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Chinese Phone Brands and Non-Chinese Smartphones

Yesterday, a friend buzzed me up on WhatsApp. He was shopping for a new smartphone and wanted me to recommend one. He did not want a device from a Chinese phone brand. I will reproduce a small chunk of our conversation here for context.

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    • Friend: Bros…You are the master of this game. That’s why I want to ask you.
    • Me: Shoot.
    • Friend: Please, recommend me a phone of between $240 and $250 and with good battery life.
    • Me: Are there any brands you don’t want?
    • Friend: I do not want most of the Chinko (Infinix, Gionee) aside TECNO and Huawei. I can even extend budget to $320. I am tired of always charging.
Motorola Accompli 008
Motorola Accompli 008: long before arrival of the iPhone and the droids

So, I did a quick audit, and having eliminated all Chinese brands, I was left to pick a phone for him from Apple, Nokia, and Samsung. Those were the only non-Chinese smartphone brands left standing.


Someone will ask, “What of Motorola?” Motorola used to be an American brand but now belongs to Lenovo, which is Chinese. So, there’s that. And what of Blackberry? Well, it is still a Canadian brand, but when last did anyone here see a store selling a Blackberry phone? Aha. I cannot remember when last I did.

The Swing from Europe to China

Years ago, most mobile phone brands were European: Nokia, Siemens, Ericsson, Alcatel, etc. While there were brands from elsewhere, it was Europe that dictated the trends and had the numbers. But things soon began to change, and today, we are at a point where European smartphone brands are an endangered specie. As a matter of fact, some of the best smartphones in the world today are made in China.

Nokia is the last major European brand standing, though there are other smaller brands in operation all over the EU. Samsung and LG are Korean, and Apple and Google are American.

List of Chinese phone brands

It is a good idea to list out Chinese mobile phone brands at this point. It is a long list, so I will cover only the major brands.

    • Huawei
    • Honor
    • Xiaomi
    • Redmi
    • Poco
    • OPPO
    • Realme
    • Vivo
    • TECNO
    • Infinix
    • itel
    • Gionee
    • BlackView
    • ZTE
    • OnePlus
    • Nubia
    • Lenovo
    • Motorola
    • TCL/Alcatel
    • Coolpad
    • Meizu

The above are the top Chinese mobile phone brands in the world. Their devices are not just made in China; the origin of the brands is Chinese.

Made In China, but not Chinese

I expect people to respond and point out that most modern smartphones are made in China. That is true. But it is still not the same thing as those brands being Chinese.

All three of them have design and software input from their home bases. The labour force that put iPhones together may be Chinese, but the heart and soul of that phone is unmistakably American.

So, no; Apple iPhone is not a Chinese smartphone. Neither are Nokia and Samsung smartphones. But many of their models are made in China. If you want to know which phones are not made in China, the next section answers that question.

What phones are not made in China in 2021?

The big question is, are there any current cell phones not made in China today? If they exist, which ones are they and where are they made?

2021 update: Note that if you are hunting for smartphones not made in China, you are going to search hard and long. But, yes; cell phones that are not made in China exist. I can point you in the right direction.

In October 2019, Samsung closed its last mobile phone factory in China, though it later outsourced production of some models to a handful of China-based manufacturers in 2020. Sony also closed its China factory months earlier. Some Apple iPhone models are also no longer made in China.

So, where are Samsung phones made now? We know for a fact that Samsung (and Sony) smartphones are not made in China any more. For Samsung, most manufacturing happens in Vietnam, and some in South Korea and India. Sony phones are produced in Japan.

Librem, a US firm, makes its Librem 5 USA phone in the United States of America.

And there is ASUS, which has production facilities in Taiwan. Lastly, LG also makes its phones in South Korea.

Update: In order to lower production costs and stay competitive in the market, both Samsung and LG made moves to outsource 20 to 30% of their smartphone production to Chinese ODMs. (source). As such, some LG and Samsung phones are now indeed manufactured, once again, in China.

Here is the full list of phones that are not being made in China right now:

Which cell phones are not made in China?

Below are a few phone brands that have some or all of their products produced outside of China.

    • Samsung – Vietnam, India, South Korea. Samsung outsourced about 20% of its production to ODMs in China in 2020. Check out the latest Samsung phones.
    • Sony – Japan. Check out the latest Sony Xperia phones.
    • ASUS – Taiwan.
    • LG – India, Brazil. LG outsourced about 20%-30% of its production to ODMs in China in 2020. 2021 update: LG has ceased production of mobile phones.
    • Purism – The Librem 5 USA is manufactured in the United States of America.
    • Xiaomi – Some units are made in India for local consumption.
    • Motorola – Similar to Xiaomi, some of Motorol’s inventory is manufactured in India.
    • Apple iPhone. While most iPhones are made in China, some are produced in India.

We also know that some Apple iPhones smartphones are also not made in China. Some of Apple’s production happens in India.

LG, Motorola, and Samsung also have mobile phone manufacturing plants in Brazil, but production in the country keeps reducing and may be brought to a halt eventually, if that hasn’t happened already.

Mobile phone brands in the USA

There are scores of mobile phone brands in the USA. They include Apple, Samsung, Motorola, Nokia, OnePlus, BLU, CAT, TCL, and Alcatel. But none of their phones are made in the USA. Most are manufactured in China, and some in Vietnam, India, and other Asian countries.

Are there any cell phones made in USA in 2021?

A number of cell phone and smartphone brands used to manufacture their products in the United States of America. These include Motorola in its hey days. Motorola had a manufacturing facility in Forth Worth, Texas.

As at the year 2021, however, all manufacturing of American smartphone brands, except for one, happen outside of the United States. There are no cell phones and smartphones made in the USA any more. All Apple iPhones and Google Pixel phones, for example, are manufactured in Asia.

November 2020 Update: Librem has announced a US version of their Librem 5 security-focused smartphone, called Librem 5 USA. It is made in the United States of America via a US-based supply chain for increased security. This is the only known smartphone that is manufactured in the USA in 2021.

Are any smartphones made in Europe?

Gigaset is a mobile phone brand that manufactures their devices in Germany.

The best non-Chinese phone brands

There are over 100 non-Chinese smartphone brands in existence right now. Yes; over 100. The problem is that most of them are very small players and command a very tiny market share even when combined together.

It would be a tough job listing all of them here, so I am going to restrict this list to those that are the most visible and the best.

Apple is one of the best non-Chinese smartphone brands.
Apple is one of the best non-Chinese smartphone brands.
    • Apple iPhone – American
    • Samsung Mobile – South Korean
    • Nokia Mobile – Finnish
    • Google Pixel – American
    • Sony Mobile – Japanese
    • LG – South Korean (now stopped making phones)
    • BLU Products – American
    • Lava – Indian
    • Sharp – Japanese
    • Fairphone – Dutch
    • Philips Mobile – Dutch
    • Yotaphone – Russian
    • BQ – Spanish
    • Acer – Taiwanese
    • Asus – Taiwanese
    • HTC – Taiwanese
    • Essential Products – American (now defunct)
    • Nothing – British
    • Cherry Mobile – Philippino
    • DoCoMo – Japanese
    • Panasonic Mobile – Japanese.
    • Afrione – Nigerian
    • Mara Phone – Rwandan
    • Librem – American

These are the 20 best non-Chinese smartphone brands in the world today, for your information. Like I said, there are over a hundred of them – some of which you have probably never heard of before.

Because most of them are minority players, Chinese smartphones currently take up the largest chunk of the global smartphone market share. And they are likely to corner more of it in the coming years. But I digress. Let’s return to the focus of this blog post – non Chinese smartphones.

a non-Chinese smartphone - What phones are not made in China?
What phones are not made in China?

A non-Chinese Smartphone Brand in the Future?

Here is the thing: there is a strong possibility that one day, if you do not want a Chinese smartphone, it would mean that you do not want a smartphone at all.

Once upon a time, Motorola was so big and successful in mobile that it was inconceivable to think then that it would be sold one day. Not just sold, but sold to a Chinese company. Yet, it happened. Those of us who lived through Nokia’s hey days could have sworn that there was no way the company’s fortunes in mobile could change so drastically. But we saw it happen.

Samsung is currently struggling against the onslaught of Chinese smartphones – all droids – in the market. It does not look like they will win this battle. What is to stop an acquisition one day? Samsung Mobile as a subsidiary of say Huawei? Preposterous! But history tells us to not say never.

Or Apple in the hands of Xiaomi. Or Nokia in the hands of Transsion. *ducks and dodges stones and sticks* Calm down. None of these scenarios are impossible. If you have been around long enough in mobile, you are used to seeing it.

I watched as the great Ericsson merged with Sony to form Sony Ericsson. At the time, it was Ericsson that had the great smartphones and numbers. Sony was a small-time mobile manufacturer restricted mostly to the shores of Japan.

But after Sony Ericsson struggled for a while, guess who bought out who in the partnership? Sony. The great Ericsson Mobile was swallowed up by Sony. It is sad that Sony is still struggling till today though.

Anyway, you get my point by now. China has a huge and growing army of droids that are taking over the world. At the present rate, one day, all smartphones in the world might be Chinese. Just one day. Nothing is ever too far-fetched.

By the way, I got a recommendation for my friend. I am not telling you what non-Chinese smartphone brand it is. I don’t kiss and tell. *wink*

In Summary

    • You will have a hard time finding mobile phones that are not made in China; most cell phones and smartphones in the world today are made in China. Many of the best cell phones today are not only made in China, but are made by Chines phone brands. They are of Chinese origin.
    • A few phone brands like Samsung, Sony, LG, and ASUS have no direct manufacturing facilities in China. However, both Samsung and LG now outsource between 20 and 30% of their smartphone production to ODMs in China.
    • There are still about a hundred non-Chinese mobile phone brands in the world, but they are mostly small players, shipping low volumes and with limited market spread.
    • There are no more smartphones or other kinds of cell phones made in the USA as at September 2020. In November 2020, the Librem 5 USA smartphone was announced and is manufactured in the USA. It is the only American-made cell phone on record at this time.
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3 thoughts on “Chinese Phone Brands and Non-Chinese Smartphones”

    • Hi,
      Good article. But another challenge is to buy a removable battery phone.
      A non removable battery is NOT just a way to make you buy a new phone when the battery is dead. It is a way to geolocate you, everywhere, all day long ; as phones are geolocatables, even if shutdown, so long there is a battery in.
      Non removable battery is a pure invention of China communist dictatorship.
      Buy a removable battery phone. And sometimes, remove your battery. And go free.
      Regards.
      Pierre

    • I need to replace my old Motorola mobile phone and do not want to buy a one made in China. So, I initially bought a Samsung, but when it arrived, it was made in China, so I sent it back.

      I then bought a Sony, but that was also made in China, so it went back. I then bought a Nokia, but the too was made in China, so it had to be returned.

      I am looking for a phone in the £200 – £250 bracket, but cannot find one that is not made in China.

    • Hello John,

      That has been quite a journey. It is extremely difficult to find a smartphone in the budget segment that is not made in China. Manufacturing outside China means production costs go up.

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