When people come across an Apple or Samsung smartphone while shopping online, there is hardly any doubt about its durability or overall quality. The concern is usually about the features it has to offer. These brands have a reputation for making quality smartphones.
However, the mainstream smartphone brands aren’t the only ones you’ll find on e-commerce stores like Amazon and AliExpress. These are dozens of little-known phone brands that make attractive products. But can we trust them? Which of them are worth trying and what unique features do they have to offer?
Best quality price report
One of the distinguishing features of lesser-known smartphone brands is their relatively cheap price. Ironically, their cheap prices are part of the reason people avoid them. However, in the age of thousand-dollar smartphones, are little-known alternatives that offer similar specs at lower prices worth considering?
For example, the Samsung Galaxy S20 Plus sells for around $700. With 8GB of RAM, 256GB of ROM and impressive processing power, there’s a lot to like about the specs of the device. However, the Umidigi Bison Pro, which has relatively similar specs (at least on paper) and which you’ve probably never heard of, sells for $170.
Is the cheapest brand worth considering if you need a phone that can handle the basics?
To be clear, the Samsung model outperforms the Umidigi model. We’ve already covered why Android phones can have similar specs but different real-world performance. However, the difference in quality is not alarming if you need a phone that can handle basic smartphone operations. Considering the $530 price difference, it’s tempting to say that the Bison Pro seems to offer better value for money.
It’s not just Umidigi, there are dozens of other little-known brands that offer great value for money. Their products aren’t necessarily the best out there, but they produce budget phones with enticing specs. You’ll find brands with phone models that offer amazing battery capacity, camera quality, charging speed, and processing power at affordable prices.
The price is certainly the main feature of most small smartphone brands. But beyond the significantly lower prices, what’s so special about these little-known brands?
Why should you consider buying little-known brands?
Realistically, buying an unnamed Android phone brand is a risk. There is a 50/50 chance of regretting the decision or getting a happy ending. So if you’re seeing signs that your current phone needs replacing, why should you consider little-known, unproven brands?
Well, small brands have a lot to prove. As a result, they usually try to go above and beyond, but within their retail prices. Although they can use mid-range hardware to build some of their parts, they try to increase this by innovating.
For example, the Umidigi A9 uses the mid-range Helio P60 chipset, but it also comes with an infrared thermometer. Similarly, the Oukitel WP7 increases its weak points with the adoption of a “night vision” camera system supported by a huge battery capacity of 8000 mAh. For every feature they lack, these smaller brands usually come up with something appealing.
Unlike the big names, no-name brands aren’t afraid to try new ideas. Sometimes it works, and sometimes it goes wrong, but they keep trying anyway. If you want to try something drastically different, less popular smartphone brands are a great place to look.
Plus, and perhaps the best thing about little-known smartphone brands is their ability to deliver premium features without sky-high prices. These brands spend a lot of time trying to get as many premium features as possible into phones that are usually available for a quarter of the price that popular brands with similar features are sold for.
You’ll get plenty of storage space, huge battery capacity, a gaming chipset, and built-in fast charging in the budget offerings.
However, not all of them are worth considering. Some are rushed and ridiculous clones of popular flagships while others are, simply put, technical failures. So how do you choose the right ones? How can you choose, say, a $150 smartphone that offers impressive specs and a happy ending?
Some little-known smartphone brands worth trying
You’ve probably come across many little-known smartphone brands on e-commerce sites like AliExpress and Amazon. But how do you know which works and which doesn’t? Here are some little-known Android phone brands that make cheap and durable products with high-end features.
Umidigi smartphone models are mostly sleek mid-range metallic phones with fashionable specs and good battery life. You’ll find plenty of models that are similar in spec to popular flagships, but cost just a third of the competition. Their cameras are a bit hit or miss depending on the model, but some can go hand in hand with some flagship models from popular brands.
Umidigi tries to offer trendy features like side-mounted or in-screen fingerprint scanners, edge-to-edge AMOLED displays and fast charging. Some good Umidigi models to consider include the Umidigi A9 Pro, A11 Pro Max, Bison Pro, and Bison X10.
If you’re wondering how long you’ll be able to enjoy the specs on offer before things start to go haywire, it varies. While the durability of recent Umidigi models (from 2021) can be described as “impressive” and “admirable”, finding an older low-end durable model is, to put it simply, a game of luck. As a general rule, avoid older models.
2. Tecno and Infinix
If you want to give little-known brands a chance, Tecno and Infinix are good places to start. Both brands are subsidiaries of Shenzhen-based Chinese tech company Transsion Holdings. Tecno and Infinix aren’t exactly newcomers, they enjoy considerable patronage among middle-income markets in Africa, the Middle East and South Asia.
Infinix and Tecno smartphones are generally mid-budget devices that adopt as many features as possible from popular flagship devices. You’ll find plenty of models with sleek premium designs, impressive cameras, and high-end MediaTek and Qualcomm processors. Their products are generally durable.
Tecno models to consider include the Pova 2, Pova 5G, Camon 18 Premier, and Spark 8p. Infinix models to consider include the Zero X, Hot 10i, Hot 11, and Note 12.
Both brands typically offer models with large battery capacity and high refresh rate displays, as well as mid-range and high-end chipsets that are good enough for lag-free mid-level gaming. Their cameras also offer mid-range performance.
Both brands offer models that either emphasize certain features (like battery and camera) or try to give equal attention to all the specs on offer. The Tecno Pova series, for example, emphasizes chipset and battery life and might suit gamers on a budget.
Phone brand Oukitel is another Shenzhen-based Chinese smartphone maker. Oukitel smartphones are mostly mid-range performance devices with a particular focus on battery life and durability.
You will find dozens of Oukitel smartphone models that can last several days on a full charge. Some Oukitel models (the rugged WP series) reach up to 20,000 mAh of battery capacity.
Camera quality varies greatly depending on the model. Some are pretty good while others are downright mediocre, and even for “good enough” don’t expect Google Pixel’s camera quality levels. Nonetheless, the Oukitel models are capable and impressive considering their prices. Some models come with features you’ll only find in high-end flagships from major brands.
However, many Oukitel models are bulky (especially the WP series) due to their huge battery capacity. The C-series is much slimmer but with less battery capacity. But that doesn’t mean the C-series had poor battery life. Since you’ll likely be ordering online, it’s important to check height and weight before placing an order.
What could go wrong?
The biggest problem with buying unknown brands is software support. Devices may not start with the latest version of Android, and most are unlikely to be updated. More importantly, regular security updates are also less common and you’ll get them for less time.
There are undoubtedly security issues when your phone no longer receives updates, and this is one area where paying more for your Samsung or OnePlus phone is definitely worth it.
One of the other major issues with buying smartphones from lesser-known brands is buying a faulty device. This is usually the result of poor testing processes. Every once in a while, a few defective units slip in and end up with unlucky buyers. This doesn’t necessarily mean the whole model is bad, just a few units that haven’t been properly checked. However, this rarely happens.
And then there is the problem of after-sales service and spare parts. Since these brands don’t have a global reach, it can be a little tricky to access support and get repairs if you need them.
Are no-name brands worth it?
If you’re on a budget or just want a different smartphone experience, trying another little-known brand is worth it. They offer excellent value for money and you will be able to enjoy a wide range of premium features without worrying about the price.
Of course, you may have to deal with a few shaved features. But for every feature shaved off, you’ll get a significant price reduction. Just make sure you know what you’re buying first. As a general rule, thoroughly research any little-known brand before committing financially.