You know, it's all very well for me to post (second hand) about top-end phones that catch my fancy. In the real world, most people I know, including me, are not buying them.
What are your options today if you're on a budget and want reliable substance, good specs, but not the BEST and most expensive? Here are some of my thoughts (Tip : some of these phones are also good for older users, so you can consider them for your mom or dad!)
This is the common feature set that I would recommend on any budget:
While the 3G launch has been delayed, its still round the corner and you MUST have a phone that can access it. And there is no longer any excuse to have a phone that is not GPRS enabled
2. Push Mail :
Even if you are not a corporate power user, email on your phone is addictive. If your parents at all access their email, get them a phone with push mail and see how much they come to rely on it. Till we get 3G and even beyond that, push mail will have an edge over web-based mail.
3. QWERTY keypad :
The keys may be small and cramped, but if you are going to use email or even SMS, it makes sense to have a full keyboard (either virtual or real).
4. Compatability with apps and software :
Even if you are not an Android or an iPhone user, there are thousands of free and paid apps out there that could work with your phone. It's important to have a phone that is easily compatible with the latest apps, so that without spending a bomb on your phone, you can still do a lot of things on it.
So here goes with the reccos. I have kept a budget range of Rs. 8000-20000. Bear in mind, these are not the latest, greatest and best, but they are the tried and tested :)
1) Under Rs. 10000
Close your eyes and pick up the Nokia E63, at the newly reduced price. I don't even want to recommend any other phone in this price point. One word of caution. This phone is prone to hanging and freezing unless the latest firmware is installed. Do yourself a favor and get the latest update installed BEFORE you load all your data onto it. You have to backup the data before you reinstall the firmware and trust me, you will be too lazy to do it later. Bite the bullet when you buy it and all will be well.
(image from dailymobile.se galleries)
Do note that Nokia currently offers its Exchange Mail service free in India, so you can have the same push email that you enjoy on your Blackberry. You can choose any operator who will give you a good GPRS data package (I have a 2 GB package for Rs. 99 per month from Airtel)
Nokia E71 is now in this range and still remains a fantastic phone at the price. To put it simply, E71 is very similar to the E63. It is sleeker, lighter and has a higher powered camera and HSDPA (high speed internet access) capability. Choose the one that appeals to you between the two.
(Image from Tech 2 In)
The Blackberry Curve 8520 falls in this price segment. This entry level Blackberry phone faces tough competition from both Nokia and its more expensive BB siblings, but then Blackberry users swear by the e-mail interface and the messenger, so if you are one of those people, this is an affordable Blackberry handset for you. If you are new to the BB interface, it is recommended to spend some time checking it out before you spring for it.
3) Rs. 15-20,000
In this price range, we begin to have fun. Interestingly, a new set of brands fall in this price bracket. While there's a lot of scope for experimenting with new models and operating systems, I'm gonna play it safe here and give you the most reliable options, even though some of them are older ones.
My first pick in this price range is Samsung Wave. For Rs.19000, it offers you the same hardware as the top-of-the-line smartphones from Apple, Motorola and HTC, which all currently cost Rs.30,000 plus. Samsung has also launched and will promote its own app store. The Wave runs Samsung's proprietary BADA OS, which has received positive reviews. It should be more stable than the constantly updated Android OS and that makes it a good choice for me. And it looks pretty gorgeous too - that never hurts!
(Image from Slashgear.com)
In this price range, you can also look at the Sony Xperia 10 mini (or mini Pro, which is a slider with full QWERTY Keyboard). With a promised upgrade to Android 2.1 in the near future, theX10 Mini is definitely one of the the most affordable Android phones in the Indian market right now. There are some stores where you can get the X10 Mini for less than Rs. 15000 too.
(Image from Eurodroid.com)
(image from the Themobileblog.co.uk)
Then there is the HTC Wildfire. Although it has been overshadowed by its more glamorous and expensive siblings (notably the Evo, Desire and Legend) it is still a feature packed budget handset running Android 2.1 (note that the X10 Mini is still running Android 1.6).
(Image from hitechreview.com)
The Blackberry Pearl 3G just makes it into this price range but it is not getting a thumbs up from me. I would like to see a BB running OS 6 to compete with the other offerings in this price segment. The same goes for Nokia. A few months earlier, I would have recommended the Nokia E72.. The faster processor, better battery life and specs would have made it a logical choice. But it is upstaged on both hardware and software by other brands in this price bracket.
Coming up is an exclusive post on low cost handsets (in the Rs.5000 range) which are marketed by Indian companies like MicroMax, Spice and Wyncomm.