Indian smartphone manufacturers have for long thrived for their ability to offer better value for money for its buyers. However, with the Chinese manufacturers beating them at this game of late, local brands are focussing on adding a differentiated experience to the mix. Xolo was among the first to do this by developing their own customised platform called Hive. Now, this sub-brand from Lava International is offering another sub-brand Black that will focus on superior design and specs while selling exclusively online.
The Xolo Black brand will be the first of a new series. With the first phone the objective is to offer a design that people would like to flout, though they won’t have to pay a premium for the same. There will also be a camera proposition that takes it beyond the price point it sells in.
What is good?
This is among the best phone designs coming out of an Indian manufacturer in recent times. In fact, this phone can easily pass off as a Sony Xperia or a phone from one of the Chinese giants. The metallic frame makes the phone feel premium as well as solid. However, I am not sure how long the glossy back panel will stay that way. Towards the front, the bezel has a slight lip and that seems to help with the grip. The power button has an inbuilt notification light which is unique, though I don’t particularly like it.
The Hive user interface gives the phone a very different feel. Yes, those who are used to Android will take some time to adjust, but the amount of customisation this custom mod can offer should keep a lot of people more than interested. In the app tray the UI slots apps by alphabets and that does make life easy for those who end up using a lot of apps.
The overall performance is quite decent. And given that the phone is working on a Qualcomm Snapdragon processor, Xolo has done well to keep the heating issues under check. There is noticeable lag when using apps, but this is not a blazingly fast phone with the octa-core processor inside.
The phone has a very unique dual camera in the rear. It is surely one of the better cameras in this price range and works well when there is good light. It offers a lot of settings and preset modes, though a full manual mode is missing. The front selfie camera is also reasonably good. The phone offers very good battery life and can last you a full day without much trouble. Those who don’t have a lot of surfing requirements will be able to stretch this much beyond.
What is not that good?
The phone seems to get stuck at times. I encountered the problem more with the lock screen, where it is as if the phone is not even registering the desperate swipes. The camera could have been much better for optics available.
Right now the 13 MP clicker seems to depend too much on software enhancements and that is sad. For instance, for all the settings offered there is no full manual mode on the camera. Plus, it takes some time to focus on images.
For the all the style packed in the phone, it seems Lava could have really upped the ante with performance too. It is a good effort for a first-in-series phone, but the phone could have been much better with the camera offering full user controls and smoother performance overall. Still the phone seems good value for money for people who wouldn’t have high-end usage.
* Display: 5.5-inch (1080 x 1920p, ~403 ppi) display
* Processor: Qualcomm MSM8939 Snapdragon 615
* Operating system: Hive UI on Android Lollipop
* Memory & storage: 2 GB RAM; 16 GB internal storage expandable up to 32 GB
* Camera: 13 MP + 2 MP (Dual) rear camera, 5 MP front camera
* Battery: Li-Po 3200 mAh battery
** Estimated street price: Rs 12,999