What you need to know before importing that exotic Chinese Android phone
Friday November 9, 2018. 03:20 PM , from Ars Technica
Enlarge / The Xiaomi Mi Mix 3 Palace Museum Edition. (credit: Xiaomi)
In the last few years, we've witnessed a big change to the way the smartphone market works. China has become both the biggest smartphone market on Earth and home to some of the most interesting smartphone companies. Lately, all the cool and crazy smartphones seem to be launching in China first and then maybe (or sometimes never) in the rest of the world. This includes devices like the all-screen Oppo Find X with its crazy motorized pop-up camera. Earlier, you might have had an eye on the original Xiaomi Mi Mix, the phone that kicked off the slim-bezel smartphone craze.
With the United States often taking a backseat in the worldwide smartphone market, you might be tempted to import one of these exotic foreign smartphones. You can almost always do it—either through a random Chinese smartphone site or sometimes even on Amazon.com. The question is, though, should you? Importing a smartphone will result in a number of challenges, so there are a few things to think about.
The biggest problem you'll run into is with cellular connectivity, where a foreign phone might not work on your local cellular network. Each carrier has a set of LTE bands that it operates in, and while phones sold in the US are usually careful to hit the right carrier bands, Chinese smartphones might either not work on your carrier at all or work with reduced connectivity. Droid Life has a nice cheat sheet here for US networks, and you'll need to compare that to the spec sheet of each individual phone. The general answer is that you have a chance with GSM carriers like AT&T and T-Mobile, and Verizon is getting better thanks to VoLTE (Voice over LTE) which removes the need for CDMA. You'll have a much harder time with Sprint.
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