The ultimate guide for buying smartphones under Rs 10,000

  • Rajiv Makhni, Hindustan Times
  • Updated: Oct 22, 2015 17:25 IST
Dazen phones (left) were launched under the Coolpad name, but now they’re under Qiku; with great looks, fantastic specs and a full-HD screen, the Lenovo K3 Note (right) started the war in the under-10K market.

‘I want to buy a phone and my budget is about Rs 10,000.’

If I had a penny for every time I was asked this question, I would be a very rich man. The under-10K category is the new battleground in the Indian smartphone market.

A market so hot, that more than 40 companies are vying for a piece of this pie and another 20 are about to join in. India is the place to be, and if your phone sells here, you’re on your way to global domination.

The problem with this category is that it’s too much of a good thing. Almost every company is now adopting the mantra of selling an amazing high-end phone at an amazing low-end price.

Read: Why is India the most expensive place to buy iPhone 6S?

Unfortunately, it’s all quite confusing and cluttered, with mind-numbing specs and jargon being thrown around. It’s tough for any brand to stand out, tougher for consumers to differentiate between two options, and almost impossible to make the right buying decision. So, here is my contribution to this social cause. A brutally honest buying-guide, as well as a frank advisory for brands on how to make their products stand out.

Lenovo K3 Note
This is where the battle started. A very well-made phone with a 5.5inch full-HD screen from a company as well-known as Lenovo set the cat amongst the pigeons. Excellent processor, 2GB RAM, 13MP rear and 5MP front camera, and 2900mAh battery. This phone is all good looks mixed with great quality, and you really can’t go wrong with it.

Note to Lenovo: Good job on this one, but you’re flooding the under-10K market with too many products, coming in way too fast. I know you’re raking it in with your online-only model and selling serious numbers, but of late, it’s getting confusing for the buyer. You bring out the A6000, and days later, the A6000 Plus surfaces, with not much in the ‘Plus’ department. Stop milking the cash cow like Samsung and just be yourself.

Yureka Plus (Micromax)
This one has great design – some metallic touches to it – a super full-HD 5.5inch screen, 2GB RAM, a fantastic processor, CyanogenMod 12 OS (which gives a whole lot of ‘do it yourself’ features), 13MP rear and 5MP front cameras, and 2500mAh Li-Ion battery. Sounds like I’m describing the Lenovo Note 3 again? Nope, this is the Yureka Plus that also gets it just right, and then adds two colour options. The previous version had heating issues and would freeze out, but this one gets it just right.

The comeback: Yureka Plus solved its predecessor’s heating issues and added two colour options.

Note to Micromax: Yes, I know you’re never happy when I attach Micromax ’s name to the Yureka brand. Sorry MM, but as of now, there is no getting away from it and it does lead to better buying confidence for the customer. So, don’t resist it, don’t fight it. Just be a little careful with some of the products that you bring out under the sub-brand, Yureka. Your fitness band and the previous Yureka model left some customers disappointed. It’s a tough market and you’re only as good as your last product.

Coolpad Note 3
Samsung should be a very happy company. Almost every brand wants to cash in on their ‘Note’ moniker. Here’s one more. Coolpad’s Note 3 has taken this market by a storm. A fingerprint scanner, 3GB RAM, HD screen and great optics – all for Rs 8,999. Yes, everything that you would have paid 50K for, now under the magic 10K line. It’s nice-looking with a sharp screen, and will also be available in rose gold in a few days. The fingerprint scanner actually works really well. This one sets up Coolpad very well for a long innings in India.

Note to Coolpad: Great job with this phone, and thanks for breaking the price barrier for a fingerprint scanner. It’s a little confusing though, that you had launched the Dazen phone under your name just a few days ago, and now it’s under a new company called Qiku. There’s enough confusion in the Indian market. Try not to add to it so dramatically!

Read: Hottest new flagship mobile devices this festive season

And there’s so much more

Lots of other really good phones out there. The Moto G (2nd Gen) or even the 3rd Gen (for a little more) are awesome phones. The Asus Zenphone2 Laser is brilliant with its optics and camera. The Meizu M2 Note (yes another Note!) is really good-looking with great features and clocks in at an astounding Rs 6,999.

The Xiaomi Redmi Note 4G is priced at Rs 7,999 now and has seriously good battery life along with nice features. And the Coolpad (Qiku?) Dazen 1 is easily the best phone in its class at Rs 5,999 with astounding features and specs. I’ve highlighted three phones in the beginning, because it’s really tough to be the best in this category.

A new wave

But these three phones can’t bask in the glory just as yet. In the next few days, the onslaught will intensify. Coming up are new phones from Qiku, a dual assault from Obi (the John Sculley phones), Acer will bring out a very aggressive portfolio and some new arsenal from Samsung, Gionee, Huawei, Panasonic and Alcatel. It’s a Diwali that’s going to be deafening and almost all the explosions are going to be under 10K!

Rajiv Makhni is managing editor, Technology, NDTV, and the anchor of Gadget Guru, Cell Guru and Newsnet 3

From HT Brunch, October 18

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