Smartphones Without Burning Your Pocket

The mobile phone industry has been turned on its head in the past seven years, with practically every phone now sold a ‘smart’ one with manifold mobile-computer possibilities. For most people the default choice is now thoroughly Android. The combined weight of Google with its Android software and all its hardware licenses, we now identify phone with two main categories one which is Android smartphones: the flagship devices that go head-to-head with leading Windows Phones and the iPhone, and the larger mass of more affordable options, typically priced around £100-£230 when sold SIM-free.

Smartphones in general are getting bigger and bigger. Some of you might remember Steve Jobs explaining at the launch of the original iPhone back in 2007: “It’s got a three-and-a-half-inch screen on it. It’s really big.” You can, of course, go even larger than this. Phones with 6-inch screens, often called “Phablets”, are growing in popularity. They’re a good option if have a long commute, as their larger screens are perfect for watching films, playing games and reading, but try one out in a shop first if you’ve never owned a phone this big.

smart_phones

ASUS ZenFone 2 Review

It’s time to get a handle on ASUS’ best effort in the affordable smart phone space yet. This is the ASUS ZenFone 2, and it’s more than ready to take on the rest of the unlocked, low-cost, high value smart phone space. This device isn’t mean to take on the $600 phone market. It’s not meant to be pitted up against your Galaxies and your HTC ones. Instead, this is a warrior taking on the often forgotten “My friend just bought a new phone and he didn’t need to tie down to a 2-year contract or sell a kidney for a phone“. ASUS knows this market exists, and they’ve tossed a real winner into the fray. ASUS is fully aware that there’s a market right here in the Android Community – one that wants an affordable smartphone, off-contract, unlocked, and maybe even ready to work with Windows PC connectivity beyond the basics. Imagine that, ASUS has come to the rescue.

Asus has launched a new 4GB RAM variant of the ZenFone 2 ZE551ML, priced at Rs. 18,999, with the Atom Z3560 processor seen in lower-end ZenFone 2 models. Announcing the news via a Facebook post, Asus India revealed that there are limited stocks of the ZenFone 2 ZE551ML with 64-bit 1.83GHz quad-core Intel Atom Z3560 processor. The Taiwanese company alongside revealed that the new 4GB RAM variant of the ZenFone 2 has been launched especially for the Indian market. Apart from the different chipset, the rest of the specifications of the new ZenFone 2 variant are identical to the other four ZenFone 2 ZE551ML models.

The other Asus ZenFone 2 ZE551ML variants include the ZenFone 2 ZE551ML (with 4GB of RAM, 64GB ROM or inbuilt storage, and a 5.5-inch full-HD display) available at Rs. 22,999; the ZenFone 2 ZE551ML (with 4GB of RAM, 32GB ROM, and a 5.5-inch full-HD display) priced at Rs. 19,999, and the ZenFone 2 ZE551ML (with 2GB of RAM, 16GB ROM, and 5.5-inch full-HD display) at Rs. 14,999. Lastly, the Zenfone 2 ZE551ML featuring 4GB of RAM along with 128GB of inbuilt storage was also listed late last month on Flipkart priced at Rs. 29,999.

To recall, the previously launched Asus ZenFone 2 ZE551ML (4GB RAM and 128GB/ 64GB/ 32GB storage) model features a 64-bit 2.3GHz quad-core Intel Atom Z3580 processor, while the ZenFone 2 ZE551ML 2GB RAM model features a 64-bit 1.83GHz quad-core Intel Atom Z3560.

All variants of the Asus ZenFone 2 run the company’s new ZenUI based on Google’s Android 5.0 Lollipop, and feature Intel Atom SoCs. All the models are dual-SIM (Micro-SIMs) smartphones, and feature 4G connectivity support for Indian LTE bands (Band 3 and Band 40).

The Asus ZenFone 2 ZE551ML (4GB and 2GB RAM models) sport 13-megapixel rear PixelMaster camera while there is a 5-megapixel front camera on board as well. Both the ZenFone 2 ZE551ML models feature dual-tone flash. A 3000mAh battery backs all the ZenFone 2 ZE551ML (4GB and 2GB RAM models) models.

InFocus M2 Review

We have no problem with companies launching great products at low prices that force the competition to respond, pushing prices down across the board. InFocus is just the latest in a long line to attempt to do this, and it has chosen to begin at the very enticing Rs. 5,000 price point. InFocus is a pretty big name in projectors and has interests in all kinds of corporate communication and collaboration products, but it has been working with Taiwanese manufacturing behemoth Foxconn to sell smartphones in Asia for a few years now. Interestingly, while InFocus has not missed a single opportunity in India to proclaim that it is American and that the M2 was designed in America, its US website has no information whatsoever about smartphones or efforts to extend the InFocus brand into new categories in other parts of the world.There really isn’t anything compelling about the design of the InFocus M2 when you first look at it. It could pass for any one of the hundreds of Chinese-manufactured phones we’ve seen so far. The fact that it bears a slight resemblance to Motorola’s recent designs doesn’t help either. The only thing that stands out is the milky white flash module on the front face next to the front camera lens. It’s actually quite distracting, and while this is a nice feature, we wish there had been a more elegant way to work it into the phone’s overall design.

InFocus could give Xiaomi some serious competition in terms of the components it puts into its ultra-low-cost phones. It’s powered by a quad-core MediaTek MT6582 processor with integrated Mali-400 graphics. This processor has been used in a number of popular phones, most notably the first wave of Android One devices launched in India towards the end of last year. There’s 1GB of RAM and 8GB of internal storage space – we’re happy to see that InFocus didn’t try cutting corners with either.

The screen has a relatively unusual resolution of 768×1280; wider than the usual 16:9 ratio which is nearly standard on smartphones today. It’s certainly better than the lowly 480×854 of the Android One series and 960×540 of some other devices in this price range. The screen is one of the sharpest and clearest we’ve seen on phones at this price level, and is in fact quite pleasant to work with. It can get very bright, and is clear even under sunlight.

The InFocus M2 runs Android 4.2.2 with the company’s own Inlife UI skin. Like nearly every Chinese UI we’ve seen, there is no app drawer and all icons and widgets live together on the homescreens. Some people prefer this setup, but we miss having that kind of control. We found this to be even more of a problem than usual on the M2 of the way the preloaded apps and widgets are scattered around by default.

It’s a little shocking that we can now purchase phones of this calibre for Rs. 5,000. We’re particularly impressed with the features on offer – dual microphones, dual 8-megapixel cameras, reasonable amounts of storage, and assorted software tweaks all left an impression on us. If you don’t mind this phone’s awkward proportions and user interface, it’s an absolute steal – especially when compared to devices such as the Sony Xperia E4 dual which costs over twice as much but isn’t significantly better.

If value for money is your topmost priority, this is a hard phone to beat. However, there are other products in the market that cost just Rs. 1000-2000 more, such as the Xiaomi Redmi 2 and Motorola Moto E (Gen 2) which are worth considering as well.