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Does cost matter?

You shouldn’t judge a phone by its cover. Even low-cost handsets can be loaded with features.

tech reviews Updated: Aug 10, 2010 13:50 IST
Aalap Deboor

It is difficult not to notice the sudden surge of Indian companies that have ventured into manufacturing mobile phones, judging by advertisements and simply the number of people using them.

Marketed as low-cost, feature-rich cellular devices, these phones offer almost, if not more, the same functionality that mainstream companies do at double the price. But to offer the exact package for cheaper, have companies compromised on quality?

Low-quality?
Indian companies such as Olive, Lemon, Karbonn, Micromax and Spice, among others, have released many devices that cost anywhere between Rs 2,000 to Rs 15,000, and are mostly in tandem with market trends in terms of usability. A large chunk of these devices now feature QWERTY keypads, have touch screens and offer Internet connectivity.

However, they might lack smartphone abilities and high-end processing power. But Shayne Rana, Channel Editor, Mobile, Tech2 believes low-cost phones are getting better, even though their interfaces might not be the easiest to use and the quality is not up to par.

“Indian mobile companies, apparently, are focussed on packing in features rather than a high level of quality and functionality. But some handsets are definitely worth their salt, and you can’t go wrong with buying them,” he says, citing the example of Spice’s 12 MP camera phones that fall within the price range of Rs 15,000.

In terms of features, handsets such as the iQ707 by Lemon, the Olive Wiz V-GC800, and Micromax EzMax Q3, come with an FM Radio, QWERTY keypad, a camera and expandable memory. Some phones also support EDGE technology and allow for Internet access and social networking through preloaded applications. However, they might not be as comfortable to work on as Nokia or Samsung models of the same ilk.

No target group
Arun Khanna, CEO of Olive Communications, believes that the low prices of their phones doesn’t mean they’re targeting a lower market segment. “We want to sell our handsets throughout the country, and to everyone. Selling them cheaper just means we’re offering quality at competitive prices,” he says. This, he adds, also doesn’t imply they’re using low quality parts. “Quite a few Indian manufacturers import Chinese handsets and sell them with their branding. But we’re all about the customer experience,” he says.

Advertisement executive Dhruv Shah, who recently purchased the Micromax EzMax Q3, admits to having been apprehensive about its quality. But now he finds it good enough to meet his needs. “I get to browse the Web, and get features like music, extendable memory, camera, e-book reader and a second SIM slot at less than Rs 4,000. The headphones might not be the best, but it’s still a good deal,” he says.

It’s popular opinion that the overall package matters more than individual features. “If you don’t want email but two SIM slots, music, the Net and social networking, one of these low-budget phones is definitely recommended,” adds Rana.