Best smartphones you’ve probably never heard of
You know the major players in the smartphone game: the best phones in the world today are made up of all the big names from Apple to HTC, Samsung to LG and beyond.
But what about those smartphones not popular in the Western markets? Just because a handset isn’t popular somewhere, doesn’t mean it’s not one of the best. Some smartphones are just a little misunderstood – so we’ve collated a list of those we think are worth checking out.
We’ve looked at their unique selling points, the main market it’s aimed for – and just how hard it is to get your hands on one of these ‘alternative’ handsets if you’re so desperate to stand out from the crowd.
Sharp Aquos Crystal X
In Japan the Sharp brand is much more closely associated with the world of smartphones. The Aquos family highlights that and this device has a lot of alternative quirks compared to the rest of the market.
The main draw is the ultra-thin bezels that we’ve never seen on other handsets before. The display on the Aquos Crystal X is 5.5 inches with a 1080p resolution, a Qualcomm Snapdragon 801 chipset, 2GB of RAM and 16GB storage.
It’s interesting we haven’t seen the bezelless display technology move over to other products available in the west – but maybe it won’t be long before one of the big global players joins in.
- Price: 23,000 Japanese Yen (around US$195, £135, AU$275)
- Availability: Japan
- USP: Just look at that bezel. You can’t…
If you’re after something with a big batch of power, Ulefone has the perfect choice that is never going to let you down for battery.
The phone features a 5.5-inch HD screen, fingerprint sensor, Android 5.1 software, 3GB of RAM and a 64-Bit Octa-core processor. But the real highlight is the huge 6,050mAh battery that’s included inside.
Ulefone has managed to create a rather good looking phone considering the size of the battery pack that’s inside there. It comes with either a blue, white or wood effect metal back and isn’t all that thick.
- Price: US$189.99 (around £130, AU$260)
- Availability: Shipped from China
- USP: That massive battery
There’s a small chance you may have heard of this phone if you live in the UK, but it’s a smaller brand not many people have heard of. Let us fill you in: a lot about about the Wileyfox Storm hints at a premium phone, but the price point is surprisingly low.
Wileyfox is a new start up that has put together a phone with a great 5.5-inch Full HD display, 32GB of storage, a 20MP camera and a (middling) Qualcomm Snapdragon 615 processor.
But it’s all about the price of the Wileyfox Storm. It’s only £199, which for a phone with this high-spec is very impressive. You just have to trust a smartphone brand you’ve never really heard of and live in the UK.
- Price: £199 (around US$290, AU$400)
- Availability: UK only, so far
- USP: That low, low price point
Lumigon T2 HD
Lumigon aims to satisfy the stylish consumer using buzzwords like “elegant” and “exclusive look” throughout its press materials.
As much as we detest the language, we have to admit the Lumigon T2 HD has a nice design with water and dust resistant technology built in without compromising the stylish look. There’s a 4.3-inch display with a 720p pixel resolution, a Snapdragon processor clocked at 1.7GHz and 2GB of RAM.
Storage goes up to 128GB with a 13MP camera on the back and it’s running Android 4.4 KitKat. The Danish price of the phone comes in at 4449 Danish Krone, and a straight up conversion makes that about £460 in the UK.
- Price: DKK 4.449 (around US$665, £460, AU$930)
- Availability: Denmark, US and other European markets
- USP: Stylish design
Fairphone has one key aim, to create a smartphone restricted to “ethically sourced” materials. The company aims to create a smartphone using only conflict-free resources as well as paying workers a reasonable wage throughout the production process.
You have to admire the intention behind it. The company has now made its second phone and this time around it’s modular so you can swap out elements and not have to dispose of the whole phone after 24 months.
It runs Android 5.1 software with a 5-inch 1080p display, a Qualcomm Snapdragon 801 processor and 2GB of RAM. There’s also 4G LTE and 32GB of storage.
If you want one, it’s shipping now – but it may take a bit longer for you to get one as there’s limited stock of the Fairphone 2 right now.
- Price: €525 (about US$600, £410, AU$835)
- Availability: UK
- USP: Ethically sourced
Karbonn Titanium Octane Plus
After a few years of focusing on affordable handsets, Karbonn has tried to break into high end smartphones and it’s done pretty well with its latest offering.
Despite sounding like something you’d place in the Hadron collider at CERN, this low-cost phone managed to sell really well in India last year.
It doesn’t have the top of the range specs you may hope for though. It features an octa-core MediaTek processor clocked at 1.7GHz, 2GB of RAM and a 16MP rear camera.
There’s also 16GB of internal storage with microSD support up to 32GB and Android 4.4.2 on board as well.
- Price: INR 9170 (about US$135, £95, AU$190)
- Availability: India and China
- USP: Sold well in China and India
If you have heard of any of the devices on this list, it’s likely this one. The Yotaphone 2 gained a lot of attention for its unique dual display design offering an e-ink back panel for certain apps and to save on the battery.
The e-ink display works with certain apps such as Facebook, Twitter, RSS feeds, messages and eBooks offering a much better battery life than your average full blown display.
That battery is a 2500mAh sensor whilst the front panel is a 5-inch Full HD display. Under the hood is a Snapdragon 801 processor clocked at 2.2GHz with 2GB of RAM and 32GB of internal storage on board. Plus we gave it 3.5 stars in our full review.
- Price: £359 (around US$520, AU$730)
- Availability: UK
- USP: e-ink display on rear
It’s not an iPhone you see before your eyes, it is in fact the MEIZU MX4. With a 5.4-inch display on the front and a octa-core MediaTek processor underneath this certainly isn’t a flagship phone to be sniffed at.
There’s also 2GB of RAM, storage choices up to 64GB and a varied range of colour options including grey, black, white and tan.
As for the camera it’s the same 20.7MP sensor you’ll find in the Xperia Z3+ range with a 2MP sensor on the front for selfies.
At the moment the handset is running Android, but it’ll soon be getting an update with Ubuntu Phone on board as well.
- Price: £180, US$290, AU$400
- Availability: UK, US and Australia
- USP: Ubuntu Phone coming soon