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The Best Among Bundled Smartphones; Do They Really Make Sense?

A bundled smartphone is the product of a partnership between a telecom operator and a smartphone manufacturer.

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Bundled Smartphones

2017 has been the year of bundled smartphones. Everybody from Jio to Airtel and even Vodafone has their own bundled smartphone. Jio started it with their Jio Phone, which was a feature phone. It started as a trickle, but is now a gushing flow. Airtel followed Jio in a big way with not one, not two, but 4 bundled smartphones.

A bundled smartphone is the product of a partnership between a telecom operator and a smartphone manufacturer. The telecoms bundle special data and talk plans with the smartphones, which are subsidised with cash-backs for reduced or ‘zero’ effective prices.

So, do these bundled smartphones make sense over buying a smartphone outright?

Let’s find out.

Bundled Smartphones Vs. Regular Smartphones

Low prices and special plans are the main attractions of these bundled smartphones. Telecoms often subsidise the smartphone prices in order to make them more attractive to potential buyers. Barring a few exceptions, most of these smartphones are low-end, ultra-affordable phones.

Their prices are further reduced when the telecoms offer cash back to the buyers of these phones. But these cash backs are subject to certain terms and conditions.

First of all there is a lock-in period which can range from 1 year to 3 years. Within that entire period, buyers are required to make a minimum, pre-decided amount of re-charges every month without break in order to qualify for cash backs. The recharge can be more than the pre-decided amount, but not lower.

Now, collectively, these recharge amounts are much more than the actual cost of the smartphones and even the cash backs. This gives rise to two opposing arguments.

The first one is that when the entire cost of a smartphone, throughout the lock-in period, is taken into account, it seems much more cost-effective to buy the smartphone outright. You can see the same in the table shared below.

The opposing argument says that since you are also getting special calling and data plans with these phones, it is more cost-effective in the long run.

Now it is up to you to decide which side are you on.

A Detailed Look At Bundled Smartphones Available Now

Jio Xiaomi Redmi 5A Airtel Intex Aqua Lions N1 Airtel Intex Aqua A4 Airtel Intex Aqua S3 Airtel Karbonn A40 Vodafone Bharat 2 Ultra
Operating System MIUI 9 Based On Android 7.1 Nougat Android 7.0 Noughat Android 7.0 Noughat Android 7.0 Noughat Android 7.0 Nougat Android 6.0 Marshmallow
Processor 1.4GHz Quad-Core Snapdragon 425 processor 1.1GHz MediaTek processor 1.1GHz MediaTek processor 1.1GHz MediaTek processor 1.3 GHz Quad-Core Processor 1.3 GHz Quad-Core Processor
Dual Sim Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes
Dedicated Memory Card Slot Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes
Rear Camera 13.0 MP 2.0 MP 5.0 MP 8.0 MP 2.0 MP 2.0 MP
Front Camera 5.0 MP 0.3 MP 2.0 MP 5.0 MP 0.3 MP 0.3 MP
Screen Size 5.0 in. 4.0 in. 4.0 in. 5.0 in. 4.0 in. 4.0 in.
Battery Capacity 3,000 mAh 1,400 mAh 1,750 mAh 2,450 mAh 1,400 mAh 1,300 mAh
RAM 2 GB 1 GB 1 GB 2 GB 0.5 GB 0.5 GB
Internal Storage 16 GB 8 GB 8 GB 16 GB 8 GB 4 GB
Expandable Storage Up To 256 GB 128 GB 64 GB 64 GB 32 GB 32 GB
Lock in Period 1 Year 3 Years 3 Years 3 Years 3 Years 3 Years
Device Price Rs. 4,999/- Rs. 3,149/- Rs. 3,499/- Rs. 4,379/- Rs. 2,899/- Rs. 2,899/-
Cashback Rs. 1,000 /- Rs.  1,500/- Rs. 1,500/- Rs. 1,500/- Rs. 1,500/- Rs. 1,900/-
Minimum Recharge Requirement Rs. 2,388/- Rs. 6,084/- Rs. 6,084/- Rs. 6,084/- Rs. 6,084/- Rs. 5,400/-
Effective Cost to Customer Rs. 6,387/- Rs. 7,733/- Rs. 8,083/- Rs. 8,963/- Rs. 7,483/- Rs. 6,399/-
Voice Benefits Unlimited 250 mins/day 250 mins/day 250 mins/day 250 mins/day 250 mins/day
Post FUP charges No FUP 10p/min A2A & 30p/min to others 10p/min A2A & 30p/min to others 10p/min A2A & 30p/min to others 10p/min A2A & 30p/min to others 10p/min V2V & 30p/min to others
4G Data Benefits 1 GB/Day 0.5 GB/Day 0.5 GB/Day 0.5 GB/Day 0.5 GB/Day 0.5 GB/Day
Post FUP charges Unlimited internet @ 64kbps Rs. 4000/GB Rs. 4000/GB Rs. 4000/GB Rs. 4000/GB Rs. 4000/GB

So, Does It Make Sense?

As we can see in the table above, even though the actual cost of smartphones is around the Rs. 3,000/- mark, they actually end up costing between Rs. 6,000/- to Rs. 9,000/- at the end of the lock-in period.

Now that you have listened to all the arguments and taken a look at the available options, do you think a bundled smartphone is a viable option for you. If you ask us, we’ll say they are not for everybody.

The specifications alone are enough to put off a regular smartphone user. Where we are used to a smooth performance from sensibly priced midrange smartphones, these low-cost smartphones are anything but smooth. It is a simple trade-off between price vs. specifications. So for a majority of us living in cities, a bundled smartphone is not a suitable option.

But if you live in a rural or semi-rural area where a smartphone is considered more a communication tool than a gadget, a bundled smartphone is the way to go. Even if it feels expensive in the long run, the ability to make monthly instalments is a sheer convenience.

Feel free to share your opinions in the comments below

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