Sunday, March 20, 2016

The best phones of 2015 - 2016

Hi! A bit long time since I published an article, eh? My blog seems to be dead every now and then. PLEASE LOOK AT ALL MY PREVIOUS ARTICLES. THEY MIGHT BE UPDATED. With this, all doubts of a dead blog have been officially written off.

Now, back to the article. Every segment has been covered (following my own guide :P). I am here this time, and just like the expertise shown in all my previous articles, I am sure to pull off a great one again. (Shameless self-promotion ends here.)

We buy phones, only to regret later. We buy them, and change them every 6 months or 2 years. Why not have choices that help you prolong the 2 year time? Why should you make crappy choices? Why neglect important things? Why not future proofing? Why only more GHz?

Do you know what do you appreciate after the 1st month of buying that shiny phone?

  • Battery should last a day on heavy usage, and should recharge fast
  • Camera should be great in low light situations
  • Screen should be bright enough in sunlight and good for reading and videos
  • Phone must not slow down on OS upgrade
  • WiFi 802.11 ac or dual band must be there

We have the 7,000 INR or $100 segment, the 10,000 or $150 segment, the 13,000 to 17,000 INR or $200-$250 segment, the 20,000 INR or $300 segment, and then we have oh-so-great-shiny-duh flagships. Honestly, the 20,000 INR segment has slayed the flagships for people with sense, while fools continue to buy exorbitant metal-glass pieces.

So, why this guide? Why not any other popular tech site? After 5 minutes, you will get your answer. Please read on.


The el-cheapo phones (7,000 INR or $100)

Honestly, there are not many good options here. Camera will always disappoint, and fast recharging option is not there.

Moto E 4G (2015) --> 7,000 INR

This is easily the best phone (small screens). You ask why?

People: I can get 8 MP camera instead of 5 MP, and a better front camera. I also get flash in other phones. I can also get 2 GB RAM and bigger screen.

Now, this one is for those who prefer a small screen, as said above. 4.5” IPS and 540x960 pixels. Not the phablet choice of this category.

USP: Phenomenal battery life (2 days with moderate usage) and oleophobic (anti-oil-grease) coating. Also great build quality. And of course, OS updates. And stock/vanilla /plain bloat-free Android experience. And easy-to-get accessories and covers.

Lots of USPs! That is why it is great.

Lenovo Vibe P1M --> 8,000 INR

It is an excellent phone in all ways except one: the processor. 1 GHz quad core? 1.0 GHz??? It can’t power you through the heaviest game, but it sure can get Instagram, Whatsapp, Asphalt 8 and Chrome well and running all at the same time, thanks to 2 GB RAM.

Now the plus points: noise cancellation and fast charging. The now-standard 16 GB inbuilt memory is also here. And 5” IPS screen with 720p HD resolution.

YU Yuphoria --> 7,000 INR

Decent looks, CyanogenMod 12, 1.2 GHz quad-core, 2 GB RAM, 16 GB inbuilt, 8 MP and flash plus 5 MP cameras, fast charging (50% in 45 mins) and removable battery and just 143 g which is light. What’s not to love? Missing noise cancellation here...

Coolpad Note 3 Lite --> 7,000 INR

Slightly better than YU Yuphoria with better battery, scratch resistant glass, 3 GB RAM and 13 MP in rear. Also noise cancellation. What’s missing here? Fast charging and battery not removable. 

Damn man, this is getting ridiculous. See the next section for the perfect one.


The 10,000 INR or $150 segment

LeEco Le1S --> 11,000 INR

They have disrupted the Indian market, and shocked the world. SD801 with 3 GB RAM? Metal-glass body? Fingerprint? Fast charging? Seriously? It has got all things in place.

The problems? No card slot. Not guaranteed upgrade from Lollipop.

And brand trust. People will go for more popular names. They have to establish their name fast, and not just get the hype and follow others’ paths.

Huawei Honor 5X --> 13,000 INR

This is supposed to be competing with the Le1S. But apart from slightly better camera, the Le1S wins in all departments.

Xiaomi Redmi Note 3 (SD650 version) --> 2 GB/16 GB @ 10,000 INR
                                                                              --> 3 GB/32 GB @ 12,000 INR

Great in all ways, and slightly better GPU here. Phase detection auto focus and WiFi 802.11 ac are great things to have. A card slot. Also fingerprint, fast charging and noise cancellation.

Shortcomings? Privacy concerns and horrible camera. The screen and clicked photos also have a pinkish tinge (oversaturation).

Lenovo K4 Note --> 13,000 INR

It has all things, just like the Redmi Note 3 above. Except fast charging. And the covers not being available... that is a real pain there!


The 13,000 to 17,000 INR or $200-$250 segment

This is where things start to get real. Just there.. the performance we need is enough at this point. Heck, we need better camera and looks.

ASUS ZenFone 3 --> upcoming, 16,500 INR or $249 for 4GB/64 GB

This phone has got real hype around it, bogged down by bad OS update support (not security updates), bad ZenUI (can be replaced with any launcher) and QC check issues. All the problems associated with the Intel SOC have gone as it will be having Snapdragon 625 in it, which I see as much better than SD 650 and SD 652 in efficiency terms (performance-to-battery). This phone is going to give atleast 9 hours SOT with a 3000 mAh battery, just like Redmi Note 3 Pro, the current budget phone choice with a 4000 mAh battery.

People are skeptical, but I will recommend them to wait for it. No complaints have been there by reviewers and this might be the budget king of all cameraphones, dethroning the Moto G4 Plus and Moto X Play due to it having a 16 MP camera with OIS, EIS and AutoFocus combined, a first on earth.

The only shortcoming is that it might not have Quick Charge, but that is not confirmed. There should be Quick Charge of some kind on it.

ASUS ZenFone 2 --> 2 GB/16 GB @ $199 or 13,000 INR
                                   --> 4 GB/16 GB @ $230 or 17,000 INR

One of the phones I just can’t stop appreciating. No, seriously. I can’t. I love them. Great performance. They are gaming phones. PowerVR G6430 (yeah the one in iPhone 5S and the iPad Mini) is 2014-2015 flagship GPU.

Great low light photos, 1.8 GHz quad-core Intel chip (Wine for Android or Crossover. Endless possibilities?), 4 GB RAM, card slot, WiFi 802.11 ac, great brushed look, Corning Gorilla Glass 3, one of the fastest charging phones on earth (100% in 60 mins with fast charger). Also, the best signal receptions after the flagships and iPhones. This is the great phone in all terms. Except gimmicky fingerprint sensor.

NOTE: Wine for Android and Crossover are coming which can help run Windows programs and games in the ZenFone. Large compatibility list and fast enough (not slow emulation).

NOTE: Finding game mods can be difficult for Intel phones. That is reserved for MediaTek and SnapDragon. :D

NOTE: I would recommend this to experimenting guys. Wait for the ZenFone 3 if you were thinking about this phone.

OnePlus X --> 17,000 INR

A faster processor than ZenFone 2, but less RAM, worser low light shots, and no fast charging. OnePlus X, anyone? And oh, no fingerprint scanner and smaller battery.

Xiaomi Mi4 --> 15,000 INR

It has everything. But no card slot? Worser low light shots? It ends there for me.


The 20,000 INR or $300-350 segment

Here, things get a bit nasty. Competitors are few, but the Ne... Seriously? Okay wait.

ASUS ZenFone 2 --> 4 GB/32 GB @ 20,000 INR
                                  --> 4 GB/64 GB @ 22,000 INR

This is again great. All the perks mentioned above. Now with a 2.3 GHz quad-core Intel chip. Crushes most flagships. Wine for Android possibility. But in this segment it is not the best. Read on to know why.

ASUS ZenFone 3 --> upcoming

Wait for this wonder to arrive.

OnePlus 3 --> 23,000 INR, upcoming

Wait for this wonder to arrive. 

OnePlus 2 --> 24,000 INR

It has a SD810. HEATER!!! No card slot? No fast charging? I am not getting this. ZenFone 2 is much better.

Nexus 5X --> 23,000 INR

It has SD808 and slightly better GPU (Adreno 418). Also oleophobic coating. WiFi 802.11 ac and fingerprint are there. Really fast charge with USB Type-C port (4 hrs backup in 10 mins claim).

Fastest updates is its claim to fame.

Shortcomings? No card slot. What the..? And that damn USB Type-C port. Atleast give me legacy USB OTG option, Google.

LG G3 --> 27,000 INR

This is the real deal. Proven time and again. It has all things I need. Except the gimmick fingerprint sensor. And oh, it also got wireless charging (gimmicky, but cool!)


The flagships


HTC 10 --> 53,000 INR

It is technically a better phone than the S7 Edge, thought to be the king by lot of people. Until now it was the smartphone king, but other than battery life, HTC 10 wins in all arenas. Plus, the build quality is too good in comparison to the S7 Edge, made up of glass which makes it really fragile.

Nearly matches Nexus firmware update speeds. There are no shortcomings with this phone. Flawless.  10/10.

Samsung Galaxy Note 5 --> 54,000 INR

Great phone. Focused on business and productivity. The S Pen is a great tool, once you realise its power.

Samsung Galaxy S7 Edge --> 55,000 INR

It is better than the S6. The camera and few other things change in this case. The best camera phone for now (except low light).

Great battery life with the Exynos version. Don't get the Snapdragon version.

Shortcomings? They are really bad at providing major firmware updates (OS upgrades), just like other OEMs.

Nexus 6P --> 40,000 INR

One of the best phones. Fingerprint? USB Type-C? All check. The best one at low light shots right now.

The fastest OS and security updates. The new kernel exploit (as of 18-03-2016) makes it an important aspect when buying a phone.

Shortcomings? It tends to bend even when in a case. A really bad thing.

LG G4 --> 40,000 - 45,000 INR

A great phone. Just not there at the top. Still a good bet for the money. With card slot and removable battery. Fast charging and all. Come on, it is still LG’s flagship offering till the G5 arrives.

LG G5 (to be released) --> 45,000 - 53,000 INR

Great competitor of S7 Edge. Again a proven phone. With card slot and removable battery. Plus Wolfson DAC audio and battery modules known as ‘Friends’ available. Perhaps a dig at it being a modular phone.

Sony Xperia Z5 Premium --> 52,000 INR

4K.. no. Ultra HD screen. What? That’s a phone. That resolution should be on my TV, not my phone. Battery drains bit faster. One of the best cameras in a phone right now. One of those cases where the phone is actually great, but fails to impress me. Just not that oomph it should have.

NOTE: Zperia Z5 has 1080p screen. Z5 Premium has Ultra HD.

iPhone 6S --> 16 GB @ 40000 INR
                     --> 64 GB @ 51,000 INR

The list cannot be complete without it. The dethroned king used to sit at the top. But now.. it lost even in the camera department. That was its forte, isn’t it? The Apple vs Nokia camera days... Forget them. Only reason left to buy it: iPhone brand and looks.

USP: Oh, it is easy to use. Maybe not so more with the release of Marshmallow.

ASUS ZenFone 3 Deluxe --> $500, upcoming

This phone deserves a mention. It will have SnapDragon 823, the SOC above SD 820 that current flagships are carrying. With 4 GB and 6 GB RAM options along with 128 GB and 256 GB internal storage options and with special TriTech camera tech (OIS+EIS+AF, no gimmick), this could come really close to the best flagships,beating the Xiaomi Mi5, which has camera and audio issues.


Xiaomi Mi5 --> 23,000 INR

This is the current flagship killer sitting at midrange that has no competition right now. OnePlus 3 and ZenFone 3 are yet to come, and it is enjoying its time.

Problems? Camera worser than last year's flagships and bad audio. Build quality isn't that good anyways.


CONCLUSION

This article will help you make the right phone choice. Follow my choices and you will be happy in the long run. Choose the winner as suited.

My verdict

Best in low range: Lenovo Vibe P1M

Best in low-mid range: ASUS ZenFone 2, ZenFone 3 (upcoming)

Best in flagship-killer range: Nexus 5X, ZenFone 3 (upcoming), Xiaomi Mi5

Best in flagships: HTC 10


NOTE: Why is Nexus 5X in flagships? It is still Google's premium offering in 5" screen category.



Any queries or conflicts? Let’s sort them out in the comments.