Next-gen Android One phone launches in India for $176

The Lava Pixel V1 offers a solid value for the price, combining mid-range hardware with the latest Android software updates from Google.

Google's Android One hardware partners are beginning stage two of the low-cost phone strategy: Say hello to the Lava Pixel V1.

The Android One handset launched online in India on Monday for ₹11,350, which works out to $176.71. And for under two-hundred dollars the Pixel V1 in some ways rivals smartphones that arrived just two years ago for much more money.

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Running Android 5.1 Lollipop, the dual-SIM 3G Pixel V1 is powered by a 1.3 GHz quad-core chip made by MediaTek and is paired with 2 GB of memory. There's 32 GB of on-board storage and the capacity can be expanded by another 32 GB with a microSD card.

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Lava says even though the Pixel V1 has 5.5-inch display, the phone feels like a model with a 5-inch screen because it's not very wide. Don't expect a full HD screen though: At this price, you're looking at 1280 x 720 resolution.

There's also some compromise on the camera sensors. Lava advertises the phone as having a 13 megapixel rear camera and an 8 megapixel front camera but those numbers are boosted by software enhancements; the actual sensors are 8 and 5 megapixel models. The rear sensor does have an f/2.0 aperture and 1.4 micron pixels, however, which should allow for solid low-light photos.

Aside from the hardware and appealing off-contract price, the software has a key benefit. Since the phone is certified for the Android One program, software updates are directly controlled by Google, similar to the company's Nexus line of phones. That means there's no or little waiting to get the latest version of Android installed.

Having launched last September, Google's Android One program hasn't yet made a major impact on the smartphone market.

The strategy, however, is sound: Work with hardware partners in upcoming and emerging markets to offer high-value handsets that aren't saddled with carrier control. It's too soon to say if the approach is going to be a success but Google and its partners are on the right track.

Other Android partners can surely offer less expensive phones that have more capabilities, but none of them can provide the software update benefits of Android One.