Why buying a phone is driving me nuts
After two long years, my Mi4i phone finally had a fall. It slipped out of my pocket while I was riding my scooter at around 35km/hr. For some reason, I wasn’t worried at all as it clattered and skidded along the rough tarmac road. A gentleman walking along the road picked up the phone, and handed it over to me, saying, “I don’t know if it’s working.”
I smiled, as I had an unreasonable confidence in my phone’s metal bumper case, and tempered glass screen guard. It was only later when I got home and checked out the phone that I noticed the severely scratched screen guard, and the scuffed bumper case.
So I was happy to find the phone was working just fine, a testimony to Xiaomi’s quality. What I was not happy about was something completely unrelated to the fall.
My Mi4i does not have VoLTE. This means the phone function does not work too well with my Jio SIM. The JioVoice app through which calls are routed keeps going offline.
And that’s where my dilemma begins. I need to replace the phone with a VoLTE phone. But what phone should I get?
Android phones have so wide a choice that it’s bewildering, to put it mildly.
Going by make
Like Japan used to stand for outstanding quality but it’s now just pricey. Who buys a Sony anymore?
‘Made in China’ used to imply poor quality till Xiaomi and other brands caused a rethink. After all, even Apple which is known for its quality, makes most of its phones in China.
Indian brands, like Micromax, had a price advantage for a brief time due to tax benefits. But the Chinese restored parity by opening factories in India.
Going by price
You have Samsung which at the high end, is priced higher than Apple which is crazy high. Google’s Pixel has joined them in the $1000 (₹65000) range.
The mid range $450 (₹30000) has phones like the One Plus which offer high end specs allied with a good finish.
Xiaomi rules the budget range $200 (₹12500) with its Redmi Note series.
Then you have the low end or below $150 (₹10000) phones which is a sort of blind spot for me.
Going by features
You can choose what phone to buy based on its features like presence of a fingerprint scanner, or screen quality like AMOLED vs LCD, or a phone with two cameras at the back.
Going by numbers
Or you can decide by phone specs. A phone with 6GB RAM is generally faster than one with 4GB, which in turn is faster than a 2GB RAM one. Or screen size with choices going from the super large phablet of above 6" to the current favorite of 5.5" down to the smaller 5". Or screen quality of 1080 Full HD (1920x1080 pixels) vs just HD. Or a camera with more megapixels.
Going by battery life
Some of us just need a phone that will just get us through a full day without recharging. In which case, we need to look at the phones with mega sized 4000 mAh batteries. Though if you are on an iPhone, the plus series is pretty good and just as pretty expensive. The fast charge facility might also be useful.
Going by use
If you are into gaming, you would need to look for a good graphic card, sound system and a processor that does not heat up. Thankfully, I’m not into gaming as I already have more than enough to look into.
A movie buff would need a phone with lots of space onboard or be able to read USB drives (OTG) and maybe a good sound system.
A gadget freak would need a phone with stuff like infra red controls to take over the TV remote’s job, NFC for wireless charging, and so on.
Then there’s the odd case of a short friend who loves heavy phones. When I asked him why, he pulled out a sock from his pocket, dropped the phone into it, and swung it menacingly. Seems he used to get picked on because of his height in his schooldays, and this is his preferred mode of defence as it’s perfectly legal to carry around. Takes all types.
Going by recycling
It seems criminal to throw away my perfectly functional Mi4i just because it lacks one function (VoLTE). To assuage my guilt, I looked for an exchange scheme. Flipkart offers one, and I check what I can get if I exchange it for the low end Samsung On8 with an AMOLED screen. Flipkart says ₹3200. Not great. However the Samsung looks a bit dated, and the next day the exchange deal is off on that phone. More on this later.
Going by brand
All this confusion makes it an ideal product for the science of branding. A One Plus fan usually sticks with the brand as he knows the phone comes with great build and high end specs. Ditto for the Pixel guy, and the Samsung guy who won’t mind paying the high price as they are guaranteed quality. Which is why the exploding Samsung phone was such big news.
My experience with the Mi4i makes me a fan of Xiaomi. I also own the Mi Band which was an excellent buy at $31 (₹1999). The problem is the Redmi Note 4 which I have had an eye on for the last couple of months is only available on Flash Sales, and I have somehow never got it. In fact, I was online at 12 noon today, unsuccessfully trying to get one for the nth time!
Going by OS
It could be this confusion in Android that is behind Apple’s announcement that it’s doing well in India. There’s just two models of iPhones. You either go for the big screen or the small screen, and then choose your colour. iPhone users also know that Apple’s perfect blend of hardware and software is hard to beat, and easy to use. There other iPhones in the market are older models. Price used to be a factor but Apple is steadily coming out with lower priced old models with the below $450 (₹30000) iPhone 6, and the high spec iPhone SE which is a bit more expensive. Apple is also planning to start assembling iPhones in India, and that will get rid of the high taxes that make iPhones in India more expensive than anywhere else in the world.
Two things prevent Apple from running away with the market. A majority of Indians are price sensitive, so an iPhone is not for them. Secondly, iOS does not allow for customisation which would put off Android users. Other OSes like Windows are too marginal and don’t have enough apps to attract buyers.
Going by future-proofing
Phone technology gets obsolete pretty fast. My 2-year old Mi4i’s lack of VoLTE is my sole issue with it. Similarly, Apple is going to ban 32-bit apps from iOS 11. That will make all iPhones prior to the iPhone 5S obsolete as there won’t be any more apps available on the App Store for those phones.
The current trend seems to be phones that get outdated in 2–3 years. So buying a $1000 (₹60000) phone does not make sense to me. Instead I would rather spend $200 (₹12500) on a phone, and replace it after a couple of years with another similar priced phone with the latest features.
Future proofing can go up or down depending on the size of your wallet, with a One Plus fan getting a $450 (₹30000) replacement every two years.
This sort of simplifies life.
Of course, it won’t apply to a guy who has loads of money. Like my brother who has an iPhone 7, and will probably replace it with the next iPhone.
Going by Deals
Indians like a good bargain so it’s not surprising that Amazon and Flipkart’s Big Sale Days are massive successes. Come to think of it, I bought my Mi4i at an Amazon sale for ₹9999. So what better way to get its replacement than at the upcoming Flipkart Sale on May 15, possibly with an exchange thrown in.
But what phone do I buy in case the Redmi Note 4 is not available. It’s always out of stock on both Flipkart and on mi.com/in (I’m don’t buy phones at a premium from resellers).
So should I pick up the uncool sounding CoolPad? Or the funny sounding Oppo? Or the even weirder SRT Smartron, which is being promoted by Sachin Tendulkar. Now I’m a big fan of Sachin the cricketer, but Sachin the brand hawker is the guy who was pushing sugar loaded sodas to kids for years. Why would I buy anything he plugs?
On second thoughts, if it’s a good deal, then why not?
Going by looks
I have saved the best for the last. Design is subjective and there’s no logic to it after a certain point. There’s nothing to analyse to death. What one likes, another may dislike. I liked the iPhone 4 design as against the iPhone 6, which Apple seems to prefer.
So this may be possibly be the best way to buy a phone. If you find a phone you like, and can afford it, just buy it. Of course, you will regret buying it when you find some key feature missing. But you’ll forget about that when you look at the phone.
PS: I have to admit that I’m not a hardcore Android user who’s into rooting and customising and what not. The truth is, I have two phones with my Android being my second phone. My primary phone is an iPhone 6S+. I know I said Apple’s pricing doesn’t make sense. But after a point, logic stops working with me. I’ve a feeling when my iPhone is due to replaced, I’ll find myself owning another iPhone - we’re all creatures of habit.
Maybe going by habit is the way to go if you don’t want to go nuts.