The year of 2012, Chinese vendors gifted us many great quality smartphones on budget, allowing Chinese consumers to quit reliance on foreign brands like Samsung and Apple. Besides, some of device makers showed their ambition to go international in 2013. As the tech world is readying to talking about the fresh devices for 2013, it’s the time to sit back and look into the ten major handsets in China of last year. Hope you like it.
You should probably be pretty familiar with name “Xiaomi” here at M.I.C. Gadget, since we have been tracking this brand since it launched Xiaomi Mi-One. Back in October, we brought Xiaomi Mi-Two, Meizu MX2 and OPPO Finder to an interview with CNN News Stream, where CNN host Kristie Lu Stout complimented Xiaomi is a super star and a smartphone cult hero in China. Spec-wise, Xiaomi Mi-Two is powered by quad-core Snapdragon S4 Pro APQ8064 chipset, a 4.3-inch 720p display (342ppi pixel density), 2GB of RAM and a 2000mAh battery. If you still find the battery capacity insufficient, there’s a 3000mAh up for grabs too and it only bulks the phone thickness up by 2mm. There’s a 16GB or 32GB option for on board storage, but there is no built-in micro-SD card slot. Luckily, the device supports USB On-The-Go, so you can still pop in your USB thumb drive and manage your data. Furthermore, it runs the latest Android 4.1 (Jelly Bean) with Xiaomi’s custom MIUI ROM, which is smooth and user-friendly. There is one very unpleasing thing about Xiaomi is it’s very hard to buy, just like Apple’s iPhone, because Xiaomi also sticks with Apple’s unfriendly lottery-like reservation system to sell their smartphone.
2. Meizu MX2
Meizu is Xiaomi’s biggest rival, where the two companies have a long history of intrigue and controversy since their founders’ friendship broke up. Meizu MX2 is the company’s flagship phone of this year, it was launched after the release of Xiaomi Mi-Two, as if a hunter that goes against Xiaomi. The brilliant design of Meizu MX2 and the magnificent launch event in Beijing have successfully reconquered their prestige from Xiaomi. And what you should take to heart about Meizu MX2 is its build quality, the unique breathing-light touch sensitive home button and its amazingly sharp 4.4-inch 1280×800 display (347 pixel density). It runs a 1.6GHz Samsung-made quad-core processor that paired up with 533MHz GPU and 2GB of RAM. The down side is its battery is non-removable and it only has 1800 mAh, which is certainly going to run out pretty fast. It has three internal storage capacity options — 16GB, 32GB and 64GB. And again, just like the Xiaomi phone, it does not come with a micro-SD card slot as well. Lastly, it runs Flyme OS 2.0, an Android 4.1-based custom ROM, which has so many hidden features for users to find out.
3. OPPO Finder
Apple got to admit their iPhone 5 is not the world’s thinnest smartphone. OPPO Finder, a beautifully made Android phone, is thinner than the iPhone 5, which measured at merely 6.65 mm. CNN previously broadcasted a 10 second footage to compare the thickness of two phones during CNN News Stream. That’s a win for OPPO Finder. Finder’s hardware is not as good as the iPhone, but it’s still acceptable for some users. It sports a 4.3-inch Super AMOLED Plus display with 800×480 pixel density, a dual-core Snapdragon processor, 1GB of RAM, 16GB of flash storage and a non-removable 1530mAh battery. Noteworthy, the screen of Finder features RGB stripe arrangement, giving brighter and more accurate color than the PenTile Super AMOLED display on HTC One S and Samsung Galaxy Nexus. The down side is OPPO’s custom Android 4.0-based ROM doesn’t work too well on Finder, and the device is very difficult to root. But there’s a good news that OPPO will have an update to Android 4.1.1 Jelly Bean shortly. In addition, OPPO Finder comes with two colors options — black and white, and we found the black version looks really similar to iPhone 4.
4. BBK Vivo X1
BBK Electronic is a famous DVD player maker in China who also specialized on electronics such as television sets, mp3 players, digital cameras and cell phones. Vivo X1 is the company’s first smartphone that launched in November. It is amazingly thin device with merely 6.55mm of thickness, which is even thinner than OPPO Finder, making it the world’s thinnest smartphone. Vivo X1 is like a high-end version OPPO Finder, it features a 4.7-inch qHD (960×540) display, a 1.2GHz MTK dual-core processor, 1GB of RAM, 16GB of internal storage (no microSD card slot) and a built-in 2,000 mAh battery. In addition, it runs Android 4.1 Jelly bean with a customized interface. For those who don’t know, OPPO is actually a sub-brand of BBK Electronic. OPPO is designed to go international, while BBK is a brand that focuses on the Chinese market. That’s why BBK can make an ultra-thin smartphone just like OPPO Finder.
Huawei always produces some good phones each year. Huawei Honor II, the successor of Honor I, is probably our top pick from Huawei this year. It packs a a 4.5-inch 720p IPS display with 326 ppi, Huawei’s homegrown K3V2 quad-core chipset clocked at 1.4GHz, 2GB of RAM, 8GB of onboard storage with microSD expansion up to 32GB, and a hefty 2,230mAh battery. Guess what? It costs merely 1,888 yuan ($305). Sounds like perfect? Na. Its Android 4.1 custom ROM doesn’t come with Google Play Store by default, and we are not sure whether it can be easily rooted or not. One good news for foreign customers is Huawei Honor 2 has passed through FCC, and it’s looking to go North America, meaning Huawei will launch a US version with Google services this year.
6. ZTE Grand Era V985
Grand Era V985 is ZTE’s latest flagship smartphone offering some general specs like a 4.5-inch 720 IPS display, Nvidia Tegra 3 quad-core processor, 1GB of RAM, 4GB of onboard storage and a 1800mAh battery. At its thinnest point, the body thickness is merely at 7.9mm. Fortunately, it has a microSD card slot that allows 32GB of memory expansion, so you don’t have to worry insufficient of internal storage. Battery juice might drain out fast, and you won’t be able to dismiss and replace a third-party battery since it’s non-removable. The current model runs Android 4.0, and it doesn’t come with Google Play Store or any other Google’s services by default, just the same as Huawei Honor II. An upgrade to Jelly Bean is promised to come soon. This device comes with a cheaper price tag than Huawei Honor II at 1,599 yuan (US$258). Obviously, you get what you pay for. ZTE Grand Era V985 will release internationally, but we’re not sure when and where will it exactly release yet.
7. OPPO Find 5
The last four of our top picks are five inch devices. Let’s talk about OPPO’s latest masterpiece — OPPO Find 5, a behemoth smartphone with a stunning 5-inch Full HD 1080p 441ppi display, packs excellent hardware including Qualcomm’s quad-core S4 pro chipset, 2GB RAM, and a hefty 2,500 battery. Noteworthy, OPPO Find 5 has an impressive 13-megapixel rear shooter with an f/2.2 aperture and hardware-based HDR, enables to capture slow motion up to a whopping 120 fps at 480p. It comes with NFC built-in, capable of sending larger files between phones (works like Samsung S Beam) and connect with smart-tags. Additionally, OPPO Find 5 runs Android 4.1.2 Jelly Bean with Oppo’s custom ROM, but it is different and improved from the custom ROM on OPPO Finder. There’ll be 16GB or 32GB of internal storage option, but lacks of a microSD card slot. Oppo has already confirmed the U.S. availability of the unlocked version Find 5 phablet over AT&T and T-Mobile networks, which will be available at $499 and $569, slightly more expensive than the offering in China. OPPO plans to launch Find 5 in China sometime in early January, while the international launch is expected to be close to the China’s launch.
Dakele is a new Chinese smartphone brand that just started in 2012. “Dakele” literally means “Big Cola” in English, which is also used to name their 5-inch smartphone. The Big Cola phone packs a 5-inch 960×640 3:2 display, a dual-core processor, 1GB of RAM, 4GB ROM (supports 32GB of expansion), 5.0 megapixel rear-facing camera, a removable 2,450 mAh battery and runs Android 4.0. Also, it comes with dual-SIM card slots which supports both WCDMA and GSM network. Furthermore, Big Cola phone is compatible with two custom Android ROMs, Baidu OS and Lewa OS, which can be downloaded on Dakele’s official site. However, we found that it is very hard to install Google’s Play Store on the machine. One last thing, Dakele also adopted the very unfriendly lottery-like reservation system to sell the Big Cola phone, which is something we don’t really like to see.
9. Lenovo Lephone K860i
Lenovo is the world’s top PC maker and their smartphone business is doing well too. Lenovo Lephone K860i is the company’s latest 5-inch smartphone. It is a ‘mid range’ handset that sits in between OPPO Find 5 and Big Cola phone, and the specs are actually not bad. It boasts a 5-inch 720p display, a 1.6GHz quad-core Samsung Exynos 4412 processor, 2GB of RAM, 16GB of internal storage (support up to 64GB of memory expansion via microSD), and a 2,250 mAh battery. However, we don’t really like its messy and ugly Android 4.0-based custom ROM. Lenovo 860i is a very popular handset in China, thanks to its predecessor K860. This model received lots of positive comments from public, saying it’s affordable and efficient. It will be a trouble if you want to buy it from oversea, because there’s no word on whether Lenovo will bring K860i to foreign markets.
10. ZTE Nubia Z5
Finally, the last one, ZTE Nubia Z5. It was the last Android handset launched in 2012 during Christmas holiday. It’s like a mash-up of Xiaomi Mi-Two, Meizu MX2 and OPPO Find 5. Nubia Z5 has a very slim body design at just 7.6mm, making the world’s thinnest quad-core smartphone. Its 5-inch 1080p display sits within a 2.67 mm thin bezel on the phone, which is even narrower than Meizu MX2’s 3.15mm bezel. Under the hood, you will find a Qualcomm’s quad-core APQ8064 clocked at 1.5GHz, 2GB of RAM, 32GB of internal storage (without microSD expansion), a 13MP rear camera and a 2,300mAh battery. Nubai Z5 has built-in NFC and smart-tags, which can also be found on OPPO Find 5. It runs a customized Android 4.1 Jelly Bean, namely Nubia UI, its design and gesture are very similar to Xiaomi MIUI. Furthermore, the camera app on Z5 is quite remarkable and different, as it allows separate touch focus and touch exposure. ZTE offers two versions of Z5 — regular aluminum version and titanium-made version. The titanium version is super expensive and we don’t think it’s an ideal choice. ZTE promised to launch Nubia Z5 in China in January and to release it internationally, where the international version will add support for 4G LTE connectivity. If so, ZTE Nubia Z5 will be the only Chinese Android handset that has LTE support. A big thumbs up!
So, these are our top 10 smartphone choices of 2012. Which one do you like the most? Meanwhile, check out our 2011’s top 10 Chinese budget smartphones.
Been under a rock? See what else happened this year in our Best of 2012 series.
You Can Buy Fresh Crocodile Meat in China Supermarket
Lenovo First MediaTek-based Smartphone Teased by Kobe Bryant (Video)
Chinese Employees Ordered to Crawl Like Dog in Public to Cope with Stress (Video)
Chinese Scientist Only Interested in Porn and Pirated Movies, Not NASA Secrets