Looking back, 2016 was a great year for budget segment smartphones. We witnessed commoditisation of technology as features like fingerprint scanners, metal bodies, ample RAM, and internal storage that were earlier reserved for more expensive phones, and they started appearing in phones under Rs. 10,000.
That's not to say that a phone under that price tag is as good as a Rs. 30,000 device like the OnePlus 3 or a Rs. 60,000 flagship like the Google Pixel XL; obviously some corners are cut to achieve this attractive pricing.
But budget phones are now a lot better than what they were just a few years ago. You might need to make some compromises, but there are plenty good things about these wallet-friendly phones. Today, we take a look at the best that 2016 had to offer with respect to entry-level phones. The phones listed here are sorted by their overall as well as individual ratings, starting with the very best as per our review process. That being said, there were some really good phones across the board, so you won't regret any of these picks, and depending on your priorities, our top phone and yours might not be the same.
Also, we've taken the liberty to include some products that are priced within 10 percent of Rs. 10,000. That's because we feel it was our duty to inform you about some worthy picks that are worth spending few hundred rupees extra on, rather than recommending a mediocre phone just because it comes under the Rs. 10,000 mark.
Check out our other year in review coverage:
1) Xiaomi Redmi 3s Prime
The Redmi 3s Prime is the best rated product in this price range. It's well-built thanks to the use of aluminium, has a Qualcomm Snapdragon 430 chip, 3GB RAM, 32GB storage, and a 720x1280 pixel display. One feature that the Redmi 3s Prime has that the K6 Power mentioned below doesn't, is an IR blaster. Using it and the pre-installed Mi remote controller app you can control many electronics such as TVs, ACs, music systems and more, directly using the phone.
This phone runs Xiaomi's MIUI software with Android 6.0 Marshmallow underneath. It has some interesting features that phones with stock Android do not possess, including the dual instances of apps (for example you can run two WhatsApp accounts on the same phone). As we learned from our review, the Redmi 3s Prime also charges a full hour faster than the K6 Power, thanks to the bundled 5V/ 2A charger. You won't go wrong buying either this or the K6 Power, as you'll see below - but if you prefer Xiaomi to Lenovo, then this phone can be purchased for a reasonable price of Rs. 8,999.
2) Lenovo K6 Power
The Lenovo K-series has established itself as a value-for-money champion with the K3 Note in 2015. Since then, the company has come out with many more K-series models, of which the K6 Power is the most recent one. This phone goes toe-to-toe with the Redmi 3s Prime, with the same Qualcomm Snapdragon 430 octa-core chip, 3GB RAM, and 32GB internal storage. The metal design also looks very similar to the Xiaomi phone. Much like the Redmi 3s Prime, the fingerprint scanner at the back can be used to unlocking apps, other than just unlocking the phone itself. The phone has a 5-inch 1080x1920 pixel display (a higher resolution than the 720x1280 pixel display one on the Redmi 3s Prime).
The user interface on the Lenovo K6 Power is tastefully modified with useful features - like running two instances of the same app, and the ability to take long screenshots. There's also two speakers that are pretty loud, and the phone supports Dolby Atmos.
The cameras are decent, not great; this is generally the weakest link with most entry-level smartphones. Nonetheless, the K6 Power does excel in the battery department with a 4000mAh battery, belting out similar uptimes as the Redmi 3s Prime in our video loop test, despite the higher resolution screen. Overall, this phone has smooth performance, and a good set of features, at a reasonable price tag of Rs. 9,999.
3) Motorola Moto G4
The Moto G4 is a watered-down version of the Moto G4 Plus. It misses out on the fingerprint scanner and a better camera present on the elder brother. But the Moto G4 does retain everything else that's good about the G4 Plus - the near stock Android experience, with useful tweaks from Motorola, like a double-twist gesture to activate the camera, or a double-chop gesture to turn on the LED flashlight. It's powered by the Snapdragon 617 chip, with 2GB RAM, and 16GB of onboard storage, along with a microSD card slot for further expansion.
The 3000mAh battery also deals out a good uptime of over a day, as we experienced in our review. The bundled charger, although not as fast as the one that comes with the G4 Plus, charges the Moto G4 fairly quickly. This phone originally wasn't considered great value for money, but at the current selling price of Rs. 10,499, the Moto G4 just could be a worthy purchase, if you put brand value and an un-bloated Android experience over a truckload of features.
4) ASUS ZenFone Max (2016)
The ZenFone Max 2016 is an updated version of the ZenFone Max, featuring some improvements over its predecessor. For instance, the 2016 version comes with a Snapdragon 615 chip, 2GB RAM, and 32GB internal storage. As the name suggests, this is a ‘big battery' phone, with a whopping 5000mAh battery. This results in the phone running well over 24 hours with typical use.
The big 5.5-inch screen has a 720x1280 pixel resolution, resulting in low pixel density 267PPI. ASUS has Zen UI running on top of Android 6.0 Marshmallow.
Camera performance is decent, though this phone misses out on the fingerprint scanner. Also, although the huge battery is good to have, charging the phone is slow, as it took 5 hours with the bundled charger. Even so, the ZenFone Max 2016 is a decent purchase for the price - Rs. 9,999 for the 32GB variant - and could be a better bet than our pick, if battery life is your top-most priority.
(Also See: Best Smartphones That Also Have a Big Battery)
5) Huawei Honor 5C LTE
The Honor 5C LTE is yet another good choice for a phone under Rs. 10,000. It's got a 5.2-inch 1080p display, a Huawei-made HiSilicon Kirin 650 octa-core SoC, 2GB RAM, and 16GB storage. The in house chip is touted to be better than counterparts made by Qualcomm and MediaTek, and the phone did perform without any major issues in our review.
The phone looks stylish thanks to the metallic finish. EMUI 4.1, which is a Huawei-modified version of Android version, has some interesting features. There's a fingerprint scanner at the back. The 3000mAh battery makes the phone run for a day easily with moderate use. All in all, the Huawei Honor 5C LTE is a reasonable bet at Rs. 10,999.
That was our list. There is another phone in this price segment that we did not mention in the list, primarily because the company hasn't sending a review unit yet - the Motorola E3 Power. Since we can't directly vouch for it, we wouldn't go out on a limb to recommend this phone, but it could be a device you want to consider when shopping. Which phone would you prefer in the under Rs. 10,000 segment? Let us know via the comments below.