While the average smartphone selling price in India increased to around Rs.11,000, the budget smartphones segment under Rs. 10,000 wasn’t ignored. Budget smartphones were made more powerful with last year’s mid-range chipsets. These phones are never meant to topple more expensive offerings, the best budget smartphones really surprised us with their performance.
There were a lot of phones to choose from this year with brands like Xiaomi, Honor, Nokia, and Asus flooding the market. With features like display notches, dual (or more) cameras, glass designs, this segment saw a lot of action.
Despite a rich set of features, only a handful of phones we reviewed were stable performers. Here at Digit, we look beyond the spec-sheet and focus on performance. While most phones launched in this segment came out as duds, these are the best budget smartphones this year.
2018 Zero1 Award Winner: Xiaomi Redmi Y2
The Xiaomi Redmi Y2 was positioned as a selfie-centric phone, but while reviewing it we felt it also doubled up as a reliable daily driver. Powered by the Qualcomm Snapdragon 625, it offers performance similar to the Redmi Note 4 that was the winner in this segment in 2017. However, with optimisations in MIUI 9, the Redmi Y2 offers a better experience, even though PubG Mobile still stuttered on low graphics. The 16MP front camera bins four pixels into one to take the best low-light selfies in this price segment while the 12+5MP dual cameras, also performed surprisingly good. The only thing lacking is long battery life and fast charging, but the chipset’s efficiency makes up for it. The newer Redmi 6 Pro with a notched display also offered similar performance but it lost out due to its relatively underwhelming 5MP front camera.
Runner up: Nokia 3.1 Plus
The Nokia 3.1 Plus looks starkly different from the rest of the budget smartphones launched this year. Additionally, the MediaTek Helio P22 powering the phone sports similar performance as the Snapdragon 625, but with higher efficiency with its 12nm manufacturing process. Even with a 3,500mAh battery, the Nokia 3.1 Plus offered eight hours of screen-on time. It’s a classic Nokia phone with fairly stable performance and a long battery life. The screen is bright and Nokia uses its patent Pure Black technology to make the panel look richer with higher contrast. Moreover, there’s also the pure stock Android experience. It is Android One certified and Nokia has stuck to its promise of regular updates. The 13+5MP dual camera at the back, however, isn’t the best in the segment.
Best Buy: Smartron T.Phone P
India-made Smartron really offered a robust, all-rounder in the budget smartphones segment. With the Snapdragon 435 chipset, it may not be extremely responsive to heavy usage, but it does offer a clean, stock Android interface along with a giant 5,000mAh battery. Needless to say, this was the longest lasting smartphone you can buy under `10,000 with 11 hours of screen-on time. The camera on the Smartron T.Phone P was also quite decent dishing out social-media worthy photos under good lighting but don’t expect good low-light performance from this one. The 5.2-inch display is pretty average too and has a traditional 16:9 aspect ratio, but what it lacks in design, it more than makes up for it in terms of the value proposition. As a result, the Smartron T.Phone P is our best buy.