Import of smartphones from China

Import of smartphones from China –

duty regulations, useful tips

China is the world’s biggest smartphone manufacturer: in 2013 the country has produced 423 million units and the majority of them were exported to foreign markets. The demand is still rising and will not be satisfied soon, but before going straight into action, we should examine several features of Chinese smartphones and decide which type fits our needs.

oem smartphone

In theory, the importer can purchase smartphones of three types: the first category is OEM products; the second – Chinese brands; the third – foreign brands manufactured in China. The last category should be dismissed in the very beginning, because foreign brands have their own channels of distribution and smartphones sold by the Chinese trading companies are usually fake ones. Let’s analyze two former categories.

OEM business is relatively easy. OEM stands for “original equipment manufacturer” – the Chinese company produces a customized smartphone according to the foreign company’s wish. Product has a Western brand, the Western company sometimes participates in the design process and may be responsible for smartphone’s software. The Chinese market is very competitive and flexible – almost every kind of delivery requirements can be met.

Another solution is to distribute the products of some dynamically growing Chinese brand, such as Xiaomi, which created hype comparable with iPhone popularity in the West. There are several other companies, such as Meizu, Oppo, Jiayu or Gionee. The products of those companies are significantly cheaper than the corresponding products of Samsung or HTC. As far as memory cards, version of Android operating system and camera capabilities are concerned, these models do not fall behind the world’s high-end smartphones, but there are always some issues: operating system and applications are not optimized, so apps are crashing or working too slow. Chinese OEM smartphones use cheaper chipsets manufactured by Taiwanese company Mediatek, while most of the world’s high-end devices use faster and more reliable chipsets from Qualcomm Snapdragon series. From the end-user point of view, this difference can be important only in the case of some 3D games and is almost non-visible in the daily usage. Chinese OEM producers cannot offer after-sale services and warranty repairs abroad, so you have to find a suitable solution for your clients, otherwise every technical problem will seriously undermine your reputation.

Chinese smartphones can suit the needs of various users. Dual SIM is a well-known feature, but in several models you can enjoy four SIM cards (quad SIM). Smartwatches? Less than half a year after the Galaxy Gear by Samsung appeared on market, Chinese firms have manufactured a variety of smartwatches. The phones may be also equipped with a shock-proof and waterproof casting, but in order to know its real capabilities, we should have it certified by an independent research agency (afterwards, the phone is described by an IP code: f.e. IP57 – waterproof).

European and American duty rate for smartphones is 0%, VAT tax rate may vary. In case of the small import (single devices) we should ask our supplier to label the parcel as a “gift”, in this circumstances duty authorities may restrain from imposing duty.

Our order can be placed online: Alibaba and Aliexpress are the best known B2B sites, the former is used for big deals, the latter – for private orders. Of course we should remember about basic safety measures, only the usage of professional verifying tools may help us to determine the identity of our Chinese counterpart.

We have already analyzed the import of electronic devices in the previous blog posts: Guide for Importers of Electronic Equipment and Tablets from China.


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