2015 smartphone report card

A look at how some of this year's big-ticket launches fared

Truly the year of the smartphone, 2015 saw a paradigm shift in how we perceive the affordable ones. Major operating systems went through an overhaul, and flagship phones are no longer the only devices that offer powerful specifications and great performance.

But the sheer number of phones launched in the last 12 months make it tremendously difficult for anyone to actually decide which phone to buy. To help you make a smarter decision, we have identified some of the best phones, and some phones at the other end of the scale that don’t deserve your time or money.

ROLL OF HONOUR

The standout flagships, pretenders to the throne, and some genuinely capable mid-range and affordable phones

Apple iPhone 6s Plus

72,000* (16 GB); 82,000 (64 GB); 92,000 (128 GB)

Launched in October

Never judge a book by its cover. It looks a lot like its predecessor, but the experience is in a different league altogether. Apple has introduced the 3D Touch feature that allows varying finger-tap pressure on the screen to execute different tasks—peek into photos and mails without having to actually open each one, or add something to the calendar from a message itself. It has excellent battery life and the camera is very consistent.

Sony Xperia Z5 Premium

62,990

Launched in October

It’s the first phone with a true 4K (3,840x2,160 pixels) screen, but that comes with a caveat—it runs at 1,920x 1,080 resolution, unless you are watching 4K images or videos on it. The reason: preventing battery drain while using apps. Once you get past that perplexing feature, the performance is blazing fast. You get a sharp screen, a phone that looks beautiful thanks to the mirror-type glass at the back, and fairly good battery life. This is the coolest Android phone at the moment.

Samsung Galaxy Note 5

47,900 (32 GB); 53,900 (64 GB)

Launched in September

Samsung was on a design revamp spree for its smartphones. The Note 5 received a series of tweaks, which included swapping the faux leather back for glass and aluminium. The 5.7-inch screen is one of the sharpest and vivid we have seen on smartphones. With a resolution of 2,560x1,440 pixels, it translates into a brilliant usage experience. The Exynos octa-core processor is powerful, and the redesigned TouchWiz interface is much smoother to use.

Nexus 6P (made by Huawei)

39,999 (32 GB)

Launched in November

The 6P has an aircraft-grade aluminium unibody, and is a genuinely likeable phone. The design of the back panel, including the camera placement, adds to the uniqueness. Huawei has not compromised at all on the specifications, and runs the Snapdragon 810 processor. The 5.7-inch AMOLED Ultra HD (2,560x1,440p) screen is bright, and the colours look really good. It runs Android’s latest Marshmallow OS. It is a powerful phone that offers the quintessential Android experience.

Motorola Moto X Style

29,999 (16 GB); 31,999 (32 GB)

Launched in October

This phone is undercutting Android flagship phones from rivals by a huge margin. The 5.7-inch AMOLED screen has a resolution of 2,560x1,440 pixels. And the smart design means it has a compact footprint. It runs Qualcomm’s Snapdragon 808 processor, which provides more than enough under-the-hood grunt for multitasking and the latest games. This is worth considering if you want a big-screen smartphone experience on a limited budget.

HTC One A9

29,990

Launched in November

This is one of the few phones that already runs Android’s latest operating system (OS), Marshmallow (Android 6.0). The rare 5-inch screen size will appeal to users who aren’t comfortable with big screens. It runs the Qualcomm Snapdragon 617 octa-core processor, and the performance is pretty close to Android flagship territory. The design is similar to the Apple iPhone, but it is nevertheless built well. HTC has gotten the pricing spot on, and it is indeed a flagship smartphone alternative.

QiKU Q Terra

19,999 onwards

Launched in December

Made from a mixture of magnesium and aluminium, the Q Terra feels quite premium for a mid-range Android phone. This is genuinely a big-screen phone, and the biggest among all rivals, with the 6-inch Full HD display offering good colour reproduction. QiKU’s 360 operating system is based on Android 5.1.1 (Lollipop), but it integrates some of the features of Android 6.0 (Marshmallow), such as improved battery life in the stand-by mode. The big 3,700 mAh battery enhances the usability of this surprisingly good smartphone.

Asus ZenFone 2

19,999 (32 GB); 22,999 (64 GB); 29,999 (128 GB)

Launched in April

This was the first Android phone ever to pack in 4 GB of RAM, and the 64-bit Atom Z3580 signalled Intel’s intent to focus on the smartphone processor market. The minimal design is backed by good build quality, and it’s available in multiple colour options. The interface is quite cool to use, and the performance is smooth. The 3,000 mAh battery also has the fast-charge feature. Buy this for the performance, capable camera and funky design.

Lenovo Vibe S1

15,999

Launched in November

The glass finish and polished metal frame make for a rather cool design. It runs Android 5.0, with a custom interface that offers detailed customization and app permission options. The 64-bit MediTek octa-core processor is paired with 3 GB RAM, and there is enough power to play games and HD movies without any dropped frames or stutter. The phone doesn’t heat up when stressed, a problem common with newer smartphones. The 5-inch display is Full HD (1,920x 1,080p), something not a lot of rivals offer.

Xiaomi Mi 4i

11,999 (16 GB); 14,999 (32 GB)

Launched in April

A spin-off from the Mi 4, the Mi 4i does have a unique personality—there are colourful options to choose from, it’s lighter, and runs a newer architecture processor. The MIUI interface is rather funky, and while it takes some getting used to, it does look quite appealing. Power users will appreciate the 3,120 mAh battery and the 5-inch Full HD (1,920x 1,080p) screen is crisp and vivid. It is a compact phone that works well because of its performance and a good screen.

JUST DID NOT WORK

Some high-profile phone launches that left us truly perplexed

Sony Xperia Z5

52,990

Launched in October

We aren’t entirely sure if users will appreciate only a Full HD resolution 5.2-inch screen, particularly when the Samsung Galaxy S6 is offering a much higher resolution display at a lower price tag. Moreover, the phone doesn’t look very different from its predecessors. While the performance and user experience is fine, the price tag just doesn’t work.

Nexus 5X (made by LG)

22,999 (16 GB); 31,440 (32 GB)

Launched in October

Within weeks of the launch, both variants of the Nexus 5X got significant price cuts. But that doesn’t compensate for the fact that the 5X has a boring design, and that the entire experience of using the phone is underwhelming. Not when you can buy the likes of the OnePlus 2 and the Moto X Style in the same price range.

Lava Pixel V1 (Android One)

8,999

Launched in July

Launched under Google’s Android One banner, this phone doesn’t quite have the features or performance that one would have expected. It has a rather dull display, the 13-megapixel camera is sluggish and the photo quality isn’t sharp either. It runs on a relatively older MediaTek MT6582 quad-core processor, which struggles with games and multitasking.

*Prices may vary.

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