“This is what the first Android One handsets should have been!”
That was the exclamation I heard from at least half a dozen people in a crowded room in the Taj Palace Hotel in Delhi as Lava took the wrappings off what is now being called the second generation of Android One. Well, it certainly is its second coming. And unlike the first, which had seen three very similar devices being launched at the same time, this time there was just one.
But it was easily the most powerful Android One device around. By a country mile.
The Lava Pixel V1 comes with a 5.5 inch 720p display, 2 GB RAM, 32 GB of onboard storage, a 13-megapixel rear camera, a 8.0-megapixel front camera, 3G support and Wi-Fi, Bluetooth and GPS connectivity. It was designed on sleek lines and at 135 grammes, was relatively light. Yes, there were some quibbles about its processor (a quad core MediaTek 6582) being a bit long in the tooth and the absence of 4G, but on the flip side, this device came with a massive (for this price) 32 GB of storage and most important of all, the latest version of Android (5.1.1) with assured updates for the next two years – the classic Android One promise.
It also came with a significantly higher price tag – Rs 11,350.
And it was the combination of the specs at that price that led to that exclamation that opens this piece. At this time in 2014, Rs 11,350 for that sort of hardware and software would have been considered a decent deal. Yes, the likes of the Asus ZenFone 5, the Moto G and E and the Xiaomi Mi 3 and Redmi 1S had been making their presence felt, but the Pixel V1 would have compared decently with most of those (in fact all, barring perhaps the Mi 3).
A year later? We must confess we are not too sure. For, just like its predecessor, the second wave of Android One too faces stiff competition. There are at the time of writing, three devices that offer better (full HD) displays, better processors, comparable cameras and 4G connectivity at lower prices – the Lenovo K3 Note, the YU Yureka Plus and the Phicomm Passion 660. And lurking dangerously close to it are also the Xiaomi Mi 4i and variants of the very good Asus ZenFone 2, not to mention the Xolo Black (ironically from Lava’s sister brand). Round that off with the new and old Moto G devices, and you can see that just like its predecessors, the only real trump card that the Pixel V1 holds is the assurance of getting Android updates quickly. From what we could see at the demo zone, it is definitely a good looking and smooth performing device, but it is by no means the only one to possess those attributes at that price point. And sadly a year since the launch of Android One, the charm of owning a device running the latest version of Android has lessened to an extent, not least due to the emergence of the likes of new geek favorites like MIUI and Cyanogen.
All of which makes us wonder if the Lava Pixel V1 is the device that will rescue Android One? Yes, it definitely has the looks and specs for it. But at its price seems a bit out of sync, when you consider what the competition is serving up. It is better on paper than the first Android One device and like them, we are reasonably sure it will run a pure, untrammelled version of Android quite well. But like them, we suspect the Lava Pixel V1 might find the going very tough against a better specced and lower priced competition and an audience that is beginning to forget the meaning of vanilla Android.