Monthly Archives: December 2014
In a few hours the sun will set on 2014, and it is time for us to reflect on the year gone by. The Indian smartphone segment has seen a tremendous growth, which is reflected in IDC’s latest numbers. In Q3, smartphone vendors in India shipped 23.7 million units, which is a 27 percent increase quarter-on-quarter, and a whopping 82 percent year-on-year growth. Competition has never been fiercer, especially in the sub-Rs 10,000 price bracket, where Chinese companies and local vendors alike have flooded the market with affordable devices with quite decent set of specifications. Here are the top five smartphones launched this year that made a mark in this price segment.
Motorola Moto E
This is the smartphone that is credited with shaking up the affordable price segment. The smartphone offered the kind of specifications that were rare for devices in this segment and also ran on Android KitKat out of the box. Besides its near-stock Android UI, Motorola also promised an early update to Lollipop. It is little wonder that the smartphone flew out of shelves the moment it went on sale on Flipkart. You can read our review of the Moto E here.
Xiaomi Redmi 1S
The Chinese company has disrupted every price segment it has entered and the entry-level is no different. The Redmi 1S stretched the limits of what smartphones that are not heavy on one’s pockets could offer with features like 720p display, and quad-core processor among others. It is little wonder then the smartphone continues to sell out every week when it goes on sale via Flipkart. You can read our review of the Redmi 1S here.
Asus Zenfone 5
Asus is one of the latest entrants in the Indian market, and its Zenfone series of smartphones have done quite well. Within four days of launch, Asus managed to sell 40,000 units of the Zenfone smartphones. The one handset that has impressed us is the Zenfone 5, which is priced at the right side of Rs 10,000. It offers decent specifications, and the overall quality of the smartphone has made it one to recommend. You can read our review of the Zenfone 5 here.
Xiaomi Redmi Note 4G
The Redmi Note is the latest smartphone of this bunch, which went on sale for the first time yesterday. The phablet is currently the cheapest LTE capable smartphone available in the Indian market today. As is the norm with Xiaomi’s smartphones, the Redmi Note 4G again offers decent specifications and is priced in the sub-Rs 10,000 price range. You can read our review of the Redmi Note (3G variant) here.
Google partnered local hardware partners including Micromax, Karbonn and Lava to launch its Android One initiative. As a part of the initiative, Google offered hardware reference design as well as the latest Android update. These smartphones run on stock Android and are aimed at first-time smartphone users. The three smartphone vendors launched their Android One smartphones with the same hardware specifications and are priced close to Rs 6,000 each. You can read our review of an Android One smartphone
When we talk about the Indian smartphone landscape, the year 2014 was pretty eventful. It not only witnessed the rise of (usable) budget Android devices with the entry of players like Asus and Motorola, but also marked the arrival of value-for-money premium smartphones from OnePlus and Xiaomi.
Of course the flagships from the leading players also got iterative upgrades and reached new levels of refinements in usability at a time when consumers have started valuing user experience more than just hardware specifications.
We’ve compiled a list of 10 best smartphones, in no particular order…
1.Apple iPhone 6 Plus
After much deliberation, Apple finally entered the phablet territory with its 5.5-inch screen equipped iPhone 6 Plus offering the best of both tablet and smartphone form factors.
It’s also the best iPhone ever sporting a much superior camera, improved performance and a longer battery backup compared to the iPhone 6 and previous iterations. The phone’s camera features mechanical Optical Image Stabilization that counters hand shake to take high-quality low light and action photos. The full-HD display is also one of the brightest and vivid ones we’ve seen.
Apple also managed to silence critics who wanted to see a fresh iPhone design and yet offer a large phone that doesn’t disappoint when it comes to ergonomics and handling, retaining the premium look and feel.
2. Samsung Galaxy Note 4
Samsung’s high-end phablet also got a big upgrade and it’s safe to say is one of the most well designed phones from the company’s stable. It looks a lot like its predecessor, but is smaller, lighter and better designed. It now comes with a metal frame that makes it look premium.
Galaxy Note 4 has a crisp and sharp, 5.7-inch QHD (1440x2560p) display, and is powered by the top-end 2.7GHz quad-core Snapdragon 805 processor, and 3GB RAM.
The 16MP rear camera takes some breath taking photos and comes with Optical Image Stabilization for better low-light shots. The phone’s 3.7MP front camera allows users to take wide-angle selfies (120-degree). But the USP of the Note is its multi-tasking abilities and the S Pen related functionality that leverages the big screen to the fullest.
3. Motorola Moto G (2nd Gen)
Motorola’s best-selling budget smartphone got even better with the second iteration. In fact, the second-generation Moto G is one of the most well rounded budget smartphones available in the market.
It improvises on the original Moto G by offering an enhanced 8MP rear camera and a storage expansion slot, addressing the two gaps.
The other specifications and features are similar to that of the Moto G which is still a great budget phone combining good ergonomics, decent performance and a clean, near-stock version of Android. It’s also among the first smartphones to get the Android Lollipop update.
4. Sony Xperia Z3
The Sony Xperia Z3 is the Japanese giant’s answer to Samsung Galaxy S5, HTC One (M8) and iPhone 6. While it doesn’t come with gimmicky features and sensors, the overall experience offered by the phone, in terms of everyday performance, battery backup and mobile gaming is unparalleled.
Even the audio quality offered by the phone’s external speakers is amazing. The 20.7MP rear camera comes with a wide angled lens and finds itself a place among the best smartphone cameras in the market today. In terms of design, the phone stays loyal to Sony’s OmniBalance philosophy but is the company’s most refined offering yet.
5. OnePlus One
Pitched as the ’flagship killer,’ the OnePlus One reached the Indian shores just before the end of the year. The phone created ripples with its high-end, flagship-like hardware specifications and premium design at half the price. It was also notorious as one of toughest phones to acquire due to the “invite system” put in place by the company as the OnePlus One’s production was limited.
Not only is the phone a performance powerhorse, it is also a very well-rounded offering with equal emphasis on ergonomics and form factor. It doesn’t boast of an all-metal chassis or water and dust resistant shell, but OnePlus One is certainly a well-made phone. The OnePlus One runs CyanogenMod flavour of Android which is known for its customisability, enhanced performance and additional features.
However, the software is now a bone of contention between OnePlus and Micromax with the latter fighting for exclusivity over Cyanogen’s custom UI. The phone’s sales are on hold as it works on finding a solution. OnePlus is also developing its own Android-based OS which is expected to be out in February.
6. OPPO Find 7
Oppo’s flagship model, Find 7, is one of the most under-rated smartphones available in the Indian market. More than just high-end hardware specifications, the phone brings to the table some really innovative features.
Sporting a 5.5-inch display, this smartphone is among the few models in India to have a QHD (2440x1560p) screen that looks crisp, sharp and vivid. It is powered by a 2.3GHz quad-core Snapdragon 801 processor with 3GB RAM and packs 32GB internal storage with 128GB microSD support offering excellent performance.
However, features like VOOC fast charging (A 30 minute charge gets Find 7 to 75% of full battery), enhanced audio output quality, and 4K video recording capability are the primary reasons you should choose the Find 7 over flagships from leading brands.
7. Xiaomi Mi3
Xiaomi kicked off its Indian operations with the launch of Mi 3, its flagship device that featured high-end hardware rivalling the likes of Google’s Nexus 5, but costed almost half the price.
It was one of the first true ‘value for money’ devices delivering a combination of high-end hardware, software full of usability tweaks and good build quality that placed it right next to the likes of premium phones.
With the Xiaomi Mi 3, the company managed to offer high-end specifications (2.3GHz quad-core Snapdragon 800 processor with 2GB RAM) and a full-HD display at a budget price by cutting marketing and distribution costs and adopting a direct to consumer, online-only model. The disappointing bit was that the phone was only available for one month.
8. HTC One (M8)
HTC One (M8) is among the best Android smartphones available in the market in terms of performance, build quality as well as software. Not much changed if you compare it with the original HTC One, but the company improvised on the design, taking care of finer nuances.
HTC One (M8)’s audio quality and output are also superior when compared to other phones. The variant available in India comes with a 2.5GHz Qualcomm Snapdragon 801 quad-core processor and 2GB RAM, offering lag-free gaming and multimedia performance.
The form factor of the phone also makes it fit for one hand use even though it now offers a bigger display. The camera is not exactly the strong point of the phone and the Dual Camera feature is gimmicky, but it still does a fairly decent job.
9. Motorola Moto X
The new Moto X is not just an upgrade, it’s a completely new phone. It looks much more premium compared to the original one thanks to its all-aluminium frame. Despite sporting a larger, 5.2-inch display, it still doesn’t feel cumbersome to hold and fits nicely in your hands.
Motorola didn’t want to leave any stone unturned and upgraded the hardware specifications to be on par with other flagships. It is powered by a 2.5GHz Qualcomm Snapdragon 801 processor and 2GB RAM offering superior performance aided by the phone’s near-stock operating system.
The original Moto X is known for its special features, namely, Active display and Touchless control. The two features have also been updated to support more functions. The phone’s camera can record 4K and slo-mo videos, matching the video recording capabilities of other top-end phones in the market today.
10. Microsoft Lumia 830
Microsoft’s Nokia Lumia 830 aimed to reduce the gap between a mid-ranger and a high-end phone. In fact the company positioned the phone as ‘an affordable flagship,’ with a premium form factor and a good quality camera.
Lumia 830 is a good looking phone that also feels solid and durable thanks to its metal frame and high quality construction. While the phone features a smaller sensor in terms of Megapixels compared to flagship phones, it still offers one of the best results when it comes to image quality.
The phone’s hardware is not top-of-the-line but it still delivers great performance. It comes with Lumia Denim, th latest version of Windows Phone that comes with an enhanced camera app offering features like speedy shooting and ‘rich capture’.
It’s safe to say that the Lumia 830 is without doubt a well rounded smartphone.
More than 125 million pre-paid mobile phone users in Pakistan may lose their connections as telecom operators have expressed their inability to re-verify their subscribers within the 28-day deadline set by the government after a brutal Taliban attack on an army school in Peshawar.
Interior Minister Nisar Ali Khan last week set the deadline for the top five telecom operators – Mobilink, Ufone, Telenor, Warid and Zong. He said the government did not want “free availability” of SIMs to militants. The Taliban militants who attacked the army-run school in Peshawar on December 16 that killed 150 people, most of them children, used a SIM (subscriber identification module) of one of these top five telecom operators. ”We cannot re-verify over 125 million pre-paid connections in 28 days. If we are forced to so then eventually we will have to block the pre-paid SIMs to meet the deadline,” said a senior official of a cellular company.
He said the operators needed at least 150-200 days to complete the re-verification process. ”We want a realistic period for the verification process,” he said, adding the general public would be the ultimate sufferer if the SIMs were blocked for a month. ”The affected persons will rush to customer sale centres, franchises and retailers to get post-paid SIMs,” he added. According to the Pakistan Telecommunication Authority, there are a total of 140 million mobile phone users. Of them 125 million are pre-paid and 15 million are post-paid. About a year ago, the PTA had introduced a biometric verification system to check the sale of illegal SIMs. However there are complaints of unauthorised sale of SIMs.
Telenor Pakistan official Mohammad Aslam Hayat said: “There is no such thing as unverified SIM. Every mobile operator has a record of SIM sales from its warehouse up to the retail level, where subscriptions are acquired. ”Against every SIM sold, mobile operators have necessary data as per the regulatory requirement. However, this does not mean that the system is foolproof.” Hayat said the “dominant buyer” of bulk SIMs was a group of people involved in “grey” international incoming calls. ”These grey traffickers are willing to pay very high prices, (reportedly up to Rs 5,000 a SIM), for these Sims which turns out to be a substantially motivating factor for some in retail channels to ignore the sale procedures laid down by the operators,” he said.
The PTA has called a meeting of all operators tomorrow to discuss a solution to the problem. ”The Pakistan Rangers has also written to the PTA that the regional head of a cellular company of the SIM found in the use of a terrorist will be responsible,” an official said, adding the warning has created panic among the operators.
Last week, Samsung launched the Galaxy Note Edge in India with a price tag of Rs 64,900. The premium phablet which is set to go on sale next month, is up for preorders on Amazon India.
Amazon India has listed the Galaxy Note Edge for the above mentioned price, and reveals that the phablet will go on sale on January 5. The ecommerce site is also offering EMI options for the device on a few credit cards starting from Rs 5,796 onwards.
To recap, the Galaxy Note Edge was unveiled alongside the Galaxy Note 4 at a pre-IFA event in Berlin earlier this year. The phablet has a curved display that wraps around the right-hand side. As far as the specifications are concerned, it flaunts a 5.6-inch Super AMOLED display, but with QHD+ resolution, which adds an extra 160 pixels on the third side of the display.
Samsung has launched the Snapdragon variant of the Galaxy Note Edge, so essentially there is a 2.7GHz Snapdragon 805 quad-core processor inside, paired with Adreno 420 GPU and 3GB of RAM. The phablet also features 32GB internal storage, microSD card support, 16-megapixel rear camera with OIS, 3.7-megapixel front-facing camera, and a 3,000mAh battery.
Connectivity options include 4G LTE support, Wi-Fi, Bluetooth, and on the software front, it runs on Android 4.4.4 KitKat wrapped under Samsung’s TouchWiz UI.
Xiaomi Redmi Note 4G Sold out Today, Next of Redmi 1S and Redmi Note 4G To go on sale on January 6th
This is the first time that Xiaomi is offering two smartphones in a single flash sale.”
The Xiaomi Redmi Note 4G on sale in India for the first time today. There were 40,000 units of the smartphone up for grabs, and the stock sold out in just six seconds. Soon after, Xiaomi’s India Head, Manu Jain, tweeted that the company’s budget-smartphone, the Redmi 1 would go on sale again on January 6th, along with the Redmi Note 4G. This is the first time that Xiaomi is offering two smartphones in a single flash sale.
We will have sales of both Redmi Note 4G & Redmi 1S next week. Registrations for both will start at 6 pm today @ http://t.co/m9QOEselFp — Manu Kumar Jain (@manukumarjain) December 30, 2014
The Redmi 1s went on sale the ban imposed by the Delhi High Court was partially lifted. Registrations for both the Redmi Note 4G and the Redmi 1s will commence at 6pm today on Flipkart.
In addition, Jain also announced that Redmi Note 4G users can redeem a free micro-SIM card tray and screen protector from the vendor’s website by entering the IMEI number of the handset.