Wednesday, July 30, 2014

Do Facebook Likes still mean anything?

Everyone is human and everyone loves to be liked. Even in social media, whether we admit it or not, we enjoy it when people like our posts. At the highest level, we equate it with being liked or popular in real life. At the most basic level it seems to show that people appreciate what we write or share. Some of us keep a count, some of us seem to be naturally more likeable and we classify some people as being all out to get likes. 

Since the early days of social media, the number of likes has also been the Holy Grail for brands and companies looking to build a fan following on Facebook. A power brand has to have millions of fans, and if it sees fit, it even spends to woo or buy them.

But is it really a big deal whether you have a ton of likes? Has the meaning of a Facebook like gotten devalued over time? I have been pondering these questions from my personal experience as a Facebook user and a Page Manager for five very diverse pages. And I think that perhaps likes mean less than we like to imagine! Here's why:

1) Likes are becoming lazy expressions of communication 
Blame it on Facebook, really. The ubiquitous thumbs-up button has become a perfect way of non-verbal communication. Putting a 'like' (akin to a pug mark) shows that you have noted what's going on even if you have no time to think about it or don't quite know what to say. I have observed people liking obituaries, announcements of laptops crashing or houses being burgled. I am intrigued to see this. I would think that it takes two minutes to type "Sorry to hear that". And I think it's impolite to 'like' such happenings! But people still do it. Is it becoming a thoughtless way to mark attendance?

2) Likes are contributing less to page reach
As page managers, we will not be doing justice to our jobs if we sit back and say we got a lot of likes. As Facebook keeps tweaking their algorithms, I can see that even likes do not contribute substantially to reach any more. What we are after now is users sharing the updates on their timelines. Shares, even in smaller number than likes, can substantially improve reach. Unfortunately they are not easy to achieve either!

3) Likes are passive, in an increasingly engaged internet
Engagement is a much abused term in the digital world. At a simple level, for me engagement is real people having real conversations. A fan tweeting to his favorite star that he loves his latest movie is not engagement to me - but SRK and Salman fans having a twitter fight a few days ago certainly was. Seriously, there were real abuses being hurled, and my curiosity was aroused even though I am a fan of neither superstar. You can say that as an outsider, I got engaged. Anyway, what is worrisome for Facebook is that a lot of real people seem to be having real conversations elsewhere these days. On Twitter, on WhatsApp, even on Instagram. This is not to devalue the role of Facebook with its gigantic user base. It's just that its role is changing, as conversations move to other mediums. Facebook is trying to re-define itself and it may well succeed. 

Of course, as a metric of measurement, we will not discard Facebook likes tomorrow. The important question, as my business partner Oindrila raised in a recent blog post, is this : Are we measuring what matters? Does it mean the same thing that it did earlier? And if not, what are the other measures we should start looking at?

Saturday, July 26, 2014

The Internet of the here and now

There is a new trend that's growing in the digital world. I like to call it 'the internet of the here and now'. It's not a new concept. The philosophy of 'carpe diem' (Seize the day) dates back to pre-Christian times in the Western world, and is equally well accepted in the Eastern philosophical systems. To cast off the past and stop worrying about the future, because only the present minute is given to us. Different ways to say the same thing. Live in the here and the now

Yet, as the internet grows, it has become a repository of things from our past. We are constantly adding our personal scrapbooks of memories, ideas and opinions to blogs, social networks and forums, stuff from the past is getting digitized, and the sheer amount of data we generate is growing at an unimaginable pace. Coming from a legacy of PCs and hard drives, we are concerned about how much we can store, in the cloud, in our accounts, in digital lockers like Dropbox and Google Drive. We still feel in control if we can search and retrieve some email from ages ago which helps us to answer an important question today.

But we are human, and the appeal of the transient and the impermanent continues to be strong. As the internet matures, the 'here and the now' is featuring more and more prominently on the digital landscape, in the form of apps, services and even social media, that try to persuade us to live in the present moment, not in the past. 

Here are some of the top indicators of this trend:

1) Snapchat grows beyond its teen appeal

Until recently most adults knew Snapchat as a messaging app used by young people to send self-destructing photos and videos with a caption - a concept that amused them and presumably triggered a lot of plain foolish, and some risque content to be passed around. But Snapchat has grown out of this mode. The mobile app made headlines for its unique coverage of the 2014 FIFA World Cup finals. Snapchat sent all its users a set of curated photos from users who were live at the event, offering a very different and candid perspective of what it felt like to be in the stadium during the match. There is an even more interesting feature that Snapchat has added, currently available only in New York and L.A. Called geofilters, it is a functionality that allows users to add context-sensitive labels and drawings to their Snaps based on the location. For example, if you are at Disneyland, you can add a Disney logo to your Snap. As if this were not enough, there are now even rumors that Snapchat will start a mobile payment system. Which has given rise to many jokes about your money disappearing. But still, the once-infantile app is using some pretty creative ways to lure users into its ephemeral world.

2) Sobrr, the 24 hour social network

Snapchat came before Sobrr, but it was reading about Sobrr that actually inspired me to write this post. It is a social network that erases everything after 24 hours - photos, posts, even friends (unless you choose to keep them). Founder Bruce Yang says "Sobrr encourages people to go out and live in the moment. The fact that everything will disappear keeps the user engaged with things in the present."

You can see how true this perspective is, if you take a typical Facebook scenario. Several people (some of them strangers) have met up for a party that gets progressively more boozy and stupid (or wild). Next morning, you receive several friend requests on Facebook from people you chatted with for hours and you are not sure if you want them to be permanent contacts on Facebook who know everything about your life. Meanwhile some other enthusiastic people have tagged you in some photos that you'd rather not be tagged in. Get the difference? Facebook is about our past, it's about our relationships and how we manage our image. Sobrr is the network of short time friends - the area of socialising, rather than building and sustaining relationships.

3) Facilitators of spontaneity - Vayable and RoadTrip

Geolocation is the hottest technology powering apps today. Knowing exactly where people are helps companies to personalise and localise offerings. Google has a head start, but more and more interesting offerings are entering the market place.

Vayable is a travel app designed to defy the common wisdom that people like to plan every detail of their foreign vacation in advance. Targeted at a young demographic that wants to infuse the free-spiritedness and spontaneity of their youth into their travel experience, Vayable lets users book spontaneous experiences from local guides, sometimes instantaneously, sometimes in advance. Incidentally, the local guides are all handpicked by the company as experts and insiders who can offer their own unique and colorful perspective, ensuring that as a user, you get an offbeat experience compared to a regular tour.

Roadtrip Mixtape is a simple and charming app that ties up the music playing on your phone or tablet with the place you are visiting - for example, musicians who hail from the places that you are passing through. Since the recommendations are location-based rather than genre based, you will hear an interesting and whimsical mix of music depending on the route you are travelling.

Pinterest has launched a similar location-based feature on their mobile app. If you are near a location that you have pinned earlier, the app will notify you, and even give you step by step instructions on how to get there. Obviously such a feature also triggers discovery, which is another big theme of the modern internet.

On a lighter note, living in the here and now can also have its weird side. General Motors in China recently demonstrated a prototype app called DiDi Plate which lets Android users text car owners simply by scanning their license plates. Want to flag down a taxi driver? Want to send an abusive message to a lousy driver who nearly banged into you? Or want to ask the cute guy you noticed in the traffic jam out on a date? It's all possible in the internet of the here and the now. Ask and you shall receive :)

Sources : TechRadarMashableVenture Beat, Fast CompanyEngadget

Wednesday, July 23, 2014

Re-writing the rules of the game - making low cost handsets exclusive

The paradigm of 'low cost' smartphones is quietly being re-written, with the recent online launches of the Moto E and Xiaomi M3 exclusively through Indian e-tailer Flipkart. Low cost handsets with decent specs have been around for sometime but have never enjoyed a great brand image or buzz. This is even truer of the many Chinese brands that have flooded the Indian market in the last two years. Many people on a low budget play safe and buy established brands like Samsung and Nokia.
Micromax broke the paradigm of cheap Indian phones when they launched the Canvas range in India - decently powered phones with a flagship that has always delivered specs equivalent to Rs.30,000+ handsets at sub Rs.20,000 prices. Combined with their foray into international markets, and their use of Hugh Jackman as brand ambassador, Micromax spiffed up their brand image and garnered serious interest from mid-range smartphone buyers. Earlier known for offering entry level handsets for the masses, it was a huge jump for Micromax to be even considered in the Rs. 10,000 + range.
Brand Motorola has been languishing since Google bought it out. With the launch of the Moto E and Moto G they came back with a bang. A recent article reported that Motorola sold 1 million handsets in India since their relaunch - even more impressive when you consider that the re-launch was done exclusively on Flipkart. Who thought that a low-cost product could be sold with such fanfare, exclusivity, pre-booking - all the trappings of premium and high end launches from Apple and Samsung. Yet, it totally worked. It's true that the handsets are fabulous value for money, but the retail strategy also helped to give the image of exclusivity.
And to prove that it was not a fluke, the same thing happened with Xiaom Mi3. The Mi3 is not just a great piece of hardware at an unbelievable cost (Rs.13,999). It also taps into the techie/geeky/ youth crowd by using a 'custom ROM' - an alternative flavor of Android developed and used by the enthusiast community who root and modify their phones. It is also a Flipkart exclusive in India, and to buy it, you have to register on Flipkart, and then hope you are lucky enough to garner one when the sale period opens for 24 hours. One round is over, and the Mi3 sold out in just 40 minutes. The second round will be on July 29th, so you should head to Flipkart now if you are keen to snag one.
And this new retail strategy is not unique to India. OnePlus, another Chinese company, has designed an incredible phone called One. The handset has specs equivalent to the Samsung Galaxy S5, and retails at sub Rs.20,000. OnePlus has also chosen to sell through an exclusive invite-only route, probably to save on margins that must be passed on to retailers. And the hype around the One has been quite incredible.
Will the trend last? We need to wait and watch? But for end consumers, its a sweet deal to get high powered handsets at a fraction of the cost of competition. And combined with exclusive retail strategies, it seems to be working well for companies too!

Sunday, July 13, 2014

Online resources for women who work out

If you asked me to choose between 'dieting' and working out, as a means of weight management, I would choose working out, every time. By the way, when I say working out, I do not mean pure cardio. I mean proper workouts that involve strength training - lifting weights, doing pushups, lunges, deadlifts - all the stuff that guys do at the gym. Working out has given me multiple benefits beyond just losing weight or fat - it has regularised my life, brought in energy, happiness and youthful skin. Above all, it has liberated me from the tyranny of irrational diets which involve consuming unpalatable foods, and promise to melt your 'stubborn fat' forever, in 6 weeks. 

Working out is simple, scientific, yet shrouded with irrational beliefs, myths and a lot of marketing-led hype around the role of products. 

There are lots of online resources for men, but not nearly enough for women. Women who work out have certain concerns that men (mostly) do not seem to have. 

Women care much more about what they put into their mouths, we do not want to consume chemicals, we look for natural alternatives where possible. (think of how much women hesitate to consume protein supplements)

We tend to believe that we only get results by starving ourselves and that is plain counter productive when you are working out.  Most men will increase their calorie intake when they work out, in order to build muscle, while women do not want to bulk up.

Women often get plain frustrated at the slow and steady pace of change that workouts bring - for example, you will not lose kilos at the rate you do when you diet, but the gains are silent and real. Men on the other hand, do not worry too much about their weight in kilos, and seem to quickly build muscle - which is what they want when they hit the gym. In fact, men benefit more quickly and visibly than women when they start working out.

I do intend to edit this post as and when I come across newer resources and links. But the idea is not to give you a Google laundry list. I want to share the links that personally helped me in my journey to fitness.

1) What to expect - a realistic perspective

One of the gifts that you give yourself when you start exercising regularly, is a sane perspective on weight loss. One that puts life in the context of fitness, health and overall well being. One of the people who gave me this perspective is trainer Molly Galbraith  You must visit her site to understand that its really ok to crave food, binge occasionally, not have the perfect figure - and to love and accept yourself above all else. And best of all, when you do all of this, you will look better and fitter than you have ever done in your life.

I got introduced to Molly through a blog post that she did on SparkPeople, titled "Is being lean really worth it?" and I have been a fan of her approach ever since. For more write ups in the same vein, you can read the Girls Gone Strong website, of which Molly is a co-founder. I also really like Nia Shanks' Lift Like a Girl.

Resources :
Five Facts women must know to burn fat and build muscle

2) How-to guides - fitness and nutrition

It goes without saying that if you're serious about working out, you would have invested in a good gym, and at least initially, in a personal trainer. I go to a Functional Fitness gym, the iFit Studio in Chembur and I have never been so happy with a gym before. Everyone should find a place that you look forward to visiting, and trainers whom you really like and trust. It makes it easy to change your habits and integrate fitness into your lifestyle.

Having said that, if you want workout pointers, then one of the best places to start is JCD Fitness. Owner JC Deen has co-authored some truly awesome articles on female fitness and strength training for women along with fitness coach Joy Victoria. There is holistic set of three write ups on diet and workout combined with downloads and links to other resources. These are truly world class trainers who know their stuff and have generously shared their expertise, at length. Must-read.

Web MD is my go-to site for a balanced perspective on health. You should subscribe to their newsletter to get interesting and relevant articles on women's health, which includes diet, nutrition and exercise. 

There are also some good books that you can pick up on Amazon, and I am providing the links below:

JCD Fitness : How to build muscle - Women's Edition - Part 1, Part 2Part 3
Simple Science Fitness is awesome if you like to absorb your information infographic style
Strong Curves by Bret Conteras and Kellie Davis (Link to Amazon Book Store)
The New Rules of Lifting for Women by Lou Schuler, Cassandra Forsythe and Alwyn Cosgrove (Link to Amazon Book Store)
Disclaimer : I am not affiliated with any of these authors, nor do I make money if you use these links to buy their books. 

3) Protein and whey supplements - how to make an informed choice

Chances are, you have been exposed to two sets of perspectives on whey protein supplements. One set of people will enthusiastically endorse it, especially if you are vegetarian (it seems that without meat, you are dead meat in the muscle building game!). And yet another set of people are dead against whey supplements, citing sources to say that they contain harmful chemicals, artificial sweeteners, unuseable protein and genetically modified ingredients. 

I am no nutrition expert and this is a choice you have to make for yourself, with the aid of whatever information is accessible. I am going to provide some links that will help you to decide if you want to go for whey supplements or not. One thing that I will say is - read as much as you can before you form an opinion. It really helps, and there are no simplistic answers out there. 

Resources :
Web MD - Do you really need protein powder : If you had doubts about whether you need a protein supplement, this article will definitively answer them. After this, if you STILL want one, well, then you really want one :) Also check out How much protein do you really need?
Greatist - The benefits of chocolate milk : In case you decide to NOT take a protein supplement, this article will make you feel good.
Labdoor - Their site claims to publish an independent audit and ranking of protein supplements. For an updated perspective on the report, follow this discussion thread on Reddit.
Consumer Reports - This report from 2010 may be dated, but it's worthwhile reading as it started the whole debate about safety of protein supplements. And all debates are good, as ultimately they lead to consumer education, and greater transparency from manufacturers. The Truth About Protein Shakes

4) Vegan, vegetarian and organic resources

There's a lot more love for vegans on the internet than for plain old vegetarians! From body builders to chefs, there are a lot of helpful people who contribute some great articles. As I am not a vegan, I would welcome help from vegans to edit this resource list. 

It was harder for me to find vegetarian resources, especially international ones. Vegetarianism is unique to India in its sheer diversity, age-old wisdom, culture-specific traditions - and the mind-blowing range of ingredients including grains, spices, and dals which we completely take for granted.  

Resources for vegans:
This article by Derek Tresize, vegan bodybuilder, is a great place to start: How to build muscle mass on a plant based diet
Dr. Joel Fuhrman's site is a good place to explore for scientific advice on food, macronutrients and supplementation for vegans :
The Mumbai based Health Awareness Centre is not very active online, but they have pioneered the vegan approach in India, based on a holistic health philosophy. Many of my friends and acquaintances swear by their dietary recommendations, and having met the team, I can endorse their passion and self belief. Bonus - they have customised every traditional Indian recipe to be suitable for a vegan. And everything they cook is simply yummy! Here is a link to their Facebook Page. You can go to them for regular or issue specific counselling, if you have health problems, or you can simply order their dabba at your office if you live in Mumbai.

Resources for vegetarians
Rujuta Diwekar's articles and books : India's most famous nutritionist does not insist on a vegetarian diet. But she really, really gets vegetarianism, unlike many Western writers who view it as an obstacle to protein intake. Rujuta's advice is simple, sensible and robust - and so is her no BS orientation to health and weight loss.
Mike Mathew's Eat Green, Get Lean - 100 Vegetarian and Vegan recipes for building muscle is also a decent handbook if you want some exotic variation in your veg. diet (Link to Amazon Book Store)

5) Calorie Counters and Food Diaries

If you are working out with a serious intent to lose fat/ lose weight or build muscle, then you have to monitor your food and calorie intake. 

In case your trainer asks you to keep a food journal to share with him/her, then check the Food Diary App (Rs.55 on Google App Store). It's simply a brilliantly intuitive way to enter your meals on the fly and you can mail it out as an excel sheet from the app. 

There is no more awesome calorie counter than MyFitnessPal. I have been using it since years. It has two advantages in my eyes - it syncs with most major fitness trackers and it has a growing database of Indian foods.

If you feel there are any glaring omissions, or there is some resource that would really add value, do mention it in the comments below and I will add it in!

Thursday, July 10, 2014

Who needs tablets, we have phablets now!

The latest global and Asia market analyst reports tell an interesting story - PCs are making a comeback (especially business and budget PCs) and tablet sales are slowing down (the premium tablets are most affected). This is not entirely a surprise. In India, phablets (smartphones with 5 inch plus screens) constitute upto 30% of smartphone shipments, and the supersized phones have been a hit across Asia. It is entirely possible to get a tablet experience on such phones. Why would the canny Asian consumer buy two separate devices when one can serve the purpose?

In my personal experience, the tablet has been really convenient - especially when I am lounging on the sofa. I carry it for meetings and use it instead of a notebook. I preferentially pick it up to play games.  And there are many days when I do not switch on my PC at all but stay connected on the tablet. But when I want to do serious work, its still my trustworthy and battered Dell Vostro that I reach for. Serious work includes paid-for client assignments, blogging, online bill payment and banking and even posting on our company Facebook page.

For the initial year, I was extremely enthusiastic about using my tablet as a substitute for  my PC, but now I have to admit that the excitement has worn thin. The deal breaker for presentations and day long meetings was this - it's easy to plug in and continue a presentation on a laptop but it's really hard to do that on an iPad.

I have said this before and I will again - I find that typing on a touchscreen is painful. Productivity devices need to have good keyboards. I believe that the CEO of AOL agrees with me. I look forward to the launch of the Surface 3, because I see it as a thinner, lighter laptop. In fact, the form factor of a tab combined with the utility of a PC is my dream. But the tablet was designed for a different utility and its easier for a PC to be streamlined to a tablet size. It looks like Microsoft has gotten it right this time, after a couple of disastrous iterations.

And meanwhile something else has happened. The experience on mobile phones has gotten better than ever. I can speak only for the Android experience on the superlative HTC One which I use. Increasingly, I can do things on the fly, on the mobile, as effortlessly as I do on the iPad. One more reason that I do not reach for it.

When the iPad Air came out, I drooled, I wanted - and then I asked myself whether it is really required. My iPad 2 is still chugging along steadily though I have seen the battery life drop sharply in the past year. If money were not a constraint I would not have hesitated - I already have picked up  a Nexus tab which I passed on to my parents after playing with it for sometime. But I am constrained to use my money wisely and I would rather save it for a laptop upgrade which is due this year. The fact is, a better tablet is not going to improve my tablet experience. Considering that I am using a device from 2010, that says a lot.

So yes, I am not surprised that the tablet is dying. And I am excited to see if Microsoft will get it right this time around with the Surface 3 Pro. Neither fish nor fowl, but half tablet-half PC is the Microsoft solution. And they may have the answer that we are all looking for.

Wednesday, July 2, 2014

Top 5 budget phones for 2014 (under Rs. 10,000)

A lot of people still ask me to recommend  the best budget handset. Rs. 8000- Rs. 10,000 seems to be the sweet spot. People do recognise that cheaper phones compromise on the user experience and build quality and do not want a bargain basement brand. Yet they are reluctant to spend more than 10k on a phone for a variety of reasons. The most common one is the shortening life span of smartphones - chances are, you will end up replacing your phone anyway within 1-2 years. 

Makes me wonder how much of traction there is in the Rs.10,000-Rs.20,000 segment. Most people I know either want a budget phone or they are ready to spend on one of the more expensive flagships. 

So here is my updated list of budget phones under Rs.10000:

1) Nokia Lumia 520 (Rs.9,400)

Budget phones are often plagued with slow processing power leading to a painful user experience, where freezing of screens and re-booting become a part of life. The Lumia range was custom built for WinMobile OS, similar to the way Apple builds devices aligned to iOS. This makes Windows phones a fantastic choice for budget users, as they ensure a smoother user experience. Yes, you are giving up the infinite choice of the Android universe, but its a good trade off if you value stability, smoothness and ongoing upgrades. The Windows App store is growing steadily to include more and more of the apps that you use daily. If you here a lot of negative stuff around Windows Mobile, I recommend that you speak to people who own and use it before you take a decision. Win 8 has been a huge improvement over earlier iterations. 

Speaking of the Nokia Lumia 520, it receives favorable reviews from people who own it and from online reviewers, making it the world's top-selling WinMo handset. You get a decent battery life, a generous sized screen and a smooth performance in the package - what you do not get is a front facing camera, which is a deal breaker if you need to use Skype, or are addicted to selfies. But I want to observe, that most budget handsets anyway have very low-res front facing cameras, so you are not missing much by omitting this feature. 

As a bonus, the Lumia build is sturdy, in the true tradition of Nokia phones. I know someone (I will not take names!) who drops their 520 on a regular basis and nothing has broken yet. 

2) Moto E (Rs.7000)

Though I would recommend spending the little extra (Rs. 12,500) for the truly awesome Moto G, if you are truly on a tight budget, you cannot do  much better than the Moto E, which offers incredible value for money. Boasting of the latest Android OS Kit Kat, a dual core processor, good battery life and a dual SIM, the one thing missing here is the front facing camera. My favorite thing about the Motorola is that it offers a UI that is close to Google's pure Android. It is the opinion of tech bloggers around the world that the Moto E has re-defined the budget phone experience.

This is not the best phone for people who value the phone camera or want to play games (due to storage constraints). For everything else, it's a fantastic phone - the best Android phone experience you can get under Rs.10,000.

3) Micromax Unite 2 (Rs. 6999)

Let's be upfront about it - brand image matters to us. And it can matter a lot with a mobile phone. It's something you carry everywhere, constantly use in front of others, put down on the table in front of friends, clients, new acquaintances. Does it matter to us what brand we use? Do we believe it says something about us? Of course, the answer is yes.

So I do get a lot of people saying that they don't care to buy Micromax - the more honest ones will honestly say it is downmarket. And surprisingly, even salespeople in places like Croma will try to de-sell Micromax and point you to more respectable international brands (even if they have worse specs at the same price point).

I am surprised because amongst the dozens of local manufacturers, Micromax has stood out as one who constantly values innovation and understands the importance of delivering good value for money in a good looking, high performance smartphone package. If you are looking for a phone priced below Rs.10,000 then you cannot afford to ignore Micromax.

The Micromax range is not just confusing, its befuddling. It is reminiscent of Samsung's Galaxy Mother branding with no clear nomenclature for each product. So there are, I kid you not, 59 Micromax phones in the Sub 10,000 range listed on Flipkart. But a straightforward pick among them was the Unite 2, launched in response to the Moto E which literally stole Micromax' position as the King of VFM budget phones. The Micromax Unite is on par with the Moto E because it runs Kit Kat - it has a bigger screen,a flash and the ubiquitous front camera. Where it lags behind the Moto E is in screen resolution and user experience. Motorola's experience really makes a big difference in that department. If you want a decent camera for the price, then the Micromax Unite 2 is the choice for you.

There are a clutch of Micromax Canvas phones in the Rs.9000-10000 range but a lot of them are running Jellybean versions of Android. If you pick up any of them, make sure that it has Kit Kat, or at least an upgrade path committed by the company. Do note that the recently launched Micromax Canvas Encite with KitKat is slightly more expensive than the Unite 2 but has lower specs than the Unite 2! What you get for the price is a bigger 5 inch screen.

4) Sony Xperia E1 (Rs.7500 approx)

The Sony Xperia would not have made it to this list, except for the fact that Sony has announced it will get an upgrade to Kit Kat (it's currently running JellyBean). Given this, it has to make the list because I do appreciate when a company puts thought (and not just mindless features and specs) into a budget phone and Sony really has done that. Positioned as the 'best phone in its class', the Xperia may be outclassed in pure specs by Indian brands, but it tries to ensure a better user experience, using Sony's expertise. The audio and music experience on this phone promise to be great. If you are looking at a good camera/ video experience, then the Xolo or Micromax might be better for you. For gaming, my next suggestion is probably better.

5) Xolo Q1011 (Rs. 9999)

The Xolo stood out for me because at its price point, it is one of the few budget handsets with decent specs running Kit Kat. A catch with most budget phones is  that they rarely get updated to the newer versions of Android - what you get out of the box is what you end up living with. Xolo is not a well marketed brand like Micromax but they are poised well to compete in the sub Rs.10,000 sector which Micromax has dominated till date. The Q1011 is a better buy than the current crop of Micromax Canvas phones in the same price range because it comes with Kit Kat and with a powerful processor and graphics for gaming. If you have a kid who will want to play games, this is the phone you must buy.The camera is not bad either.

It's not yet launched at the time of writing this review, but you must keep an eye out for the Asus Zen Phone range. It promises to be a budget range phone with a good user experience.