Phone-y Diwali suggestions

Left your festival gifting too late?  You can't go wrong with a smart phone: there's one for every budget

By Anand Parthasarathy

Bangalore, November 9 2015: When it comes to planning  gifts -- for weddings, birthdays or  festivals -- we Indians  are like that only.    Most of us  think in the box.  Shaadi: Pressure cooker/Non-stick tawa.  Diwali? dried fruit box /diya  set (traditional or LED). 

If you feel a bit more generous  but left it too late this year,  take the advice of this ageing pro:  You can't go wrong with a smartphone --   or something connected with it.  There are three advantages:  Nobody says no to  a second phone, so duplication is not an  issue.  Most of  my suggestions  can be ordered online -- so even if the gift  doesn't reach by Diwali, an-email bringing the glad tidings will.  Lastly,  no other  category   has such  a huge price bandwidth:  the ideas on this page range from around Rs 300 to Rs 17,000.

One Plus X:   Sense and Sensibility

Everything about this  4G phone shouts stylish sensibility --  starting with its metal-edged , black glass   body  to its  flat USB cable --  coupled  with sense:  2 slots for nano SIMs. One of them can be used extend micro SD storage to a total 128  GB ( the internal storage  is  16 GB with  3GB RAM).  The cameras  are  a faster-than-usual 13 MP rear and  an  8 MP front.  The 5 inch LED screen display displays the  full HD resolution that the phone can shoot. It wakes up  automatically when the phone is pulled out of  purse or pocket.

One Plus X  has overlaid  its OxygenOS over the Android Lollipop  and this lets you customise  your gestures  as shortcuts.  The phone's  built-in Radio lets you  broadcast music  from FM stations  without  using WiFi or consuming data.   In recent days, OnePlus has launched an interesting photography app, Reflexion , as well as   4 wallpapers based on  works of  well known modern Indian artists.  At Rs 16,999 this mid range 4G phone is a class act.

Coolpad Note 3:  Ungli chaap!

We have come full circle! Time was, when  a thumb impression  was the only way the  learning-challenged could identify themselves without having to sign their names.  Now  many of  us think a digital ungli chaap  is both  cool and convenient.   The  4G dual SIM  Coolpad Note 3 encourages this new trend. It is one of the first and most affordable of smart phones in India that  offer a built-in fingerprint scanner  to unlock the handset. With a 5.5 inch TFT IPS screen displaying 720 p HD, it is almost large enough to be called a phablet.  Indeed,  its 64-bit  Cortex Octa core  is  a solid  task master.

Internal RAM of 3 GB is as good as many portable PCs and the 16 GB storage can be expanded to 64 GB.   The cameras  --13 MP rear and 5 MP front  --  are  fairly standard for this class of phone, but I was happy to see that the makers  have not compromised on the battery size to make the product  ultra slim: so this is slightly chunky  device (partly due to the strong aluminium frame) promises about 15 hours of talk time from a 3000 mAh battery. For many on-the-go owners that might be a key plus point.  Good value at Rs 8990.

Swipe Elite 2:  Jawaani josh!

Swipe is an interesting company  whose mantra seems to be 'forever young'! Fuelled by desi enterprise,  the average age of its  creative team in Pune is 26. Just  3 years old, it has won a clutch of awards  for innovation,  after it stormed the India scene with the first ever 3-D tablet.  Within weeks of launching its first, aggressively priced smart phone, Elite, the company has launched Swipe Elite  2 this week,    arguably the cheapest  4G phone in India at Rs 4666, something the young will appreciate.

The 4.5 inch phone is fuelled by a quad core 64-bit chip, with 8GB on board storage expandable to 32 GB.  To keep the price down, they have limited the  RAM of  this  dual SIM Android Lollipop to 1 GB  and I'm not sure if in this age of  galloping apps, this is the right trade-off. The battery  too, is just 1900 mAh, but they say  have done some very clear things with software power management a  to make this  more this more than adequate while assuring  a very quick charge cycle.

The cameras are  fairly standard -- 8MP rear and 5 MP front. What Ido  like,  is Swipe's overlay on Lollipop 5.1, called Freedom OS:  It offers hundreds of theme pix, customizable gestures, search shortcuts  and  what is both clever and sneaky -- a 100 GB SwipeBox free storage which they  achieve by  aggregating all   your cloud storage services into one! 

Footnote:  The phone brands  reviewed above have one common strand:  All have announced plans to manufacture in India!

(with inputs  from V. Sudhakshina and Vishnu Anand)