It was written off for dead, but Google’s Android One program is back, and with it, hopefully, the fortunes of smaller Indian brands like Lava.
The new range of Android One phones, starting off with Lava Pixel V1, will have three key differences compared to their earlier brethren – they’ll all have 4G, they’ll have bigger, 5-inch HD displays, and they will be priced higher — in the Rs 9,000-10,000 range.
The first line of Android One devices introduced last year had 4.5-inch, 0.4 MP displays, no 4G, and were priced in the Rs 6,500 range.
This time, Google seems to have realized that the market has moved on to bigger things, literally. Hence, the 5 inch phones.
However, make no mistake, Android One is not Nexus. Google’s not trying to attract the tech-savvy crowd, or the spec-crazy youth.
Instead, it is trying to bring its own brand to the low-end of the hardware market.
From this, you should be able to guess that we’re not looking at stellar specifications.
Still, the Lava Pixel V1 does offer decent — if not mouth-watering — specifications for the price, particularly if the final tag on the device is Rs 8,999 and not 9,999.
By the way, the Pixel V1 is also Lava’s first 4G device, and will hopefully bring the brand back into the reckoning. Over the past one year, brands like Xolo, Lava, Karbonn and Spice have taken a hit as Chinese competitors like Xiaomi and Lenovo undercut them by, a) launching 4G devices, and b) pricing them low enough to rival the prices offered by Indian brands.
As a result, it’s been virtually a bloodbath in the Indian smartphone market over the last 12 months.
Anyway, back to the Lava Pixel V1.
As we mentioned, specifications are not exactly high-end, but they’re not really that bad either. The Pixel V1 will compete primarily with the Yu Yureka Plus, Lenovo K3 Note (both Rs 9,999), Lenovo A6000 Plus (Rs 7,499) and Lenovo A7000 (Rs 8,999).
The biggest difference between the Pixel and its main competitors — the Lenovo K3 Note and the Yu Yureka Plus — is in the display.
Like the first Android One devices, Google seems to be undershooting when it comes to displays.
The first Android One devices came with 4.5-inch displays just as the market was moving to 5-inch displays. Similarly, the second round of Android One devices are coming with 5-inch displays just as the market is moving to 5.5-inch displays. As a result, anyone who likes ample screen real estate is immediately count a negative mark for the Pixel V1 and its brethren.
Secondly, just as the market is moving towards full-HD displays (K3 Note, Yureka Plus), Android One Lava Pixel V1 is coming up with an HD display.
What, you may ask, is the difference? While FHD displays have 2 mln ‘dots’ on them, the HD displays come with only 1 mln dots. You can, therefore, make out the ‘dots’ more easily on the V1 compared to the K3 Note or the Yureka Plus models.
In fact, given that the price will be no less than Rs 9,000, it is difficult to see why someone would buy the Pixel V1 compared to A6000 Plus (cheaper by at least Rs 1,500) and Yu Yuphoria (cheaper by at least Rs 2,000).
Of course, there is still the possibility that the Pixel V1 is sold exclusively through online portals. If that is the case, the price can be as low as Rs 7,499.
Back to the specifications.
One of the good things about the new line-up is that the Lava Pixel V1 (and possibly all other new 4G Android One phones) will be built on the tried-and-tested Snapdragon 410 chipset and will offer 2 GB of RAM.
The Lava Pixel V1 also comes with a more-than-decent 13 MP camera supplemented by a 5 MP front shooter. In fact, in terms of the camera, the V1 is clearly a step ahead of the A6000 Plus and the A7000.
There are also reports that the Lava Pixel V1 has 32 GB of built in memory, which we believe will push the price more towards or above the Rs 10,000 mark. At present, no phone in the sub-10,000 price band — whether it is the Lenovo K3 Note or the Yu Yureka Plus — offers more than 16 GB of in-built memory.
Confirmation will come when the actual announcement of the phone is made later this week.
In fact, this week will also see the launch of the new Moto G 3rd Generation as well, which will compete with this phone.
The Moto G3 will offer two variations – a cheaper one with 1 GB RAM and 8 GB storage (Rs 10,499?), and a costlier one (Rs 13,000?) with 2 GB RAM and 16 GB storage memory.
Another factor to keep in mind is that Android One devices come with Google’s backing.
What that means is that your phone will (hopefully) get regular updates, and is unlikely to contain bloatware. In fact, Google-backed devices offer the simplest and most unadulterated Android experiences out there. That is part of the reason why they are easier to upgrade.
So, what is our final verdict?
We believe that the Pixel V1 would have been a clear winner if it had a full-HD display, even if the size was still 5 inches.
Given the 21% difference in display area, we believe that the multi-media oriented young buyers are likely to prefer the 5.5-inch K3 Note and Yureka Plus over a 5-inch device.
However, both of the these two competitors will take a long time to be freely available, and this is where models like the Lava Pixel V1 make a difference, especially if they are available through regular retail channels. Most smartphone buyers in India still prefer to buy their stuff from a regular store and do not want to go through the pain of ‘flash sales’ or the ‘blind buying’ and waiting involved in online sales.
If priced under Rs 10,000, the Pixel V1 will be a successful device that targets the average smartphone buyer.