They have been around for a while now, but for most so-called 'smaller' brands in the smartphone business, life has all been about slugging it out in the affordable 'value for money' segment of the smartphone business. They may command impressive market shares in terms of volume but when it comes to 'aspirational gadget' territory, they tend to lag behind more established players like Nokia, Apple, Samsung and Sony.
However, that could change in the coming months as some of these brands are moving out of their comfort zone and taking on the biggies with devices that look and perform impressively, and compete on performance and design as much as price. Here are six devices in particular that we think could give offerings from bigger and better known players a run for their money.
The iBALL Andi 4a Projector
Another company with a high-profile film star backing its projects is iBall. Hrithik Roshan and Kareena Kapoor have endorsed iBall products, but the Andi 4a Projector stands tall even without them. The company gets into territory that most of the bigger brands have tended to avoid - putting a projector on a smartphone. Samsung had done something similar with the Galaxy Beam, but that had been an expensive proposition.
The Andi 4a is less so, but does not scrounge on performance in the projector department at least - iBall claims it is the world’s first 36 Lumens projector smart phone. It projected images and videos very well, making it a candidate for those who want to do presentations on the move. It could have been sleeker, and more powerfully specced (dual core processor, 800 x 480 resolution display) but at the moment it is the only smartphone capable of letting you project content from your phone on to any screen with minimum fuss.
Price: Rs 18,990
The Spice Pinnacle FHD
A quad core processor, 1 GB RAM, a full HD display, an 8.-megapixel camera, Bluetooth 4.0, and Android 4.2 - for well below what you would have to shell out for an offering from some of the bigger brands. Well, Spice has been fighting on providing competent hardware at amazingly affordable prices for a while now. And with the Pinnacle FHD Mi-525, it certainly certainly has done enough to grab attention.
Yes, the design might not be the most eye-catching (it is simple rather than dazzling), but switch on that display and what you get is a full HD experience on a 5.0-inch LCD with a staggering pixel density of 480ppi - not too many out there can match that. The phone might be a bit on the bulky side, but it sure delivers more often than not in terms of performance, and that price, that display alone will make most people's day - after all, it is the piece of hardware that people use most in a handset!
Price: Rs 18,999
The Micromax Canvas Turbo
It has been rechristened the 'Hugh Jackman' phone by some cynics but what cannot be denied that Micromax has pretty much announced its intention to move beyond the low-end segment of the Indian smartphone market. While the Canvas HD and Canvas 4 had been statements of intent in this regard, the Canvas Turbo is pretty much the real McCoy, backed not just with a celebrity endorsement but also some very good design and decent hardware.
We must confess that we found the black version of the device very eye-catching with its anodized aluminium body. And in terms of performance, the quad core processor, 2GB RAM and full HD display combine to deliver a very good experience. And that 13.0-megapixel camera can take very decent shots too, as long as you stay in the daylight. Round that off with gesture-based controls that actually work and Micromax might just have something to rattle the biggies' cages. Nothing like anything? Well, definitely in that price segment at least.
Price: Rs 19,999
The Xolo Q1000s
It might not be getting high profile celebrities to endorse its products, but Xolo has been coming out with some very impressively specced devices over the past couple of years. Its devices sporting Intel's processors got good reviews, then came the Xolo Play powered by the quad core NVIDIA Tegra 3 processor, which delivered high-end mobile gaming at a relatively low price, and now comes the Q1000s, which also ups the design ante.
A mere 6.98 mm thin, this device comes with a 5.0-inch IPS display, which is not full HD but very impressive in terms of clarity. The Q1000s also tries to score on the camera front, which has always been a bit of an Achilles Heel for it - the 13.0-megapixel camera on it comes with a BSI sensor for better image quality, and while we do not see it giving the Lumias a run for their money, it is definitely an improvement over its predecessors. Round that off with a quad core processor, 1 GB RAM and 16 GB of onboard storage, and we think this phone could turn heads away from some better known performers.
Price: Rs 18,999
The Gionee Elife E6
It might be a relative newcomer in the Indian market, but Gionee has been making its presence felt with some very decent looking and well-specced devices. Well, it has taken matters to a different level with the very well designed Elife E6 which is has a unibody carbonate build - the white model in particular will turn heads with its slim form factor, which is reminiscent of a very popular device from a Cupertino company.
But it is not just all about looks - the Elife E6 packs in a 5.0-inch full HD display, quad core processor, 2 GB RAM, stacks of connectivity options, a massive 32GB of onboard storage and Gionee's own interface which might strike some as being a bit on the slow side but is a steady performer. Top that off with a 13.0-megapixel camera that is on par with some devices that cost almost twice as much and we think that this is a terrific combination of style and substance, albeit from a lesser known brand.
Price: Rs 22,999
The Intex Aqua i7
Another brand that has chosen to go the backed-by-celebrity way in the phone department is Intex which has tied up with Farhan Akhtar for its Aqua range of devices. The i7 sees the brand at its very best with a full HD 5.0-inch display, a quad core processor, 2 GB RAM, stacks of connectivity options, and most surprisingly, a staggering 32 GB of onboard memory - a bit of a rarity in the sub- Rs 20,000 price segment.
It also comes with an app that lets you use four apps simultaneously (and it works without any lags) and packs in a decent, albeit not exceptional, 13.0-megapixel camera at the rear and a 5.0-megapixel front-facing one. Once again, not quite a show stopper in the looks department but stop and consider what you are getting for the price - a great display, decent processor, lots of connectivity options- and we can see people thinking “Why ever not?”
Price: Rs 19,890