Buying a Chinese smartphone from Aliexpress can be cheap in terms of pricing, unfortunately the process is not that simple. You could be buying a phone from a dodgy farm house in Tibet, from an unknown company, only based on a few photos! For the newbie this is quite tricky.
Avoid scam on Aliexpress
Without a doubt there are elements of risk. The question is how to reduce that risk. Here is a set of tips and tricks based on my experiences with especially smartphones from Aliexpress.
Always buy from a well known seller. This is by the way true of any purchase or service you use either online or in real life. Finding a good online Chinese wholesaler can be difficult but with som normal reason and a little time spend chatting with the vendor you are practically half the way.
Choosing the right phone from Aliexpress
Second step is researching about the Chinese phone you want to buy. If you think Samsung’s range of different phones and models is large you have not seen nothing yet! The number and varieties of Chinese made Android smartphones is more than crazy. There are a couple of reasons for this. First is that there are lots of Chinese companies making Android phones, mostly for the Chinese market itself which you probably know is quite a big country. Secondly these companies tend to make smaller productions compared to the European an US market. This means they update and refresh their products frequently. It is not unusual for a phone to be in sales for just a couple of months when it will be exchanged by an updated model. This makes it essential to do some research about Android phones and updates before searching for any at all. Then read reviews from people who have actually bought the specific phone you are looking for. Check out YouTube videos to get a sense of look and feeling of the device.
Always pay by Escrow or PayPal. I prefer Escrow though. The primary method of payment for most Chinese wholesalers on Aliexpress is Escrow and never agree to something else. Avoid other alternatives like bank transfers etc. The reason for this is that if everything turns bad and you won’t get any satisfaction from the wholesaler, you can always try and get your money back from Aliexpress. Since these wholesalers rely on Aliexpress and Escrow for their payment processing they are quite responsive to questions and disputes that come from you and Aliexpress itself. Escrow will not release payment until you have received the goods.
Use the best shipping method you can afford (read here). A good courier is especially important when buying tablets or phones because it is a long journey and you don’t want to receive anything broken.
Customs and taxes on Chinese phones
Don’t forget the sales tax in your country, which is added on goods that are bought. When your new phone or tablet arrives from China your local customs office will want you to pay this sales tax and possibly also vat. There are a few things you need to know to make this as painless as possible. First, when calculating your budget you need to plan for this tax. The total cost of your new device will be price + postage + sales tax + vat. In many countries the cost of the postage is also subject to sales tax. Unfortunately most Chinese wholesalers don’t put the correct value of the device on the shipping information. A figure of $50 or $100 is often stated when the device cost maybe double that. The problem is that the custom agents know this and often won’t trust the value on the shipping information. Without a true number some custom agents will use a reference value based on the price of popular tablets from brands like Samsung. This means you could be asked to pay an unrealistic sales tax. The best solution is to have a print out of the order information showing the correct values. As mentioned above, if the custom duties are handled by the courier this process can be easier.
Sometimes you get lucky and the deliverance go right through customs and you have saved all the mentioned customs, taxes and vat.
3G and 4G are not the same everywhere. When buying a Chinese smartphone with 3G or 4G connectivity it is important to check which the frequencies the phone supports. Make sure the phone supports 2100 Mhz as this is the “international frequency” and normally phones capable of this frequency also support several different frequency ranges. A large portion of Chinese phones only support 850 and 2100 MHz.
If you keep this in mind, buying smartphones from China should be a simple process and you can save lots of money doing so.