No iPhone 8, only local brands for me!
No sooner had Apple announced the iPhone 8 and iPhone X than WeChat users flooded Moments with opinions on the new devices. Many people were ready to trade in their old phones, while others were cautious because of the high price tag – the iPhone X will cost $1,000 in the US but might be more expensive in China.
The commotion was contagious. I especially enjoyed memes expressing nostalgia for the phones people used 10 years ago. My feed was filled with photos of Nokias that could fit into the palm of my hand and tiny Samsungs and Sony Ericssons that were a hit long before touch screens took off.
I still have the Nokia I bought in China. Sending a text on its tiny gray LED screen required some skill, so much so that it didn’t take long before I upgraded and had my first encounter with the iPhone.
I can commiserate with the Chinese consumers who think the iPhone is too expensive. I think so too, which is why I bought one secondhand for dirt cheap. It was a major upgrade from the prepaid phones I normally used. However, good things can’t last forever, and this one ended when I accidentally left it behind in an airport after having too many samples of whiskey.
Afterward, I couldn’t shell out so much cash for a device when something could go wrong so easily. I’ve watched friends lose phones in taxis after nights out in Beijing, drop their phones into the toilet and continue using a phone with a cracked screen because they couldn’t afford to replace it. I told myself there had
to be devices out there with a better value. So, I began researching Chinese phones.
At the time, I changed course. One of the hottest Chinese phones on the market was the Xiaomi. A few of my friends had them, and it looked slick. It was big, yet slim enough to easily grip with one hand; it had a great camera, and branding and marketing that made me feel a part of something bigger. It was also no secret that Xiaomi had international ambitions and like Apple, wanted to provide its customers with technology and devices that would easily integrate into their lifestyles. It didn’t take long before I was addicted. It also didn’t take long before I lost my first Xiaomi phone. This time, it was in a parking garage; I guess it fell out of my bag. My friend joked that I needed to attach my phone to a lanyard around my neck. Luckily, the money I saved on the first Xiaomi was enough to upgrade to the newer version to replace the lost phone. I have experimented with other Chinese phone brands since then, but I never returned to the iPhone. I’ve even had a few friends switch to a Chinese device after they experienced issues with their iPhone battery. It’s certainly easy to get caught up in all of the hype about smartphones. But when it comes to practicality, frugality and dealing with the woes of absentmindedness, I am thankful there are local brands that satisfy all my needs.