Lava Icon first impressions: not as iconic when pitted against the competition

“While we appreciate Lava’s effort with the Icon, we believe at its current pricing, it gets thrashed by the competition”

While Lava ranks among the top smartphone manufacturers in India, the homegrown manufacturer hasn’t had a massive launch in the recent few months, though it did introduce a new series of smartphone called Fuel for those who want long-lasting battery life. However, now the brand has launched its latest flagship, the Icon. While it might be the brand’s top-end offering, it still falls in the affordable genre, and thus aims for the voluminous segment of the market. But it won’t be an easy going for the handset, as at the pricing of Rs 11,999, it will be up against compelling offerings from Huawei, Xiaomi and YU. Only time will tell whether the device is successful in winning the hearts of prospective buyers or not, but for now, let’s take a first look at the Lava Icon.

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One glance at the Lava Icon, and it becomes apparent that the Indian company has tried to make the device as premium as possible. Slim construction, metallic edges, shiny back panel… these design attributes give a distinct identity to the smartphone. In fact, at the launch event, the brand boasted that the phone was designed by its in-house design team based in China. Apart from looking stylish, the 7.6mm thick mobile feels good in the hand as well.

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Bucking the trend of the large-screen smartphones, Lava has chosen to go with a standard 5-inch IPS display panel for the Icon. The display bears HD resolution (~294ppi), and offers lovely visuals and sharp text. We found it to be legible outdoors as well, though it’s quite reflective. Covering the display is a protective layer of Asahi Dragontrail glass.

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Above the display, you’ll find an earpiece, a front-facing camera and the usual sensors, while below it, there’s an array of capacitive navigation keys along with a metallic chin at the bottom. The capacitive keys follow standard Android guidelines, but the backlight is quite dim. The right spine of the smartphone hosts a SIM card tray that can accept two micro-SIM cards, along with a power button and the volume rocker. On the left, you’ll find a storage expansion slot. Up top lies a micro-USB port along with a 3.5mm audio socket, while the base is completely bare apart from the primary microphone.

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The back of the Lava Icon sports a rear camera along with dual-LED flash, and a speaker grille below. The back panel seems to be glass, but it isn’t and looks appealing. Sadly, the rear shows an affinity for fingerprints and hence looks dirty whenever you pick it up.

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With the Lava Icon, the company has also unveiled its customised Android skin christened Star OS. Version 1.0 of the custom skin is based on Android 4.4.2 KitKat. The UI brings forth a colourful theme, custom icons and the notification panel along with some useful features. The device supports gestures, which work both when the handset is locked as well as when it’s unlocked. In case it’s locked, you can draw pre-populated gestures to access things like the camera or settings directly. When the phone is unlocked, you can drag from the left side of the notification shade to get a gesture panel, where you can draw gestures to launch apps. However, you have to define the gestures first.

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Inside the unibody smartphone purrs the MediaTek MT6582 chipset that boasts a quad-core processor tuned at 1.3GHz. While the processor might seem ordinary (as it powers most budget devices), the Lava Icon boasts good multitasking capabilities thanks to 2GB of RAM. We didn’t encounter any lags in our brief usage, though we’d like to spend more time with the handset, and play games and run multiple apps on it before giving a final verdict on its performance.

The Lava Icon offers 16GB of storage on board, out of which around 12.7GB is user-accessible. If that isn’t able to accommodate your content, then you can slide in a microSD card of up to 32GB. There’s also support for USB OTG, allowing to plug in flash drives directly.

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Lava is targeting photography enthusiasts with the Icon, and it does have the hardware to its name for the same. At the back, it sports 13-megapixel shooter with Sony’s Exmor R sensor with f/2.0 aperture and 5P lens. For shooting in low-light situations, there’s a dual-LED flash. While we weren’t able to test its prowess during the short time we spent with it, the few images we captured seemed to be decent and reproduced natural colours. However, the images turned grainy as soon as you start zooming in. For selfies, the smartphone flaunts a 5MP snapper.

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Connectivity-wise, the device offers the usual options such as 3G, dual-SIM support, Wi-Fi, Bluetooth, along with MediaTek’s NFC-alternative HotKnot. Keeping the Lava Icon alive is a 2,500mAh Li-Po battery.

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The Lava Icon has decent specs and nice design, along with being affordable. However, the smartphone market has changed than what it used to be earlier. Options like the YU Yureka (review) and Honor 4X (review) offer a large-screen experience as well as are future-proof, thanks to 64-bit processing and 4G connectivity. The Icon will be exclusively available on Snapdeal, though it will also be going on sale in retail stores soon. Even if we compare it against phones that are available across both online and offline channels, then the Micromax Canvas Nitro A311 (review) offers similar specs at a lower price point. While we appreciate Lava’s effort with the Icon, we believe at its current pricing, it gets thrashed by the competition.

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