Every year phones get better. But they seem to get more expensive too. Who has almost a lac to spend on an iPhone X or Samsung Galaxy S9 Plus without eating ₹20 Maggi for the rest of the year?
The good news is cheaper phones are improving too, often at an even faster rate than the big shots.
Nowadays you can spend under ₹15,000 and still get an ultra-sharp 18:9 screen, a good camera and even a phone made of glass and aluminium instead of plastic. It’s less a question of whether you can afford a pricey model splashed over billboards around town, and more: why would you?
Here’s a round-up of our favourite affordable phones of 2018.
*Additional words: Kaizad Billimoria, Ali Akbar Merchant, Burhanuddin Kapasi
Samsung Galaxy M40 (from ₹19,999)
The M40 is the newest smarty-pants to sport a 32MP snapper, Qualcomm’s budget processor and Infinity O display borrowed from its S10 brothers
Samsung made sure its 6.6in FHD display is the best amongst the rest in the price bracket. Colours look fantastic, Netflix plays in HD and viewing under the sun is not bad either. Better yet, the ‘notch’ doesn’t bother while gaming in landscape or watching movies since it’s all the way in the corner.
If you’ve held the Galaxy A50, you may already know how this one feels like too. For others who don’t know, Samsung molded it with plastic to keep the cost and weight low. The phone feels slender in the hand and it comes in two appealing gradients (Midnight blue and Seawater blue) to choose from which aren’t too flashy for everyday use.
Samsung chose the American way instead of its own. With Qualcomm’s Snapdragon 675 chip inside, it manages to run OneUI super smooth and takes care of other background activities and light games without stress. If you’re specially getting this for PUBG gaming, this will run at a high graphic setting and getting those chicken dinners won’t be as difficult.
Also, since OneUI’s light and easy to use, it doesn’t drain too much battery. Well, it sure doesn’t have an exceptional two day battery or extreme fast charging, but it squeezes in the best of both worlds, giving you a day’s worth of juice and normal fast charging.
Oh, and the A70 also features an in-display fingerprint sensor (the optical kind) which takes a while to work fast. But once it has learnt your fingerprint over a couple of days of use, it works pretty flawlessly.
The M40’s USP is its 16MP punch-hole camera, which looks cool from the exterior, but we’ve seen better selfie performers in that price range clicking better and crispier selfies. There’s also a group mode if you fancy.
Three cameras are fun to use, and Samsung’s M40 excels in the picture department. However, it still has a lot of learning to do from other budget superstars. The wide-angle is cool to use and even the ‘Live focus’ mode works well.
With the amount of phones pouring in, the M40 seems slightly overpriced compared to other budget phones. The M40 is an addition to the M series – only difference – it’s got American muscle horsepower, a decent 32MP main rear camera and a punch-hole cam with average selfie skills fitted into a great display. Not to forget, OneUI has an edge over most Chinese brands. Although, we wonder what the M50 would be like…
If keeping up with the trend is your thing, the M40 will suffice
Galaxy M40 in figures Operating system: Android 9.1 One UI • Screen: 6.6in Full HD+ Infinity O • Processor: Qualcomm 675 • RAM: 6GB • Camera: 32MP + 2 + 2MP rear + 16MP front • Storage: 64GB • Battery 3500mAh
Xiaomi Redmi Y3 (from ₹9999)
A mega 32MP selfie shooter inside a ₹10k budget smartphone. Sure, that’s tempting for selfie addicts, but how good is it?
The Xiaomi Y3 is targeted at two kinds of people - students on a budget and social media addicts who love their pretty faces. It’s also the cheapest phone to sport a 32MP selfie camera compared to other fancy shooters like the Vivo V15 Pro and Samsung A70.
Since it’s targeted at the youth, it shows off a gradient back design shiny enough to get noticed by your college crush. And if that’s exactly what you want, pick the flashy Elegant Blue and Bold Red over the boring Prime Black.
The Redmi Y3 gets invited to the 600 series club, thanks to the Snapdragon 626 chip with a Kryo architecture fitted inside. It performs fine for daily activities and casual gaming. Mind you, if speed is your concern, then consider the Note 7 or Redmi 7.
Considering its value price tag, its selfie cam is average and works fine for everyday social media. Use its Beauty mode to turn your pretty mug into Kylie Jenner and use its hand-gestures for easy and shake-less selfies.
The Y3 isn’t all about selfies. Its dual 12MP rear cameras promise decent colours and details. If you flip the phone around to take selfies, you’d be surprised with the results. PS -We feel it’s better than the selfie camera.
Now all that selfie clicking and social media will require a ton of battery. With the 4000mAh brick sitting inside, this can survive an entire day and night. However, it misses out on the fast charge support and USB Type C.
The Redmi Y3 gets a massive frontal change from the Y2. There’s now a dot notch on its 6.26in HD+ display with Gorilla Glass 5 perks. The screen doesn’t get too bright and lacks detail and crisp while streaming content. Although, it’s enough to frame-up your pretty face when you’re previewing selfies.
Should you get this even if you don’t like clicking selfies?
Well, no. If you don’t fancy clicking selfies all day long , you may consider the Redmi 7 or the Note 7 since those offer a better build and are slightly speedier. Nevertheless. the Redmi Y3 is crafted to nail selfies and for ₹10k, this one performs well, has decent rear cameras and the massive battery is enough to keep an average user clicking all day long. If great selfies for cheap is what you want, then the Redmi Y3 is yours to pick.
The Y3 is targeted to attract selfie addicts with shallow pockets
Redmi Y3 in figures Operating system: Android 9.0 MIUI 10 • Screen: 6.26in 1520x720 HD+ • Processor: Qualcomm Snapdragon 632 • RAM: 3/4GB • Camera: 12MP+2MP rear, 32MP front • Storage: 32/64GB plus microSD • Battery 4000mAh
Realme 3 (₹8999)
Realme has been consistently hitting the gym and hasn’t cheated with its diet since Realme 1. From diamond cut edges to radiant blues, this one loves getting all the attention on the red carpet.
For less than ₹10k, you get a massive 6.2in screen, roomy enough for big hands to work or play on. Only thing, it isn’t a Full HD display, so there are lesser pixels to stare at when you’re YouTube-ing. But apart from that, it does the job for Candy Crush or endless scrolling on social media.
With the Helio P70 taking care of business, this feels like a Jeep Compass engine in a Hyundai Creta. In other words, this one handles multitasking and maneuvering just like a ₹20-25k smartphone. PUBG? Bring it on.
There’s a massive 4230mAh battery ready to bring you more than a day’s worth of juice. If you decide to camp out with 50% charge, this might just last the entire weekend if you switch it to Deep Power Saving mode. It’s a boon for travellers, adventure junkies and battery hoarders.
The Realme 3 gets treated to Android Pie with the Color OS 6 UI update. It gets similar navigation gestures like stock Android and the notification bar gets good looking overhaul. Although, you’ll still have to live with some bloatware.
Its 13+2MP dual camera at the rear can uses HDR to stack up pictures giving you neat detailing and balanced exposure levels. Trust us, you’ll be surprised with what a ‘budget’ smartphone can do these days.
With a 13MP front camera on the dew-drop notch doing all the nasty selfie clicking, you’ll be pleased with its final picture. Turn on beauty and portrait mode, it’ll line-up the girls at your backyard once you’ve updated your Tinder profile.
The Realme 3 has the potential to dethrone other sub-₹10k budgeteers. Not only does this have a mid-range processor running the show, but it’s also got intelligent cameras and a freshly baked UI with Android Pie awesomeness. For ₹8999 this may seem like a budget phone on paper, but from what we’ve tested, it sure doesn’t feel like one and might just be the fastest amongst rivals. Too much too soon? Oh let’s get real, son.
The focus is the brand positioning and values for the company itself, looking at the point of view sense of being young and sense of being about the personality of whoever owns the realme product, sense of being very energetic and positive and so when looking at the mark what we tried to do is create a balance between idea of enabling people to be these values and to reflect values. That’s why there are two Rs in the logo– the inner Realme and outer Realme, it’s the embodiment of them coming together to create right balance. My inspiration depends upon the project, when it comes to visual identity It’s incredibly important to take everything from the root - the initial values that really determine the outcomes of everything that me and my team creates. These particular marks and utilising these devices if any one which way, So language can be utilised as developing icon system, they can be utilized for motion graphic aspect, there are certain elements that you use that can be springboard of other things, andexpand at the course of time and create its own mini universe. There were 6- 8 rounds, the first one to the final one were significantly different. The first round was even before written the actual proposal for the project. It’s a pre-round you could call it a speculative round, we at Pentagram don’t do speculative round at all, in this particular case we made a special agreement with Realme.
Realme 3 in figures Operating system: Android 9.0 Colour OS6 • Screen: 6.2in 1520 x 720 • Processor: Helio P70 • RAM: 3/4GB • Camera: 13MP + 2MP rear, 13MP front • Storage: 32/64GB plus microSD • Battery: 4230mAh
Asus Zenfone Max M2 (from ₹9999)
You know what it is all about already. It is the cheaper version of the Max Pro M2, which itself retails for an affordable ₹11,999, just two grand more than this baby here. The difference in price is negligible, but we can’t say the same about the product.
The first thing you notice when you hold the M2 is the back. There’s no premium shiny finish and the phone feels sort of regular and understated. There’s nothing to talk about in terms of design that stands out and since the back isn’t shiny, it hardly picks up any smudges from dirty fingers. If you’re still paranoid, Asus gives you a cover in the box for it as well.
You get a 6.2in HD+ display instead of full HD goodness and this seems to be the bigger trade off rather than the processor. There’s no Gorilla protection here either, but the display is no slouch. Apart from the resolution, the colours and contrast are mighty nice and very rarely do you notice lack of true detail.Although it comes with the Snapdragon 632, the almost stock Android OS helps keep things snappy. Overload it with a lot of apps and it might stutter a bit, but not by much. There’s absolutely no bloatware on the phone and even the default app for viewing images is the stock Google Photos. We love the cleanliness here and it is an absolute joy to use. With the Adreno 506, a bit of light gaming is possible, but don’t expect to run heavy titles on max settings, so you need to lower it down.
The loud and proud 5-magnet speaker is an absolute star and gets seriously loud without a lot of detail loss. Watching movies and just generally playing music on the M2 is a great experience considering its puny price.
With a massive 4000mAh battery and a frugal processor, the M2 will easily run for a proper day and a half. What’s surprising is that even with a massive battery, the weight remains 160g. No USB Type C though.
The 13+2MP duo manages to capture some great shots for the money. What’s even more surprising is the way it manages to retain colour detail and accuracy. There’s no overdone bits here unlike some of the units from Honor. The camera app itself is quite well laid out and there’s no issues with focusing or lag while snapping shots. It can even record in 4K.
An absolute banger for the money, the M2 is a stunner for its price
ZenFone Max M1 in figures Operating system: Android 8 • Screen: 6.26in 720x1440 • Processor: Snapdragon 632 octa-core • RAM: 3GB • Camera: 12+2MP rear, 8MP front • Storage: 32GB plusmicroSD • Battery 4000mAh
Motorola Moto G6 Play (₹11,999)
Motorola’s Moto G phones have been on our budget hot list for so long it’s getting boring. But the Moto G6 Play is still the affordable phone we recommend to many people.
Why? It looks and runs like a much more expensive phone, and lasts longer than just about anything else at the price. Its 4000mAh battery lasts a solid day and a half. Those who just want a phone to work and send messages should easily be able to get two days of use between charges.
And unlike just about every other phone at the price, the Moto G6 Play supports fast charging. It gets you from totally flat to full in under two hours.
There are other neat extras too, like a rear fingerprint scanner, splash-proofing and 32GB storage.
So why is the Moto G6 Play so cheap? Its back is plastic rather than glass like the full-fat Moto G6, although it still reacts to light like its siblings, casting a neat S-shaped swirl of colour across its back.
Then there’s the screen. The Motorola Moto G6 Play has a large 5.7in 18:9 screen, so it looks modern, but 1440 x 720 resolution doesn’t look as sharp as the Honor 9 Lite.
An ever-so-slightly soft screen and the plastic back are the only obvious bad bits. Its entry-level CPU plays games well, the cameras are among the best at the price and its smooth curves feel great. The battery life makes it something extra-special too.
Taste, value and great battery life at the right price. If you don’t like this phone, you’re wrong
Moto G6 Play in figures Operating system: Android 8 • Screen: 5.7in 1440x720 • Processor: Qualcomm Snapdragon 430 octa-core • RAM: 3GB • Camera: 13MP rear, 8MP front • Storage: 32GB plus microSD (Up to 256GB)