Budget phones are no longer boring.
Even until a few years ago, the entry-level segment was a teeming mass of phones that had outdated specifications and poorly-designed user experiences. That isn't the case any longer, as intense competition in the budget segment has seen manufacturers stepping up their game considerably. The budget segment nowadays fields phones with the latest software and exciting hardware. What it means for consumers is that there has never been a better time to be in the market for an affordable handset.
These are the best budget phones you can buy in India.
Moto G4 Plus
The benchmark for budget phones
- Full HD display
- 3GB of RAM
- 16MP camera with PDAF
- Quick updates
- Motorola TurboPower
- Unenthusiastic design
- Bad fingerprint sensor implementation
- No water resistance
Motorola's G series has been the benchmark in the budget segment for the last few years, and the same holds true for the latest iteration of the handset. The Moto G4 Plus introduces a lot of new features, with the phone now offering a 5.5-inch Full HD display, 3GB of RAM, 32GB storage, and a fingerprint sensor. That's not including the 16MP camera with PDAF, which is not only the best we've seen in a Motorola budget phone, but the best shooter in this segment.
The Moto G4 Plus is powered by a Snapdragon 617 SoC with eight Cortex A53 cores — four clocked at 1.5GHz and the other four at 1.2GHz — and an Adreno 405 GPU clocked at 550MHz. Combine that with stock Android 6.0.1 Marshmallow and a few proprietary features such as Moto Display and you get a handset that offers a lag-free experience. You also get a dedicated microSD card slot, along with dual SIM card slots.
That said, there are a few downsides: The fingerprint scanner at the front is for authentication only, and doesn't double up as a button. I found myself pressing the fingerprint sensor expecting to go to the home screen, and then remembering the on-screen buttons. A sensor at the back — which is the case with the Redmi Note 3 and the Le 1s — would have been a much better implementation.
The Moto G4 Plus features Motorola's TurboPower quick charging, with a 25W charger bundled in the box along with the phone. When you run out of juice from the 3000mAh battery, you'll be able to quickly top up the phone with the TurboPower charger. If you're looking for a phone that offers great value for money and the promise of quick updates, you cannot go wrong with the Moto G4 Plus. The phone is available in two variants, but we recommend the variant with 3GB of RAM and 32GB internal storage, which retails for ₹14,999.
Lenovo ZUK Z1
Holy customizability Batman!
- 64GB storage
- Remarkably fast
- Unlocked bootloader
- Decent camera
- 32-bit CPU
- Mundane design
- Limited availability
The Lenovo Z1 made its debut in India nine months after its China unveil, which means that instead of being offered in the mid-range segment, it's now being sold in the entry-level category. The phone offers the highly customizable CyanogenMod, and is aimed squarely at enthusiast users. The bootloader is unlocked, and in addition to Cyanogen OS, there are plenty of custom ROMs available. If an installation goes awry and you brick the phone, Lenovo will honor the warranty. There's no better phone in this segment if you're looking to delve into the world of custom ROMs.
The phone is powered by the Snapdragon 801, with a quad-core Krait 400 CPU clocked at 2.5GHz and an Adreno 330 GPU. While it was a mainstay in 2014 flagships, the SoC is based on the 32-bit ARMv7 instruction set. It still works well — the Z1 flies through anything you throw at it — but if you're looking for a phone that will be future-proof, the Moto G4 Plus is a better bet. The phone comes with CyanogenMod 12 out of the box, but a stable CM13 build is available right now.
The all-metal Lenovo Z1 also comes with 3GB of RAM, 64GB storage, 13MP camera at the back, 8MP front shooter, dual-SIM connectivity, a fingerprint sensor at the front, Wi-Fi ac, and a massive 4100mAh battery. The phone is available for ₹13,499, and you'll have to register for a flash sale on Amazon to get your hands on one.
Xiaomi Redmi Note 3
For the spec nerds
- Excellent battery life
- Premium design
- Decent Full HD display
- Software niggles
- Still runs Lollipop
- Shoddy after-sales service
Xiaomi announced last month that it sold over 600,000 units of the Redmi Note 3. After failing to launch any significant products in the market last year, Xiaomi has taken an aggressive approach in India this year. That's highlighted in the strong showing of the Redmi Note 3, which features a 5.5-inch Full HD display, Snapdragon 650 SoC (two Cortex A72 cores at 1.8GHz and four Cortex A53 cores at 1.4GHz), 3GB of RAM, 32GB storage, 16MP camera at the back, 5MP front shooter, Wi-Fi ac, LTE, and a massive 4000mAh battery.
The pricing of the phone at just ₹11,999 had a significant impact on its sales. The metal-bodied phone — which offers a fingerprint sensor at the back — continues to be one of the best value for money phones. That said, MIUI 7 isn't the lightest of skins, and there are enough niggles on the software front that shifts the focus away from the stellar hardware. The camera also struggles when it comes to focusing on objects, and isn't ideal for shooting video. Overall though, the Redmi Note 3 is one of the best packages in this category.
LeEco Le 1s
Le phone to do it all
- Great design and build quality
- Fast performer
- Full HD display
- Overheating issues
- No Marshmallow update in sight
LeEco's Le 1s has been a runaway hit in the Indian market, with the phone becoming one of the best-selling handsets in the country this year. A combination of enticing hardware and aggressive pricing has contributed to the success of the 1s.
The LeEco Le 1s offers a 5.5-inch Full HD display with a pixel density of 403 PPI, an octa-core Helio X10 SoC with eight Cortex A53 cores clocked at 2.2GHz and a PowerVR G6200 GPU, 3GB of RAM, 32GB internal storage, 13MP ISOCELL camera, 5MP front camera, LTE connectivity, Wi-Fi ac, USB Type-C, Bluetooth 4.1, and a 3100mAh battery.
All that for just ₹10,999, and you begin to understand why the LeEco Le 1s is doing so well in the country. That said, there have been instances where the camera unit has been defective, and as is the case with most new vendors, LeEco's service network isn't fully off the ground yet. The phone is also prone to overheating during extended gaming sessions.