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6 quirky, fun Chinese phones we found at MWC 2017

The halls of Mobile World Congress are filled with smartphones, wearables, and all manner of other cool mobile tech; but we always love discovering all the new phones that may not get the recognition they deserve. This year we were spoiled with choice, so we put six of our favorites into a roundup, which encompasses some brands you may know already, such as ZTE and Meizu, along with some you may not. Here are some of the other fun phones that caught our eye at MWC 2017.

Gionee A1 Plus

Gionee is becoming a regular fixture at Mobile World Congress, and this year it returned with two phones, the A1 and A1 Plus. The latter is the most technically impressive, with a pair of 16-megapixel cameras on the back, and a giant 20-megapixel camera for selfies. It’s that camera which has some of the coolest features, such as generating the bokeh blurred background effect to improve portrait shots.

The phone packs a large 4,550mAh battery, and a MediaTek P25 processor, plus some fast charging technology for the battery. It feels solidly made, and the design is attractive, but it doesn’t break new ground. The software let the device down, with the camera app reacting slowly and some overall slowness. The lag may be cured by the time it goes on sale, which will happen in April. You’ll be able to get it in select markets for 500 euros, which is around $530.

Ulefone Armor 2

Likely to be a name that’s new to many, Ulefone showed the Armor 2 at MWC 2017, a super-tough phone that’ll be out in June or July this year. The good news is that unlike many phones sold online or via importers, it has a wide range of bands for great international support — including for those needed to work in the United States.

It’s a monster, too, and really earns its name. The body is made from metal and plastic, and the device will have IP68 water and dust resistance, plus there are physical buttons under the screen and down the sides to make it easy to use while wearing gloves or if the phone is wet. The plan is to put the new MediaTek Helio P25 processor inside, a massive 6GB of RAM, and talk of a very special fingerprint sensor.

Meizu M5S

Announced just before Mobile World Congress opened, this was the first opportunity for Meizu to show off the M5S, a mid-range Android smartphone that uses the company’s own Flyme user interface over the top. It’s considerably more compact than several other phones on our list, with a 5.2-inch screen, that sadly only has a 1,280 x 720 pixel resolution.

The rest of the specification includes a 13-megapixel rear camera, a 5-megapixel camera, and a 1.3GHz MediaTek processor. Meizu’s fast fingerprint sensor is onboard, the body is made from metal, and styled like most other Meizu phones. Which means it does look like an iPhone, but that’s not always a terrible thing. The price hasn’t been announced yet, but it’s out soon.

ZTE Blade V8 Mini

Dual-cameras are about as trendy as smartphone tech gets, so it’s great to see them incorporated on low-cost phones; and while we don’t know how much the new ZTE Blade V8 Mini will be, it’s certainly going to be cheaper than the $230 Blade V8 Pro. The body contains a 5-inch, 1,280 x 720 pixel screen and has a fingerprint sensor on the back — another surprise for a budget phone — plus a Qualcomm Snapdragon 435 chip.

The dual cameras recreate the blurred background effect, and we gave it a quick try. How good they looked depended on the environment, but we did manage to take some good-looking shots, while the software itself was easy to use. The Blade V8 Mini will hit Europe and parts of Asia in March.

Nubia N1 Lite

Nubia may be best known for expensive flagship phones like the Z11, but it also makes low-cost phones like the N1 Lite. It’s a large device with a 5.5-inch display, but the resolution is 1,280 x 720 pixels, and while it has Android installed, the version we tried had version 6.0 rather than the latest 7.0 Nougat release.

The good news is there’s a fingerprint sensor on the back, while the cameras have 8 megapixels on the rear and 5 megapixels on the front. The specification may not be that exciting, but the large 3,000mAh battery should keep all this running for a few days before needing a recharge. The price has yet to be confirmed, but the N1 Mini should be on sale internationally in March.

Doogee Shoot 1

Never heard of Doogee? We’re not that surprised, but it’s another company on our list that proves dual cameras on smartphones are the in-thing with its Shoot 1 phone. Except it’s doing it at a really low price: You can pick up the Shoot 1 for just $130 through importer GearBest if you want to give it a try.

For this, you get a pair of rear cameras — one with 13-megapixels and the other with 8-megapixels, which are made by Samsung — a Sharp 5.5-inch screen with a 1,920 x 1080 pixel resolution, plus a MediaTek octa-core chip. The downside is the software, which is Android 6.0 Marshmallow, and a little bit slow and awkward on the model we tried. Still, it’s hard to argue when the phone is so cheap.