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BLU Life One review: LTE on a tight budget
There are only a handful of budget-friendly smartphones in the US, priced at under $200, that feature support for 4G LTE networks. Florida-based BLU is hoping to change that though, with their revamped Life One series of smartphones. Apart from offering high-speed internet access, what else does this device bring to the table? We find out, in this BLU Life One review!
The BLU Life One series features two smartphones, one with a 5-inch display, and the other, the BLU Life One XL, featuring a 5.5-inch screen. In this review, we’ll be taking a closer look at the 5-inch iteration, but it has to be mentioned that the XL edition shares the same specifications as its smaller sibling for the most part, save for its larger display, larger battery, and slightly thicker profile.
The BLU Life One is available with a few different color options, all featuring a sandstone finish and metal side housing. The device offers a very comfortable feel in the hand, weighing just 125 grams and with a thickness of just 7.5 mm. The handling experience is also very good, and simply put, the BLU Life One not only looks great, but feels extremely good as well.
The back cover is removable and allows for access to the microSIM card slot and the microSD/nanoSIM slot. Unfortunately, the battery is not user replaceable. The power button and volume rocker are placed on the right side, within easy reach, and they feature excellent tactile feedback. Up front, there is a considerable amount of bezel around the display, but it was great to see the same sandstone finish of the back cover making its way over to the front as well. Above the display is the 5 MP front-facing unit to the right and the LED notification light to the left, flanking the earpiece.
The BLU Life one features a 5-inch display with a 720p resolution, resulting in a pixel density of 294 ppi. The display offers good viewing angles, and while it does get bright, it can be difficult to see in direct sunlight. There is also a noticeable backlight bleeding, that takes away from a display experience that is otherwise quite good. The display is protected by a Corning Gorilla Glass 3 panel to keep things scratch-free, but there is also a screen protector included in the box if you are looking for an additional layer of safety.
Under the hood, the BLU Life One packs a quad-core 64-bit Qualcomm Snapdragon 410 processor, clocked at 1.2 GHz, backed by the Adreno 306 GPU and 1 GB of RAM. While this processing package has proved to be a decent performer with some other devices out there, that is unfortunately not entirely the case here.
The overall performance feels sluggish at times, and there occasional stutters while scrolling or swiping through the various elements of the UI. The available RAM is enough to keep just a few apps running at a time, and we’ll have to see how it handles the more memory-hungry Android 5.0 Lollipop that will be making its way over to the device soon. The device handles gaming decently well though, but you shouldn’t be surprised to see the occasional dropped frame and slow loading times when playing more processor-intensive games.
The Life One comes with 8 GB of on-board storage, which is further expandable via microSD card by upto 64 GB. As mentioned though, the second slot can serve as either a microSD card slot or a nanoSIM slot, so it is up to the user to choose between expandable storage or dual SIM capabilities.
Apart from a standard suite of connectivity options, the big selling point of the Life One is its support for 4G LTE on the AT&T and T-Mobile networks, allowing users to take advantage of high-speed internet access with a budget-friendly device. The single speaker unit on the back does get very loud, but the sound starts to get distorted at the higher volumes. As is the case with any smartphone with a speaker in this position, it is easy to muffle the sound when the device is placed on a flat surface.
The BLU Life One packs a non-removable 2,420 mAh battery, and given the lower resolution display and power-friendly processing package, the battery life the device provides is unsurprisingly good, and most users should not have any difficulty in getting a full day of use out of it. In my testing, the device lasted for 15 hours with close to 2 hours of screen-on time, with heavy usage that involved using the device for an hour for tethering, and for navigation for around 30 minutes. Additionally, I was using the dual SIM setup, and maintaining a connection to both the AT&T and T-Mobile networks for the majority of the day.
The Life One comes with a 13 MP Sony IMX 135 rear camera, that mostly allowed for some good looking shots. Images taken outdoors in broad daylight look great, with good detail and accurate color reproduction. There were some minor issues with exposure, but the camera is a very capable performer overall. The camera application allows for a decent level of manual control, with options to change settings like white balance, ISO, exposure, contrast, saturation, and sharpness.
The Life One ships with Android 4.4.4 KitKat, with a planned upgrade to Android 5.0 Lollipop by the end of July. The software experience is quite similar to stock, save for some custom icons and the use of Opera as the default web browser, with the included launcher not really doing much in the way of software customization.
One point of note is the fact that you are currently unable to change the lock screen wallpaper. After trying to change it using the default launcher as well as the Google Now launcher, there was no option to change the wallpaper of the lock screen. The setting isn’t something that is hard to get to either, and changing the wallpaper under the Display section in the Settings menu yielded no results.
Pricing and final thoughts
The Life will be available starting today, priced at just $149, via Amazon. BLU is also offering a special discount for the first week, pricing the device at just $99. Keep in mind that this is available for the first week only, so you’ll need to act fast if you do decide to pick up this phone.
So there you have it, for this closer look at the at the BLU Life One! Overall, the Life One offers great value for money with its beautiful design and solid build quality, good camera, impressive battery life, and more importantly, 4G LTE support. While not without its issues, notably in performance, the $149 price tag, and $99 availability in the first week, certainly make for a good buy. If you’re on the lookout for a device that allows for access to high-speed internet on a budget, you should definitely consider the BLU Life One.