How I bought my next Smartphone ?

Whenever I travelled to India, I used to depend on a small Samsung “Guru” mobile phone which served me reliably over the past couple of years. It costed just SGD 40, and its battery lasted for minimum two full days with reasonable usage. The standby battery time was probably more than 10 days !

What with India getting inundated with “Apps” for everything, I felt the need to buy a “samrtphone”, as the use of the Singapore smartphone was proving to be expensive when it comes to data usage.

But before I could do that, I had to upgrade the mobile phone plan at Airtel Relationship Centre (Airtel is the mobile phone service provider that I use while in India, while for my Singapore phone I select Vodafone, providing some redundancy !). My mobile plan had only voice, so I needed to get a 3G/4G LTE SIM Card – which was given free to me. In approximately 4 hours, my current SIM card disconnected from the network, and I could insert my new SIM. My data plan had only 500 MB per month in it, and that was more than sufficient to look up something on the net and order a cab ! And, that costed me SGD 3 per month. I thought the price was pretty decent.

Then, I went shopping for a new smartphone. I had shortlisted a few makes – such as Micromax, Motorola, Asus, Oppo, Xiaomi, etc., and also had read the reviews of the kind of phones which could fit my bill [I had a budget of INR 7,000 max as this was a standby phone with little usage, that translates to SGD 140 approximately]. I thought there is no point in going for a fancy phone, given the usage.

However, the Indian market for smartphones has marched on aggressively and has emerged as the second biggest and hottest smartphone market in the world, due to the very fast adoption of smartphones and mobile data plans. Every cab driver is having a smartphone, and the market for the low-end phones which cannot serve data has evaporated. Almost everyone on the street seemed to be using a big screen smartphone – may be they are all watching bollywood movies or song videos, or using WhatsApp. But the scenario has changed vastly over the past couple of years, so much so that mobile service providers are scrambling to ensure quality of service when it comes to serving data. The adoption of smartphones in India is very good for all stakeholders – the government, the mobile service providers, eCommerce providers, app developers, and the consumers.

In my shopping expedition, I found that several brands are not available off-line in a physical store. That was annoying, but then I realized that brick-and-mortar stores won’t be able to keep up with the fast and radical product releases by more than 30 mobile phone makers online. Many of them sell only online through Flipkart or Snapdeal or Amazon India.

Since I wanted the phone urgently, I had to settle for a brand different from the ones on my shortlist. However, my brother-in-law had given some positive recommendations, so I finally chose Lenovo. Yes, Lenovo ! I thought they only made laptops (mine is a Lenovo X230 laptop) !

I went to a mobile shop and saw Micromax, Oppo and Lenovo. The Lenovo P5 W Gionee had a good configuration with 5″ display which I preferred. It also had 16 GB RAM. And, most of all it came in at INR 6,900 just under my budget. If I had increased my budget to INR 10,000 I would have got a fabulous phone, but then I am not the guy who would increase budget for no significant and proportional return on the investment !

I also got Android 5.1 [Lollipop] without any customization, and so was happy the phone was designed for me to tweak around ! I quickly installed some 20 different apps, including some Android Optimizers. I am back to using an Android phone after a gap of over 3 years, and it was not bad at all. Android has come a long way during this period, and can give a run for the money to Apple iOS. Of course, my favourite phone is Apple, and that has not changed. But then Apple does not allow much tweaking, so it gives me pleasure to use the Android when I have some free time.

It was a good experience overall – however, I found the very next day that the Lenovo model that I bought was available for INR 400 less than the price I paid. But then, that is the way a competitive market operates, and I am sure that this phone would not even be available after a year as more advanced models at similar price points would have replaced it.

Welcome to a Smarter India driven by Smartphones !


Vijay Srinivasan

14th February 2016


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