The sub-10K budget smartphone category has seen a seismic shift in terms of performance, battery life and overall build quality in the last year. Over the last year, we have seen phones in this category not only outperform the previous winners but also go toe to toe against some mid-tier smartphones. Last year, there was cut-throat competition in this price category and it was quite justified since this segment comprises of the biggest mobile consumer base India has to offer. However this year, the focus shifted to the sub-15K smartphone category with the Xiaomi Redmi Note 3 and the LeEco Le 2, giving many flagships a run for their money for the better half of this year.
This year, even though there has been several phone launches in the sub-10K smartphone category, only a few stood out. These few phones were brilliant and at the end of the day took the awards for the best phone in the budget smartphone category.
Zero1 Winner: Xiaomi Redmi Note 3
While choosing the best smartphone in the sub-10K budget category, we considered more than a dozen phones, but nothing came even close to the Xiaomi Redmi Note 3. Since its launch earlier this year, this particular phone has dominated the sub-10 category
This is primarily because of the Qualcomm Snapdragon 650 SoC. Back in March, when this phone was launched, this octa-core SoC set new benchmark scores, setting a new standard for what performance a consumer should get in the budget category. Xiaomi made it available in two storage options and even the lower variant had a fingerprint scanner at the back.
The other key requirements of a budget buyer is good battery life and its 4050mAh battery was able to last two days on a single charge.
The rest of the phone is nothing special but it does a lot of things better than its peers. The 5.5-inch display offers good viewing angles, is bright and still considered one of the better displays in the budget category.
Further, the 16MP rear camera is still one of the best cameras in the sub-10 smartphone category. And the images showcase better colour reproduction and dynamic range than most of its competitors.
Best buy: Xiaomi Redmi 3S Prime
The only budget smartphone which comes close to the Redmi Note 3 is its smaller cousin, the Redmi 3S Prime. Available for `8,999, the Prime is for people who are looking for form over functionality. That being said, the Qualcomm Snapdragon 430 powered device is still faster than most phones available in the sub-10k category.
Like the Redmi Note 3, the Redmi 3S is a really good performer. The phone does not get bogged down doing day to day tasks and can even run demanding games almost flawlessly. It is quite efficient as well as it does not get hot while gaming.
Battery life is also quite good and the small 5-inch device holds a large 4100mAh battery, which provides two days of battery life even under heavy use. In the GeekBench battery test, the phone lasted for 16 hours, which is even better than the Xiaomi Redmi Note 3.
Besides that, the phone offers a good build quality, a fingerprint scanner and a 13MP rear camera which takes good images in daylight.
Overall, we think Xiaomi did a fantastic job this year. The company has dominated the budget smartphone category for the better part of the year and if other phone makers are unable to counter the performance of the two devices, it will continue to do so.