America’s called the land of the free and home to the brave. But are you free to purchase the flagship of your choice from your local carrier? It’s not always the case. While iPhones, Galaxies, and Pixels are well-stocked at T-Mobile or Verizon, some of the biggest phones aren’t available at these storefronts.
What do these phones have in common? They all hail from China — Trump’s enemy du jour. That doesn’t mean you can’t find a high-end Chinese phone, but it can be tricky. Let’s dive into the top three phones you can’t find through an American carrier to see if they’re worth the trouble.
1. Oppo Find X
Outfitted with a Snapdragon 745 chip, face unlock, 8 GB of RAM, 3,730mAh battery, and 256 GB of storage, the Find X stands up against most midrange smartphones.
How it stands out is its 6.42-inch Panoramic Arc Screen. Taking up more than 94 percent of the front of the phone, it delivers a stunning display with barely-there bezels, forehead, and chin amounting to a 19:5:9 ratio.
Without a forehead or the omnipresent notch in recent flagships, there’s no front-facing camera. Don’t worry about Find X owners though. They can still take amazing selfies with the handset’s pop-up camera. It slides a modular piece up from the back to expose a front-facing camera.
This moving part makes attaching a protective skin or case almost impossible, but the Find X’s camera is more than a gimmick asking for damage. It has an innovative new camera system with AI-enhanced 3D lighting and recognition techniques working as your pocket consultant.
Oppo decided it wouldn’t support a launch in the US because it wasn’t ready to deal with the American market yet. It did, however, launch in Europe and Asia with surprising success. It sold more than $15 million within the first 15 minutes, breaking records in China and the Philippines.
2. Xiaomi Mi MIX 3
The next Chinese phablet you can’t buy in the US is Xiaomi’s MI Mix 3. It comes with the typical hardware you want in a smartphone, including Snapdragon 845 processor, face unlock, options of 6, 8, or 10 GB of RAM, and options of 128 or 256 GB of storage.
Its 6.39-inch Full HD+ AMOLED display covers almost 94 percent of its screen to deliver another stunning display for browsing, viewing, drawing, or taking notes.
Like the Find X above, it also has a sliding camera module that accommodates its huge screen-to-body ratio. It springs up when you’re ready to take a selfie, and reviewers say its function is eerily similar to the slide-y phones of yesteryear — which earns brownie points with any nostalgic texters missing this old hardware.
Again, this moving piece makes it challenging for anyone looking to add a case. To make up for this, the rear-facing camera system comes with four lenses, some of which come equipped with portrait mode, studio lighting effects, and AI scene detection.
Although Xiaomi wants to make it big in the US market — perhaps one day even rivalling Apple or Samsung — it’s not actively pursuing traditional carriers. Enough of its phones enter the US through resellers.
3. Huawei Mate 20 Pro
We end with the premium flagship produced by Huawei, the Mate 20 Pro. It has souped up specs that place it in the running with other big flagships, like the Pixel 3 XL, iPhone XS Max, and Galaxy Note 9. Its edge-to-edge display is reminiscent of Samsung’s Infinity Edge display, and it comes with all the hardware you want in a phablet.
Its camera has won the award for best camera in a smartphone last year. Set up with three rear-facing lenses on the upper back, it manages to take clear and dynamic shots in a variety of conditions. And, unlike the two smartphones above, it has a normal front-facing camera, so there’s no need to slide to snap a selfie.
That means you won’t have any trouble adding a skin or a case to this handset. You can easily find a Mate 20 Pro skin or a Mate 20 Pro wrap online from a company like dbrand. They think your phone should look cool while it’s protected. You can customize the look of your phone with scratch-proof and grime-resistant Mate 20 Pro skins in black marble, stone, and carbon fiber textures.
Trump is toying with an executive order that would sanction all Huawei products. The effects of this political gambit are already happening, as the Mate 20 Pro isn’t available to purchase in the U.S.
Like the Find and Mi MIX 3, the Mate 20 Pro is a phone you have to work extra hard to get if you live in the U.S. You can’t just trade in your current handset for one of these Chinese smartphones; you have to go online to purchase it unlocked from a reseller, and you might have to pay extra to get it shipped.
So now, the real question is, are the handsets worth the trouble? Let us know if you plan on tracking down one of these Chinese smartphones and tell us how it goes.