7 awesome smartphones you've never heard of

Going beyond Apple, Samsung, Sony and HTC

There's a dizzying amount of choice out there for the discerning smartphone buyer, and that's just from the big brand names that everyone's heard of - Apple, Samsung, HTC, LG, Sony and now Google. Cast your net a bit further and there's even more choice to be had.

You don't want to be picking up a new handset without checking out everything that's on offer, which is why we've put together this guide. These are some of the best lesser-known phones to impress us, even though they might not grab as many headlines as their rivals.

The problem with more obscure phones is that fewer stores stock them - it's the recognisable brands that pull in the cash. You can find these handsets online, but run triple-checks on the retail stores or buyers that you're purchasing them from first.

Huawei Nova Plus


Chinese outfit Huawei has made big strides into western markets this year, and while its P9 smartphone might be its best in terms of specs, the Nova Plus is probably better value.

You get a large, bright 5.5-inch display running at Full HD resolution, 3GB of RAM and a Snapdragon 625 inside. There's 32GB of space on board plus a microSD card slot.

Camera-wise you get a 16MP snapper around the back of the phone, and there's Android Marshmallow on board. All this for a price a step down from the top level, if you can find it on sale in your part of the world.

Price: £489 | Buy Huawei Nova Plus

Nextbit Robin


The 5.2-inch Nextbit Robin burst onto Kickstarter late last year and after a very successful campaign is now is available to buy for anyone. It comes with a Snapdragon 808 CPU, 3GB of RAM, 32GB of internal space and - importantly - 100GB of cloud storage.

The Robin promises a new type of smartphone OS: one that automatically adapts to your needs (it runs on top of Android), and makes sure you always have free space on your device by shifting unneeded apps and older files to the cloud.

Other "cloud-first" features are on the way, Nextbit says, and it's got an appealing, distinctive look about it too, if you want to stand out from the crowd.

Price: $299 (about £245) | Buy Nextbit Robin

Fairphone 2


Like the Robin, Fairphone 2 takes an alternative approach to smartphones, one that's built on eco-friendliness and sustainability.

As much as possible, the Fairphone 2 is designed and built with environmental responsibility in mind - that ranges from the conditions at the mines where the metals are taken from, to the ease with which you can repair it if something breaks.

You don't get the most blistering set of specs in the world but it's not the phone's main focus: there's a 5-inch Full HD screen, 32GB of internal memory (which you can expand with a card), 2GB of RAM and a Snapdragon 801 processor.

Price: £440 | Buy Fairphone 2

YotaPhone 2


If you want blazing fast gaming performance then look away now... but if you're after a phone that turns heads whenever you bring it out then the YotaPhone 2 should certainly be somewhere on your shortlist.

Its unique selling point is the smart-looking e-ink screen around the back of the phone, so you can keep an eye on the time and incoming notifications without losing much battery.

Besides the dual screen feature, the phone comes with a 5-inch display, an 8MP rear-facing camera, 2GB of RAM, a Snapdragon 801 CPU and 32GB of storage space.

Price: £230 | Buy YotaPhone 2

Meizu MX6


You might not find much of a Meizu range down at your local smartphone store, but the Chinese company has put out some very impressive handsets in Asia and further abroad, including the newest MX6.

It rocks a 5.5-inch Full HD screen, a 12-megapixel camera, a Mediatek MT6797 Helio X20 CPU, 3GB or 4GB of RAM and 32GB of storage space, though that's not expandable. The beefy 3,060mAh should get you through the day and beyond and there's a 12-megapixel rear-facing camera too.

We should mention its rather appealing looks too - it can certainly hold its own against the likes of Samsung and Apple.

Price: £349 | Buy Meizu MX6

Xiaomi Mi 5s


Xiaomi is another successful Asian company now looking to make it big in other parts of the world, and the Mi 5s is the latest and greatest handset from the firm.

It comes with a top-end Snapdragon 821 processor, 3GB or 4GB of RAM, and 64GB or 128GB of internal storage space depending on how many photos and videos you want room for (there's no expandable storage). There's a 12-megapixel camera at the back and a hefty 3,200mAh battery too.

Your only problem might be getting hold of one - but there are plenty of decent alternatives in the Xiaomi range too.

Price: $419 (about £345) | Buy Xiaomi Mi 5s

Oppo R7


Finally (though we could have added several more) there's the Oppo R7 from another of the Chinese giants. It's a good mix of style and power and is definitely worth a look, even if it is getting a little dated now - that also means it's cheaper, of course.

Under the hood you get a Snapdragon 615 CPU, 3GB of RAM and just 16GB of storage space, though you can expand that with the help of a microSD card. There's a 5-inch Full HD screen and a 13MP camera around the back.

An all-round performer, and online prices are pretty appealing too.

Price: $399 (about £325) | Buy Oppo R7