Over the past couple of years, Android has been quite a revolution in the smartphone market. Android’s increasing popularity has meant that manufacturers have been churning out Android-based mobile phones at all possible price ranges.
Lava Mobiles, well known for their low-cost handsets, introduced their first Android based smartphone, the Lava S12 recently. Over the past 2 weeks, I’ve been using the Lava S12 as my primary phone and this gave me a chance to evaluate the phone. Let’s see how the phone fares.
Being targeted at the low-end segment, the Lava S12 is powered by a 600MHz Qualcomm MSM7227 processor running on Android 2.2. The screen is a 262k color, 3.2HVGA LCD screen with 320×480 resolution and unlike most low-end phones, comes with a capacitive touchscreen.
The phone features a 5megapixel camera and comes with the regular connectivity options including WiFi(802.1 a/b/g) and Bluetooth on the wireless side and a microUSB port on the wired side. The internal phone memory is a paltry 120MB , but can be expanded with the help of a microSD card.
The Lava S12 comes with a pretty impressive bundle & packaging.
Besides the phone, the bundled box comes with a microUSB cable, a stereo earphone headset, charging plug-point, a User’s guide, a leaflet highlighting the phone’s features, a leather pouch and a 2GB microSD card. The leather pouch is a pretty nice addition & feels good to hold.
Build Quality & Hardware
The Lava S12 has a pretty nice feel to it. The phone has a curved front and back shape and feels very good to hold. Though the phone still has a plasticky-feel to it, it doesn’t look bad. The back cover has a pseudo-leather look and this helps in improving the look feel of the phone. The sides of the phone have a very nice brushed-aluminum finish. Unfortunately the microSD & microUSB slots are covered with a rather flimsy plastic cover and gives the sensation that it might break anytime.
As mentioned above, the phone features a 3.2HVGA capacitive touchscreen. The top-left corner features the lock/power off button and volume control buttons. The right side of the phone features the headphone jack, the microSD & microUSB slots. Rounding off the side was a dedicated button for activating the camera.
The capacitive touchscreen was fairly responsive, however, at times the phone failed to register my input. Though the phone has a dedicated camera button, more often than not, pressing the button would result in no action and I had to open the camera by launching the Camera app, rather than holding the button.
The phone features four dedicated buttons at the bottom of the screen the back button, the app launcher button, the home button and the search button. The home button is programmed to bring up the 3D UI, while the rest work as expected.
Software & Performance
The S12 runs on Android 2.2 Froyowith a custom spinning 3D UI that Lava touts heavily as it’s distinguishing feature. Hitting the home button brings up the 3D UI. The 3D UI feels like quite a novelty at first. However, with increased usage, the novelty factor wears off and the 3D UI feels gimmicky and isn’t really usable. To make things worse, the 3D UI is quite slow & navigating though the UI becomes a chore.
The S12 apparently comes with quite a few bundled applications including SlideIT keyboard(a keyboard replacement quite like Swype), a Lava service center app which will bring up a list of all Lava service centers that you can filter based on the city you’re in. The service centre app however doesn’t make use of the GPS to retrieve your location. Addition of this would have been a nice touch.
The bundled booklet mentions that phone also comes with Advanced Task Killer, Saavn, Facebook, Twitter, Times of India, Adobe PDF Reader, Hungama MyPlay, ngPay, Nimbuzz, Zenga TV and more. These apps were absent in my review unit and I couldn’t evaluate these. The Lava S12 also comes with Android Market app. However, my attempts to install some of my favorite apps such as twicca, facebook, GoSMS(amongst others) wasn’t fruitful the market app refused to show these apps and trying to install the via the Market web UI resulted in a cryptic This item is not compatible with your deviceerror.
Performance-wise, I found the device to be quite average. Some of the basic functionality like going through the contacts(I have over 800 contacts in my address book), sending an SMS was alright, the device’s response in the Camera app was horrendous. The S12 took about 5 seconds to capture the image after pressing the button.
To test out something a little more stressful, I installed & played Fruit Ninja(oddly, I didn’t face the item not compatibleerror). Fruit Ninja hummed along just fine, with some occasional stuttering. Overall, the S12 works fine barring the occasional stutter.
Camera & Multimedia playback
The S12 comes with 5megapixel fixed focus camera with up to 2x digital zoom. The camera performance was rather average, nothing outstanding. At proper light levels, camera captures are fine, although they seem to have a little bit of a green tint. At low-light conditions however, the performance is rather poor & the pictures are quite noisy. The absence of a flash means that low-light photography is a no-no.
The S12 features stock Android media players and has a FM radio app as well.The bundled earphones are supposedly Dolby SRS compliant. However, SRS logo doesn’t do any justice to the earphones the sound quality on the earphones was rather bad. It was almost like the sounds were being drowned underwater.
The bass & highs were nonexistent, the mids were muddy and had a strange echo-feeling the same feeling that you get when you try to put some decent earphones across some really bad software filters. At high volume levels, the earphones jarred excessively. I tried the earphones on my iPhone & my HP Envy laptop and on both, the audio quality was really, really abysmal. I’d strongly urge to dump the bundled earphones for a different set.
Lava Android Manager
Buried within Lava’s website is a download link to the sync software for the Lava S12, dubbed the Android Manager. The Android Manager is nifty little utility which handles the S12′s sync capabilities. The Android Manager looks very much like an iTunes clone and works as bad as iTunes.
The biggest problem with the sync tool is that it supports only WiFi sync, not wired sync. Why is it that Lava chose to implement only WiFi sync I’ll never know. WiFi-only sync would have been nice, if the sync software could manage to retain the connection long enough for you to choose the files to sync. However, trying to sync anything other than contacts was an absolute disaster. Half the time the software would lose contact with the phone. Trying to select any music or videos would cause the sync tool to break the connection. To make things worse, this was often followed by a spike in CPU utilization and memory leaks. With these issues, it’s now clear why Lava has the Android Sync Manager hidden.
Battery Life & Conclusion
The Lava S12 comes with a 1300mAh Li-Ion battery with a rated standby time of 590 Hours(GSM)/650 Hours(UMTS) and talk time of 650 minutes(GSM)/485 minutes(UMTS). Practically, with my usage of couple of phone calls, some light web browsing, Mail, Calendar sync enabled and with Plume running and with 3G on, the phone lasted about 14 hours before needing a recharge, which isn’t too bad. The charging however took a long time well in excess of 6 hours to recharge it back to 100%. With the SIM removed and only WiFi enabled, the phone lasted about a day and half.
Lava’s first foray into the smartphone segment isn’t too shabby. The phone feels good, looks good and has rather okay-ish performance. The phone however has some glaring drawbacks from the pathetic Sync Tool to the laggy camera response time. If these could have been looked into, the S12 could have been a lot better. Officially, the S12 retails at about Rs. 9,999. At this price rate it’s hard to recommend this phone since there are other better phones at this price range.
However, as of now, the phone is available for about Rs 8450 on Flipkart which isn’t too bad of a deal, especially if you’re looking for a low-budget smartphone.