As we near 2018, India has become the second largest smartphone market – one that’s governed by its own rules. If you are looking forward to buying an affordable or mid-range phone and aren’t well versed in the technical jargon involved, things can get a bit confusing.

Midrange phones (and we mean phones below Rs. 20,000 INR) have made big strides over the last year and they are actually quite good by now. But rather than asking straight for the best available options, it’s better to be acquainted with the basics as there is no perfect phone and you need to make the right compromises. So, if you are a beginner or aren’t up to date with what’s hot and happening, and are thinking of buying a new phone, we have listed 10 things you must consider before you get started.

Display:

Bezel-less displays are in. Manufacturers are now offering 18:9 display panels with extremely narrow bezels even at affordable price points. But should you necessarily buy one?

The new trendy displays do look awesome and provide a more immersive experience. They can also fit-in more content (except when you are watching videos shot in 16:9 or 4:3 format) and make large display phones easier to handle with one hand.

But at the same time, if you need to choose between an 18:9 and regular 16:9 display phone, you need to know that the display aspect ratio won’t be a deal breaker (unless the design is your top priority).

Another deciding point is between AMOLED and IPS LCD panels. The AMOLED screens have better contrasts, punchy colors and are generally lighter on the eyes (compared to low cost IPS LCD panels). The ones from Samsung are particularly good.

  • A 6-inch 18:9 display phones as Vivo V7+ and Oppo F5 aren’t as huge or unwieldy as 6-inch display phones from last year (or with 16:9 aspect ratio).
  • There are quite a few phones now that are available with good quality displays even under 20,000 INR.
  • If your budget permits, go for an AMOLED panel.

Design:

More affordable phone buyers than ever before are now prioritizing design while making a purchase. After enduring semi-metal unibody design for a while, we now have quite a few full metal body phones like Mi A1, Moto G5s Plus and Nokia 6 available for a budget price. Even glass body phones like Honor 8 are now available for under 20,000 INR.

But of course, a design is much more than simply the quality of material used. This year, polycarbonate phones like LG Q6 have set design benchmarks too.

  • We finally have full metal body phones (no plastic caps on top and bottom) priced under 15K
  • 18:9 display phones are worth considering if you prioritize design.

Software:

Nurturing a new custom UI is a painstaking task, and since stock Android is now quite evolved, all new OEMs and even some old ones are opting for the stock software on their phones.

I, for one, prefer stock Android software but the user feedback that we receive makes it clear that many average consumers consider it bland and would rather prefer tidbits that manufacturers bake in.

The smooth and intuitive software is a very significant part of your smartphone experience, and it ultimately is a matter of personal taste. Having said that, If you are unsure of what you need, going with the light and fast stock or pure Android experience should be a safer bet. And you’ll have better chances of getting Android Oreo upgrade.

  • If you don’t have any particular software preferences, Stock Android is a safe bet
  • Some users used to feature rich custom software might find it a little too bland
  • There are numerous affordable options this year that promise Android Oreo update

Chipset:

Most of the current mobile phone chipsets have 8 cores. A few Deca-cores and Hexa-cores are around too. The point being, as of today, there is no point judging a mobile chipset by the number of cores.

The Snapdragon 625 is the most revered mobile platform for mid-range buyers these days and it’s expected to be replaced by Snapdragon 636 early next year. For more basic phones, most OEMs are using Snapdragon 430/435.

As for MediaTek chips, we have MT6737 quad-core at the entry-level (not exactly muscular, though), and the new set of Helio P-series chips (P23, P25, P30) chips that are still to gain traction.

The chipset used in a phone isn’t an actual indicator of the overall performance, and you will have to rely on reviews to know for sure. At the same time, these are some safe bets.

Ram and Storage:

If you are a moderate user and want convenient performance, in the long run, we’d advise you to go with 4GB RAM and 64GB storage options.

The thing with eMMC storage is that it slows down as you fill it to the brim. And besides, these days each one of us does a lot on his/her phone and the 16GB and 32GB storage (of which only 11GB and 25GB are available at user end on an average) can fill out real quick. If you are a basic user, you can go for 32GB storage + dedicated microSD card phone, but in 2017, it’s hard to recommend 16GB storage to even the most basic buyers.

  • If you can, go for the 4GB RAM and 64GB storage option. The configuration won’t be superfluous even for moderate users
  • It’s hard to recommend 16GB storage phones at this point in time.

Brand:

Many consumers only prefer buying from familiar brands. The notion that less familiar brands offer better hardware and more value for money when compared to tier-1 options like Samsung for under 20,000 is no longer true.

However, the same still rings true when we are talking about more affordable phones priced under 10,000 INR.

  • Even tier-1 brands are offering great experience under 20K these days
  • While buying phones under 10K, we’d recommend  that you don’t prioritize branding

Dual cameras:

The dual cameras are now smartphone staples. We do believe that they are a great way of counterbalancing smartphone photography constraints but the currently available options are strictly optional.

With the dual rear camera performances that we have come across in phones under 20k, you won’t be missing out on much even when you opt for a single camera phone.

  • Dual cameras are the right way ahead, but they still aren’t mandatory
  • They are available in several configurations, (+ depth sensor, + monochrome sensor, +2X zoom lens, +wide angle lens)

Selfie cameras:

If you are indeed passionate about selfies, the selfie-centric phones and the additional software/hardware they accommodate to justify the tag can be worth your while. However, if you expect that the selfie quality will be at far with flagships that manage with comparatively lower camera resolution (5MP to 8MP, generally) you will be in for a rude awakening.

  • ‘Selfie Phones’ do offer better front camera performance
  • But even the best ones can’t match selfie cameras on high-end flagships

Battery and Fast Charging

The battery backup has genuinely improved with the coming of more power efficient chipsets. Phones like Mi A1, Moto G5s Plus, and Zenfone 4 Selfie Pro can manage very well even on a 3000mAh battery.

In fact, the difference in mileage on 4000mAh and 3000mAh battery phones isn’t as wide as you’d expect it to.

The fast charging is, however, something that makes a difference and something you should strive for.

  • Battery backup on phones has drastically improved this year, thanks to more power-efficient chipsets
  • Fast-charging can be a huge convenience

Water resistance

Water resistance brings some piece of mind, but unfortunately, this isn’t something you will find on a mid-range phone. The next best thing available is water repellent nano-coating, which can protect you against accidental splashes. No guarantees, though.

  • Water resistance is still not available on affordable phones.

10 Things To Know Before you buying affordable or mid-range phones

To arrive at the right conclusion and to decide between the right trade-offs, it’s important that you know exactly what your specific needs are. However, that’s easier said than done unless your day job is to test and live with different sorts of phones. We hope the above tips and linked articles should help.

Latest Smartphone Trends in 2017 – 5 Features you don’t want to miss-out on

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