We used to break out in a cold sweat on hearing the words "mid-range phone", and if someone mentioned a "budget handset" we'd be out of the door in seconds. But not any more.
These days, you can get an absolutely amazing smartphone for not very much cash at all - less than ₹10,000, in fact. And while there aren't many sub-₹10,000 phones we'd whole-heartedly recommend, you can get some proper crackers in the ₹15,000-₹20,000 range.
Below, you'll find a list of seven smartphones available for less than ₹30,000. Every one of them is recommended personally by the Stuff team, having been thoroughly tested to our usual standards. Happy shopping!
All cheap phones have some compromises compared to the flagships, but how important these compromises are varies massively:
The smartphone camera is one of the obvious areas where compromises are made as the price goes down. And it's true that some of the models here feature fairly bog-standard snappers for 2017. But that needn't put you off. Almost all of them still have very good cameras - the type which would have been found on a true flagship only a year or two ago. Plus, if smartphone photography isn't a massive thing for you, it won't be an issue anyway.
Again, compromises are common here; you certainly won't find any 4K displays on these handsets. But really, while a 2K-or-better screen is nice, it's not essential, and most of these phones do have crisp 1080p displays. You'll get better battery life with a lower-res screen, too.
You won't generally find the top-end processors inside these phones, but as with camera tech, things have moved on so quickly in the past few years that it doesn't really matter. Most of the phones here are capable of running high-end games without any issues, and if you're more of a web-browsing-and-social-media-only person, every phone here will do the job.
4. Extra features
Some of these phones have fingerprint scanners, some are waterproof, some have plenty of storage and some have fast charging. But most don't have all of these things, so identify which things are essential to you, and make sure the phone you choose ticks the right boxes.
1) Honor 8 Pro (₹29,999)
PROS: Premium design | Excellent dual cameras | Loads of power | Expandable storage | Fingerprint sensor | Fast charging
CONS: 1-day Battery
We can't say this clearly enough: the Honor 8 Pro is an incredible phone at this price. It shares many of its features with the far more expensive Huawei P10, itself a very good smartphone, including its class-leading Kirin 960 processor. Dual cameras - albeit unstabilised ones - take excellent photos, the 2560x1440 screen is nice and sharp and it's lovely to look at too.
Display: 5.7in, 2560x1440 | Camera: 20MP monochrome, 12MP colour, 8MP selfie | Battery: 4000mAh
2) Motorola Moto Z2 Play (₹27,999)
PROS: Modular | Premium design | AMOLED screen | Decent camera | Decent battery | Fast charging
CONS: Mid-range processor
Modular phones haven't quite taken off yet, but the Moto Z2 Play might well be the best attempt yet to nail the concept. You can snap on modules - including an extra battery, zoom camera, speaker and even a gamepad - without turning the phone off, and there are loads available. Elsewhere, you get a well-crafted mid-ranger with nice screen, pretty good camera and good battery.
Display: 5.5in, 1080p | Camera: 12MP back, 5MP selfie | Battery: 3000mAh
3) Motorola Moto G5 (₹11,999)
PROS: Ultra-cheap | Sharp screen | Fingerprint scanner | Waterproof | Near-vanilla Android | Good performance | Removable battery
CONS: Mostly plastic | Average camera | 1-day battery
The Moto G series has long been the flag-bearer for really affordable phones, and the latest model continues that trend - and in style. The G5 has an enviable feature list for a phone costing twice as much, and barely puts a foot wrong throughout. Sure, you'll notice the difference with the camera, and there's no all-metal build, but in the sub-₹15,000 category it's easily the best there is.
Display: 5in, 1080p | Camera: 13MP back, 5MP selfie | Battery: 2800mAh
4) Apple iPhone SE (from ₹20,999)
PROS: Fast performance | iOS and App Store | Lovely build | Great main camera | Superb battery life
CONS: Small screen | Poor front camera
Some people still want a small phone, and for those people the Apple iPhone SE is the best option out there. Its 4in screen is as sharp as the bigger iPhone 7, its build quality is up to Apple's usual high standard, and its camera is better than most at this price. A recent bump to 32GB for the base version makes it better value than the 64GB version. Just be aware that we're expecting an SE mark II to arrive before too long.
Display: 4in, 640x1136 | Camera: 12MP back, 1.2MP selfie
5) Samsung Galaxy A5 (₹28,990)
PROS: Excellent screen | Great build and design | Waterproof | Fingerprint sensor | Useful software tweaks | Fast performance | Good battery life | Fast charging
CONS: Camera struggles in low light
Can't quite run to a Galaxy S8 but fancy a bit of that Samsung magic? Look no further than the 2017 version of the A5. There's lots to like about it, from its classy build to masses of power and superb screen. The camera's pretty good, too, although with no optical stabilisation it can struggle in low light. Price-wise it's up against the Honor 8 Pro, and that phone is a slightly better bet overall, but the A5 doesn't get much wrong.
Display: 5.2in, 1080p | Camera: 16MP back, 16MP selfie | Battery: 3000mAh
6) REDMI NOTE 4 (FROM ₹9,999)
PROS: Decent performance | Fingerprint sensor | Amazing battery life
CONS: Dull design
The Redmi Note 4 has a 2GHz Snapdragon 625 Octa-core processor with a 1080p screen. That puts it on a par with most of the other phones here, and indeed it matches its rivals in most regards. The camera struggles a bit in low light, but the two-day battery life and good performance all count in its favour.
Display: 5.2in, 1080p | Camera: 13MP back, 5MP selfie | Battery: 4100mAh
7) Sony Xperia XA1 (from ₹20,990)
PROS: Superb camera | Smart design
CONS: Low-ish res screen | Slightly annoying Sony software | Average battery life
The XA1 is a bit of a mixed bag, with one of the best cameras you'll find outside of the very top rank of phones, and a slim design befitting a far pricier handset. But against that, performance can be sluggish, the screen is a sub-par 720p and Sony's Android skin sometimes gets on the nerves. There are better options out there, but if photos are your thing it's well worth checking out.
Display: 5in, 720p | Camera: 23MP back, 8MP selfie | Battery: 2300mAh