Smartphones below Rs 20,000: A Buyer’s Guide


As one of my friends said, “Life with a smartphone is inconsistent”. One look at the mobile phone industry will tell you everything you need to know (and a ton of information you don’t need to know) about smartphones. Manufacturers pump out newer models like there’s no tomorrow and we likewise end up buying them.


We’ve scouted around the mobile phone shops in and around Colombo for the best deals we could find – and these are the results. Bear in mind that almost all these devices have similar specifications and/or have the usual FM radio an and audio/video players so we won’t be delving into those aspects in a detailed level; this is merely a list. That said, there are loads of phones out there for the price, but we only picked the ones that we felt deserve a mention. We’ve included links to Ideabeam so you can see the listings of shops that stock these devices.

Nokia Lumia 530

Straight off the bat, this is a quad core 1.2 GHz device sporting a 4” screen and Windows Phone 8.1 backed up by 512MB of RAM and 4GB of internal storage. There’s a microSD card slot for added expandability. It also has a 5 megapixel camera although there is no front camera. Build quality is quite sturdy and the screen does a decent job of recreating colors and is bright enough to see in direct sunlight. The interaction of Windows Phone OS feels quite fast on this device. It offers close to 10 hours of talk time with 3G on.

How much, you ask? Well, it can be purchased from Dialcom – and other retailers –  for Rs. 10,600. See Ideabeam: Lumia 530.

Sony Xperia E1 Dual SIM

Available from most mobile phone retailers for Rs. 14,800, the E1 has a 4” screen and a dual core 1.2GHz processor, 512MB of RAM and 4GB of internal storage with a microSD card slot for more expandability. It runs Android 4.3 Jelly Bean with Sony’s proprietary Timescape UI on top.

The E1 has a 3megapixel rear camera, but no front camera. The screen is decent; colors displayed are also decent for the price. It also has a dual SIM feature which is quite nifty if you have two separate connections as you can manage them both on a single device. As for the battery, the E1 has a reported talk time of around 8 hours with 3G on. See Ideabeam: Sony Xperia E1

Samsung Galaxy S Duos

Samsung has an entire arsenal of their Galaxy series of smartphones in almost any and all price range. The Galaxy S Duos is no exception. Available at most mobile phone retailers for Rs. 16,000 mark, the device sports a 4” 480*800 display along with a 1GHz Cortex-A5 processor. It has a 5 megapixel rear camera and a VGA (640*480) front camera. As for the operating system, the device ships with Android 4.0 Ice Cream Sandwich and is upgradeable to Android 4.1 Jelly Bean. As for RAM and storage, it’s 768MB and 4GB respectively.

The interface is Samsung’s TouchWiz UI which again, takes a bit of getting used to. As for the battery, it has an expected 7 hours of talk time with 3G. Build quality is pretty standard across all Samsung devices.

If you have a bit more cash you could upgrade to a Samsung Galaxy V for Rs. 16,900, which is slightly faster in terms of CPU and ships with Android 4.4.2 KitKat but with less RAM. There’s also Galaxy S Duos 2 for Rs. 17,900, which is pretty much the same spec apart from the upgraded CPU and Jelly Bean.

Nokia Lumia 630 Dual SIM

For Rs. 17,900, you can this. Sporting a 4.5” 480*854 pixel display, the Lumia 630 is basically the 530 packed in a bigger shell. It has a 5 megapixel camera – but again no front facing one – and pictures taken with it are quite clear in well lit. Build quality again is sturdy, but the Gorilla Glass display tends to crack. It’s rated for up to 13 hours of talk time with 3G.

Asus Zenfone 4

A 4” device powered by a dual-core Intel Atom Z2520, the Zenfone has a 5 megapixel camera, a front camera and is an also upgradeable to Android 4.4 KitKat. The build quality of the device is quite good and the screen does a decent job at the price. What sets this phone apart from the rest is the Atom CPU. It manages to stay ahead of the pack in this price range in most occasions and delivers a good performance – although at a somewhat diminished battery life. Rated for up to 10 hours of talk time with 3G

Sony Xperia M Dual C2005

This one’s priced at Rs. 18,600 and is available at Dialcom, Majestic city and most mobile phone retailers in Colombo. It has a 4” 480*854 pixel display – much like most of the phone models in this price range and has a dual core 1GHz CPU backed by 1GB of RAM and 4GB of internal storage with a microSD card for added expandability. There’s Timescape, of course.  Design? Honestly, you see one Xperia model and you’ve seen them all.

The final phone for our pick of this price range: the Motorola Moto E.

Available at Dialcom and available for Rs. 19,900, the E it can be considered to be the little brother of the Moto G, the one that made waves when it splashed down in Sri Lanka. The Moto E offers a 4.3” 540*960 display and is powered by a Dual core 1.2GHz CPU backed by 1GB of RAM and 4GB of internal storage. The display is protected by the Gorilla Glass 3 and is quite vivi. The user interface is similar to that of the Moto G and the Nexus series – offering a stock Google experience with little to no third party applications installed.

Well there you have it: these are the best we’ve found for this price range. A few notes to mention: all devices mentioned here share common traits. They have more or less the same screen size and resolution (4” and 480*800). The Android devices tend to run on Android Jelly Bean with an exceptionally few running Android KitKat. Some of them are great value for money; some, not so much – but in the end it comes down to what YOU feel you want in your phone, your brand preferences, and the experience YOU wish to have.

As always, do your research, read reviews and compare before buying. Until next time!


  1. Windows phones sucks they don’t have many apps and memory is too little
    get the Asus Zenfone 4 if you want a cheap phone that also has good perfomance

  2. Is 512mb of RAM enough to make a WP run smoothly? Seriously cosidering buy the nokia 530 for my mother as Android one’s are confusing for her (tiny icons and all). Or should I wait for 535 to come out?


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