Great, but hard to get
U.S. smartphone shoppers have it pretty good, with a choice of everything from flagship devices by Apple and Samsung to budget options from Moto and others that still manage to offer appealing features. But not every great phone makes it to this country. Because there are plenty of people buying smartphones in China, India and elsewhere, many overseas phone makers are content to sell their devices there. (And in the case of Huawei, there are other factors keeping the phone maker from expanding its U.S. presence.)
That's a shame, because some of these phones are really pushing the envelope when it comes to design, cameras and other features, and some have actually landed on our best smartphones list. Even if you have no interest in importing one of these devices — assuming it's even compatible with U.S. cellular networks — it's still worth paying attention to these devices and the influence they're having on future phones that will be available here.
Credit: Tom's Guide
Huawei P30 Pro
Last year, Huawei's P20 Pro was a statement of intent from the Chinese tech giant, one that declared it was no longer willing to play second-fiddle to Google's and Apple's camera technology any longer. This year, the P30 Pro doesn't merely rank well against its premium peers — in a couple key areas, it absolutely trounces them.
Huawei's latest flagship adds a fourth camera to the mix, and consolidates the data received from all of those sensors into one optimal shot, no matter the conditions. The P30 Pro is capable of 5x optical zoom and 10x hybrid zoom, though its Night Mode where this device really shows its muscle, as it demonstrated in our comprehensive camera face-off against the Pixel 3. Sadly, Huawei is still keeping out of the U.S. for now, though the company's rising stock and global popularity means it's not difficult to get your hands on one, should you want to have perhaps the year's best camera phone in your pocket.
How to Get It: Vendors on sites like eBay are currently offering the P30 Pro to ship worldwide, for as low as just under $1,000. The phone is fitted with support for most of the GSM bands used the world over, so you shouldn't have any issues using it on T-Mobile and AT&T in the U.S.
Credit: Tom's Guide
Huawei Mate 20 Pro
The Mate 20 Pro may not be the newest kid on the block with respect to Huawei's flagship phones, but it still offers many of the same features and capabilities, albeit in a slightly different package. A 6.39-inch, AMOLED display curves around the front of the Mate 20 Pro, concealing an in-screen fingerprint sensor that we found a bit finicky in our testing, though still effective once you've gotten used to it. The trio of cameras on the back are boosted by Huawei's Neural Processing Unit, allowing them to recognize scenes and tune parameters on the fly to deliver the best possible image. There's a massive 4,200-mAh battery on board — even bigger than the one in the Galaxy S10 Plus — armed with reverse charging capabilities, so you can top off other devices that support Qi induction, simply by placing them on the phone's backside. Like the P30 Pro, the Mate 20 Pro is easy enough to track down online, and works well on U.S. networks.How To Get It: Huawei ships an international version of the Mate 20 Pro, fitted for GSM-based U.S. carriers like T-Mobile and AT&T, from Amazon. As with the P30 Pro, it'll set you back a little under $1,000.Credit: Tom's Guide
Oppo Find X
How do you get your gorgeous 6.4-inch display to span from one end of the phone to the other without having a notch to house the front-facing camera? If you're Oppo, you turn both the front and the dual rear cameras into a pop-up module on the Find X that appears whenever you unlock the phone or launch the camera app.
The pop-up cam is not just a gimmick — it's a powerful 25-megapixel shooter that has the AI smarts to smooth out your face in a pretty, natural-looking way. And the camera supports a 3D-facial recognition feature similar to the iPhone X's Face ID that can unlock your phone with surprising ease. The rear shooters are pretty solid, too. Add in iPhone X-like gestures, and you have a winner.
How to Get It: GearBest sells an unlocked Find X for $900; the phone supports many of the U.S.' LTE bands on GSM networks.
Credit: Tom's Guide
Xiaomi Mi Mix 2S
If you want to know where smartphone design is headed, cast your eyes across the Pacific to China, where Xiaomi is setting the pace. It helped popularize the bezel-free look that's so common among mobile devices these days, and the Mi Mix 2S continues that trend with an all-screen front and a gorgeous ceramic design. This particular model is of special interest to U.S. fans of Xiaomi's cutting-edge looks, as the Mi Mix 2S works with U.S.-based GSM networks like AT&T and T-Mobile. If you do go through the effort of importing it, you'll get a high-performance phone that will turn heads, although the cameras can be a little inconsistent.
How to Get It: You can buy an unlocked international version of the Mi Mix 2S on Amazon, though there's no warranty.
Credit: Tom's Guide
Vivo Nex S
Minimal bezels are nice, but they've left phone makers baffled as to what to do with the fingerprint sensor. Samsung moved the sensor to the back of its flagship phones, relocating it to a less-awkward position with this year's Galaxy S9 and Note 9 releases. Apple did away with its fingerprint reader on the iPhone X. But Vivo figured out a way to embed the fingerprint reader under the Nex S' screen and the result, while not always consistent, is a more immersive 6.6-inch display. A long-lasting battery and solid cameras make the Vivo Nex S more than a one-trick pony.
Credit: Tom's Guide
Xiaomi Pocophone F1
With its new Pocophone lineup, Xiaomi looks like it’s focusing on the smartphone essentials — performance, battery life and price. The just-announced Pocophone F1 ticks all those boxes with a top-of-the-line Snapdragon 845 processor, a 4,000 mAh battery and a $300 price. You'll sacrifice some bells and whistles: the F1 uses an older version of Gorilla Glass, for example. But Xiaomi is betting the new phone, which first debuts in India, will appeal to people who just want a strong performer that doesn't break the bank.
How to Get It: As of this writing, the Pocophone isn't yet on sale. It arrives in India on Aug. 29.
Meizu's 15th anniversary phone is all about delivering premium cameras at an affordable price. The Meizu 15 costs around $400 — or it would if you could buy it in the U.S. — but its dual rear cameras boast the kind of specs you'd expect from a much more expensive phone. The 12-megapixel wide-angle lens has an f/1.8 aperture, and there's a 20-MP long-focus lens to help deliver a 3x lossless zoom. A bunch of features, including a large image sensor, an optical image stabilization and multiframe noise reduction, help the Meizu 15 produce sharper images even if there's not a lot of light to illuminate your shot.
How to Get It: GearBest lets you import the phone, but the Meizu 15 doesn't support many of the LTE bands you'll need to use it in the U.S.
The good news is that some of Honor's phones, such as the Honor View 10, are available in the U.S., delivering flagship-esque features in a more affordable handset. But we wish the Honor 10 would join its smartphone sibling on these shores. While sporting similar specs to the View 10, the Honor 10 has a more stylish design, similar to the look of parent company Huawei's P20 phones. The Honor 10 is also more compact, and its dual-rear cameras have turned out slightly better shots in face-offs. The Honor View 10's a fine phone, especially if you don't want to spend more than $500, but we'd welcome the chance to decide between either of Honor's options in this country.
How to Get It: An unlocked version of the Honor 10 is available on Amazon, but 4G compatibility is limited in the U.S. The Honor View 10, which will work on GSM networks in this country, seems like the safer bet.
Oppo R15 Pro
You can be forgiven if you see a lot of similarities between the Oppo R15 Pro and the OnePlus 6. (The same company owns both brands, after all.) Both phones pack in premium features, while keeping a lid on prices. In the Oppo R15 Pro's case, the standout features are AI-powered cameras capable of identifying 120 scenes and adjusting settings accordingly, and an red chassis that really pops with color. At least those of us in the U.S. can get more performance bang — the $529 OnePlus 6 uses a Snapdragon 845 processor, while the Oppo R15 Pro (which costs around $550) makes do with a less-powerful Snapdragon 660.
How to Get It: We couldn't find a way to easily import the Oppo R15 Pro into this country.