The Indian smartphone industry is driven by devices priced under Rs 20,000. But that does not mean there is a dearth of options in the Rs 20,000 to Rs 40,000 segment, or even above that. Most brands have realised that the mid-premium segment is where growth and better margins lie and are offering more options in the above Rs 20,000 price mark.
Brands like Oppo and Vivo have always had more options in this segment. Then, of course, there’s OnePlus, which has redefined what you can get in a phone for under Rs 40,000. HMD Global and its Nokia branded phones have also been trying to leave a mark in this segment. We also saw Honor, Xiaomi’s Poco and Asus offer some compelling options in this segment.
Here is our list of phones that impressed us in the Rs 20,000 to Rs 40,000 segment.
Best mid-range flagship: OnePlus 6, OnePlus 6T
OnePlus 6T and the original OnePlus 6 were the best mid-range phones in our opinion, and it really has cemented the brand’s position in this particular segment. OnePlus has changed the definition of a flagship and delivered a reliable and consistent performance with the OnePlus 6 and the 6T.
In particular, the camera on the OnePlus 6 and 6T proved to be a significant improvement over the previous generation. With the OnePlus 6T, the company added a dedicated low-light mode called NightScape, which does deliver some excellent photos, depending on the lighting conditions.
Coupled with that the stylish glass design of the OnePlus 6, 6T, along with ample power backup and regular updates makes the OnePlus brand a reliable choice in the market. Plus the brand continues with its emphasis on speed and offers a flagship processor as well as enough RAM (6GB or 8GB) and storage to make it a value for money device.
Towards the end of the year, OnePlus launched a McLaren edition of the phone as well which comes with 10GB RAM for those who really want that extra power. However, the McLaren Edition starts at Rs 50,000 plus in India.
Runner mid-range flagship: Nokia 7 Plus (Later Nokia 8.1 )
HMD Global has managed to do an excellent job in the mid-range segment with the Nokia 7 Plus, which had a premium design, good performance and excellent cameras. We called it the ‘no-nonsense Android’ in our review.
The design in particular with the black colour body and copper accents for the frame, really made the Nokia-branded phones stand out. Nokia 7 Plus was launched at Rs 25,999 and the dual-cameras delivered quite well, in fact much better than the earlier Nokia 8 flagship.
Read more: The best budget smartphones of 2018
This was followed by the Nokia 8.1 towards the end of 2018, which also impressed us in terms of the performance and camera. Nokia 8.1 though has a more premium glass design and a slightly taller display thanks to the notched screen.
It also sports a more powerful Qualcomm Snapdragon 710 processor. Nokia 8.1’s camera performance was definitely worth the price tag of Rs 26,999 and a true improvement over the Nokia 7 Plus.
Honor Play was a unique smartphone in many ways. It put the focus on gaming, had Huawei’s Kirin 970 flagship processor, a big 6.3-inch display and a 3750 mAh battery, which would easily last a day.
Honor Play also came with the company’s own GPU Turbo technology, which promised better gaming performance. In our review, we noted that playing games like PUBG Mobile and Asphalt 9 were a smooth experience.
For its price of Rs Rs 19,999 onwards, this was an excellent phone in terms of what it claimed to offer. Although not a perfect phone, it’s still one of the best performing smartphones of 2018.
Xiaomi’s sub-brand Poco launched the Poco F1 in India this year, at a starting price of Rs 20,999 going up to Rs 29,999. However, the Poco F1 is now retailing at Rs 19,999. The focus with this one was on specifications and gaming performance.
Poco F1 offered the flagship Qualcomm Snapdragon 845 processor, had a big 4000 mAh battery and up to 8GB RAM and 256GB storage. Poco F1 also came with liquid cooling technology in order to keep the device cool during gaming sessions. The only compromise was that it had a plastic body, though Poco had a more premium Kevlar edition as well.
Poco F1 was clearly pitched as a OnePlus 6, 6T competitor, and while it was an excellent value for money device, it did fall short on some fronts. Still, it will be interesting to see what the Poco brand offers in 2019.
Oppo F9 Pro continued with the selfie focus and offered an improved design thanks to the elegant water-drop notch and a gradient design at the back, which just looked stunning. Oppo F9 Pro offered a 25MP front camera for selfies for a price of Rs 23,990.
The phone offered good performance, fast charging from Oppo and a good selfie camera as we noted in our review.
Vivo’s V11 Pro was a stylish phone in our review thanks to the waterdrop notch design, stylish back cover, which also had a gradient design. As we noted in our review, the Vivo V11 Pro offered a very capable camera for the price of Rs 25,990. The phone also sported an in-display fingerprint sensor, which was certainly a unique feature in the under Rs 30,000 segment.
This really was the year of affordable flagships with Asus Zenfone 5Z offering the flagship Qualcomm Snapdragon 845 at under Rs 30,000. Asus Zenfone 5Z offered excellent performance, good specifications with enough RAM and storage, and a more premium design. However, we felt that the camera could have been better.