Smartphones to get excited about in 2015

Chinese smartphones are turning up the heat on Apple and Samsung and these four names should definitely be on your radar.

Key Chinese smartphone brands such as Xiaomi, ZTE, Huawei and Oppo are continuing to act as the main catalyst for smartphone growth in emerging markets and are doing so at the expense of established global players like Samsung and Apple.

This year, Chinese smartphone makers outpaced the market as they continue to pump out quality handsets at extremely affordable prices and this trend shows no signs of abating as we head into 2015.

Here are four impressive Chinese smartphones that should definitely be on your radar in 2015.

Xiaomi Mi4

Xiaomi’s meteoric rise has been nothing short of phenomenal. In four years the company has gone from a little known startup to the third biggest smartphone maker in the world. At home, the Chinese company outsells heavy hitters like Samsung and Apple and has quickly earned itself a reputation of delivering quality mobile devices at affordable prices.

While most of Xiaomi’s success has been built on the back of strong sales in its home territories, the company’s latest flagship - the Mi4 - might just be the product that opens the door to global success in 2015.

The Mi4 best exemplifies Xiaomi’s ‘Apple of China’ reputation with an impeccable construction and a slick software experience. Xiaomi - pronounced ‘sheow-me’ - has clearly taken a lot of inspiration from Apple’s iPhone with a stainless steel frame, chamfered edges, thin bezels and a familiar square home button.

Internally, the Mi4 shares similar specifications to the OnePlus One with a 5-inch 1080p display, Snapdragon 801 quad-core 2.5GHz processor, 3GB of RAM, 16/64GB internal storage options and 13-megapixel rear camera though the Mi4 boasts an impressive 8-megapixel front facing camera as well.

Xiamoi’s slick software experience has also been receiving some major raps and for good reason. Xiamoi’s custom Android skin, MIUI (pronounced “Me-You-I”), is extremely fast, easy to use and receives Google level attention with weekly updates.

Xiaomi’s Mi4 is the strongest smartphone to come out of China and with an extremely accessible price point of $US389.99, it should definitely have big names like Apple and Samsung concerned.

OnePlus Two

The OnePlus One was one of the biggest surprises of the year - a flagship killer out of China that actually delivered on its much hyped promises. For a starting price of just $US299, the handset brought to the table top tier specifications that rivalled and, in some cases, outpaced industry heavyweights like Samsung’s Galaxy S5.

Apart from a middling camera, there was very little not to like about the OnePlus One. The thoughtful hardware design, powerful internals backed up by a fast and attractive Android experience made the OnePlus One an absolute steal (see our full review here).

The biggest issue with the OnePlus One has been the lack of availability. The smartphone was supposed to be released back in June across eighteen countries but availability has so far been extremely limited, with preorders requiring special invites.

Despite mass-production struggles, OnePlus is already hard at work on a follow up for release sometime next year. Little is known about the OnePlus Two but according to recent reports it will offer ‘plenty of hardware surprises’ including customisation options, top-tier specs and a price tag that will once again be substantially cheaper than much of the Android competition.

After an impressive debut, we can’t wait to see what the company has in store for the sequel.

ZTE Nubia Z7

ZTE is one of the top five largest smartphone manufacturers in its home market and in the top ten worldwide.

ZTE’s smartphone line has long been focused on the entry level market, however, the Nubia Z7 marks the company’s first attempt at a flagship with high-end specifications and hardware design.

On paper, the Nubia Z7 boasts hardware that rivals today’s top Android devices with a 5.5-inch 2,560 x 1,440 pixel resolution QuadHD display, 13-megapixel rear camera, 5 megapixel front facing camera, Snapdragon 801 2.3GHz quad-core processor, 3GB RAM, 32GB of internal storage, global 4G/LTE and nice extras like a dual-SIM card slot.

There are still a few unknowns about the Z7 such as when the handset will be sold outside of Asia  and for how much but it’s certainly a handset worth keeping an eye on.

Oppo R5 and N3

Oppo is no stranger to making headlines in the smartphone space.

The company released the world’s thinnest smartphone in 2012 and was also the first to market with a QuadHD (2,560 x 1,440 pixel resolution) handset in the Find 7.

Oppo is at it again with its latest flagships, the Oppo N3 and R5, both of which are due to go on sale in Australia in early 2015.

The company is holding onto the world’s thinnest smartphone title with the R5 which touts a ridiculously slender frame of just 4.85mm. The R5 holds plenty of appeal to fashionistas with its sleek and stylish hand polished stainless steel chassis that comes in silver or gold.

The R5 also boasts powerful internals and is one of the first smartphones on the market to use Qualcomm’s new Snapdragon 615 Octa-Core 64-bit processor. A Full HD (1,920 x 1,080 pixels) AMOLED display, 2GB of RAM and 16GB of internal storage round out the package.

Regular smartphone snappers on the other hand are likely to be drawn to the N3 which boasts a 16-megapixel Schneider lens camera that is capable of rotating from the back all the way to the front of the phone. The motorised camera rotation can be initiated either via screen swipe, the rear touch panel or a Bluetooth remote control included with the device. The benefit of having a 206 degree rotating camera onboard is that it can automatically capture panorama shots horizontally or vertically while you hold the phone still and can also serve as a high quality front-facing camera for selfies and video calls.

Blurry shots should be kept to a minimum thanks to a new software-based focus system that allows you to focus on moving objects.

There’s a fingerprint scanner on the back of the device that works similar to the finger swipe based system found on recent Samsung devices like the Galaxy Note 4. Aside from unlocking your smartphone and authenticating purchases, the fingerprint scanner can be used for encrypting private photos on the fly so only you can see them.

The N3 also boasts ‘VOOC’ rapid charging that will charge your phone from 0-75% in just 30 minutes.

Spec-wise, the N3 has all the typical numbers of a modern flagship Android smartphone: Snapdragon 801 2.3GHz quad-core, 2GB of RAM, 32GB of internal storage, 5.5-inch Full HD display, NFC and a 3,000mAh, fixed battery, global 4G in addition to dual-sim support.

The N3 carries a relatively premium price tag of $US649 and $US499 for the ultra-slim R5, however, local pricing is yet to be announced.