand loyalty within China.
The company is now eyeing off global markets with not only its phones but other devices including laptops, watches and earbuds.
Xiaomi is now the third most popular phone brand in the world, behind Samsung and Apple.
(Side note: In China, Apple is still among the most popular phone brands, while Samsung is practically no longer used there.)
Xiaomi is known for its affordable phones as well as copying Apple.
In addition to phones, Xiaomi makes a bunch of smart devices including TVs. You can find their products in more than 100 countries around the world.
The name Xiaomi is interesting. In Mandarin, it literally means millet (the grain) but there are other Buddhist meanings. On the company’s website, they say the MI stands for mobile internet.
In August 2021, the company made the Fortune Global 500 list for the third time, so they’re a force to be reckoned with.
I’m guessing you’ve heard of Huawei? It probably doesn’t need much of an introduction.
The company has been banned by numerous countries for national security concerns regarding its 5G equipment.
Just a few years ago, Huawei was the top Chinese phone brand domestically. But according to Canalys, slumping phone shipments now place it sixth with only a fraction of the Chinese market.
Huawei’s unique Harmony OS beta became available in December 2020 after Google stopped supporting the business, no longer sending updates to Huawei smartphones.
OnePlus is owned by OPPO, meaning it’s yet another subsidiary of phone giant BBK.
But it’s a little different to some of the other Chinese phone brands on this list, because it focuses purely on high-end phones (at reasonable prices) rather than other electronics.
OnePlus is the top premium smartphone brand in India, a country in which the brand invests heavily in R&D.
While OnePlus has a tiny market share in the US, its sales are increasing quickly thanks to its partnership with T-Mobile.
It’s been reported that OnePlus has filed a patent for electric vehicles. So the sky really is the limit for this Chinese tech company!
Realme is another Chinese phone brand owned by OPPO.
The company has only been around since 2018. But by 2020, it had amassed 35 million global smartphone users, making it the world’s fastest-growing smartphone brand.
Realme is a youthful brand which aims to “let more young people enjoy the happy life brought by beauty of technology”. Offering a student discount is one way it’s trying to tap into the youth market.
You can buy Realme phones in 27 markets worldwide, including China, India, Thailand, Europe and Australia.
TCL isn’t as obscure as some of the other Chinese phone brands on this list.
That’s because you might know TCL from the household electronic items it makes including TVs, air conditioners and washing machines.
Even though the TCL brand is new to the smartphone market, the company knows what it’s doing. It’s produced handsets for Alcatel and even Blackberry.
However, the Chinese company has put its plan for foldable phones on hold until the price point is accessible to as many consumers as possible.
Established in 2003 and headquartered in Zhuhai, southern China, Meizu designs and produces smartphones created to provide a simple, intuitive experience.
But the company started from humble beginnings as a manufacturer of MP3 players.
Meizu has hundreds of retail stores across China, as well as in Russia, Ukraine and a handful of Asian countries.
CNET reports that Meizu is struggling to stay afloat because of misguided business decisions like the over-release of smartphones, and intensifying competition from home-grown rivals.
ZTE is a global player in the telecommunications industry including 5G products and solutions.
The brand has some great phones, even though it’s not as popular in China as it is abroad.
Some of ZTE’s Nubia range features screens on the back as well as the front of the device.
And, the Nubia Red Magic is ZTE’s unique line of gaming phones, which include built-in cooling systems and super-high screen refresh rates.
ZTE has recently relaunched in the US, following a period where customers left the brand in droves due to sanctions violations.
Popularity of Chinese phone brands can wane
A Chinese phone brand might be hugely popular for a while, then suddenly drop away.
This can be due to a whole host of reasons like fierce competition, regulations, global markets and brand equity.
If you want to dig a bit deeper and find out every single Chinese phone brand, head over to Wikipedia. But the list I’ve curated for you above includes all the biggest and best brands.
If you happen to discover some up-and-coming Chinese phone brands that are worth adding, please leave a comment below.
I hope you learned a thing or two about the top Chinese phone brands. You may also enjoy the article I wrote about the top apps in China.
Main image credit: Vinicius “amnx” Amano on Unsplash.
FAQ about Chinese phone brands
How many Chinese phone brands are there?
There are about 30 Chinese phone brands, though the number fluctuates as brands are taken over or disappear, and new ones spring up.
What are the Chinese phone brands?
You may have heard of ZTE, Huawei and OnePlus. But the biggest ones in China are vivo, OPPO, Xiaomi and HONOR.
What are the most famous Chinese phone brands?
In China, vivo and OPPO are the most popular at the moment, while outside China, Huawei and now Xiaomi are well known.
Are Chinese phone brands safe?
Yes, they’re no less safe than any major global phone brand.