Before You Buy: 4G problems with Chinese phones

Before You Buy: 4G problems with Chinese smartphones

Not all Chinese smartphones were created equal – for most people, top of the list of problems are issues with 4G compatibility.

Still, many people are finding quality and value in the smartphone market by choosing to import Chinese handsets instead of forking out for the big name brands.

You may have caught our previous guide, where we give a rundown of the Five Best Chinese Android smartphones in May 2017.

There are some drawbacks to importing a smartphone – there’s long delivery times, hold-ups at customs, missing software and often a lack of warranty.

As web content grows increasingly richer, a 4G connection is quickly becoming a must-have for mobile devices. Unfortunately, many Chinese smartphones can’t access 4G for all UK networks – making the process of importing a lot less appealing.

The problem comes from the different frequency bands that networks use to deliver 4G services.

Different UK networks run 4G on different frequency bands. Check the table below to see who’s running what.

Most issues for UK customers importing devices arise from smartphones missing the 800 Mhz frequency – also called band 20.

You can usually find out which 4G bands Chinese phones can access by looking in the phone’s technical spec details.

They will either be listed as the band numbers or the frequency bracket – sometimes lacking the “Mhz”.

There’s likely to be some Chinese bands listed in there, so the only UK ones you’re looking for are 800Mhz (band 20), 1800Mhz (band 3) and 2600Mhz (band 7).The five best budget Chinese smartphones in May 2017

For example, the popular OnePlus 3T on sale here under Network, says: “4G: FDD-LTE Bands 1/3/5/7/8”.

That means the phone can access 4G on EE and Three SIM Only deals, but not on O2 or Vodafone.

If you make sure to check your network’s 4G band and the specs of the device you’re purchasing match up, you should have no problems getting full use out of a Chinese import.

Alternatively, you can switch to a SIM Only deal on a network that supports your phone’s 4G capabilities.

All the other mobile networks in the UK (the MVNOs) run on the networks of the four listed above. If the main network supports your phone, any MVNOs using it will be supported too.


Samuel Newman is a consumer journalist and blogger based in Sheffield.
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