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Buying high-end phone in China

Buying high-end phone in China

Old Mar 18, 19, 8:19 am
  #1  
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Buying high-end phone in China

Salutations folks -

Will be spending quite a bit of time for work in China this year, and while I am an iPhone person (mainly because I am locked into the Apple ecosystem with the family) I fondly remember my Android days with an HTC phone. Intrigued by some of the higher end Chinese phones, especially the Huawei Mate 20 Pro. I will be doing some price comparison shopping (haven't done so yet, so this might all be a moot post) but if the price is right, might consider purchasing a phone while in Beijing. I would be using this mainly as a personal phone in Peru and in the US (I travel to the US quite regularly and use a pay-as-you-go ATT chip when there).

Assuming the price delta makes it worthwhile:

1. I would think I have to double-check that the software is not for a China-only model?
2. Issues with downloading Google and other apps blocked by the Great Firewall when I am out of China?

I have Chinese colleagues in our office in Beijing who I could ask to help, but would appreciate any advice on the above points.

Thanks!
powerful pete is offline  
Old Mar 18, 19, 11:07 am
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Originally Posted by powerful pete View Post
Salutations folks -

Will be spending quite a bit of time for work in China this year, and while I am an iPhone person (mainly because I am locked into the Apple ecosystem with the family) I fondly remember my Android days with an HTC phone. Intrigued by some of the higher end Chinese phones, especially the Huawei Mate 20 Pro. I will be doing some price comparison shopping (haven't done so yet, so this might all be a moot post) but if the price is right, might consider purchasing a phone while in Beijing. I would be using this mainly as a personal phone in Peru and in the US (I travel to the US quite regularly and use a pay-as-you-go ATT chip when there).

Assuming the price delta makes it worthwhile:

1. I would think I have to double-check that the software is not for a China-only model?
2. Issues with downloading Google and other apps blocked by the Great Firewall when I am out of China?

I have Chinese colleagues in our office in Beijing who I could ask to help, but would appreciate any advice on the above points.

Thanks!
Hey Pete,

You might want to wait a few days. Huawei is slated to release the 30 phone series soon (I think next week). I'm not sure if you can get the international version inside China. You may also need to sideload Google Play and any apps you want to use... Not sure if the Amazon apps are blocked there, but you may consider using that. While within China, you likely will not get app updates... And then outside of China you will be flooded until updates finish. Depending on the apps you use, this could cause issues... For example, some developers deny access to their servers unless you are within a certain range of versions of their applications. A VPN may help, but could cause you other issues. You may also get stuck with software meant for mainland Chinese that you cannot uninstall without rooting the phone. And rooting the phone may cause you other headaches. Also, Huawei phones might not work in the US if the government has any say. Stores are dropping the brand (eg BestBuy won't sell you one... Amazon might but not a guarantee).

Oppo and Xiaomi will also have similar issues except for the network access issue.
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At least you are doing your research first.

Good luck with whichever you choose.
StuckInYYZ is offline  
Old Mar 18, 19, 11:25 am
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Last year I was looking up on buying Huawei Mate 20X (China version), and it seems there are quite a few things you will need to do it make it work in the US.. things like side loading Play store and such. Everyone seems to say it is better to just wait for the Hong Kong version which seems to have less restrictions. I ended up getting the Pixel 3XL because of the amazing BF deal on Fi. If you want to get a China version Huawei phone, you will need to do some research like @StuckInYYZ said.
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Old Mar 18, 19, 2:58 pm
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Thank you gentlemen, this is indeed very helpful. I would primarily be using the phone in Peru and while travelling globally, but it would be my personal (not work) phone in the US, so I am interested in ensuring that it would work there also.

I am not particularly concerned about using the phone while in China - I have always used all of my usual apps with a VPN with nary a hiccup, but must admit I am not certain about whether I carried out any updates.

And a special thank you for the update on the new Huawei coming out.
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Old Mar 18, 19, 9:26 pm
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Originally Posted by powerful pete View Post
Thank you gentlemen, this is indeed very helpful. I would primarily be using the phone in Peru and while travelling globally, but it would be my personal (not work) phone in the US, so I am interested in ensuring that it would work there also.

I am not particularly concerned about using the phone while in China - I have always used all of my usual apps with a VPN with nary a hiccup, but must admit I am not certain about whether I carried out any updates.

And a special thank you for the update on the new Huawei coming out.
Regarding VPN, every few months, the Chinese government cracks down on VPNs... The GFWC can cause problems if your VPN provider is targeted in the current sweep (I remember my laptop needing over 4 hours to sync up with PIA before I could access my stuff at home). Also, keep in mind that with a VPN on a mobile phone, unless things have changed, will keep your phone's radio transmitting data (admittedly not a lot, but a trickle to maintain the connection to the VPN server). This can have a detriment to your battery life as well as your data plan if not checked.
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Old Mar 20, 19, 2:19 am
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Why not just get a Chinese-model iPhone (with dual SIM)? Those do work in the US for the most part and you can trade in any old/unwanted iPhones for a good value since they're really trying to drive sales with incentives (also check with your Chinese carrier for any that may apply) now that new iPhones are priced so high
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Old Mar 27, 19, 7:32 am
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Would definitely recommend against buying an Android phone in China. I say this as an Android user, who lives in China: but I never buy my phone here. As mentioned, to get Google Play on a Chinese phone is a major hassle, and things can and do go wrong from time to time. I have a Pixel (1st gen -- bought in the UK) and have never bought a mainland-made phone, but I would be surprised if prices were much cheaper here than the US, and certainly Hong Kong will be cheaper than the mainland.

Absolutely no point in buying a Chinese iPhone either: more expensive here than the US, even with recent price drops...

tb
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Old Mar 28, 19, 7:37 am
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Originally Posted by trueblu View Post
Absolutely no point in buying a Chinese iPhone either: more expensive here than the US, even with recent price drops...

tb
With the exception of wanting a dual physical sim version of an iPhone.
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Old Mar 30, 19, 12:43 pm
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Originally Posted by msp3 View Post
Why not just get a Chinese-model iPhone (with dual SIM)? Those do work in the US for the most part and you can trade in any old/unwanted iPhones for a good value since they're really trying to drive sales with incentives (also check with your Chinese carrier for any that may apply) now that new iPhones are priced so high
The Hong Kong iPhone model has a dual sim tray, not sure about China. I would be weary about buying a Chinese model phone, first for personal security reasons, second because Huawei and potentially other Chinese phones are likely to be blocked from access US cell networks in the coming months depending on which way the trade winds blow.

Much better off buying in Hong Kong, or even Japan - look for the ideal currency arbitrage option. I bought my iPhone in Japan specifically to enable SUICA services, and saved almost $200 due to the currency difference. Not sure about Google, but once Apple releases a model, the price is set, so when a foreign currency craps out, bargains can be found and there is even a website that helps you find the best country to buy an Apple product using currency arbitrage.
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Old Apr 2, 19, 12:59 am
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I would also caution against buying an Android phone in China. Trying to get Google play services installed and operating can be difficult and might involve needing to install and unlocked bootloader and rooting the phone. I don't have any experience with Huawei phones. I've been using midrange Samsung phones, Galaxy A9, C9, etc for a while now. I made the mistake first time buying in China, in Shenzhen. I thought it would be easy to find someone in Huaqiang Bei to install the HK firmware, but I ended up having to do it myself. Since then I buy these kinds of phones in HK where the manufacturer usually has different firmware with all the Google services preloaded. Not sure about Huawei, but I assume they do a similar arrangement since they also market these phones internationally, except in the US.

For a premium phone, iPhone X(S/R), Galaxy S10, etc its still cheaper even with sales tax in the US. They only benefit for buying in China or HK is getting dual SIM. For iPhone, only XS Max and XR are offered with dual SIM. The iPhone price in HK is very close to US with sales tax, so the addition of dual SIM might make it more attractive. I believe most recent (past 2/3 years) Hauwei phone would work in the US but only with T-Mobile or possible AT&T, even then getting LTE (4g) may be hit or miss in your service area. Verizon generally only supports the phones that they sell.

Getting past the Great Firewall is another challenge. If you use a data roaming SIM card outside of China, you will bypass the firewall, no restrictions. If using WiFi or local SIM you are restricted and need a VPN. Last year there was a crack down on the VPNs and access became very difficult. It eased up a little then got bad again in early March, coinciding with the yearly central government meetings. I use ExpressVPN which is costly and advertises as best VPN for China. Last month it was not usable for close to a week, but slowly recovered service. I also have a SIM card from Hong Kong with data roaming across China, so I can bypass the restrictions using that.

With all that said, the new Huawei phones look real nice and I've considered one. Would just buy in in HK instead of China where it would also be cheaper. Sorry just realized my post here is a little US centric so take what you need and leave the rest.
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Old Apr 3, 19, 12:13 am
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Thanks all for your valuable advice. I have taken it on board and will not be buying a phone on this trip to China (in Beijing at the moment). All you have said is absolutely true - and this is including my difficulties in using a foreign credit card for large ticket purchases here.

Off to google the on-line price for the Huawei P30 - love the initial reviews and the quality of the pictures it takes!
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