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Where to buy Chinese smartphones – reliable websites

Buying Chinese sourced goods can save you hundreds of dollars/pounds; but there are risks.

In this article:

Comparison of prices as @ 6 Jan 14 for the:
iNew i6000 1GB/16GB” (the only 6.3+ screen size phablet I could find on all sites)

Marketplaces; lowest priced seller on:

Actual stores (on my shortlist):

 


Which websites to use?

After researching the best web-sites for Chinese phones I ended up with a shortlist of 4. Please read the whole article as some issues might affect you even if you use the shortlisted stores.

BangGood (the one I used – see my review)

  • Web of Trust (WOT) rating: Good (see latest)
  • TrustPilot score: 9.2/10 from 341 reviews (beating Amazon, eBay, Newegg see latest)
  • ResellerRatings score: 8.79/10 from 628 reviews (beating Amz, eBay, Newegg see latest)
  • GizChina: 5/5 from 5 reviews (see latest)
  • UK’s Reviewcentre: no reviews
  • Paypal or Credit/Debit Card (confusing but you click on”Checkout with Paypal” for both options)
  • All types of goods (including adult)
  • Also US & UK warehouses with a small range of items.

My first choice. I checked (3 Jan 14) for negative comments on its Wot Scorecard  and gave up the first 10 pages (ALL positive).  Its ResellerRatings score beats Amazon, Newegg & eBay, but like them has some negative comments. I also discovered Banggood sell on NewEgg as MobileWorld (at higher prices) where they do have bad reviews. I checked pages 1 & 2 of comments; most related to delivery e.g. “Over 2 weeks and still have not got it” and lack of tracking. NewEgg only offers free delivery (unlike Banggood’s own site); and as I point out in Issues, delivery from China using normal post is always slow.

Placing your order: I think its been fixed, but I had problems entering my address. I got round this by registering and providing my address before placing an order and then it worked fine. By registering I was given a Coupon code for more discount. It hasn’t resulted in me being spammed.


DealExtreme

  • WOT rating: Excellent (see latest)
  • TrustPilot score: 8.5/10 from 333 reviews (see latest)
  • ResellerRatings score: 7.1/10 from 4650 reviews (see latest)
  • GizChina: 3.6/5 from 5 reviews (see latest)
  • UK’s Reviewcentre: 4 reviews 75% recommend (See latest)
  • Paypal or Credit/Debit Card
  • All types of goods
  • Also has Hong Kong & other(?) warehouses
3rd Jan 14. WOT indicates a very high confidence in its “Excellent” rating. This means it has had a huge amount of feedback and the overwhelming majority are very happy with the company. However; of the comments on the first 2 pages of the scorecard, there was a “neutral” comment on page one, and on page two, out of 9 comments 4 were negative, and one was neutral. Its score on ResellerRatings wasn’t as good as Banggood, Merimobiles, Newegg, or Amazon.co.uk but was better than Amazon.Com and eBay.


MeriMobiles

  • WOT  rating: Good (see latest)
  • TrustPilot score: 7.9/10 from 57 reviews (see latest)
  • ResellerRatings score: 8.3/10 from 192 reviews (see latest)
  • GizChina: 3.6/5 from 14 reviews (see latest)
  • UK’s Reviewcentre: no reviews
  • States it is a Canadian company
  • Paypal or Credit/Debit Card
  • Sells smartphones and tablets etc
  • Shopping cart has option to “root” your phone for $6.95
  • Easy to search for phones by screen size

3rd Jan 14. Its ResellerRatings scores is better than Amazon.com & eBay but is beaten by Amazon.co.uk and NewEgg. WOT indicates average confidence in its Good rating; however only 6 raters have included comments of which 3 are “poor customer experience”.The site has a page where you can download firmaware updates. I’ve included it in this list because it is easy to find the type of phone you want, and because of the rooting option. I would consider using this site if I couldn’t find the item wanted on Banggood for a similar price, or if I wasn’t sure whether I could root the phone myself.


Pandawill scrapes onto the list due to good phablet search filters, and for phones not sold by the above. However, I have a lower level of confidence in it than the above stores because of a poor Trustpilot score and the issues mentioned in comments below. I’d consider buying from Pandawill if I couldn’t obtain the specific product I wanted from one of my other shortlist stores.

Pandawill

  • TrustPilot score: 2.8/10 from 60 reviews (poor) see latest)
  • GizChina: 3.2/5 from 15 reviews (see latest)
  • UK’s Reviewcentre: 267 reviews 64.4% recommend (See latest)
  • Paypal or Credit/Debit Card but use Paypal, see comments below
  • All types of goods

It is rated “good” by WOT with very high level of confidence i.e. lots of feedback – and overwhelming favourable. HOWEVER, of the raters who also posted comment (3 pages) most are negative.

Quite a few comments are by WOT forum members (who probably aren’t customers) stating Pandwill spammed the WOT forum and is also displaying unauthorised Visa and Mastercard Trustmarks. This made me doubt their payment system; but if there was a problem I would not expect its 1021 reviews on ResellerRatings to result in an average score of 7.09 (similar to dx.com).

I tested the shopping cart. Credit card payments are processed HTTPS by Globebill.com a legitimate Chinese Credit Card processing company used by Shenzhen merchants. WOT comments on Globebill point out its unauthorised use of Trustmarks – so it may be Pandawill is innocently but illegally using these courtesy of its Card processing company.

If you do decide to use Pandawill use Paypal (in my tests I was taken to Paypal’s site for processing).  Although the CC company may be legitimate, because of its apparent dodgy tactics, I would only be “70% comfortable” with them processing my card.

Like Amazon & eBay, other stores have affiliate partnerships for sites linking to them. I decided to affiliate with the ones shortlisted. It won’t affect the price you pay, but I’ll earn commission if you buy from them – and start to cover the costs of my website. I’ve not affiliated with any site I would not be prepared to use myself.


Buying from shops on Marketplace sites

The same issues apply as buying direct apply.

Amazon, NewEgg (US only) & eBay:

In summary: probably more expensive than buying from a good website store. Some stores also sell on these sites – but may charge you more. Many sellers are middlemen who may know no more about the item than the description they have been given, you are dependent on the reliability of BOTH them and the real supplier.
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Customer Feedback

All were rated excellent on WOT. I was surprised that my shortlist stores had better ResellerRatings scores than Ebay & Amazon.com; and my first choice beat all 3:

Top of Shortlist: 8.9 (628 reviews) | Newegg: 8.66 (39891 reviews) | Shortlist bottom: 7.09 (1021 reviews) | Amazon: 5.4 (2240 reviews) | eBay: 2.5 (163 reviews) | (see latest scores)

Check the sellers negative feedback

97% positive means 3 out of 100 customers are unhappy. It could be that 97% of customers receive satisfactory products, but the 3% who don’t are ignored by the seller (who may be a middleman – see below).

Choice

It was difficult to find 6.3 inch+ Chinese phablets on Amazon & NewEgg. I could only find one on NewEgg.There was much more choice on eBay, but searches also listed small low spec sub $100/£70 tablets. The headings for these tablets included “phablet” or “phone”. On reading the specs, some, at least, would not have phone capabilities unless you purchased (from your network?) a plugin 3G modem.

You may end up buying from a supplier you could have used direct for less
e.g. Banggood sells the iNew i6000 for $319 on NewEgg but only $259 on its own site.

The seller may be a middleman with no stock.

You are dependent on both seller AND supplier. After you’ve paid, the seller buys the item from a supplier who ships it to you (the package won’t identify the real supplier). The seller may even buy from a site you could use (all shortlisted stores offer dropshipping for sellers).

Even this article for sellers states dropshipping “will result in more fulfilment errors, mistakes, and logistical problems“. Examples: Fulfilment – the seller finds his supplier is out of stock. Resolving problems: the seller has to relay messages to & fro between you and the supplier.


 

AliExpress & Dhgate:

Aliexpress and Dhgate are English language Chinese marketplaces. They can have low prices, but beware dishonest sellers and a higher risk of ending up out of pocket.
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Should you use these sites?

It depends how risk un-averse you are. Personally, I wouldn’t use Dhgate. If it meant a significant saving, I’d maybe consider buying on Aliexpress from an established seller (18 months plus), with lots of feedback and well above average rating. Aliexpress seller feedback provides this information.

I recommend you read this forum’s topic on Aliexpress risks and benefits. Some snippets from it:

x “The key thing people need to remember is approach Aliexpress like you would eBay, then multiple that caution by ten.”
+ “sometimes has lower prices”
+ “You might actually be dealing directly with the manufacturer”
– “WARNING: There have been a number of MTKforum members and GizChina readers who have suffered at the hands of dishonest Aliexpress sellers!”
– “Fake ratings”
– “Difficult to get a refund”

Feedback on these sites:

Aliexpress was rated “excellent” on Wot, and DHgate “good”. ResellerRatings feedback was poor; Aliexpress: 4.6/10 from 68 reviews (see latest) and DHgate only 1/10 from 77 reviews (see latest). TrustPilot ratings are low (AliExpress latest) and very low (DHgate latest).

You will need to check out the ratings of the seller you intend to use on these sites.

Prices

I checked out prices (qty 1, with delivery) for the Elephone P6 2Gb/32Gb (the smartphone I wanted), and the iNew i6000 1Gb/16Gb (the only 6.3+ screen size phablet sold on all sites mentioned in this article).

Warning: be careful when ordering. Searching Aliexpress for the iNew 6000 also displayed results for the cheaper iNew 3000. Also, when clicking through to sellers for the Elephone P6 2Gb/32Gb the price was often for the 1Gb/16Gb model and you could end up with this lower spec model unless you manually ticked the 2Gb option.

DHgate was more expensive than Aliexpress or the shortlist stores for both phones.

The Elephone was cheapest from Banggood (shortlisted store). (Shortlisted Stores $241.99; DHGate $249.99; AliExpress $254.66)

The 2 lowest price Aliexpress sellers of the iNew i6000 were noticeably cheaper than both shortlisted stores and other Aliexpress sellers. HOWEVER, one was a new seller without feedback. The other had been a seller for 6 months, had below average feedback (34 positive, 7 negative, 2 neutral); negative comments concerned items never being received, or not being as described/fake. (AliExpress $180; DHGate $270; Shortlisted Stores $249)


Pitfalls – it’s not the same as buying from your local shop

This section covers some of the things you need to be aware of when buying goods sourced from China.

If you buy Chinese goods from a reputable site you might save yourself hundreds of dollars. I think the pros outweigh the cons, but you do need to be aware that:

  1. Items apparently in stock are sometimes not. Despatch/delivery are always slow – with normal post it could be over a month before you receive your item. So pay for express delivery but even then don’t expect to get your item in under 8 days.
  2. Manufacturer quality control is unlikely to reach Samsung levels.
  3. Sites selling goods from China have a bad reputation for resolving after sales problems.
  4. Even a “good” company with positive feedback (because the majority of customers receive satisfactory products), may not be so wonderful in resolving problems for the minority who receive faulty products and you may end up out of pocket.
  5. Even if the store is willing to help with your faulty/missing item; distance, timezones, Chinglish, and having to return the item make it a difficult process.
  6. Don’t buy counterfeits or well known brands – they might be fakes. If your delivery is intercepted the item will be seized and you could be in trouble. Also, items produced for the Chinese market may not be certified for use in your country. The phablets I was interested in were marked FC(USA) and CE(Europe) indicating compliance, but you can’t be sure this really is the case. I’ve heard of large commercial consignments being seized for non compliance/safety; so I guess if you are very unlucky and your small item is checked and does not have appropriate marking then import may be refused.
  7. Typical free delivery won’t include customs handling by the shipper, this might mean you avoid paying import taxes, alternatively the package may be “intercepted” adding considerable delay whilst you are notified taxes are due and make your payment. With “express” delivery the shipper will probably handle Customs paperwork on your behalf and bill you; this means you will pay tax and a shipping admin charge. My Phablet’s tax & admin was £19; the Delivery Section of this link explains how this worked for me.

These issues also apply to shops on Amazon, NewEgg and other market sites. See “Buying from Marketplace sites” below.


How to check the trustworthiness and reliability of websites

Tips and information sources that help you avoid bad websites.

A multitude of websites sell Chinese goods. I used these methods to shortlist the stores I’d be prepared to use. Obviously, I can’t guarantee these steps will identify every bad site or eliminate all chance of receiving bad service.

1. Ignore any site not green rated by Web of Trust (WOT): Security sites/addons warn you if a site contains malware, but they don’t identify whether a site has unhappy customers – WOT will.

You can check a website’s “scorecard” on WOT’s site, but better still install their browser addon it will display a green blob in your browser toolbar (and warn you if a site is red rated).  The browser addon saved me loads of time as I ruled out non green rated sites immediately.

2. Ignore any site where WOT’s rating is based on a low volume of responses: I ruled out sites with less than 3 people icons. With a small volume of scorers unethical sites can more easily influence their rating. Also, read WOT Scorecard comments – but remember that unhappy customers are more likely to post.

3. Check customer feedback on TrustPilot & ResellerRatings.Com

4. If you are buying a pahablet or smartphone these may also be of use:

GizChina store ratings, GizChina “Where to buy” forum, DroidChina “Where to buy” forum. There are only a small number of ratings and posts, but some of the members are knowledgable and their comments are useful.

5.(Lastly): does it have competitive prices for the items I want?


Bought from China? Post a comment on how it went.

Your input is welcome. However, I won’t publish spammy recommendations etc. So, before posting please read the do’s and don’ts in the first comment below.

3 Comments

  1. AW
    AW

    January 15, 2014 at 8:59 am

    If you are recommending/criticising a company please follow the guidelines below. It will help me prevent the false comments I see on other blogs, where the poster has a commercial relationship with a particular site. These cons devalue your genuine comments.

    • Do provide a genuine email address – it won’t be published, but I may want to contact you – I may even try and follow up problems with the supplier.
    • Please provide details of your experience e.g. the item you bought, was it satisfactory, whether happy with speed of delivery.
    • Don’t con readers with your commission earning links e.g. “I had great service from hltp://xyz.com/your_commision_code”
  2. I live in South Africa and have used both Dealextreme and Tinydeal without problems thus far. I’ve only used the free shipping, and have received all my parcels, albeit about six weeks after ordering. One problem is poor packaging, so beware of ordering items which are too fragile to survive the journey.

  3. There are too many websites where we can buy our long-awaited mobile. I always use a tracker sites like http://www.kimovil.com. Its use is very simple, always helps you to choose the phone you’re looking for. And most importantly, always get the best price among all sites in the market.

    I hope I have helped you

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