There are countless advantages to picking a Chinese smartphone over one from a Western manufacturer, from price to software, there are some things that the lesser known Chinese brands do that nobody else can replicate. The problem for those of in the UK looking to import is whether they’ll function properly when they arrive here. It’s a question I’m constantly being asked, though the answer is rather multifaceted. Faced with such a conundrum, I came up with the best solution around – a guide. So, without further to do, let’s discover what does and what doesn’t work on a Chinese Smartphone in the UK. (All information correct as of November 2014)


4G in the UK is operated across three different spectrum bands, 800MHz, 1.8GHZ and 2.56GHz. The UK carriers like EE, Three, O2 and Vodafone all use a mixture of these three in order to assure high speeds and good penetration into buildings. So far, so good, but China uses a variety of bands, some of which are compatible with the UK and some are not. As such, phones will vary in their support for LTE in the UK, and it’s best to check on a website like GSMArena to ensure that your phone can support UK 4G.


All UK networks operate on the 21000Mhz spectrum for 3G internet connections, as do Chinese phones, but again, it’s worth checking before you buy it that it operates on these frequencies. It’s also worth noting that with both 4G and 3G, some configuration may be required on your end in order to get them to work. Remember, these phones were never designed to work in the United Kingdom and it might take changing a few settings to get them to work. There are plenty of enthusiast forums which may be able to help youn with this, should you need it.


Thanks to the universality of the Micro USB cable these days, unusual chargers or foreign plugs are a thing of the past. Your new smartphone will most likely come with its own charger, but feel free to discard it and use the one you’ve doubtlessly got around the house. The only current phone which doesn’t use a Micro USB is the iPhone, so unless you’re going from that to a Chinese smartphone you’ll be absolutely fine.


Most smartphones ask you the language you’d like to see during the process of setting up, but if your smartphone doesn’t, don’t panic. It’ll be buried somewhere in the settings and thanks to the highly graphical nature of most modern smartphone UI’s you should stumble across it soon enough. That being said, don’t expect perfect English all over the UI as some are badly translated. Call it weird or call it charming, it’s one aspect of owning a Chinese smartphone that you’re going to have to learn to love

Calls and Texts

Regular phone functions like calls and texts will work perfectly well in nearly all Chinese smartphones, as they operate on the GSM network like ourselves. Some of the more obscure Chinese smartphones may run on the CDMA network though, so it’s worth looking up which¬†your new phone uses. If it says GSM you can rest easy, it’s that simple.

If you have any specific questions feel free to ask them below, the community and myself will do our best to see if we can help you out.

About The Author

Editor in Chief

Ten fingers, five senses, one man, loads of Chinese smartphones.

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  • Craig Gilman

    Interested to see a comparison – like Which Chinese smartphone is equivalent to Samsung S5 or HTC One M8 etc… i.e. similar specs etc.

    • AlecCSUK

      Hello Craig, I’d love to do this sort of thing but with how quickly Chinese smartphones are released and the variability in specifications (lots of Chinese smartphones use Kirin processors rather than Qualcomm) it’s hard to get an exact read. Websites like GSM Arena have superb databases that are worth referencing if you want to directly compare phone specifications, too.

  • Shen Zhenteng

    Hi there I would really like to purchase the Nubia Z9 (bezel-less display version) but I’m getting confused with all this cdma, td-scdma and hsdpa stuff can you this explain to me please? and do you think this phone will work in the UK in terms of using it on the Three network as I know when you buy mainland phones you have two versions one that only works on chinese 3g and the other on worldwide 3g. Thanks!!

  • Ben Dickinson

    Hiya. I’ve recently got a Lenovo A588t (not on any list I can see) and when I put my Virgin Mobile sim card in, it will not recognize the network? I am at my wits end because I cannot find any info on the net relating to this phone.. Can you please advise which networks should support it?

    Thanks Again.

    • AlecCSUK

      Hi Ben. From what I can find on Google, the phone supports GSM networks for Edge/2G and HSDPA/CDMA for 3G. You’d be better off going into a Virgin shop and asking them what frequencies their network runs on and getting more detail from Lenovo customer service.

      Good luck, sorry I couldn’t help more.

  • GRACE scott

    Hi, I am a bit of a tech dummy, is there anyway if you could tell me if the Chinese verion of the new Huawei P9 will work properly in the U.K? Really appreciate any advice you can give me. Cheers, Grace

  • Michael van der Sanden

    I recently bought a Huawei P8 from Amazon, shipped from China. It came entirely in Chinese and changing the factory settings to English did not change all of the Chinese to English. Also, updates from the update section from the phone do not install, they fail at 4% every time. Could this be due to it being only capable of installing Chinese updates due to restrictions? It wont accept my SIM card either despite it fitting perfectly in the slot and it working in my old phone. It isn’t useable in the UK and I’m not sure if there’s anything I can do to rectify any of it or am even able to return it (waiting to hear so from the seller).

  • Steve Tisdale

    i just bought a dk 35 smartphone but my uk sim card won’t work (i just get emergency calls only) any ideas on how to solve this?.

  • Scott Fleming

    I have a UK Huawei P8 on contract with ee here in the UK. In 2 weeks I move to China for 12 months and was wondering whether there is anything I can do to this phone so that I can use in China with a Chinese SIM on a Chinese network?

  • Iqra Rani

    I have a Lenovo A5600, What sim works?

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