It’s true that today, you really don’t need to spend a whole lot of money to get a feature-packed smartphone. Samsung, Xiaomi and Realme have been consistently delivering excellent value options under ₹ 15,000, and we’ve added some of their latest launches to our June refresh of this buying guide.
Realme finally managed to launch its youth-centric Narzo series, which complements its other offerings. Samsung had a new launch too with the Galaxy M21. Some older models that were featured in the April edition of this guide have been replaced by equivalent or better offerings thanks to changes in pricing.
If you have a budget of ₹ 15,000 for getting a new smartphone, we have done the research for you. After reviewing multiple smartphones in this segment, here are the models that are a cut above the rest, in no particular order.
Best phones under 15,000
|Phones under ₹ 15,000||Gadgets 360 rating (out of 10)||Price in India (as recommended)|
|Samsung Galaxy M21||7||₹ 13,199|
|Realme Narzo 10||8||₹ 11,999|
|Redmi Note 9 Pro||8||₹ 13,999|
|Realme 6||8||₹ 13,999|
|Vivo Z1 Pro||8||₹ 13,990|
|Redmi Note 8||7||₹ 11,999|
|Vivo U20||8||₹ 11,990|
Samsung Galaxy M21
We were quite surprised by how similar the new Samsung Galaxy M21 was to the Galaxy M30s. In fact, other than a higher-resolution selfie camera on the new model, both phones are virtually identical. The best past is that Samsung has priced the Galaxy M21 lower than the Galaxy M30s, which makes it a better pick.
Some of the phone’s strong points include its crisp AMOLED display, low weight, very good battery life, and decent app performance. It runs Samsung’s One UI 2.0 interface on top of Android 10. It’s powered by the widely used Exynos 9611 SoC, which is not the most powerful especially when you have more powerful phones based on Qualcomm and MediaTek SoCs in the same segment. Still, for general use and a bit of light gaming, it gets the job done.
The triple rear cameras are decent during the day but they struggle a bit in low light. The 20-megapixel selfie camera is a notable improvement over that of the M30s though, as pictures taken during the day had good detail and low-light shots were usable too.
The Samsung Galaxy M21 starts at ₹ 13,199 with 4GB of RAM and 128GB of storage. There’s a higher-end variant priced at ₹ 15,499, which has 6GB of RAM and 128GB of storage.
Realme Narzo 10
Realme recently launched its much-awaited Narzo series, and the Narzo 10 is a good offering for under ₹ 15,000. Realme is targeting the youth demographic here, focusing on style and gaming performance. The Narzo 10 has the MediaTek Helio G80, which handles games well, and overall app and multitasking performance is solid too. Battery life is also one of this phone’s strong suits.
The main area where the Narzo 10 could have done better is its cameras. Daylight performance was good with all the rear cameras and the single front one, but low-light performance left us wanting more. The camera app could have been a bit more intuitive too, especially for some of its core features. Realme UI looks fresh and interesting, but there’s still a lot of bloatware preinstalled.
There’s just one configuration, with 4GB of RAM and 128GB of storage. At just ₹ 11,999, the Narzo 10’s little issues can be forgiven as there’s no denying the immense value you get for your money.
Redmi Note 9 Pro
The Redmi Note 9 Pro has been a solid recommendation from us in this price segment, ever since it launched. It features a big 6.67-inch display. We found the phone to be bulky and heavy at 209g in weight but it is well designed.
It is powered by the Snapdragon 720G SoC and comes in two variants, one with 4GB of RAM and 64GB of storage, and the other with 6GB of RAM and 128GB of storage. The base variant is available for ₹ 13,999 which is a minor bump up from its launch price of ₹ 12,999 due to the GST hike.
The Realme 6 continues to be the only phone under ₹ 15,000 to offer a display with a 90Hz refresh rate, similar to some flagships currently in the market. We found the Realme 6 to be well designed, but the side-mounted fingerprint scanner might not appeal to everyone. The device is slightly on the heavier side, tipping the scales at 191g.
The Realme 6 is powered by the Mediatek Helio G90T which is capable of delivering some serious performance, especially in games. Realme offers three variants: 4GB of RAM with 64GB of storage, 6GB of RAM with 128GB of storage, and 8GB of RAM with 128GB of storage. We found the camera quality to be good in daylight, producing good amounts of detail. The wide-angle camera offers a wider field of view but the dynamic range isn’t great. Low-light camera output quality dips slightly but Night mode improves this.
The base variant is priced at ₹ 13,999 and is the only one that fits within our budget, following the GST price hike. You will have to spend more for the other variants.
Vivo Z1 Pro
Vivo’s first online-exclusive smartphone, the Vivo Z1 Pro, has an eye-catching design and a gradient finish at the back. It features the Qualcomm Snapdragon 712 SoC, which is a little old now, but is still capable of handling everyday tasks quite well. We did not notice any stutter or lag with the smartphone when we used it. The Vivo Z1 Pro packs in a 5,000mAh battery and is a little bulky at 201g.
The Vivo Z1 Pro has a hole-punch display which is slowly becoming common in this price range. The panel is sharp and has great viewing angles. The Vivo Z1 Pro has a triple camera setup at the back, and takes good photos in daylight with good detail, however shots taken with the wide-angle camera lack detail. Low-light camera performance is also good.
Vivo Z1 Pro is available in three variants: 4GB of RAM with 64GB of storage, 6GB of RAM with 64GB of storage, and 6GB of RAM with 128GB of storage. The two lower variants are available in this price range.
Redmi Note 8
We saw the Redmi Note 8 retailing for ₹ 10,999, after the GST price hike and that’s recently been raised once again to ₹ 11,999 for the base variant. However, it’s still a good phone with decent all-round performance.
The Redmi Note 8 has a crisp full-HD+ display and is powered by the Qualcomm Snapdragon 665 SoC. The base variant has 4GB of RAM and 64GB of storage while the top variant has 6GB of RAM and 128GB of storage. Both are available in this price range.
Xiaomi offers a quad-camera setup on the Note 8, with the primary one being a 48-megapixel shooter. It also has a wide-angle camera and a macro shooter. We found the camera performance to be good for the price. Low-light photos were noisy and blotchy, and we did have trouble with autofocus in poor lighting conditions.
The U series from Vivo was specially created to compete with online-exclusive offerings from Xiaomi and Realme. The Vivo U20 is powered by the capable Qualcomm Snapdragon 675 SoC, packs in a 5,000mAh battery, and has a triple camera setup at the back. The phone is a little bulky because of its battery. It has a Micro-USB port at the bottom, which is a little disappointing since the Type-C standard is now common in this price segment.
Vivo includes an 18W charger in the box which helps reduce charging time. The performance is good for the price, and this smartphone can play games and multitask easily. We found the cameras to be below average. If you are planning on using this as your primary device for taking photos, you may want to consider the other phones in this price range.
There are two variants of the Vivo U20: 4GB of RAM and 6GB of RAM. Storage remains the same at 64GB for both. The base variant is now available at ₹ 11,990 while the top variant is priced at ₹ 12,990.
Which is the bestselling Vivo smartphone in India? Why has Vivo not been making premium phones? We interviewed Vivo’s director of brand strategy Nipun Marya to find out, and to talk about the company’s strategy in India going forward. We discussed this on Orbital, our weekly technology podcast, which you can subscribe to via Apple Podcasts or RSS, download the episode, or just hit the play button below.