If iPhones are too expensive, Chinese-made smartphones may be for you

Daniel Howley
Technology Editor

For the vast majority of Americans, the decision of which smartphone to buy comes down to the latest iPhone or Samsung Galaxy device.

But there are a slew of smartphone makers that many in the U.S. may have never heard of — mostly from  China — that are every bit as capable as their more mainstream competitors.

And while they won’t all work with all carriers, they’ll certainly save many consumers a good chunk of change.

OnePlus 3T

The OnePlus 3T

OnePlus is a Chinese-based company that makes ridiculously powerful, high-end Google (GOOG, GOOGL) Android smartphones for a surprisingly low price. The handset maker’s latest device, OnePlus 3T, features a 5.5-inch AMOLED display, 64GB of on-board storage, 6GB of RAM, a beefy Qualcomm (QCOM) processor and a 16MP rear camera. Those are some impressive specs.

To get that, you’ll spend just $439. Samsung’s Galaxy S8 and Apple’s (AAPL) iPhone 7 Plus, which also have 5.5-inch displays, cost $624 and $769, respectively. That’s a heck of a price difference for a phone that’s roughly on a par with Samsung and Apple’s offerings in terms of performance and features.

The only problem with the OnePlus 3T is that it doesn’t work with Verizon (VZ) or Sprint’s (S) networks. So if you’re an AT&T (T) or T-Mobile (TMUS) customer, you’re set. If not, then you’re out of luck.

Huawei P9

The Huawei P9.

Chinese smartphone maker Huawei might not be a household name in the U.S., but it’s one of the most popular handset brands in the world behind just Apple and Samsung.

The Huawei P9 is an Android-powered device with a slick dual-camera setup that can capture more light thanks to its use of a color and monochrome sensor. Translation: your photos will look better in low-light settings.

The 5.2-inch P9 comes in a 32GB model for $369 and 64GB version for $389. Both phones include either 3GB or 4GB of RAM and 8-core Huawei processors. However, like the OnePlus One 3T, the P9 only works on T-Mobile and AT&T, not Verizon or Sprint.

LeEco Le Pro 3

The LeEco Le Pro 3.

LeEco is the Netflix of China. Except it also sells smartphones and televisions to draw potential consumers to its services. The company has been trying to break into the U.S. market with little success so far, but it’s not for a lack of impressive hardware. Case in point: the Le Pro 3. Compatible with T-Mobile and AT&T, the handset is the kind of premium device you’d expect from Apple and Samsung.

It features a 5.5-inch display, though with a 1080p resolution, a high-speed processor, 4GB of RAM and 64GB of storage. The handset also gets a 12MP rear camera and 8MP front shooter. It’s a beautiful phone and certainly worth the $349 you’ll pay for it, as long as you’re not a Verizon or Sprint user.

Motorola G5 Plus

The Moto G5 Plus.

Okay, so you’ve definitely heard of Motorola before. The company, which is now owned by China’s Lenovo, built the communications devices that astronauts use when they landed on the moon.

But Motorola’s U.S. market share is as low as 4%., which means many of you probably don’t think of the handset maker when heading to the store.

If you’re in the market for a low-cost smartphone, Motorola’s Moto G5 Plus is a solid choice. Starting at $229, the G5 Plus has a 5.2-inch 1080p display, an 8-core processor, either 32 or 64GB of storage and a 12MP rear camera.

That’s a decent phone for a decent price.

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Email Daniel at dhowley@yahoo-inc.com; follow him on Twitter at @DanielHowley.

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