One of 2016’s major trends will be the entrance of large Chinese OEMs into the American phone market. Announced at CES, Huawei is entering with their Honor lines of phones and now more are joining in. While Honor is selling unlocked phones through numerous retailers, Xiaomi and Meizu devices are being sold by US Mobile.
The phones carry over their cheap price points from their original markets, though US Mobile is giving consumers the ability to pay in monthly increments. Unlike cheap smartphones in the past, these devices maintain a high build quality. The Redmi 2 is $119 and the most expensive device is the $219 Mi 4i. In between is Meizu’s phablet-like M2 Note at $149 and the Xiaomi’s two year old Mi 3 for $139. Save for the Meizu device, all use a Qualcomm Snapdragon processor, have 2GB of RAM, and 16 or 32GB of storage.
The biggest caveat of all the devices is their lack of support for LTE bands in the US even though US Mobile uses T-Mobile’s network. Furthermore, Xiaomi’s and Meizu’s software is heavily skinned and the devices are running far from the latest version of Android. The Mi 4i is the latest device of the bunch and it’s running Android 5.0.2 Lollipop.
It appears that US Mobile is partnering with a Hong Kong based exporter that sells and fulfills the actual order. US Mobile’s CEO only makes references to partnerships with Xiaomi and Meizu distributors, rather than directly with the two companies. Overall, US Mobile’s decision to sell old devices is baffling. Similar devices with better specs and at the same price points, like the Honor 5X, offer consumers a better value.