Indian smartphone brand Lava, earlier today, on January 7, 2021, made an interesting announcement. The brand has launched four new smartphones that can not only be built to order – but can also be upgraded mid-life a few months after purchase.
Now, I know that for most of NextPit’s European and North American readers, Lava is a fairly unknown, and dare I say, an irrelevant smartphone brand from a faraway country. I am also aware that the first thing that popped up in your mind when you heard ‘customizable phones’ is Fairphone. While Lava’s approach, prima facie, does look similar to what Fairphone is trying to do, they do not work in the same way. I will explain why that is so in the latter part of this article.
Right now, let me inform you about all the devices that Lava Mobiles launched today. While the company announced five new smartphones, only four of them can be customized and upgraded. All five devices happen to be entry-level smartphones priced below Rs 11,000 (120 EUR). To make things easier to understand for the small number of Indian readers on NextPit, here are the five models on offer.
Change your life as you want it to be. Don't stop there. Take action. — Lava Mobiles (@LavaMobile) January 7, 2021
Presenting myZ. The World's First Customizable phone.
Design your phone in 66 unique ways, just the way you want it!
To know more visit: https://t.co/pJrTBTllLr
#WorldFirstByLava #ProudlyIndian pic.twitter.com/BINt2kIeFu
Lava Z1 - The cheapest of the lot, the Lava Z1 comes with just 2GB RAM but lacks upgradability options. This is also a completely designed and made-in-India smartphone with a basic MediaTek Helio A20 chip, 16GB of storage, and a 5-inch display. This device is intended for people who are upgrading from a feature phone to a smartphone for the first time.
Price: Rs 5,499 (61 EUR)
Lava Z2 - Slightly better equipped when compared to the Lava Z1, the stock version of the Z2 gets 2GB RAM, 32GB storage and 13+2 MP dual rear cameras and an 8MP selfie camera. However, consumers can ‘upgrade’ the Z2 with higher storage and RAM within one year of purchase.
Price: Rs 6,999 (71 EUR)
Lava Z4 and Z6: The Lava Z4 features the MediaTek Helio G35 chipset and comes with 4GB RAM and 64GB storage. It also gets triple cameras at the rear (13+5+2) and a 16MP front camera. The Z6 is basically the same phone - but with 6GB of RAM.
Lava Z4: Rs 8,999 (EUR 100)
Lava Z6: Rs 9,999 (EUR 111)
The Lava Z2, Z4 and Z6 can be upgraded with higher storage (up to 128GB) and RAM (up to 6GB) within one year of their purchase.
Lava Z6: The fifth smartphone from the company is called the Lava MyZ, which buyers can customize on Lava’s website before purchase. Among the things that can be individually selected on the Lava MyZ include the RAM, storage, rear camera, front camera, and colour options. Like the other three phones, the MyZ can also be customized after purchase. The fully-loaded version of the Lava MyZ comes to Rs 10,699 (EUR 118)
Launching Z2, Z4 and Z6 starting at just Rs 6,999/- designed specifically for the millions of Indians. Hurry up! Get yours now!— Lava Mobiles (@LavaMobile) January 7, 2021
To catch the event visit: https://t.co/BGo8M8KW1E#WorldFirstByLava #ProudlyIndian pic.twitter.com/EVBY1jAS4a
Customizable, not modular
As outlined in the intro, there are significant differences in the way Lava’s upgrade options work when compared to what Fairphone is doing. For starters, Lava’s upgrades aren’t user-serviceable, and the parts aren’t modular. You cannot simply buy order a part yourself, open the phone up and do the upgrade yourselves. You will need to go to a Lava service centre to get this done.
This approach is understandable in a market like India, where affordability is key, and a product like Fairphone simply won’t sell because of the rather poor price/performance equation. While concern about the environment is a nice thing to have, it doesn’t trump the affordability factor in emerging markets.
Lava’s marketing has been clear in this aspect wherein it quantifies how much money a buyer can save if all he needs from an upgraded device is higher storage or RAM. For such users, it is much cheaper to upgrade from 4GB RAM to 6GB or from 64GB storage to 128GB on the same phone than to buy a new one just for the same tangible benefits.
It is also too early to say if Lava’s approach will have takers in the diverse, highly competitive Indian smartphones space. But it sure is a start and competitors like Xiaomi, Realme and the likes will surely take note.
For those of you reading this in India, you can order Lava’s 'Made-to-Order' device on Lava's e-store starting January 11, 2021. You can also buy the phones - without customization - directly from Amazon or offline stores.