Based on my wanderings in episode 1, Dubai would be the place to shop for a 4” Samsung smartphone. But even at 150€, it’s 3 times the budget. What exactly do I expect to find for 50€? Maybe a clone of the one-line-display yellow Ericsson phone I used around 2000? I understand your doubts.
I came across this site: www.gizchina.com. The guy who runs this place is specifically passionate about Chinese Android phones, especially high-spec ones. I like people who are specifically passionate about something I hadn’t thought about before. So no Ericsson clones, here, rather octacore ultra-thin 5”+ smartphones. From Xiaomi, JiaYu, iOcean and Elephone. Hmmm, who are these guys exactly, are you thinking? Well, the big players of a 1+ billion market. You also come across Lenovo, Huawei and ZTE on this site, which sound a little more familiar and reassuring, but these do not seem to be the ones leading the game. As of this writing, the headlines of the blog are “Top 140 quad-core MT6582, dual SIM phones!”, MT6582 being a processor. Top 140? How many are there exactly in total? Browsing this site is a paradigm changer. These phones do not appear to be a poor-man’s Samsungs, they appear to be innovative smartphones with great designs (OK, generally inspired from the successful models you’ve seen before). I’m talking based of what I read, I haven’t had one in my hands yet to say whether quality, finishing and durability are better than what most of us associate with “Chinese”.
And it’s cheap. You might not be aware of this, but there are dozens of Chinese online stores selling Chinese products to the Western world. Let’s go visit the strangely-named www.chinabuye.com. For cellphones, here, you have two categories: China Brand Phone and Chinese Phone. China Brand lists mostly brands you will not have heard of before, while China phones are the generic phones. They have kind of warned you, don’t come complaining if the “China Phone” you bought does not work as expected, you should have chosen a Brand phone. Without a good knowledge of the market, therefore, I go to the Brand section. For budget phones, you’d better head to the brands you’ve come accross before: Lenovo, Huawei, ZTE. JiaYu, Zopo and others are the better ones. ZTE for example offers a 4” dual-core 512Mb RAM Android 3G (WCDMA – the one we use over here) phone at 57€. At the other end of the spectrum, the 5” iOcean X7S is an octacore with 2GB RAM at 200€ on www.dx.com. I’d probably actually go for that if I was shopping for myself.
As I said, there are dozens of such online stores. Some are listed here for the specific need I was interested in for this article. There’s also en.jd.com which is the English version of one of the largest online stores in China. The largest e-store in China appears to be www.tmall.com, which does not seem to have an English version. There however appears to be “helper sites”, to help you order from Tmall through an English-speaking intermediary. That’s a great idea if done properly, I’m thinking, and there it is now on my nearly-infinite “to explore” list. I sticked to ChinaBuye (it has an accent on the u that I’ve never seen before, so it intrigued me, although I don’t know exactly how to pronounce the name) and ordered the 57€ ZTE.
Very well, you might be thinking, now China’s not exactly next door, so whatever you save on the price you’ll be loosing on shipping. Actually no, even shipping is surprisingly cheap. There are various shades of cheap, although less than fifty. If you’re not in a hurry, you can choose Singapore Post Registered Mail and it’ll cost you 1.9€. That’s actually the only option available for shipping to Morocco, which is all right, as we’re not in a hurry here. For France, for example, there are other options: China Post for 1.1€ or DHL or similar for 17€. I wouldn’t choose China Post, as the site tells you not to (“20-35 working days, Slow Now”). DHL will be delivered within 5-8 working days. Hong Kong post is not an option for cellphones, they don’t ship batteries for some reason (bad luck as it would have been “7-20 working days, Quick Now”).
So here we go, with the extra “it’s my first time” insurance:
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