While Xiaomi maintains an unparallel lead in the affordable segment with phones like the Redmi Note 4 and the Android One-backed Mi A1, phones like the Nokia 8 and Honor 8 Pro outshine the OnePlus 5, this October. As for the high-end premium segment, things have changed with the arrival of the new batch of iPhones, but Samsung's Galaxy Note 5 still remains the Android flagship to beat.
Best phone under Rs 10,000
Xiaomi Redmi Note 4: Rs 9,999
Backed by a premium design, top-notch performance and fantastic battery life, the Redmi Note 4 still remains to be the smartphone to beat at its price point. Follow up to the much successful Redmi Note 3; the Redmi Note 4 exists primarily to correct the camera shortcomings of its predecessor, according to the company. The phone comes with a 13-megapixel camera on the rear with f/2.0 aperture, Phase Detection Autofocus and dual-LED (dual-tone) flash. On the front, the Redmi Note 4 comes with a 5-megapixel camera.
The Redmi Note 4 boasts of a full-metal body and a rear-mounted fingerprint scanner. It comes with a 5.5-inch 1080p IPS LCD display and is powered by a Qualcomm Snapdragon 625 processor clubbed with Adreno 506GPU. The base 2GB RAM and 32GB storage version of the Redmi Note 4 sells for Rs 9,999 and supports expandable storage of up to 128GB via a hybrid micro-SD card slot as well. The dual-SIM phone runs Android Marshmallow-based MIUI 8 and supports 4G LTE (VoLTE-ready). The Redmi Note 4 is further backed by a 4,100mAh battery.
Best phone under Rs 20,000
Xiaomi Mi A1: Rs 14,999
The Mi A1 in typical Xiaomi fashion is a phone that's high on specs and low on price. But, it's unlike any other Xiaomi phone that you've seen before. The Mi A1 does not ship with Xiaomi's custom ROM MIUI. It's an Android One-based phone that runs a near 100 per cent version of stock Android.
The Mi A1 runs stock Android 7.1.2 Nougat out-of-the-box and will be updated to the recently announced Android Oreo by the end of this year, Xiaomi has confirmed. Xiaomi (and Google), in fact, went so far as to say that the Mi A1 will also be getting Android P - or whatever Google decides to call the Android O successor - when it launches later next year.
Just like the Redmi Note 4, the Mi A1 is also powered by a Qualcomm Snapdragon 625 processor. Unlike the Redmi Note 4, the Mi A1 has stock Android at its core. The combination -- a deadly one at that -- ensures the Mi A1 feels faster in almost every sense of the word in comparison to the Redmi Note 4 that runs MIUI: a custom ROM based on Android.
The Mi A1 further comes with a dual camera setup on the rear -- 12-megapixel + 12-megapixel -- where one lens is wide-angle while the other is telephoto (or zoom lens). This dual camera system offers 2X optical zoom and 10X digital zoom (just like the iPhone 7 Plus) and therefore should technically result in clearer distant shots and professional bokeh effects in portraits. The system is further aided with phase detection auto-focus and a dual-LED (dual-tone) flash but there is no optical image stabilisation. On the front, the Mi A1 comes with a 5-megapixel camera.
Elsewhere, the Mi A1 comes with an all-metal body that looks remarkably like the iPhone 7 Plus. The phone comes with a rear-mounted fingerprint scanner and USB Type-C for charging and data syncing. It comes with a 5.5-inch 1080p screen, 4 gigs of RAM, 64GB of internal storage which is also expandable, and a 3,080mAh battery under the hood.
Best phone under Rs 30,000
Huawei Honor 8 Pro: Rs 29,999
The Honor 8 Pro is simply a bigger and more powerful Honor 8 with the same dual camera setup packed inside an all-metal unibody design, and just like the Honor 8, the Honor 8 Pro is also a fantastic value for money buy especially in the camera department.
The Honor 8 Pro has two cameras on the rear -- dual 12-megapixel Sony IMX286 with dual-LED (dual tone) flash -- wherein one takes monochrome shots the other takes photos in colour (RGB). The phone's software algorithm then merges both the images into one and creates the final photo. The monochrome images can take in 300 per cent more light and 50 per cent more contrast than coloured photos, according to the makers. So basically, the phone can ideally take better low-light photos than rival top-tier phones thanks to its dual-lens system, if the company is to be gone by. And it does. The Honor 8 Pro, in addition, also has an 8-megapixel camera on the front.
Elsewhere, the phone comes with a 5.7-inch Quad-HD (2560x1440 pixel) screen and Huawei's home brewed octa-core HiSilicon Kirin 960 processor clubbed with Mali G71 MP8 GPU and 6 gigs of RAM, and 64GB of internal storage which is also expandable.
The dual-SIM Honor 8 Pro runs Android Nougat-based Emotion UI 5.1 and support 4G LTE. There's USB Type-C for charging and data syncing and a rear-mounted fingerprint scanner for security. The Honor 8 Pro is further backed by a 4,000mAh battery.
Best phone(s) under Rs 45,000
Nokia 8: Rs 36,999
The Nokia 8 is HMD Global's top-tier phone right now and unless the company launches something even bigger -- which now seems unlikely -- the Nokia 8 will remain its top-tier flagship phone for the year 2017. Unlike the Nokia 6 that came with sharp edges, the Nokia 8 comes with subtle curves that seamlessly wrap around the front. The front, meanwhile, is chamfered -- and comes with Corning Gorilla Glass 5 protection -- to enhance grip and ergonomics. The Nokia 8, much like the Nokia 6, is an all-metal smartphone carved out of 6000 series aluminum but two of its variants -- Polished blue and Polished copper -- have been polished to near perfection so they look like all-glass phones. They are glossy. The Tempered blue and Steel variants are meanwhile meant for someone who likes it sober.
The Nokia 8 has a physical home button on the front that also houses a fingerprint scanner, and is flanked by touch-based capacitive keys which are backlit. The power button and the volume rocker lie on the right, while the SIM card slot rests on the left. It comes with USB Type C port for charging and data syncing. The Nokia 8, in addition, comes with IP54 certification which makes it splash-proof (but not water-proof). It comes with an always-on display -- Glance Screen -- as well.
The Nokia 8 comes with a 5.3-inch quad-HD IPS display with 700 nits of brightness, a Qualcomm Snapdragon 835 processor clubbed with 4 gigs of RAM under the hood, and 64GB of internal storage which is further expandable by up to 256GB via a hybrid micro-SD card slot. The phone is backed by a 3,090mAh battery and supports Qualcomm's Quick Charge 3.0 fast charging.
Although the Nokia 8 doesn't ship with stereo speakers (or Dolby audio like the Nokia 6) it packs in Nokia's OZO spatial 360 degree audio technology. It comes with three microphones that allow for 360 degree spatial audio capture while recording videos.
On the camera front, the Nokia 8 comes with a dual camera system on the rear -- 13MP RGB+13MP Monochrome sensor -- assisted with Optical Image Stabilisation, laser and phase detection autofocus along with a dual-LED flash. The dual camera system has been fine tuned by Carl Zeiss. The front camera -- which is the same 13MP as the primary sensor on-board the rear -- has been given a similar treatment. This is to allow for Dual-Sight, a feature that lets a user to simultaneously use both the rear and front cameras to take stills/record videos. Think of it as picture-in-picture. If that wasn't enough, the phone also allows for live broadcast of videos shot using Dual-Sight on to social media platforms like Facebook.
BlackBerry KEYone: Rs 39,990
Just like the Priv, the DTEK50 and the DTEK60, the KEYone has its software in place. It comes with decent hardware as well, and its physical QWERTY is a useful addition, the usefulness of which would depend on the end-user. Then, there's the nostalgia. BlackBerry may not be looking to play the nostalgia card, but, there's no denying the fact that the KEYone is a very nostalgic phone. Because it was under development during the time when BlackBerry was still alive and kicking in the hardware space, chances are that it might just be the last of its kind. Chances are there might not be another old-school BlackBerry with a physical QWERTY ever. Even if there is, it's highly unlikely that it would recreate the same magic and the same nostalgia. The KEYone barely does that after all.
The KEYone is still first and foremost an enterprise-only phone and the keyboard just adds a third dimension to the whole thing. BlackBerry is even pitching it that way, and the fact that it lives up to its reputation -- of offering classic BlackBerry reliability and productivity -- should attract consumers at the end of the day.
Google Pixel (128GB): Rs 42,490
The Pixel (and the Pixel XL ) was Google's first official entry into the mainstream hardware space. You can say, Google has been building hardware for quite a while now which is true, only none enjoys the kind of fandom that a certain Nexus 5 or for that matter even the Nexus 6P can brag about. But Nexus is dead and Pixel is the future.
"Pixel Phones will get software and security updates as soon as they're available, directly from Google. When a new update is available, it can download and install in the background, so users no longer have to wait for the phone to update," according to Google. The Pixel originally shipped with Android Nougat and is now upgradable to Android Oreo. It will be upgradable to Android P as well, as and when Google rolls it out.
One of the more interesting things about the Pixel is its rear camera that still holds lots of promise. It sports a 12.3-megapixel camera with f/2.0 aperture, 1.55um pixels and unlimited Google Photos storage. On the front you get an 8-megapxiel camera.
Best phone(s) money can buy
Samsung Galaxy Note 8: Rs 67,900
This year's Galaxy S8, Galaxy S8+ and Galaxy Note 8 are all so very similar that it all narrows down to one thing: do you or do you not, need the S-Pen? Dual cameras, unless you really want them, are just an added luxury. Take the S-Pen away (also the dual cameras) and the Galaxy Note 8 is simply a boxier (and slightly bigger) Galaxy S8+. Quite simply put, to be or not to be is the question the Galaxy Note 8 must repeatedly ask itself.
Frankly speaking, it shouldn't. The Galaxy Note 8 is in a league of its own. A lot of this also has to do with the way Samsung has priced the Galaxy Note 8 in India. Ever since Samsung launched the 6GB RAM/128GB storage version of the Galaxy S8+ at nearly Rs 75,000 we had reason to believe that the Galaxy Note 8 will cost a bomb when it lands in India: a price of an upwards of Rs 70,000 was expected.
Only Samsung went on and launched the Galaxy Note 8 at a fairly aggressive Rs 67,900. Add to it, Samsung's introductory offer comprising a one-time screen replacement and a free convertible wireless charger, and the Galaxy Note 8 suddenly becomes well worth the package. Even the Galaxy S8+ feels expensive with everything that the Galaxy Note 8 brings to the table which means at least fans will have every reason to not be swooned by the Galaxy S8+ now and instead invest in the Galaxy Note 8.
The Galaxy Note 8 may be a bigger Galaxy S8+ -- with an S-Pen stylus and dual cameras -- but in the grand scheme of things, it's all the more compelling than the Galaxy S8+ and not the other way round. The 6GB RAM/128GB storage version of the Galaxy S8+ is currently selling for Rs 64,900. Skip it if you can and go buy yourself the Galaxy Note 8. It's not just the best Note ever, it's also the best all-round Samsung phone ever.
Apple iPhone 8 Plus (64GB): Rs 70,999
The iPhone 8 and iPhone 8 Plus would seem rather uninteresting if all the iPhone X hype has got a strong hold of you. That's not very surprising, now is it? The iPhone X is after all, a gorgeous iPhone. If however, you think the iPhone X is too out there or perhaps tad too expensive, Apple also has a fresh batch of 'standard' iPhones -- the iPhone 8 and the iPhone 8 Plus -- that carries forward the legacy of last year's iPhone 7 and iPhone 7 Plus. The iPhone 8 and the iPhone 8 Plus may be incremental upgrades of the iPhone 7 and the iPhone 7 Plus but just like each year the new iPhones pack in a couple or two more tricks up their sleeves to make that all-important upgrade count.
The iPhone 8 and the iPhone 8 Plus come with all-glass and aerospace-grade aluminium body and front mounted fingerprint scanner, aka Touch ID. Both the new iPhones are IP67-certified for water and dust resistance. While the iPhone 8 is a 4.7-inch phone, the iPhone 8 Plus come with a 5.5-inch screen. Both the new iPhones support Apple's True Tone technology.
The iPhone 8 and the iPhone 8 Plus are powered by Apple's next-generation A11 Bionic processor and run iOS 11 software. The A11 Bionic is a six-core CPU with two performance cores that are said to be 25 per cent faster and four efficiency cores that are said to be 70 per cent faster than the A10 Fusion processor inside the iPhone 7 and the iPhone 7 Plus. The new processor comes with a custom built GPU with a three-core design that is claimed to deliver up to 30 per cent faster graphics performance than the previous generation. "All this power enables incredible new machine learning, AR apps and immersive 3D games," according to Apple.
On the face of it, both the iPhone 8 and the iPhone 8 Plus may offer more or less the same deal but it's the latter that you should actually spend your money on, if money isn't a constraint. This is because, in addition to offering a bigger screen, the iPhone 8 Plus also comes with better camera credentials. While the iPhone 8 comes with a single 12-megapixel camera on the rear with f/1.8 aperture, OIS and a Quad-LED True Tone flash the iPhone 8 Plus comes with two cameras on the rear - 12MP + 12MP - wherein one is wide-angle (f/1.8) and the other is telephoto (f/2.8) that allows for photos with shallow depth of field, or bokeh as also 2X optical zoom (10X digital). The dual camera system is further assisted by OIS, Quad-LED True Tone flash and also gets Apple's new Portrait Lighting feature. On the front, both the phones come with a 7-megapixel camera.
FYI: The iPhone X will cost Rs 89,000 in India for the 64GB variant. The top end version with 256GB RAM will meanwhile cost Rs 102,000. Pre-orders begin from October 27 and the iPhone X will hit the shelves from November 3. If you're not wary of the fact that the iPhone X doesn't ship with Touch ID, this is actually the iPhone to buy this year, if money isn't a constraint.