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Smartphones that are low on price, high on performance

LiveMint logoLiveMint 03-06-2014 Nimish Dubey

Not too long ago, purchasing a smartphone that turned in a decent performance necessitated making your purse lighter by a figure well in excess of `10,000. It is not that there were no devices available for lower prices, but these came with significant compromises on performance, courtesy inferior software and hardware. The past few weeks, however, have seen this scenario change, with a number of devices with newer hardware, relatively more up-to-date software and surprisingly low prices hitting the market.

No, it has not yet come to the stage where a `10,000 phone can prove to be a perfect alternative to flagship devices that cost exponentially more. But yes, the level of functionality and the number of features you can now get for `10,000 or less are well above what one received for almost twice the amount of money a couple of years ago.

The result: You might not get a wonderful camera, a Full High Definition (HD) display and the collection of sensors that accompany high-end devices, but if all you are looking for is a phone that smoothly handles social networking sites (Twitter, Facebook, etc.), Internet browsing, email and casual gaming of the Angry Birds and Temple Run variety, you can easily find one at four-figure prices.

Need options? You could consider these five devices which deliver a lot of bang for not too many bucks.

Moto E

`6,999

Although certainly not the first phone to come with decent specifications and hardware for an outrageously low price, the Moto E has been credited by many as starting the “budget smartphone” revolution, and it certainly is one of the best options for someone on a tight budget. The 4.3-inch display with 960x540 resolution is perhaps the best of its kind at this price. Then there is the draw of the latest version of Android (KitKat, 4.4), which runs quite smoothly, courtesy a dual-core Qualcomm Snapdragon processor and 1 GB RAM. If it has a weak point, it is the camera—a 5-megapixel fixed-focus affair which is painfully basic—and sound quality that is not the greatest. But Android fans looking for a phone that runs the latest operating system (OS) out of the box, and runs most new apps smoothly, would be hard-pressed to find a better option at this price.

Nokia X

`7,729

It made the headlines at this year’s Mobile World Congress in Spain for being Nokia’s first Android phone. Although launched a couple of months ago in India at a price of `8,999, it is now available for less, depending on which shopping website you check. If you are not an Android freak and are just looking for a capable phone that does the basic tasks well, it is a very good proposition. Built on Nokia’s typical sturdy and colourful lines (it will survive a few falls easily), the X comes with a version of Android especially customized by Nokia for this series of phones. As a user, you do not have to worry about Android updates and versions. Yes, it is Android as you may never have seen it, with a tile-like interface similar to Windows Phone and no Google play (Nokia has its own app store). We have seen brighter screens and better cameras than the 3.15-megapixel fixed-focus one on the X, but excellent sound, solid performance and decent battery life do make a difference.

Micromax Unite 2

`6,999

Yes, the fact that it comes with support for a number of Indian languages might have led to some fascination, but for many people, this is Micromax’s answer to the Moto E. And it is quite an impressive one, we must concede. It comes with a 4.7-inch display, and although its 480x800 resolution is less than that of the smaller display on the Moto E, the Unite 2 is also supported by a powerful processor (a quad-core one from MediaTek) and 1 GB RAM. It runs the latest version of Android (KitKat), has dual-SIM support, and well, attacks the one Achilles heel of the Moto E by providing a decent 5-megapixel camera with autofocus as well as a front-facing 2-megapixel camera. It does not have the sleekest design but makes up for it with a number of pre-loaded free apps and games to sweeten what is already a formidable deal at that price.

Lava Iris X1

`7,999

Want a phone that looks sleek, has decent specifications and the latest software? All without busting the bank? The Lava Iris X1 is the option that comes closest to fitting that requirement. Some might say that the metal band along the side is reminiscent of the iPhone, but we cannot see too many users objecting to that, and the phone does look rather impressive. It has fairly powerful innards too—a quad-core Broadcom processor, 1 GB RAM, 4.5-inch display (854x480-pixel resolution), and 4 GB internal memory, which is expandable via a microSD card. It also packs in an 8-megapixel camera with flash and autofocus. It is interesting to note that Lava has not played around too much with Google’s basic Android interface, and there are no unoptimized customizations bogging it down.

Sony Xperia E1

`8,490

Sony’s Xperia E had indicated Sony’s intention of grabbing a solid chunk of the budget smartphone segment in the country. That effort has now been followed up with the E1. Well-designed and good-looking, the device’s forte is its sound quality—you will get very good output from the built-in loudspeaker, as well as on headphones. The specification sheet is reasonably impressive—a 4-inch (480x800 pixels) display, a dual-core Qualcomm processor as well as expandable memory. If frowns still have to be directed at the E1, it would be at the relatively older version of Android (4.3 Jelly Bean at the time of writing), the 512 MB RAM (which does rule out some of the heavier games) and the 3.15-megapixel camera, which is a let-down by Sony’s standards. However, for those who love the sound of music and want a decent smartphone at a relatively low price, this is a very good option.

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