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Affordable Access

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Buying Cheap Products from Overseas

While this resource focuses primarily on products available in Australia, there are many overseas-based online retailers that allow you to buy consumer electronics such as smartphones and tablets from other countries – and the big one is China.

Oppo logo

Popular Chinese brands such as Huawei, Xiaomi, Meizu, Oppo and Elephone all offer modern smartphones and tablets with current versions of Android. Many devices sold by these manufacturers are under $250, and it’s likely that current models will contain more advanced features than devices sold in retail stores in Australia at a comparable price due to the high turnover of new products in the Chinese market.

Huawei log

However, purchasing these products from overseas via an online store is not as simple as buying a model locally – and you can buy quite a few Chinese brands from Australian retail outlets, both in stores and online, although they are likely to cost a bit more here.

If you do buy overseas, be aware that there are considerable risks concerning the quality of the device, its ability to work on Australian mobile networks, and a lack of local warranty support, so if you go ahead, you really need to do your homework first.
See the table below for a handy summary of the benefits and also what to look out for when you are thinking about purchasing affordable Chinese devices from overseas.

Chinese devices

Benefits Issues
Latest Technology: With high turnover of new models there’s significant potential for the latest technologies to be included, often comparable to those found in more expensive models in Australia. Compatibility: Device may not be compatible with Australian mobile networks. For example, 4G data networks are different in Australia to many other countries.
Latest OS: Current models of Chinese tablets and smartphones generally include current versions of operating systems such as Android. Quality: The build quality and how the OS works vary significantly between devices, making it difficult to determine the best option.
Value: Better value for money. Warranty: Unfortunately it is likely that the warranty of a device bought overseas would not be valid in Australia.
Unlocked: Most Chinese smartphones are unlocked meaning you can use the smartphone or tablet with a SIM from any carrier. Similarity: Devices with the same name as an Australian product may not actually be the same or have all of the same features included.
Convenience: your purchase is delivered straight to your home. Upgradability: It may be impossible to upgrade the operating system as Chinese manufacturers tend to focus on creating new products rather than updating old ones.
  Language: The operating system may default to a different language such as Chinese, requiring some assistance to change.
  Support: If you have difficulty in using the products, it may be difficult to get product support for a fault or query.
  Single-product purchasing: Online retailers based in China often focus on bulk purchases, making it difficult to determine the price if you wish to purchase just one item.
  Currencies: Prices are often displayed in $USD which can make products appear cheaper. For example, a $250 purchase in US dollars works out to be about $350 in Australian dollars.
  Authenticity of product: Some products may not be genuine, which may result in you receiving an inferior ‘fake’ product rather than the product that you intended to buy.
  Authenticity of retailer: Some retailers based overseas may not be legitimate and so caution is recommended when purchasing items from any online retailer based overseas.
  Delivery: Ordering from companies based in China may result in significant delays in the product arriving and there is always the possibility that a product could get lost, damaged or stolen. What’s more, the actual cost to deliver the product to Australia may not be fully explained when you buy.

Review websites of China-based devices

One of the most popular websites that review smartphones, tablets and wearables from China-based sellers are Gizchina.   The website has a number of lists relating to the best products available at different price points which can be useful in making a comparison.  The similarly-named Gizmochina also has lots of helpful up-to-date product information and reviews.

Gizmochina logoGizchina logo

Popular Chinese-based online retailers

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There are many China-based online retail stores which can make it difficult to know which ones are reliable. Research conducted for this resource has indicated that there are five sites that are popular among Australians purchasing consumer devices from overseas.

NOTE: Centre for Inclusive Design does not support or endorse any of the online stores listed above. People who wish to buy goods from these stores do so at their own risk.