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Photo: Priyanka Parashar
Photo: Priyanka Parashar

Affordable smartphones: How 2015 shows the way for 2016

Buying a budget smartphone is no more about compromising on user experience and features

One of the highlights of 2015 was the changing perception about what affordable smartphones (priced below 15,000) are all about. Many of the features usually seen in high-end smartphones made their way down the price band, and a lot of new features were launched by phone makers first on the more affordable devices. We look at the five critical aspects in which there were substantial improvements, and also how things could evolve in 2016.

Sharper displays

While big-screen phones in the budget segment became the buzz in 2014, not many offered a screen resolution that was actually worthy of that big size. Some of the 5.5-inch phones even offered screen resolution of 960x540p displays. The arrival of Yu Yureka Plus ( 8,999) and Lenovo’s K3 Note ( 9,999) changed that, and there was a gradual shift to 1280 x 720p and even full HD (1920x1080p) resolution displays, for the first time. People don’t blink at the mention of full HD in below- 10,000 phones anymore, and we could see that becoming the standard specification for affordable phones this year. Expect one or two manufacturers to actually push the limits and go even higher.

More internal storage

A year ago, an Android user using a budget smartphone had to think twice before downloading a big game. Even if the processor could handle it, the internal storage, where apps and games are installed, was not enough to house them. Though a few had started offering 8GB storage, a majority of the Android phones offered 4GB at most. The likes of Moto G 2nd Gen ( 8,999) and Lenovo A6000 Plus ( 7499) were some of the first phones that offered 16GB internal storage. Some even went a step ahead. Lava Pixel V1, for example, offered 32GB of internal storage, which is as much as some flagship phones. We could see 16GB and 32GB becoming standard fare this year, and we could even see a couple of phones getting 64GB options.

Well-built and rugged

Build quality and durability is one area where budget Android phones have seen a big improvement. Not only has build quality improved, many phone makers have gone beyond. While we have seen number of smartphones offer sprinkle resistant displays, the Motorola’s Moto G 3rd Gen ( 11,499) was the first truly waterproof budget smartphone that could not just withstand rain but even a dip in 1.5 metres of water for a duration of 30 minutes. Until now, we had seen such features in high-end flagships such as Sony’s Xperia Z series of smartphones.

4G LTE support

With 4G rollout finally picking up pace across the country, smartphone makers started adding 4G capabilities to their smartphones. As a user, you don’t have to spend half a month’s salary to buy one. A good 4G smartphone is available for around 7,000 these days. The Moto E 4G ( 6,999) and Xiaomi Redmi 2 Prime ( 6,999) are some of the capable 4G smartphones that are as good as any mid-range smartphone in terms of performance and user experience.

Superior processor and RAM

The processor and the quantum of RAM plays a crucial role in the smooth working of any smartphone. To keep costs down, most manufacturers used to stick with low-power processors in budget smartphones. However, things changed last year as the pressure from Chinese smartphone makers forced rivals to offer powerful 64-bit octa-core processors, at similar prices. It is now possible to even play high-end mobile games on budget smartphones. For instance, the Yu Yureka ( 8,999), runs on Qualcomm’s Snapdragon 615 octa-core processor with 2GB of RAM, which is the same as HTC Desire 826 ( 25,990).

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