Today, with 4G imminent, the ante is being upped in the Indian smartphone market with frightening regularity in terms of specs and jaw-droppingly low prices. It was painful to compile this short list, and so many deserving phones didn't make it — the Asus Zenfone 4, for instance, or the Yu Yureka — for one reason or the other, but which invariably had to do with features, price, or the absence of 4G.
Still, the likes of them can take comfort from increasing evidence that today's star can very easily become tomorrow's has-been. The only certainty here is that with around 700 million rural Indians yet to gravitate from feature phones to smartphones, affordable phones is a red-hot category.
Prior to the launch of the Lenovo A6000, the cheapest 4G smartphones that Indians could buy were Micromax's Yu Yureka (for 8,999 or $145) or the Xiaomi Redmi Note (for Rs 9,999 or $161). Lenovo was the first to rock this segment with an astoundingly low price for a 4G phone, along with some pretty decent specs that kept pace with its pricier rivals.
It has the same 1.2Ghz quad-core processor with 1GB of RAM that its closest rival, the Redmi 2, does; a decent camera that easily trounces the Moto E, but is overshadowed by the Redmi's; and the largest display of the three, with a 5-inch HD one. Its a great all-rounder for a brand intent on ruling this market.
Xiaomi may have momentarily stunned the Indian market with the budget Redmi 1S last year before its rivals caught up with it, but the Redmi 2 aims to reclaim that lost glory. It has the same chip set as its closest rival the Lenovo A6000, and a smaller 4.7-inch 720p display, but it clearly outshines the A6000 in the camera department.
Its 8MP shooter with f2.2 aperture is the same as in the 1S, but has better algorithms that produce near-perfect shots for a phone at this price from both front and rear clickers. If that isn't enough to make you salivate, it records video at 1,080p.
It is ironic that Moto E, which brought about a revolution in the budget phone category in India last year, is now potentially eclipsed by its peers because of one fatal flaw in this age of narcissism and selfies: The camera. The front-facing shooter has an anemic VGA resolution, while the rear one is 5MP. Its display is also the smallest of the three, at 4.5 inches
But the E — despite is dual-core 1.2GHz processor — easily keeps pace with the A6000 and the Redmi 2 (a quad-core 4G E is on the verge of being released), and has a standout 2,390mAh battery reportedly lasting as long as a day and a half with heavy usage. Its pure Android OS (unlike the other two) makes it bloatware free and a winner for many budget phone buyers.