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Stop! Do not blindly buy smartphones on AliExpress!

aliexpress buy smartphone stop taking risks
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Buying a smartphone on AliExpress is not something strange to do in 2022. However, I have the impression that some of us make a purchase on the grey market without being aware of the risks.

Since when does a so-called smart buyer have 100% trust in a company whose real name he doesn't even know of and is not aware of whether it is based in the country? Do you really want to drop several hundred dollars on a smartphone without knowing what the after-sales service is like? Why not do so the old-fashioned way by walking into a store?

That's the impression I got when I read several comments in my Xiaomi 12X review. I was criticized for the poor quality-to-price ratio of the smartphone, which retailed for €799 by Xiaomi (it is not available Stateside, hence the price in Euros), while it costs a whopping €300 cheaper on AliExpress.

Buying a cheap smartphone in a mainstream marketplace is a good move

This article is not meant to judge you or put you down. I'm not going to "teach you life" by telling you how to make smart purchases on AliExpress since I already have a guide to avoid marketplace scams for that (which I will update soon).

No, I know that buying your smartphone on AliExpress is definitely cheaper, as Gearbest and other sites have gained popularity and legitimacy in 2022. In fact, I think you can find perfectly legitimate deals there. Even variances such as 5G band compatibility or chargers have become less of a stumbling block since you can find global versions of selected models easier than ever before.

I also suspect that most of you know the difference between Amazon and a third-party seller that is hosted on the Amazon marketplace.

This is especially so, since the sector is regulated far more in the EU ever since the launch of the VAT package in 2021, where a series of European directives and regulations are aimed at regulating the payment of VAT when purchasing products from abroad. From now on, Amazon, Best Buy, and even AliExpress are required to pay VAT on transactions made through their marketplace. In other words, there are no more nasty surprises to nip at you once your smartphone arrives at the customs from China.

For example, I checked one of the offers for the Xiaomi 12X on AliExpress that was shared in the comments in my review. It turned out to be quite the legitimate item and its seller is reliable. So, I reiterate it, you can find fantastic deals in the online marketplace. However, you will have to stop shopping there without a care in the world, but to still keep both your eyes open and proceed with caution at all times. 

I know some people who are accompanied by five bodyguards and show up as a posse at an agreed face-to-face exchange when purchasing goods. In the same vein, why not be as suspicious when it comes to online transactions?

Stop being so trusting

Buying a smartphone in an online marketplace is not without any risk. Seriously, just looking at the user interface of AliExpress and the experience of buying from this site should make you be on the alert. When you buy from a third-party seller, you will need to interact with that seller. The platform, Amazon, Best Buy, AliExpress or other, will not be able to intervene in your favor in case anything goes awry, apart from certain rare exceptions.

Hence, you will have to first make sure that the third-party seller you buy your smartphone from is reliable. I somehow have the impression that very few of you pay attention to this. Be honest with yourself — have you ever even typed the name of a third-party vendor on Google before purchasing something from them?

Click on the seller's nickname, type in their business name (their actual name) on Google and check that the VAT and trade register number match... These verification steps, which I will not share in detail here, are very simple to do. However, I'm sure that 90% of the people who recommended me the Xiaomi 12X on AliExpress didn't do it.

Apart from that, it's not just the act of buying that counts. It's all well and good to pay a cheaper for your smartphone, but what are you going to do if it is spoiled or arrives damaged? Are you 100% sure that the third-party seller offers a warranty apart from the manufacturer's warranty? Do you know if they are based in your country, the EU or in China? Do you know if they will pay for the return shipping fees or not?

I feel like we are attracted at the initial selling price without paying heed to any other factors. Even if you find your smartphone for $500 on AliExpress instead of $700 on the manufacturer's official store, you will still have to take into account the after-sales service. I know I sound like an old fogey. However, $500 is still a considerable sum of money for any purchase. And for $500, the customer service had better be impeccable, and that includes the after-sales service.

We all know the adage that goes like this, "if it's free, that's because you are the product." If you save $300 on a smartphone in the online marketplace, you're more likely to pay the difference one way or another. That's not always the case, but it's always a possibility. See you next week for another lesson in morality from Grandpa Antoine.

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Antoine Engels

Antoine Engels
Senior Editor

Black belt in specs sheet analysis. OnePlus fanboy in (slow) remission. Average estimated reading time of my articles: 48 minutes. Tech deals fact-checker in my spare time. Hates talking about himself in the 3rd person. Dreams he was a gaming journalist in another life. Doesn't get the concept of irony. Head of editorial for NextPit France.

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