​Update: In the past few days, we witnessed the launch of three phones in the Rs.20-25,000 category - the LG Q Stylus+, the Vivo V11 Pro and the Moto G6 Plus. If you look at just the base specs our two best picks, the Poco F1 and Honor Play crush these three phones by providing far better processors, battery life and gaming experience.  While the LG Q Stylus+ and Moto G6 Plus fall way behind the Poco and Honor, the Vivo V11 Pro with its water drop notch, Super AMOLED display, and an amazing 25-megapixel selfie camera is good for people who like to capture selfies and don’t mind the custom skin.

We also found out that Poco F1 doesn't support HD video for apps like Amazon Prime and Netflix. This is due to a lack of certification (Widevine L1) which limited video playback to 540p in these apps. The phone does, however, support HD and FHD playback through the Youtube app and despite the lack of L1 certification, it remains our best pick because of its sheer value proposition and the fact that the competition like the Honor Play, Huawei Nova 3i, Honor 10 too doesn’t support Widevine L1.


Smartphones trends and technologies are so fast changing it becomes difficult for a user to understand what is good and what isn't. At Hometop, we try to understand and replicate how the user uses a phone and review a product based on what information will be helpful for you.

The last time we thoroughly tested and reviewed smartphones under Rs.25,000, the Honor 8 Pro took the crown with its excellent cameras, powerful processor, gorgeous display and the solid build quality, especially for the price. But the smartphone market changes so quickly that we now have not one but two flagship killer devices that offer a lot more value for money.

So to help you find the best phone for your money, we read through multiple review websites and customer reviews. So sit back and read through all the work that we have done to help you find the best phone under 25000 in India.

Best smartphone under 25000

Poco F1

The Poco F1 is quite possibly the bargain of the century, one of those key moments in history where we witness a new category of device. In this case it's the Flagship-killer Killer. Launched as the most affordable Snapdragon 845 powered smartphone, the Poco F1 has shaken the market worldwide. But the processor is not everything, you have a great camera, superb display, stereo speakers and good built quality all starting at Rs.20,999.

Best smartphone under 25000

Honor Play

Not quite satisfied with half a dozen launches, Honor is back with the Honor Play a slightly different take on the performance smartphone. It offers an enticing blend of a gorgeous screen, flagship grade processor, excellent battery life and good build quality. With a price of just Rs.19999, we now officially have a flagship-killer killer making it the best smartphone under 25000 and also the best smartphone under 20000.


This is a really long post! Use these links to jump around.


Why Trust us?

We at Hometop have been reviewing smartphones and other gadgets for nearly a year now. Having spent over 100 hours in the past year going through benchmarks, vetting recommendations, talking to experts and reading about the market trends and technologies  from other reputed tech sites to truly help find the best smartphone for you.Our experience also lets us really separate the hype from the necessity when it comes to the many smartphone features (especially in today's over hyped marketing era) and the sheer diversity in our experience truly enables us to select nothing but the very best of products for you.

We spend over a day reading through reviews from a lot of websites - from Firstpost to Digit - to see if there was a consensus on which phone was the best. We then further verified this by reading through verified reviews on Amazon and Flipkart from people who actually have bought and used the product. Mainly, to make sure the big sites didn’t miss anything.

We also assessed the performance of each phone using benchmark data. We checked all the big ones - Antutu, Geekbench 4 benchmark, and 3Dmark. This helped give us an idea about the phone CPU, GPU, Gaming, Battery and everyday performance.


How we selected?

We started by looking at suggestions from reputed technology websites to see what they had suggested. We then listed all the best phones under 25000 from Amazon and Flipkart and then went through their specifications and features while analyzing the reviews from verified customers.

Finally, we read through reviews from various review websites like BGR, Firstpost, and Digit to look at the merits and downfalls of the picks.
 

Best smartphone under Rs.25000 in detail

back camera view

Specifications

Pros

  • Great display

  • Best in class gaming performance

  • Stereo speakers

  • USB Type-C connector and 3.5 mm jack for audio

  • Dual 4G VoLTE support

  • 18W fast charging

  • Good battery life

  • Armoured edition looks sweet

Cons

  • Stock Android would have been better

  • Hate or Love notch

  • Hybrid sim slot

  • Large chin on the front panel

What's it missing?

  • IR blaster

  • NFC

  • Metal or Glass build

  • Waterproofing or water resistance (No IP rating)

  • Camera OIS

  • Useful Secondary camera (No optical zoom, wide angle)

  • 60fps video recording

  • Super slow motion video

  • Dedicated MicroSD card slot

  • Wireless charging

  • 2K resolution display

  • Doesn’t support HD Playback for Netflix and Amazon Prime (Lacks Widevine L1 certification)

Design and Build: Focuses on the basics

Given how manufacturers have to keep up with the prevailing trends in design, Poco by Xiaomi took a slightly different approach. No matter how affordable or expensive your smartphone is you always have a cover on it. This means rarely do people know if your phone has a glass back or a metal back or a wood one, they all look the same. This was step one when it came to saving costs. Poco merely went with a polycarbonate back that saved costs and don't quite affect the design as most people will anyways use a cover.

Despite the plastic back the phone is well built as TechRadar claimed. They even said that while it's not the best looking phone, it is still durable.

four cameras

Poco does have a special Kevlar edition of the F1, which they call as the Armoured edition. This is a cool material that has been used on a few smartphones previously like the Moto Droid Razr series. Do note this is not some fake Kevlar skin but the real deal.  

One trend Poco hasn't deviated from is the notch trend which has been a love-hate thing. But people do tend to like it and thus the notch adorns the front of the display.

The reason why notches are present are so that the bezels can be thinner which leaves no space from the camera and other sensors. But sadly there is a thick chin at the bottom and thick side bezels too which make the phone look a little ungainly.

The notch houses not just the front-facing camera and the basic sensors but also the IR camera needed for the face unlocking. This helps you unlock even in low light and no light condition.

The rear houses the vertically stacked cameras. What we loved is it's very proportionately designed with a flush camera bump, well-positioned fingerprint sensor and strangely deviates from copying the iPhone X design. This was something even TechRadar appreciated.


Software & UI: Smooth, fast but still not the best

Being a new company under Xiaomi, Poco has had to reinvent itself to be different and hence for software it uses a slightly tweaked version of MIUI called, MIUI for Poco. This brings some useful changes to the existing MIUI software which is known for its features.

The changes although subtle are something that Xiaomi fans have been requesting over the years, the first is the all important app drawer finally making its way onto MIUI. Then you have other little changes like a redesigned notification shade that's now much closer to stock android. Apart from that you have the whole plethora of apps and features that are present on MIUI.

The software is said to be smooth to use without any lags and Poco has promised the Android Pie update by Q4 of this year.

When C4ETech pitted the Poco  F1 with its obvious competitor, the OnePlus 6 in a speed test they found the OP6 to be much faster when it came to opening apps. Tests also showed the OnePlus could hold more apps in the memory without restarting any apps. This limitation is something that has always plagued MIUI as we ourselves witnessed it while testing the Mi Max 2 which could hold only 5 apps even with 4GB of RAM. While the Honor 7x could hold almost thrice that. We really hope Poco tweaks the memory management to let users take full advantage.


Hardware: The best hardware package for its price

As we've said before to under the OnePlus 6 and even Xiaomi's own Mi8, Poco had to use an LCD panel over the OLED and AMOLED units of their competitors. But this is not necessarily a bad thing as Gsmarena found out in their test. The F1's display was found to be excellent posting a good brightness value of 461 nits (5 nits higher than the OnePlus 6), a very good contrast ratio of 1500:1 and a minimum brightness level of 2.5 nits. Gsmarena also found the panel to do well under sunlight but mentioned that the viewing angles were a little low. Color reproduction too was very accurate (a common trait with LCD panels) with Delta E values as low as 0.9 and extremely accurate whites. Overall Gsmarena seemed very impressed with the display and we are happy that Poco did not skimp on the display to give a competitive price.

Powering the display is the very best from Qualcomm's stable- the Snapdragon 845. It does frankly feel a little weird to talk about a phone that costs Rs.21,000 and still has the S845 processor. But that's how much the market changes. Just a few months ago we talked about the Asus Zenfone 5z which gave an S845 powered phone under Rs.30000, then there was the Honor Play with a flagship Kirin 970 for Rs.20000 and now we have the Poco F1. This fierce competition ultimately benefits the customer and now we have a truly capable gaming phone for a great price. The Snapdragon 845 is a flagship processor no doubt but being a powerful processor it is bound to heat up, but usually, phones have a metal back which helps to dissipate the heat more quickly. But because of the plastic back, Poco had to be a little more innovative and have used a liquid cool technology on the phone. The liquid cool technology is similar to what we see on the Samsung Note 9 which helps take away the heat from the processor via a copper pipe. This according to the benchmarks shown by Poco help maintain the temperature of the processor at around 40 degrees.

Gsmarena loved the stereo speaker setup which was loud and clear and earned their "Excellent" rating. They did mention that the audio output through headphones was a little soft in terms of loudness.

Digit found the Face Unlock and Fingerprint sensor to unlock the phone in a jiffy. The face unlocks even works very well in night conditions.
 

Camera: Best in class cameras, Video recording could improve

Given that the build quality was good, the processor was capable and the display too was good, you might be thinking that the camera is where Xiaomi has skimped but no. The dual rear cameras and the selfie cameras perform really well. In fact, they are the best in their price range.

camera best glass

The 12 MPx main rear sensor is paired with a 5MPx sensor for depth information. Gsmarena liked the detailed manual mode that lets you control shutter speed, focus, ISO and white balance. In good light, the images produced were said to have accurate color, almost no noise, good contrast and stunning dynamic range. TechRadar found the dual pixel autofocusing to really speed up the focusing as well as focus accuracy, this was something most reviewers pointed out in their reviews.

Portrait mode is something Xiaomi has been hard at work for quite some time and the results now are better than ever. Gsmarena liked the edge detection and blur quality.

One place where the lack of Optical Image Stabilisation (OIS) is noticed is under low light conditions where even the bright f/1.9 aperture isn't enough. Gsmarena found the camera shoots in HDR which does reduce some details while turning off HDR completely yielded much shaper results. They felt the addition of OIS would have made the camera as good as the Xiaomi Mi8, which they deemed as excellent in low light.

The front-facing selfie camera is a 20MPx unit with an aperture of f/2.0 which Gsmarena felt did very well in good lighting giving good details and colors. The front camera too supports portrait mode (albeit without any secondary sensor) and its said to work very well.

Coming to videos, the phone is one of the few flagships that lack a 60fps recording be it with 1080p or 4K. This is a feature that Poco should add in the future as people nowadays do expect it. When Mrwhosetheboss tested the video he found the lack of OIS to be instantly evident in the 4K footage, a place where the OnePlus 6 beats the Poco F1. For 1080p videos, you do have EIS which does help Poco compete against the OnePlus 6 very well. But apart from that the phone is quick to focus and exhibits good color and details.


Battery: Great battery with fast charging support

Despite a powerful processor, bright display and feature-packed software, the 4000mAh battery manages to power the phone for a full day. Android Authority got 9 hours of screen on time with the brightness at 50% and mixed usage.

You also have Quick Charge 3.0 support with the charger provided in the box. Smartprix found the phone could charge upto 40% with a 30 minute charge.
 

In Short

In what is basically the best deal of this century, the Poco F1 shines in almost all the categories. It has a good display, long battery life, powerful processor, good cameras and smooth software. Then there is the price tag which starts at Rs.20999 for the 6GB/64GB version and you quite possibly have the best phone in India under 25000.


Best smartphone under Rs.25000 in detail

honour phone front view
camera view of honor phone

Specifications

Pros

  • Modern 19:9 display

  • Excellent gaming performance

  • IR blaster

  • USB Type-C connector and 3.5 mm jack for audio

  • 3D audio and vibration feedback for games

  • Dual 4G VoLTE support

  • 18W fast charging

  • Good battery life

Cons

  • Uses proprietary toughened glass

  • Underwhelming camera

  • Hate or Love notch

  • No 128GB storage option

  • 6GB version doesn't offer as much value

  • Hybrid sim slot

  • Could have used Huawei's SuperCharge

What's it missing?

  • Gorilla Glass

  • The Psychedelic color schemes of the newer Huawei and Honor phones

  • Waterproofing or water resistance (No IP rating)

  • Useful Secondary camera (No optical zoom, wide angle)

  • Super slow motion video

  • Dedicated MicroSD card slot

  • Stereo speakers

  • Dedicated DAC

  • Wireless charging

  • 2K resolution display

  • IR Blaster

  • Doesn’t support HD Playback for Netflix and Amazon Prime (Lacks Widevine L1 certification)

Design and Build: Modern display and same old back

The Honor Play's launch created quite a stir in the market due to its tremendous value for money proposition. While it is still the same strategy of old wine in new bottle, the price of the Honor Play and the gaming focus makes it a particularly interesting addition to the under 25000 segment.

The past few Honor and Huawei devices have had two common details, the notched display, and a colorful glass back. Given its budget nature, the Honor Play keeps the notched display up front but trades the glass back for the more traditional metal back in a black and blue color. It is no doubt a well build phone like most Honor and Huawei devices, a cool red or black color with some accents would have gelled well with its gaming focus. For now, its a feels bit too safe to really stand out next to the Xiaomi Blackshark or the Asus ROG phone but for the price it's great. But when placed next to the Poco F1, it does look a bit more premium than it.

cover

The front of the Honor Play is dominated by the 19:9 display with a notch, this gives it slim bezels but there is still a chin at the bottom. The fingerprint sensor is mounted at the rear with a vertically stacked dual camera setup. The camera is placed at a distance from the fingerprint sensor which will prevent a stray finger from smudging the lens.

The phone comes with a modern USB-C port and still keeps the headphone jack. But for a gaming-focused smartphone, the mono speaker isn't that great, a stereo solution would have been better.


Software & UI: Smooth but not smooth looking

The Honor Plays ships with EMUI 8.2 which is based on Android Oreo 8.1. You get the same great features like Picture in Picture video, Screen Record, Scrolling Screenshot, Camera light painting features etc.

There is a lot of Bloatware, some of which can be uninstalled, and while it isn't the most pleasing to look at, EMUI is very smooth in daily operations with smooth animations and customizability as found by Firstpost.   

You also get an option to disable the notch via a software feature. But Firstpost was not happy with the implementation of the notch as they found it to eat into the notification space which means having to drop down the notification shade to view the notifications.


Hardware: Gaming grade processor with a superb display

In the fast few days, Huawei and Honor have launched quite a few phones starting with the Honor View 10, Honor 10, Huawei P20 Pro, Honor 9N, P20 Lite, Huawei Nova 3, Huawei Nova 3i and finally the Honor Play. All these phones basically look the same with the same notched display and most of these use the flagship Kirin 970 processor. The Kirin 970 is made by Huawei themselves so they are a little too attached to it and never really stop launching new phones with it. But Huawei has now brought forth their GPU Turbo software tweak that improves the gaming performance of their phones while managing to improve battery life. In this era of gaming that is quite a recipe for success.  

To test out how well GPU Turbo works, Firstpost fired up PUBG and Asphalt 9. The PUBG game is fully optimized to make use of the GPU Turbo, and they were impressed with the fluidity of the gameplay. While they did say it cannot match the OnePlus 6 or the Poco F1 as even the benchmarks show, as it takes quite a lead over the Honor Play, the Honor Play is still an enjoyable gaming experience. Also if you look at the benchmark score it completely demolishes phones like the Nokia 7 Plus which is almost Rs.6000 more than it.  They also found that there were no heating issues as well which show the good thermal management of the device.

4D Smart Shock is another new feature that separates the Honor Play from other regular smartphones. The 4D smart shock enables vibration feedback while gaming similar to the dualshock joysticks of the Playstation and the Xbox One. This definitely enhances gameplay where elements of gameplay like getting shot will result in vibration of the phone. This feature is currently not enabled and will come through a software update later.

The display on the Honor Play is another great piece of hardware, it has a modern 19:9 aspect ratio, Full HD+ resolution and despite being an LCD panel, Firstpost loved the quality of it. They found text to be sharp and crisp on it, offer great viewing angles and get pretty bright in the sun and dim in the dark. All these are traits of a great display and we are happy Honor did not skimp when it comes to the display.

The rear-mounted fingerprint scanner and the face unlock feature are both said to be very accurate and fast. In fact, Firstpost found the face unlocking time to almost match that of the OnePlus 6.

The speaker is a pretty disappointing affair as it is only a mono speaker. A stereo speaker would have made things better. Firstpost found that the speaker was not that loud also. But you do get surround sound effects when you use headphones.

In terms of connectivity and expandability, you have a hybrid SIM slot with dual 4G VoLTE, Bluetooth 4.2, Wi-Fi 802.11 a/b/g/n/ac, FM Radio, and a USB-C port.


Camera: Not the best from the Honor stables

In the smartphone world, every smartphone maker has a trademark feature or experience that is found on almost all their phones, on LG you have great audio features, on Samsung its the AMOLED displays and on Honor, you have great cameras.

Armed with a 16Mpx f/2.2 sensor and an additional 2 Mpx depth sensor the Honor Play doesn't really try to do any good. Digit wasn't a fan of the results from the camera which they found to be exaggerated in terms of colors, lacking in sharpness and an overzealous AI mode.

Digit, however, did like the Aperture mode as you can tweak the amount of background blur. They also did not prefer the EIS and AIS as it did not prevent camera shake. But we cannot take points off here as AIS is not fully ready for the phone and will be updated by Honor. They also found the sharpness to drop once the lighting goes dark but at least the phone keeps the noise under check. Digit found the main reason for the camera's underwhelming images to be the small f/2.2 aperture at a time when phones are going to f/1.8 and lower.

Firstpost was not very happy with the portrait mode as they found the implementation of the background blur to be hasty in the application.

Another little niggle on Honor phones is they do not support Auto HDR, you have to manually turn it on every time you need it. But we have always loved Honor phones for their vast number of shooting modes that can be a boon for a new user as well as a pro photographer.

The selfie camera is a 16MPx unit with a f/2.0 aperture and Honor is said to use Pixel Binning to improve light sensitivity and Digit did find it to perform better than the rear camera. It gave them pleasant colors, good contrast, and acceptable dynamic range. But again it struggles under low light.

Coming to video the phone can capture 4K@30fps and 1080@60fps. There is EIS support as well to give you smooth and stable shots. While that is good on paper, if Firstpost is to be believed you have to stay away from this phone if video recording is what you desire. Their captured video wasn't very smooth with jerky motion and the camera continuously hunting for focus.

To sum up the camera of the Honor Play, you have to understand that it is a smartphone that focuses itself on gaming and performance and to achieve that at a low price Honor has had to cut corners and the camera is the most logical one.
 

Battery: Good battery life with fast charging support as well

Batteries on most phones nowadays hover around the 3000mAh mark, and this can be seen on mid-range to even flagship phones but the gaming inclined Honor Play comes with a much larger 3750 mAh battery and with their battery optimizations you do get a great battery life. Firstpost found the phone's battery to last for a day and a half with 4G video streaming and 75% battery life. Digit too reported battery life of a day and a half with heavy use and quoting a PCMark battery life score of 9 hours and 40 minutes which is mighty impressive for a device with a flagship processor.

charge method

Honor also bundled their 18W fast charger which takes around 90 minutes to fully charge the phone. We would have liked it if Honor finally debuted their Super Charge technology in India. But some type of fast charging is better than no fast charging
 

In Short

With a clear focus on gaming, the Honor Play plays around with a superb value for money proposition. It comes with a modern display, class-leading performance, and great battery life. All that makes it a perfect gaming phone for Rs.25000.
 

Benchmark Performance

We used Antutu, PC Mark and 3DMark to gauge the smartphone performance. These benchmarks to a certain extent can assess CPU, GPU, storage, and battery performance. After the test, they give out a number which can be used to compare with other devices to know how well your device performs.

benchmark of mobile

In terms of benchmarks, the Snapdragon 845 powered Poco F1 is an absolute beast and humiliates most phones in its price category including the recently launched Honor Play. The only phone that matches its performance is the OnePlus 6 (powered by the same processor) which costs almost Rs.14000 more than it. It's no secret that if you want raw power, there is no phone that comes lose to the Poco F1.


After sales service

Honor and Xiaomi both offer a 1-year warranty on the phone. For any issues, you can take the product to a service center for repair.


Who is our best pick for?

The Poco F1 is a phone for any type of user be it a gamer, a photographer, a movie lover or a music lover. It's one of those few devices thats good at almost everything you throw at it  and yet doesn't cost a lot.

The Honor Play as the name suggests is a performance-oriented machine. It's designed for people who love gaming above everything else. The great display, powerful processor, 4D feedback and long battery life are the testament to it. While the Poco F1 does beat it in terms of raw performance, the Honor Play will suit people who are not a fan of the Poco’s plastic body and MIUI. The only place where the Honor Play really lags behind the competition is in the camera department.

The ones that didn't make it

Motorola Moto X4

The Moto X4 is the long-awaited replacement for the critically acclaimed Moto X range of devices. But unlike the previous versions, the X4 is more budget oriented. It has a small 5.2 inch LCD display when compared to the monstrous 5.7-inch 2K display of the Moto X Style. It also settles for a mid-range Snapdragon 630 processor. The design too has changed, gone are the curved back and in comes the glass back which frankly does look terrific and the phone is waterproof as well (Full IP68 protection). But being priced at Rs.25000 for the 6GB/64GB version, average cameras, small display and slow updates means the Honor Play is simply much better than the X4.
 

Nokia 7 Plus

Nokia's take on the mid-range market, the 7 Plus is best known for its quick updates. Nokia has also anointed it with a modern 18:9 display, the same cameras as used on the Pixel 2, a Snapdragon 660 processor and a large battery. But despite all the feature, it is still an underwhelming experience and except the quick updates there nothing much that draws you towards the phone. The Honor Play simply trumps it in the display quality, performance and battery life.


Huawei P20 Lite

The P20 Lite was launched some time back and comes with Huawei's older generation Kirin 659 processor, that along with a Rs.20000 priced tag means it is not at all value for money especially since the Honor Play costs the same and offers much more.  


Huawei Nova 3i

In this article of the best phones under 25000, the Nova 3i would have been our pick but that did not happen as Honor launched the impressive Honor Play that beats the Nova 3i in terms of performance and comes with a more modern USB-C port, larger battery, and fast charging.


Final thoughts

If you are in the market for a smartphone priced below Rs.25000, there are now many options. Each one offers something different for each user, some have good build quality while some are great for gaming. With through reading and researching, we finally found the perfect phone in this budget.

Starting at Rs.20,999 the Poco F1 gives you a terrific blend of high end specifications, good software and good build quality and despite the low price tag for the offering there aren't any obvious omissions.

Priced at Rs.19,999 the Honor Play brings the gamer in the market a phone that actually delivers more than its peers. It comes with a great display, long battery life, good build quality and even fast charging. This truly makes it one of the best smartphone under 25000 in India.

Sources