Lava mobile has established itself as a mobile phone manufacturer that has the best interests of the Indian market at heart. So far, they have churned out a variety of handsets covering the basic candy bar phone, the QWERTY keypad option and even a couple of budget touch screen phones, but none of them have managed to make much of a splash in Indian mobile phone market pool. Lava have now joined the wide array of budget Android phone manufacturers with this their first Android-powered phone, the S12. With so many successful budget phones and global manufacturers to compete with, let’s see if Lava has done enough to be worth your while.

Design and Build
At first glance the S12 looks like a fusion of the Sony Ericsson Arc and an HTC handset. The build quality is fairly sturdy, although made of plastic, and the phone looks quite professional and stylish. The 3.2-inch touch screen with a resolution of 480 x 320 pixels along with four standard Android navigation and menu buttons are all that occupy the front face. The removable back panel and a small lower portion of the front face are made of plastic with a leather texture that gives the user a good grip and the matt finish of the phone makes it quite immune to visible scratches. The phone weighs 120 grams and is quite comfortable to use.

The leather finish adds a touch of class

The leather finish adds a touch of class

The power button and rocker keys for volume control are located on one side of the phone while the other side houses a slot for the micro SD card, the USB port, 3.5mm jack and a physical button for the camera.

Features
Interface
The S12 is armed with a Qualcomm 600 MHz processor and comes with only 120MB of internal memory which gave us the impression that the phone would be sluggish, especially since it runs Lava’s 3D UI which is a modified version of the popular SPB Shell home launcher that is quite heavy on graphics. Surprisingly though, the phone manages to handle the load of the heavy home launcher quite well, giving the user a fairly stylish 3D UI. Navigation across home screens is a visual treat with the 3D transitions and customisable home screens mean you will rarely have to access the app drawer.

Slightly customised version of SPB Shell 3D UI

Slightly customised version of SPB Shell 3D UI

The phone ships with Android 2.2 (FroYo) and the default home screen settings give you 8 panels to navigate across, with widgets for weather updates, flickr, calendar and multimedia. You can also view all 8 home screens in preview mode which gives you a pretty cool animation of each home screen. We tested the phone with a few benchmark apps and AnTuTu gave us a benchmark score of 983. The Linpack Multi-Thread test gave the phone an MFLOPS score of 6.399, while it got a score of 7.476 in the single thread test. That’s not the greatest score but for a 600MHz processor, and taking real-time functioning into account, it was pretty fair all the same.

Media
Lava has stuck with Android’s default music and video players, offering the basic customisation options and widgets. The phone is loaded with great quality speakers with a good bass range and the headphones also provide good quality sound. The phone supports MP4, AVI, MPG and WMV video file formats and MP3, WAV and AAC audio formats out of the box. The 600 Mhz processor is incapable of running 720p or 1080p HD videos but 480p videos run smoothly and the powerful speakers are great for watching a movie or a video indoors. The headset also gives crisp and clear sound so this phone is a definite yes for multimedia use.

Connectivity
The phone comes with Wi-Fi 802.11 b/g with hotspot capabilities, Bluetooth 2.1, 3G with HSDPA speeds of 7.2 Mbps and HSUPA speeds of 384 kbps. The external memory can be expanded up to 32GB, and is easily accessible for hot swapping. There’s also GPS with A-GPS support for navigation.

A few Indian Apps

A few Indian Apps

The 120 MB inbuilt memory is enough only for the bare essentials along with the preloaded apps and the relatively heavy UI so the phone did perform a little sluggishly when running a few apps simultaneously so multi-tasking isn’t its strong point. After prolonged use even the lock screen took a second to respond. Installing a cache cleaner and tweaking the task killer to kill apps frequently will help improve the performance.

Misc. Features
Lava have added a few India-specific apps to the S12 like SAAVN which is a Bollywood music streaming app and the Times of India Android app for news updates. There’s also Facebook for Android, Zenga mobile TV with a free one year subscription, and a couple of games with the S12 to attract buyers. Lava have also diverted from the stock Android keyboard and implemented the popular SlideIT keyboard as the default for their phone.

Camera
The phone comes with a 5 megapixel fixed focus camera that is little above average at best. The image captures are fairly decent outdoors without much graininess and decent colour depth but indoors and specifically in low lighting the camera struggles, giving dull and soft photos. There is also an issue with the camera’s performance. The sluggishness of the phone really comes to light with the camera, which takes a long time to start and there is a prolonged delay from the time the capture button is pressed to the actual image capture.

Image qaulity is quite decent

Image qaulity is quite decent

This often results in the photo being captured after you have already lowered the camera, offset photos or blurry shots. The phone is best used for just casual photography. There’s also video recording at 480p but that’s pretty standard and there’s nothing really stand out about the camera features.

Battery life
This is where the S12 really impresses. You would expect an above average battery life considering the 600 Mhz processor and the 3.2-inch display device is powered by a 1300 mAh Lithium-ion battery but the S12 goes way beyond above average. We first put it through the video drain test and the phone gave us an astounding 9 hours and 10 minutes of video playback. We then put the handset through our tech2 Loop Test, the first loop consisting of two hours each of audio, video and streaming and one and a half hour of call time. The subsequent loops consisted of one hour each of audio, video and streaming along with 1 hour of talk time and the phone battled through the first two loops before dying at the start of the third loop, 30 minutes into video playback.

Hot Swap slot for the memory card

Hot Swap slot for the memory card

That’s really impressive in terms of battery life. Under normal usage, we managed to get almost two days of frequent calls and messages as well as a few hours of wi-fi usage with automatic brightness switched on. Lava have a real hit as far as battery life is concerned.

Verdict
The Lava S12 is priced at Rs. 9,990 and at this price it competes with the likes of the HTC Explorer and the LG Optimus One. The Explorer has been quite impressive and the Optimus One has lasted over a year and with similar specs to these big brand devices the S12 might take a hit. One major concern is the Android developers support the device would receive, including official OS upgrades, root kits and ROMs considering this is not an International brand. The impressive battery life is undone by the sluggish performance and in its price range, the S12 might struggle to compete with the international brands like HTC, LG and Samsung.

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