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The conundrum of a mid-budget value-for-money smartphone buyer

05 April 2019 5

Since the last couple of days, quite a few people, including friends and peers have approached me for a suggestion on their next smartphone purchase. As common users, their requirements were straight forward, preferably a 6GB of RAM, 128GB of storage, a battery pack that can provide a day-long backup, a powerful processor and a decently sized display. All this in a budget cap of Rs. 20,000. In other words, all of them were looking for devices which are not too costly and future proof for at least a couple of years. I felt that these are fair requirements since these are ordinary consumers who do not want to change their phones frequently and still want the best performance is a string tight budget.

So, I started listing down the options to suggest the best budget smartphone under Rs. 20,000 in India. Based on these requirements, the best phones I could shortlist were:

Redmi Note 7 Pro

Recently launched Redmi Note 7 Pro is the latest one in the Note series of Redmi line from Xiaomi. The price of Redmi Note 7 Pro in India starts at Rs. 13,999 for the 4GB/64GB variant. Though the sweet deal is its 6GB/128GB variant priced at Rs. 16,999. It features a Qualcomm Snapdragon 675 SoC, a 48-megapixel rear camera and a 4000 mAh battery pack.

48-megapixel cameraLatest of the lotPrice
AvailabilityAds in MIUI can be a turn off
Poco F1

Announced almost 8 months back, the Poco F1 is not just another device from Xiaomi’s stable. The company brought forward a new sub-brand to compete with OnePlus in the affordable flagship segment. OnePlus has been ruling the segment comprehensively before the arrival of Poco.

Its 6GB/128GB variant is priced slightly over Rs. 20,000 limit that we have, however, thanks to quite a few offers running simultaneously, Poco F1 can be bought easily under Rs. 20,000 easily.

Flagship processorCamera performanceGaming performancePricing
NotchAds in MIUI
Realme 2 Pro

Oppo launched a sub-brand Realme to offer value for money smartphones and Realme 2 Pro is the current flagship of the brand. In terms of specifications vs pricing, this is the only device in the list that can compete with Redmi Note 7 Pro. It is probably the only device in a budget category that comes with a mammoth 8GB of RAM and is still priced at Rs 16,990.

Value for money
Heavily skinned ColorOSSluggish performance even with 8GB RAMBuild Quality
Samsung Galaxy M30

The grand-daddy of smartphones is back with a bang. Samsung changed its approach late last year and shifted its focus on value for money devices. The result is visible and how!! The Galaxy M30 looks like a perfect device in this segment with 6GB of RAM, 128GB of internal storage, a triple rear camera setup, 5000 mAh battery, and a large 6.21-inches display. What else one can ask for in this price segment?

Brand ValueAfter sales support5,000 mAh batteryNew age design
Still ships with Android OreoSlow OS updatesSame SoC as much cheaper Galaxy M20 Samsung devices prone to get sluggy over time
Honor 8X

Launched in October last year, Honor 8X got a 6GB/128GB variant which started retailing almost a month later. Priced at Rs. 18,999 the Honor 8X comes with a dual rear camera setup and Huawei’s ​in-house Kirin 710 SoC.

Okayish battery backupLocked bootloaderNo third party launchers allowed
Mi A2

For the people who like the Xiaomi's hardware, but still want the taste of pure Android, Mi A2 is the perfect device. The 6GB/128GB variant started retailing in October last year and is currently available at Rs. 16,299. The device has received a lukewarm response due to a small battery pack and an uninspiring design.

Near Stock Android
Dated designLow battery capacitySlow OS updates

The above listing shows that while consumers are spoilt for choices, none of these devices are perfect and each one of them has a chink or two in its armory. This is further a confusing situation for an average consumer. Out of the above-mentioned devices, we can handpick four of them i.e. Redmi Note 7 Pro, Samsung Galaxy M30, Realme 2 Pro, and Poco F1.

Poco F1

People who want a powerful device can stretch their budget just that wee bit extra but can bear the notch, then Poco F1 is a great choice. Keep in mind that offers available on most of the online stores bring down the retail price below Rs. 20,000. Though the device is almost a year old already and there are rumors that Xiaomi is preparing for its successor.

Realme 2 Pro

Realme 2 Pro, on the other hand, looks good on paper but the device was extremely sluggish and laggy even with 8GB of RAM, during the limited time I could spend with the device. The phone comes with a year old mid-range processor hence it is advisable to wait for the next iteration, Realme 3 Pro, which is about to launch this month.

Samsung Galaxy M30

Samsung for long didn’t probably care about user feedback and hence was smartly ousted by the Chinese brands like Xiaomi, OPPO, Vivo, Huawei, and Honor. It has come back with a renewed focus and vigor and the M30 looks a really good device on paper with a large AMOLED display, ample RAM and Storage, however, Samsung devices are known to slow down drastically over a period of time also software updates are far and few. Lastly, Samsung has used the same processor that powers the Galaxy M20 smartphone, priced at least priced Rs. 5,000 less than Galaxy M30.

Redmi Note 7 Pro

Now let us talk about the almost perfect device under Rs. 20,000, i.e. the Redmi Note 7 Pro., which doesn't exist as of now. The phone was announced over a month back yet only the 4GB variant is being sold as of now, that too via flash sales. So, as a user, if you want to buy a newly launched Xiaomi device, you have to wait for you to be lucky in of the flash sales or be ready to stand in queues for hours outside the Mi Store, that too only when flash sales are on! Users have time and again complained against flash sales, guess Xiaomi isn't too concerned.

Xiaomi started the trend of flash sale gimmick and almost every company tried it but later ditched it as well. However, Xiaomi plans to continue with the old and irritating way to keep the demand and supply in control. The company, for some odd reason, has not revealed the plan for the availability of 6GB variant. We tried reaching the officials, but still waiting to hear from them. These flash sales not only create a fake demand but is also helping black marketers make money by selling devices illegally at a higher margin.

The conundrum...

Hate it or like it, this price segment is ruled by Xiaomi. No matter what specifications you're looking at, you'll come across a couple of Xiaomi devices. Almost all it's budget and mid-budget devices are the highest selling in their respective price segments, no other device come close, forget about outselling Xiaomi. But then, no matter what a select group of media folks or the company employees say, its phones are ridiculously difficult to buy, at least till a few months the launch. And only Xiaomi is to be blamed for that.

So, What does a user do if a device they want to buy, isn't easily available? Obviously, they'll go for the next best device which ticks the maximum boxes and is available when they want to buy, not when the company wants to sell it!! A couple of friends who asked my opinion, have already it, a few who are not in a hurry are waiting for Realme 3 Pro or any other device that does the job.

It is now up to the brands like Samsung, Realme, Honor, Nokia, and Asus, etc to up their ante, accept the feedback from the consumers and for once, make a near-perfect device which can be bought easily.

After all, there is no use of a luxury car that has plush interiors, best in class gadgetry, a powerful engine that offers great mileage but cannot be taken out of the showroom!



The conundrum of a mid-budget value-for-money smartphone buyer
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Not surprising to see the Redmi Note 7 Pro right at the top. A chunk of affordable market is dominated by Xiaomi and other Chinese brands. Actually, they started the price war in the Indian market in the segment.


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