Lava Pixel V1 first impressions: a tame attempt to take the Android One initiative to the next level

“Google has partnered with Lava to introduce its second-gen Android One smartphone. Here’s a closer look at the phone and its capabilities”

At last year’s Google IO, its SVP Sunder Pichai revealed the search titan’s plan to reach the next billion users of Android. Google introduced an ambitious programme dubbed Android One, under which it partnered with hardware manufacturers to offer devices that provide smooth user experience in combination with vanilla builds of Android. The idea surely seemed worthy at the time – and came across as a more affordable version of the Nexus portfolio. However, the reality was starkly different and all the three devices which were launched in India in last September, failed to make a massive impact in the market. The truth was that while the idea was good, the execution wasn’t, since Google didn’t get the pulse of the market. Phone makers like Xiaomi and ASUS had already redefined the meaning of VFM handsets and hence consumers were as keen about the hardware specs on offer as they were about the software experience.

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Now, Google seems to have learned from its mistake, as it has taken the veils off the second-gen Android One offering in partnership with Lava. The mobile was launched at an event in New Delhi today and we were able to check it out briefly. Here’s what we think about the Lava Pixel V1.

Unlike the first-gen Android One trio (related read: Karbonn Sparkle V review), which were decidedly budget options, the latest smartphone is anything but. It’s priced in the lower mid-range segment and its design and specs reflect the same.

The device is armed with a display panel of 5.5-inches, which features a resolution of 1,280 x 720 pixels. With a pixel density of 267ppi, the display looks crisp and the IPS technology ensures that it offers vivid colours. In comparison to the qHD resolution sported by its predecessors, the display looks way better and pleasing to eyes. To protect the panel against scratches, Lava has also added a layer of Asahi Dragontrail glass.

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Lava Pixel V1’s screen size has bumped up substantially when compared to first-gen Android One offerings, bringing it to the burgeoning phablet category. The phone nestles in the hand well, thanks to its impressive screen-to-body ratio of 73.6 percent.

The Lava Pixel V1 is constructed out of plastic, yet feels quite sturdy. While the display dominates the fascia, you’ll also find an earpiece, a few sensors and a secondary camera above. Like Nexus devices and previous Android One offerings, the navigation keys are available in the software interface.

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The right spine holds the power button along with the volume rocker, while the left edge is devoid of any functional elements. The audio socket and the micro-USB port can be found up top, while the base only has a microphone.

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The back of the Lava Pixel V1 sports a smooth finish, along with a dual-tone scheme of grey and white. The grey area in the middle can be removed and opening it gives you the access to the battery compartment, SIM card slots and an expansion slot. Interestingly, the phone can accept one full-size SIM card and anoother SIM card of micro-SIM type. The rear also hosts the primary camera along with LED flash and a speaker grille towards the bottom.

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The highlight of the Lava Pixel V1 is its pure and unadulterated iteration of Android, and you’ll find the latest version 5.1 Lollipop in the device. There are hardly any pre-installed apps, except for Flipkart and Myntra.

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The smooth usage experience offered by the software is helped further with the internals of the Lava Pixel V1. Providing the horsepower to the smartphone is MediaTek’s MT6582 SoC, which offers four cores humming at 1.3GHz. It’s complemented by Mali-T720 GPU and 2GB of RAM. Even though the real-life performance can only be tested once we get to review the Lava Pixel V1, during our usage, the phone seemed to be extremely zippy. However, it feels odd that the brand didn’t opt for latest-gen processors which offer 64-bit architecture, and thus will offer twice the speed when compared to a 32-bit chipset, theoretically.

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Dealing with your memory needs is 32GB of storage on board, which thanks to no bloatware, offers about 24.7GB of space for use. There’s also provision of extending it further up to 64GB with the use of a microSD card.

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Unlike the modest camera specs of its previous avatar(s), the Lava Pixel V1 features decent hardware to please photography enthusiasts. It comes with a 13-megapixel snapper at the back, which is given company by an LED flash. For selfie addicts, there’s an 8MP front shooter. The images show definite improvement when compared to the quality offered by the first-gen Android One devices, although we would refrain from giving any verdict till we test out the shooters over different conditions.

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Running the show on the Lava Pixel V1 is 2,650mAh battery. The manufacturer is also touting a battery-saving mode that extends the battery life by approximately 90 minutes, so that it doesn’t die when you need it. Rounding up the spec sheet is support for 3G networks, Wi-Fi, Bluetooth and GPS.

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The Lava Pixel V1 is priced at Rs 11,350, which is almost double the asking price of its predecessors (~Rs 6,499). It does bring some much needed hardware upgrades along with keeping up the original promise of Android One initiative, however it seems like Google is still not able to understand the dynamic market conditions. In this price band, one can get options like the XOLO BLACK (first impressions) and Xiaomi Mi 4i (review), which sport better specs in almost all the departments. Making the matters difficult for the device is its almost obsolete processor and no support for next-gen 4G networks. That said, these reasons may not be enough to dismiss the Lava Pixel V1 outright, since software plays quite an important role and we would urge you to keep an eye out for our review to know more about the phone.

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One of the earliest members of the 91mobiles' editorial team, Nitansh is a walking encyclopaedia of product specs. Name a phone and he’ll tell you the specifics on screen resolution, processor and camera without blinking an eyelid. Ask him if he remembers the launch date of a noteworthy phone, and he'll tell you the dates when the device first leaked, its global unveil, its Indian launch, and when it got a significant update. He’s a lover of all things Android, and loves writing reviews and scouting for new apps. A Wordpress whiz, he’s always ready to help out a fellow writer. While he juggles between many things at 91mobiles, he always manages to find time to write. In his non-tech avatar, Nitansh is a philatelist, which is a fancy word for stamp-collector.