Tuesday, November 9, 2010

You could read a million reviews of a thousand mobile phones, but you’re never going to feel that your purchase is “worth it” unless you find the perfect fit for your lifestyle. When you’re in the market to buy (or upgrade) your mobile phone, you need to figure out what is your best fit. Engadget may deliver a glowing review to the iPhone 4, The Indian Geek may go all ga-ga over the Spice MI 300, but none of that really makes a difference to you if your needs are quite different. But sadly, most of us don’t know what we really need and what could possibly be accomplished on a mobile phone. So for all you folks out there who are planning on buying a new mobile phone within the next few months, read on. We should mention that there are some geeky folk around who would be fully knowledgeable of what’s out there; this write-up is not for you guys (or gals).

1. Cost

The biggest factor for most Indians; is the phone worth every single paisa that I’m paying for it? This is a tough question to answer in today’s mobile phone market, but we’re gonna try to differentiate mobile phones into difference price segments for the sake of this write-up, so that folks who have more money could look at different options, and the ones who are on a shoe-string budget could look at devices that fit within their budgets. So first decide what your budget is. Decide whether it’s expandable, or you simply cannot afford to spend a penny more than your budget. Do not be swayed by anything; if you’ve got a small budget, stick to it. (Or wait around for that mobile phone which is just out of your budget to reduce in price; this is pretty common in India!)

If money is no object to you (and you’re not itching to buy one of those diamond-encrusted mobile phones), then you’re looking at buying something within the Rs. 30,000 – Rs. 45,000 range, fully loaded with features.

If you feel that you shouldn’t spend that much money on a mobile phone, then you could settle for a Rs. 22,000 – Rs. 30,000 budget where there are plenty more options with excellent budget.

If you want to spend a decent amount of money on a phone, but not too high, your budget would be somewhere in the Rs. 15,000 – Rs. 22,000 range. This is currently a weird budget range, because of the phones currently available in this budget, but we’ll come to that later.

If you’re buying your first smartphone, then your budget would probably fall within the Rs. 10,000 – Rs. 15,000 range. This is currently a hot zone, with tremendous competition from almost every major (and some non-major) mobile phone manufacturer.

Within the Rs. 5,000 – Rs. 10,000 range, you’ll mostly find dumbphones (we’ll cover them in another post, shortly) and cheap smartphones.

Below Rs. 5,000, the market is overcrowded and flooded with a gazillion options; you just need to pick out something that you like, from a manufacturer that you like.

Once you’ve figured out how much you can and want to spend, then you can figure out what you could get for that budget. Read on.

2. Operating System (Platform)

We are planning to write a full-fledged mobile phone Operating Systems comparison, but till then, we’d like to highlight the salient features that are present within each competing Operating System. We’ve spent considerable time with all the major competitors that are out there, such as iOS, Series 60 v3, Series 60 v5 (Symbian ^1), Android, and various versions of Windows Mobile; hence, any thoughts on these Operating Systems stem from our own experience. We are yet to spend considerable time with devices running Maemo (MeeGo is not yet released), Windows Phone and HP WebOS, so any thoughts on them are purely first-impressions-based, or gleaned from various other reports on the web.

iOS : Currently running on iPhones and iPod Touches, iOS 4 is a brilliant mobile phone Operating System. It’s highly responsive, and handles multi-tasking in a way that is truly sensitive of what a mobile can accomplish. With the App Store, you have a million possibilities available to you. iPhone 4’s Retina Display has a pixel density that is yet to be matched by Apple’s competitors within the mobile phone space. If you’ve got the money, go for it.

Series 60 v3 : Nokia’s non-touch smartphones run this mobile phone OS. It is pretty outdated in today’s scenario, but still highly capable. It is also currently the best value-for-money if you’re in the market for a QWERTY-enabled mobile phone. It still has several hang-ups with freezing, inconsistency, etc. but it’s a tried and tested, well-established platform.

Series 60 v5 (Symbian ^1) : This mobile phone OS is commendable for creating the first, truly affordable smartphones that competed with the LG Cookie and the Samsung Corby series. Nokia’s 5230, 5233 and 5235 really rocked that budget smartphone market segment. It is plagued with huge inconsistencies in the UI, and seriously underpowered devices (low on RAM and processor), but it brings Nokia’s expertise to the market. You get high levels of customization within the OS, and full-fledged multi-tasking. Flash support and video codecs support are other positives for this OS.

Android : The new, surging market-share gobbler. It’s good, it runs on a variety of devices, and you’re sure to find one, regardless of your budget. If Google-related services (Gmail, Google Talk, Maps, Search, etc.) are important to you, then Android is your route. In other Operating Systems, a Google Talk app needs to run for you to be online; in Android, it’s a service which makes it much like your phone service or your SMS service – so long as you have network coverage (and a valid data plan!) then, you’re online in G-talk. Also, Android supports a high-level of customization; you can change your dialer, your SMS app, your homescreen launcher, whatever’s on your phone, can be changed. Well, almost.

Windows Mobile : Windows Mobile is currently dead. While it was alive, there were few reasons why one should plunge into it, when better alternatives were available. That’s not to say, if Outlook-synchronisation is very highly important to you, and you don’t mind an outdated Operating System, and you don’t mind being bogged down with several quirks, AND if you find a cheap Windows Mobile phone for between Rs. 5,00 – Rs. 8,000, then it may be a worthwhile purchase for you. Wow. That is a lot of “ifs” with a very big “may be” at the end. Tread cautiously, if you’re going down this route.

Symbian ^3 : We’re impressed at what Nokia’s done between Symbian ^1 and Symbian ^3. There are still a few hang-ups and quirks, but not much that could be a deal-breaker for the average Indian mobile phone user. If you like Nokia, then the N8 is the device to buy. Even if you don’t like Nokia, the N8’s camera (the best-yet in a smartphone) is a huge factor that has to be considered and weighed with your other requirements.

Maemo : The N900 is an amazing device and it’s quite fully-featured, with zero competition in its space. But personally, we see it best fit for developers wishing to fool around with a Linux-based port on a mobile phone. Also, since Nokia has merged it’s Maemo project with Intel’s Moblin project to form MeeGo, the future looks pretty bleak for the N900, by way of support, upgrades or apps.

Windows Phone 7 : What we’ve seen, read and heard of Windows Phone 7 has impressed us, but a huge factor would be the cost, and the necessity of Microsoft-based services for you (such as Windows Live, Office, Outlook, etc.)

Blackberry OS : Available only from RIM (Research in Motion), the Blackberry OS is rock-solid. With the recently released version 6, it’s got even better. If you want a no-nonsense QWERTY-phone with top-of-the-line e-mail and Instant Messaging, then you should get a Blackberry handheld. The biggest deterrents we see in India, are : the high initial cost of the handheld, for the features provided (they are high-quality handsets, we get it!) and the way-too-high data charges to get data services on a Blackberry device, compared to other mobile phones.

MeeGo and HP WebOS : MeeGo is currently being finalised by Nokia for its future N-series devices, while it is unsure as to when (if ever) HP WebOS would enter the Indian market. So till then, these two options would need to stay off the table.

3. Manufacturer

This depends a lot upon what mobile phone OS you’ve decided to go with. If you’ve decided on iOS, then you have to buy an iPhone from Apple. Series 60 (and Symbian) is available from Nokia (although the Sony Ericsson Vivaz and Vivaz Pro were decent-enough Symbian ^1-based mobile phones) Maemo is also solely available from Nokia on the N900. HP WebOS is available only on HP’s (Palm’s) devices. You’re gonna have to choose between different manufacturers only if you’ve decided to go in for either Android, Windows Mobile (only if you absolutely MUST!) or Windows Phone 7.

For the sake of simplicity, you could refer the table below for a comparison of most of the Android-based mobile phones (and the two tablets currently available in India). There is no table for Windows Mobile since we seriously DO NOT recommend anybody to buy a mobile phone running Windows Mobile, and Windows Phone 7 is yet to launch in its fullest in India. We’ll publish a similar table for Windows Phone 7 devices after the launch of the first wave of devices from Samsung, LG, HTC and Dell.

Android mobile phones in India, comparison table





Above 30k





Sony Ericsson

Xperia X8, Xperia X10 mini

Xperia X10 mini pro

Xperia X10


Quench XT3

Backflip, Flipout

Milestone, Milestone XT720


Galaxy 5

Galaxy 3

Galaxy S


Optimus GT 540


Streak (Tablet)


E 110

Liquid E

Liquid E Ferrari Edition


Olivepad VT100 (Tablet)




Zeus V7500

*Note : This table takes into consideration, only relatively recent releases in the Indian market

4. Device

Since you’ve decided your budget, your platform and the manufacturer of your yet-to-be-bought mobile phone, all that’s left is, well, the device itself. Which one should you get? The budget and the manufacturer plays a huge role here, although, if you don’t like the looks of a device, then you definitely wouldn’t want to buy it.

We’ll publish a recommendation list across the various platforms/manufacturers shortly. Till then, happy mobile phone hunting!


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