Hong Kong is arguably the cheapest place in the world for new and used cell phones. Below is an unbiased guide to the four main options for bagging an affordable device in the city.

Sin Tat Plaza, Mong Kok

Many Hong Kongers head straight to Sin Tat Plaza on Argyle Street in Mong Kok. Walk straight along the road out of MTR exit D2 – it will appear on your left (no English signage). It was once notorious for rip-offs and fake models, but things have (mostly) been cleaned up in recent years, and – along with Sham Shui Po – it is a great place for second hand mobiles too.

If cost has prevented you from upgrading to a smartphone, then a second-hand Galaxy S4 can be found for around HK$1000.  Many of the models are “parallel traded” or “grey market”, so you may – for instance – end up with an American variant without warranty. Some stores, however, offer “shop warranty” of one year.

The mall is also good for mobile repairs and accessories, head upstairs for better bargains. Conveniently, most mobile operators have branches around the block, so you can pick up a sim to go with your unlocked phone.

See also: Sim City and Ap Liu Street market, Sham Shui Po.

AST Global

Although they have a limited range, one of the cheapest outlets for new, unlocked phones (and lots of other tech) is AST Global. They are online only and can deliver to your nearest MTR station. Customers may pay online or in cash and still receive the usual year-long manufacturer’s warranty. Their website is clunky, and be sure to inspect your goods before handing over cash. Products include a three-day moneyback guarantee if you keep the packaging. This store is decent for affordable cameras too.

See also: Expansys.com.hk

Chungking Mansions

For dirt-cheap unbadged, counterfeit and original phones destined for sub-Saharan Africa or Pakistan, Chungking Mansions is a good bet. Anthropologist Gordon Matthews estimates that 20% of the phones in sub-Saharan Africa pass through the notorious Tsim Sha Tsui mall.

Despite appearing new, many of the smartphones have been “refurbished”, had their IMEI number etched off and the software installed afresh. As the warranty seals are also often broken, this can only mean that some of the phones are stolen – though some may be factory rejects.

If you risk buying a phone here, be sure to test it thoroughly and make it clear that you live in Hong Kong. “Shanzhai”, “bandit” or China “knock-offs” are also prevalent here, so be sure you know what you’re buying. M.I.C. Gadget often has reviews of Shanzhai devices.

High street stores

The final option is the high street, such as Fortress or Broadway. Here, you will often pay at least a fifth more for unlocked phones – sweeteners such as a cheap case or a Hello Kitty key-ring may be thrown in to compensate.

Photo: Tamjty, via Flickr.

For this reason, they are usually worth a miss, but it may be an idea to calculate the savings of contract deals on the main carriers – Three, Smartone, China Mobile, 1010, One-to-Free and PCCW.

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