The call from China
A few years ago, low-cost Indian handsets were derided as ‘Chinese’ goods. Today, the mobile landscape couldn’t be more different
While Samsung is the most popular smartphone brand in India, the company has increasingly seen its lead being contested by the likes of Micromax and Lava. These Indian companies have improved the perception about their products in the market, and are releasing relatively expensive handsets with high-end specifications and are competing with established global brands. Alongside these Indian manufacturers, another set has been getting active in India too, and they could put a spoke in the wheels of both established global manufacturers and emerging Indian brands.
Chinese brands like Oppo have entered the Indian market, and instead of just going after the budget/sub-Rs.10,000 category that companies like Micromax, Lava and Spice started from, the new entrants are pushing for a decidedly higher-end market. With prices that still manage to undercut those set by Samsung, Apple or Sony, a feature-set and build quality that is a step higher than most Indian-branded devices, these brands offer a real challenge. We look at the top contenders.
The newly launched Oppo N1 is not cheap—the company’s flagship phone costs around Rs.39,999. This is still cheap compared to prices from LG, Samsung or HTC, but it’s certainly not going to be classified as a budget phone.
With a 5.9-inch full HD screen, a 1.7 GHz quad-core processor, 2 GB of RAM and 16 GB of storage, the phone is certainly high-end on paper. The design and build quality also live up to the expectations, with a unique rotating camera design—so you can flip the camera to the front if you want. There is also a touch panel on the back, which you can use to launch gestures or navigate the user interface.
These tweaks would certainly take some getting used to, but they make the phone feel unique, while the high-quality display, large battery and snappy performance help justify the price tag.
Gionee has had almost one year to build its presence in the Indian market and they have slowly moved from relatively low-end devices all the way to their latest handset, the Gionee Elife E7.
The company claims to have met with a lot of success in India, which it describes as their “second home”, and while their devices don’t have the most sophisticated looks, their handsets have a good balance of power and value.
The most recent handset, the Gionee Elife E7, follows in this trend. The straight lines look plain, the 5.5-inch full HD display looks good, and the 2.2 GHz quad-core processor and 2 GB RAM combination means the performance of the phone itself is top-notch. The battery life is relatively good, and the 16-MP camera performs to expectations, for what is therefore a good price—Rs.26,999.
One of the biggest Chinese handset makers, Huawei also has a huge presence in India as a maker of routers, dongles and other communication technologies. As a handset maker, it’s not that well known in India, but the company has been launching high-end devices at value-oriented prices—its handsets still cost more than a similar device from Micromax or Lava, but they are a lot cheaper than the global competition, while trying to match the international build and design values.
The company’s next handset, the Huawei Ascend P7, is expected soon; their last major launch in India in June was the Ascend P6, which we had praised in our review. The P6 is a 4.7-inch smartphone with a HD display, which looked good and had some unusual design features. The 2 GB of RAM and the 1.5 GHz quad-core processor made it a fast performing phone, but it was the design touches, and the comfort in holding the device that made it a good pick at Rs.29,990.
Lenovo has been operating in India for nine years now, and it’s easy to forget that this is actually a Chinese brand; the company is starting to expand its presence in smartphones now, and has already launched some excellent devices.
While their early launches were a good start, the company is redefining their phone line now, with the creation of the Vibe sub-brand. The first device in this name is the Lenovo Vibe X, which has a stunning design that resembles a fourth-generation iPod touch.
The 5-inch phone has a full HD display powered by 1.5 GHz processor, alongside 2 GB RAM and 13-MP rear camera. The battery life is a little disappointing compared to Lenovo’s earlier phones, but its design is eye-catching and Lenovo’s future line-up also looks promising. Meanwhile, the Vibe X’s price, Rs.25,900, shows that the company is aiming for the high-end in terms of specifications, but the mid-range, in terms of price.
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