Best Budget Phones

one-plus-3
Last Updated: April 24, 2017

 

Choosing the best budget phone is quite a task. The lines between budget phones and premium phones are blurring and many of the cheaper phones today perform really well and offer incredible value and bang for buck. We have tested over 15 of the top phones under Rs 30,000 and picked the best.

A budget phone is hard to define. Compared to the flagships, the iPhone 7 Plus, priced around Rs. 72,000 or the Galaxy S8 priced around Rs. 60,000; any phone under Rs 30,000 can be called a budget phone. As a buyer, define your budget first and choose the best from the list below. If budget is not an issue and you want the best phone in terms of performance and features, check out our Best Smartphone guide.

The best budget phones in the market according to the BeforeiBuy team are:

Updates :  

1. We have updated the top pick from the  One Plus 3 to the One Plus 3T. This is a minor upgrade to the One Plus 3. The 3T comes with an updated Snapdragon 821 processor, a higher resolution front camera, a larger capacity battery, and an increased inbuilt storage. The One Plus 3T will cost only Rs. 2000 more than the One Plus 3 .

2. We have replaced the Redmi Note 3 with the new and updated Redmi Note 4 . The Note 4 comes with a design update and a better camera.

3. We have replaced the Moto G4 Plus with its successor the Moto G5 Plus.

4. We’ve removed the Redmi 3s from our list. Our long term tests were not satisfactory and we found the phone underpowered for most tasks.

The Best Budget Phones

1. One Plus 3T 

Best Phone under Rs 30,000.

Oneplus 3T is the best premium budget smartphone in India

 

Third time’s the charm.

The new One Plus 3T is the king of budget flagships and it’s not without a reason. High-end specs and premium build quality define this phone. The Oxygen OS is very near to stock android and is pleasing to use. The phone is powerful, packed with the latest Snapdragon 821 chip, 6GB RAM, 64 GB storage and equipped with fast charging. The phone looks amazing and for a budget phone, this one is a great buy.

Check on Amazon

 

2. Moto Z Play

Best Phone under Rs 25,000.

Moto z play has the best battery life among all phones

The Battery Monster.

If battery life is most important for you when choosing a phone, then the Moto Z Play should be your choice. The efficient yet powerful Snapdragon 625 paired with a full HD display and a 3510mAh battery means that the phone is perfectly configured for a 2 day battery life – and its true in real life usage. The phone performs brilliantly and never lets you feel like you are using a mid-range phone. To add to it all, the phone looks stylish with a metal frame and a Glass back.

Check on Flipkart

 

3Moto G5 plus 

Best Phone under Rs 20,000.

Moto g5 plus is the best budget phone in India
The Budget-King.

The Moto G5 plus improves upon our previous pick, the Moto G4 plus in almost every single way. It is an incredible phone that amazes you with its performance at the price. It is the first Moto G-series phone to have a metal body. With a good 5.2-inch 1080p screen, a Qualcomm Snapdragon 625 processor, 4GB of RAM, 3,000mAh battery, 12MP camera, dual-sim, fingerprint scanner and expandable memory, this is a phone that makes few compromises. It’s faster than many budget phones thanks to its Snapdragon 625 processor, and the Android 7.0 Nougat is clean without any bloatware. It’s a pleasure to use and gives the best bang for buck in android phones currently.

Check on Flipkart

 

4. Xiaomi Redmi Note 4

Best Phone under Rs 10,000.

Big and beautiful.

The Xiaomi Redmi Note 4 builds upon the roaring success of the Redmi Note 3. It’s metal body looks premium and it comes with a 5.5 inch Full HD display Snapdragon 625 processor, 3GB RAM, and 32GB of storage. The new camera is a 13MP camera which is significantly better than the older one. With a fingerprint sensor, expandable storage and a whopping 4,100 mAH battery, this is a phone you’ll have a hard time saying no to. The OS though well designed, with an apple-like MIUI, still has a few niggles. That apart, this is undoubtedly a good update to the proven champion at this price.

Check on Flipkart

 

How did we pick ? 

We have spent the last four years testing and reviewing phones. For this review, we have spent over 120 hours in research. There are over 1,000- 1,500 phones available in India. An average of 3 models were launched every day in India in 2014 -15 and it continues to do so. In such a cluttered market, it becomes difficult to pick and recommend a suitable phone.

We first did a round up of the best reviewed phones by other experts on Cnet, The Verge, Wired, NDTV, Android PoliceAndroid Central and Trusted Reviews. We then got our hands on these phones and tested them. Further, we went through user feedback on Amazon and Flipkart and also spoke to actual owners. Finally, we laid down our parameters (listed below) and shortlisted these phones.

In addition to the usual benchmarks of processor, ram, storage, camera and build quality we also checked the following parameters.

  1. Battery Life – We shortlisted phones which give you at least a day of juice.
  2. Software and Software Updates – Many Android phones use their own software skin over the stock android and add or remove features—some of which are helpful and some really not. We eliminated phones that didn’t look likely to receive OS updates or security patches in the future.  Some companies are better than others at providing such updates, while some barely support their phones at all. Read more below.
  3. After Sales support- Any phone should have good support and service centres to quickly fix the problems. We checked the company websites, made calls to figure service centre coverage and also went through forums to get actual user feedback.

Should I buy a phone now?

If you’re happy with your current phone, don’t get a new one. If your phone is over two years old, you can consider an upgrade. Two years is usually when software updates stop for phones (varies model to model). If you are facing software issues, try a factory reset first and for battery problems, consider a visit to the service station and replace your battery before you buy a new phone.

Which phone should I buy? 

We think phones have become the most integral and most used device in your life. Phones are nowadays used for everything – photography, music, reading, gaming and even in place of laptops. Considering all this and as per the BeforeIBuy philosophy of buying the best if its used daily and important, we think you should by the best phone that you can afford.

Good smartphones have never been more affordable. For a third of the price of an iPhone 7 or a Samsung Galaxy S7, you can easily get a phone that can do most of the things. Think and consider if you really need to spend on a flagship phone. Budget phones are great for people who don’t wish to spend a lot. They are also prefect for older people, kids and teens.

Why buy premium phones? Flagship models provide much better screens and cameras, some have wireless charging, faster processors, and usually better construction. Cameras are the main difference between the budget phones and the flagships. The cameras in the iPhone 7, the Samsung S7 and the Pixel are some of the best out there. Flagship models also usually come with at least two years of software support – something which the cheaper phones often miss out on.

Understanding Android Updates

Android is an open-source platform, meaning developers and manufacturers are free to customise the stock versions of Android and make it their own. This is the reason we have Android devices with different user-interfaces such as TouchWiz (from Samsung) or HTC’s Sense or MIUI from Xiaomi.

Google owns Android, which explains why its own products (such as the Nexus line) are usually first to receive updates. Once Google releases an update, the manufacturers then decide which devices will be updated and which ones will not. New devices are prioritised to keep the customers happy, support sales of the latest products, and because they are the easiest to update: after all, it’s these handsets that have the most recent hardware. Updating the older handsets require the manufacturers to recompile the new OS for the older hardware, test it and roll it out. This costs time and money and herein lies the problem. Most manufacturers see it unprofitable to update older phones since the sale is already done. They usually take the effort to keep the expensive flagships updated – but not always.

We prefer Google’s version of stock android as it is the cleanest, and abides by the Material Design principles laid out by Google.

Why are updates important ?

Software updates come out in two variants. You have the OS updates i.e. – update from Android 6.0 ‘Marshmallow’ to Android 7.0 ‘Nougat’ which brings in new features to the OS like split screen, Doze for better battery usage, etc. You also have patches which roll out monthly which bring in software patches that make major and minor improvements to the safety, security and performance of the phone –  for instance, the recent ‘Stagefright’ malware exploit . With outdated software, the threat of future malware and exploits remain a risk for all phones which do not receive updates.

Many phones that are sold in India, even now, are shipping with Android 5 – Lolipop which is two generations behind. Micromax, Intex, and Lava are notorious for delayed or no software updates  – Read Androidcentral’s article on this. Xiaomi’s bestselling Redmi Note 3 just recently got Marshmallow – after almost a year. Oppo and Lenovo are equally behind in rolling out updates. We have hence omitted some of these brands in our top picks although their phones are relatively well made.

The Chinese are here. They have redefined the budget category and the hardware provided by them is stellar. They have launched a spec battle with each phone screaming out bigger and better numbers.  Specs unfortunately are only one part of the story. A phone is not just the hardware inside, it is also the software, the updates, and the after sales service. Keeping this in mind, here are our top picks.

 

The best budget phones

 

1. One Plus 3T

Incredible handset at the price although not quite the flagship killer.

oneplus 3T is the best premium budget phone in India

 

The One Plus 3T is the king of budget flagships and it’s not without a reason. High-end specs and build define this phone. The One plus 3T is a  minor but good update to the One Plus 3 – similar to the Iphone 6s being an update to the Iphone 6.  The design remains the same as the One plus 3 with updates being the new Snapdragon 821 processor, a higher resolution front camera, a larger capacity battery, and an increased inbuilt storage. The phone is powerful, packed with the latest Snapdragon 821 chip, 6GB RAM, 64 GB storage and fast charging. The Oxygen OS is very near to stock android and is pleasing to use.The build quality is premium and for a budget phone, this one is a great buy.

The phone looks amazing with its unibody aluminium design. It feels premium to hold in the hand and although slippery, sits well in the palm. Inside, the new Snapdragon 821 is the same powerful processor found in the Google Pixel. The phone comes with 6GB RAM – though we have never seen Android OS use more than 4GB – it seems more like a marketing gimmick to grab headlines. However, paired together, it makes the phone fast and snappy.

The phone packs a 5.5 inch OLED screen which is full HD and runs at 1080p resolution (1920×1080 pixels). The display is not its strongest area and the colour balance is slightly off.

The 16MP camera with an f/2.0 lens is good. You cannot compare it to the ones on the Samsung S7 or the iPhones’, but for the price, it does incredibly well. Photos are detailed and accurate. The camera software itself is fast and good to use. The front camera on the 3T gets an update and it’s now a 16-megapixel camera with an F/2.0 aperture lens. Very few cameras have such a great front camera.

OnePlus has upgraded the battery to 3,400mAh over the 3,000mAh in the OnePlus 3. This update makes the battery in the OnePlus 3 more than adequate enough for a full days use. One plus has the ‘Dash Charge’ system that will charge the battery by around 60% in a half an hour, and go from empty to full in around 2 hours. Its not the quickest charging system out there, and the fast charging technology is in the adapter and not the phone – but it works well.

OnePlus is not without its share of software issues. In 2014, the OnePlus One shipped with Cyanogen ROM. After a legal battle with Micromax, where Micromax alleged that it had exclusive rights to distribute Cyanogen-branded products in South Asia , One-Plus developed its own OS called Oxygen OS. There is also another version of the OS designed specifically for the Chinese home market called the HydrogenOS. OnePlus revealed recently that the company will be merging its global Oxygen OS and Chinese Hydrogen OS. However all this seems to be stabilising and One Plus has announced that an Android 7.0 Nougat update is on its way.

With Oxygen OS, one plus seems to have sorted its OS flip-flops and decided to go near stock with a few additions. The OS based on Android 6.0 is polished and free from bloatware and has a few additions which are great.

One Plus has launched 5o plus service centres in India and has most major cities covered. However user feedback about the service centres are not too great with major issues being lack of availability of parts and time taken to repair.

With a unibody aluminium thin design that is very attractive and top-end specs, the handset ticks many boxes. The quality of the screen and the OS updates are minor concerns. The One plus 3 was our top pick and the 3T only improves upon it with small but good upgrades. Overall it is the best phone in its class.

Pros:

  1. Good build quality.
  2. Fantastic price.
  3. Fast processor.
Cons:.

  1. No expandable storage.
  2. After Sales Service and support might be an issue.

 

2. Moto Z Play

The Battery Monster

The moto z-play has the best battery life among all phones in India

If battery life is most important for you when choosing a phone, then the Moto Z Play should be your choice. The efficient yet powerful Snapdragon 625 paired with a full HD display and a 3510mAh battery means that the phone is perfectly configured for a 2 day battery life – and its true in real life usage. The phone performs brilliantly and never lets you feel like you are using a mid-range phone. To add to it all, the phone looks stylish with a metal frame and a Glass back.

The Moto Z Play looks very similar to the flagship Moto Z. The phone has a  5.5-inch screen set in a metal silver frame. The phone is 7mm thick, but that is for the huge 3510 mah battery. The back-side has a smooth glass that’s difficult to grip with the protruding camera and Motorola’s 16 pins for attaching a Moto Mod accessory. Flipkart is selling the phone with a Style Mod – that adds to grip but further increases the thickness.

The unique selling point of the phone is Motorola’ new “Mods”. These mods add on to the functionality of the phone. There is a Hasselblad camera mod, JBL bluetooth speaker mod, a battery pack and the style case. However these are expensive and we dont see anyone really adopting them yet.

Ignoring the Mods, the phone still has a lot to offer. The 5.5-inch, Full HD Super AMOLED screen, is crisp with bright colors and wide viewing angles.  There is a 16MP, f/2.0 rear camera and a 5MP, f/2.2 front camera. The camera protrudes from the back, unless you have the style mod on. The camera is ok, almost as good as the One plus 3 camera in daylight, though not as good in low lighting conditions. However the camera is slow and does take time to auto-focus .

Where the phone fully shines is in the performance. Motorola is known for its near stock-android OS with a few thoughtful additions. The software is nearly bloat-free and optimised well. This helps the phone perform as well as some flagships with virtually no lag or stutter in using the phone despite the mid-range Snapdragon 625 processor.  It is helped by the 3 Gb RAM that the phone has. Gaming performance is surprisingly decent too.

The phone comes with 32GB memory and expandable storage.

The phone has a  stunning 2-day battery life. In our tests with moderate use, we did actually manage to get the phone to run for 2 full days. With heavy usage we still ended the day with 30-40% battery left.  The secret behind the phones almost 2 day batteryis this – The Snapdragon 625 is a mid-range 15nm processor that is not too power hungry. The phone also does not have a Quad HD display which means there are fewer pixels to drive. This paired with the huge 3510  MAH battery is a recipe for great battery life. We hope more phone manufacturers use this formula.

From the stunning AMOLED screen to the efficient Snapdragon 625 processor and the amazing battery life, here is a phone you cant go wrong with.

Pros:’

  1. Decent build quality.
  2. Incredible Battery life.
  3. Expandable storage.
Cons:

  1. Mediocre camera quality.
  2. Chunky
  3. Not so great camera.

 

3. Moto G5 plus

The Budget-King.

The moto g5 plus is the best budget phone in India

The Moto G5 Plus builds upon the heritage of the G series of being the best budget phone in India. The G5 plus improves upon our previous pick, the Moto G4 plus in almost every single way. It is an incredible phone that amazes you with its performance at the price. It is the first Moto G-series phone to have a metal body. The Moto G4 plus had a 5.5 inch screen. The G5 plus however packs a slightly smaller 5.2-inch 1080p IPS LCD screen. With a Qualcomm Snapdragon 624, 4GB of RAM, 3,000mAh battery, 12MP camera, fingerprint scanner and expandable memory, this is a phone that makes few compromises. It’s faster than many budget phones thanks to its Snapdragon 625 processor, and the Android 7.0 Nougat  is clean without any bloatware.

The build quality takes a step up from the Moto G4 Plus with a premium looking metal body. The phone doesn’t have a distinct look, however it’s a functional design that will grow on you. The phone has rounded edges and corners and is comfortable to hold and use even with one hand. The display is fantastic with a 5.2-inch LCD Full HD screen (1920 x 1080 pixel) that is certainly not as eye popping as the Quad HD AMOLED displays, but does well. The viewing angles are good and bright enough to use outdoors.

There are 2 of the versions of the phone available, one with 3Gb RAM and 16 GB ROM and the other with 4GB RAM and 32GB ROM. Both support expandable storage upto 128GB. There wont be much performance difference so you can pick whichever is available. The middle-of-the-road Qualcomm Snapdragon 625 processor paired with 3/4GB RAM, is more than enough enough for day-to-day regular phone usage like browsing and messaging. Games run with well enough although as expected the load times are higher than more powerful phones. Another great feature for dual-sim lovers is that this phone can accommodate two SIMs as well as a microSD card simultaneously.

Battery life is good enough for a full days use with 3000 mAh power. The phone also comes with a Turbo charger that tops up the phone battery in an hours time.

The camera gets an upgrade from it’s predecessor and performs admirably in dim-lit conditions. Equipped with a 12MP sensor and F/1.7 aperture, the Moto G Plus has phase detection and Dual auto-focus. This means the phone is quick to focus and the photos are detailed. As expected a this budget, low light performance is is good though not the greatest. However, this is one of the best cameras we have seen at this price point. The front 5MP camera is good enough for normal social media usage.
The phone ships with Android 6.0 and Moto’s version of its OS is near stock like with a few helpful additions like Moto Active gesture controls and Moto Display that shows notifications on the lock screen. This means that you get to enjoy Google’s fantastic Material Design with having any bloatware.

Moto has also launched Moto G5, its cheaper sibling. It is a smaller 5 inch phone with a few minor changes. The Moto G5 comes with 2 or 3 GB RAM and has a lesser performing camera. It also comes with a lesser powered 1.4GHz Qualcomm Snapdragon 430 octa-core processor. However we think there are better phones like the Xiaomi Redmi Note 4 available at this price point.

The Moto G5 Plus is a phone that gets it right. There are a few complaints of the phone overheating, but other than that, the expert reviews are all overwhelmingly positive. It’s functional and reliable and provides the best bang for buck in android phones currently.

Pros:

1. Amazing Budget performer.

2. Good Camera.

3. Fingerprint sensor.

4 .Quick Charge and Expandable storage.


Cons:

1. Overheats sometime.

 

4. Xiaomi Redmi Note 4

A stunning design with amazing performance.

 

 

The Xiaomi Redmi Note 4 builds upon the roaring success of the Redmi Note 3.

It’s metal body looks premium and the phone comes with a 5.5 inch Full HD display. While at the first glance it looks similar to the older Note 3, there are actually quite a  few minor updates to the finish that makes this an even more premium looking phone. The Redmi Note 3 comes with a metal chassis  – Most of the body is made out of aluminium with the top and bottom edges being plastic though it blends well with the rest of the design. With slim bezels and gorgeous colors, the phone gets full marks in design.

The 5.5-inch IPS LCD screen is Full-HD with a 1,920 x 1,080 resolution. While not a Quad-HD with AMODED display, the screen is bright enough for most purposes. The phone is powered by the Snapdragon 625 processor which sounds like a step down from the earlier Snapdragon 650, but is actually more power efficient. It performs daily well in most tasks including gaming. The phone comes in 3 options one with 2GB or 3GB RAM with 32GB storage and the 4GB RAM with 64GB of storage. All variants come with the option of expanding storage via microSD cards of upto 128GB storage.

The phone ships with the Xiaomi’s MIUI 8 OS based on Android 6.0.1 Marshmallow. Xiaomi ha confirmed that an Android 7.0 update is on its way in a few months. This is one of the most heavily customised UI’s among Android manufacturers and you will find little resemblance to Stock Android. The OS is more Apple inspired and this can be seen most easily in the removal off the App Drawer. Like IOS, all apps are placed on the home screen in folders. MIUI also has a seperate app store where users can download and install custom designs and skins for their phone.

The new 13MP camera with a f /2.0 aperture is an upgrade from the older sensor. The new camera is better in terms of colour and contrast. Although it has phase detection autofocus, the camera produces acceptable shots, but nothing great. Low-light performance is also poor though much better than the previous camera.

The large 4100mAh battery means this is one phone that will easily last you a day and more. Sadly there is no inclusion of fast charging technology and a full charge takes upto 2 hours. However this is a battery that easily lasts all day and your wont find yourself charging very often.

Xiaomi has tied up with HCL and  launched 37 service centres in India with most major cities covered. However user feedback about the service centres are not too great with major issues being lack of availability of parts and time taken to fix problems.

The Redmi note 4 is a refinement over the Note 3 and thats not a bad thing. The premium finish, fast processor, updated camera, fingerprint sensor, expandable storage and the large 4100 mAH battery makes this is a phone you’ll have a hard time saying no to. The OS is the well designed with apple-like MIUI and the phone comes with a boat load of additional softwares which are helpful for most.

Pros:

  1. Good design.
  2. Large battery.

Cons:

  1. No quick charge.
  2. Availability is an issue due to Xiaomi’s model of limited stock flash sale.

References :

  1. The sad state of Android updates in India – Android Police
  2. OnePlus 3T Review – NDTV Gadgets 360
  3. Moto Z Play Review – IndiaToday
  4. Moto G5 Plus Review – The Quint
  5. Redmi Note 4 Review – Android Central

Team BeforeIbuy is a team of writers and editors who are passionate about their work. We are a bunch of geeks, nerds and modern day detectives who love getting to the root of things. We also work with experienced writers, researchers and engineers who give us the technical guidance on products before we come up with our recommendations. Beforeibuy is a list of the best things to buy for those who do not wish to spend hours and days figuring out what to buy. Our mission is to make buying easy. We have one expert article with links to the best products for each category that you can readily refer before you buy anything. We are unbiased, ethical and open in our decision process. We are open to feedback from all of you since we do see it as community effort.

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