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BLU Selfie Review
BLU may not be the most well-known company in the Android smartphone space, but the Florida-based company has released a slew of entry-level to high-end smartphones that are available at very affordable prices unlocked and without any contractual commitments. It’s not just about the price though, as some of their more recent releases do attempt to bring something unique to the table, such as the BLU Selfie. There’s no prizes for guessing what the primary purpose of this smartphone is, but what does it have to offer beyond the ability to take a good selfie? We find out, in this comprehensive BLU Selfie review!
The BLU Selfie features one of the more unique smartphone designs out there, with a shape that is a bold departure from the norm. With a look that will remind you of a concept design from the past, there’s no denying that this device is certainly very different and eye catching. With its subtly curved polycarbonate back and brushed metal band, the BLU Selfie not only looks great, but feels great in the hand as well.
The plastic comes with a matte finish that helps with grip and is quite resistant to fingerprint smudges, but unfortunately can fall victim to some minor discoloration. After using the device for around two weeks, a faint bluish hue was noticeable on the chin of the phone where the plastic back wrapped around to meet the glass of the display, which may be an issue with the white version of the device. Using a damp cloth to wipe the area does help, but only to some extent, making it difficult to return to the original color.
The golden accents found on the camera ring and metal band complement the design, and the tapered meeting point between the plastic back, metal band, and display give the device an elegant and professional look. Understandably, using the BLU Selfie when out and about drew a lot of attention, and the response from those who asked about it was generally positive. The competition in the budget-friendly smartphone space is as intense as ever, and it’s great to see a company attempt to offer something unique to consumers.
Granted, the choice in shape, and BLU’s determination to pack the device with two Sony IMX 135 cameras does result in a few drawbacks. For starters, it is on the slightly thicker at 9.6 mm, and the curve on the back does make for a wobbly device, even if it isn’t enough of an issue to be a major concern. Secondly, for as unique as the shape of the device may be, it does make for a considerable amount of bezel on the front, not surprisingly at the top and bottom, but unfortunately also along the sides of the display, making for a device that is much larger than its 4.7-inch display size would suggest. That said, it’s not difficult to reach across the display, but does require some hand gymnastics to get to the top.
There’s a very good reason for these bezels of course, with the top bezel housing the 13 MP front-facing camera with a flash, along with the earpiece and the usual sensors. The bottom bezel is where you will find the back, home, and recent apps capacitive keys, that have plenty of illumination for comfortable visibility both indoors and outdoors. The home key also doubles as a notification LED, eliminating the need for an extra light at the top of the phone. Overall, for a lot of users, the distinctive look of the device should help overcome any negative feelings with regards to the thick bezels.
Going around the device, on the left is the volume rocker, positioned to be within easy reach. Unfortunately, that same isn’t true for the power button found up top, which requires a stretch to get to given how tall the device is, and the possibility of dropping the phone while reaching for it can be a concern. The headphone jack and the microUSB charging port are at the top and bottom respectively. On the right is the SIM and microSD card slot, as well as a camera shutter button placed right at the center on that side.
What is unfortunate about the camera button is that it only works when the phone’s display is on, and unlike some other devices out there, you can’t simply press and hold the button to launch the camera when the phone is locked. You actually have to press the power button first, and then press and hold the camera button to launch the camera app. The logic behind is quite confusing, since you can also just swipe left on the lock screen to open the camera at the same speed as the physical button. Since it doesn’t speed up the amount of time it takes to actually take a shot, it’s usefulness is certainly diminished, and further, it’s not positioned ideally to even take a picture when the camera app is open. Ultimately, it would have been much better served if the power button was where the camera shutter button now is, with the latter more effective along the bottom of the right side.
Ultimately, it would have been much better served if the power button was where the camera shutter button now is, with the latter more effective along the bottom of the right side.
The BLU Selfie comes with a 4.7-inch IPS LCD display with a 1280 x 720 resolution, resulting in a pixel density of 312 ppi. The display looks pretty good overall, with good brightness and viewing angles, and accurate color reproduction. Of course, it won’t be as sharp as the higher resolution panels out there, but at this size, 720p does more than a good enough job. The display is protected with a Corning Gorilla Glass 3 panel to keep it free from scratches, and BLU also includes a screen protector in the box if think it’s needed.
Under the hood, the BLU Selfie packs an cota-core MediaTek MT6592 processor, clocked at 1.7 GHz, and backed by the Mali-450 GPU and 2 GB of RAM. This particular processing package is starting to show its age, but things remain more than decent when it comes to the overall performance. General day to day usage is mostly smooth, with some stutter noticeable only while scrolling through some webpages. The device also handles gaming impressively, with games like Asphalt 8 and Bloons Tower Defense 5 running without any hiccups.
The BLU Selfie comes with 16 GB of built-in storage, further expandable via microSD card up to 64 GB. Popping out the SIM tray on the top right side of the phone reveals a dedicated area for a micro SIM card on the left, and a shared area that can house either nano SIM card or microSD card on the right. This implementation is something we’re seeing with a lot a budget-friendly devices, and gives the user the choice between expandable storage or having dual-SIM capabilities.
Unfortunately, the BLU Selfie doesn’t come with support for 4G LTE, so users will be limited to HSPA+ on the AT&T and T-Mobile network. It has to be mentioned though that HSPA+ on the T-Mobile network is not fully supported though, with connectivity possible likely only in metropolitan areas. The usual suite of connectivity options, including GPS, Bluetooth 4.0, and Wi-Fi 802.11b/g/n are also available. The device comes with a single speaker mounted at the bottom on the back, and offers decent sound quality. It does get loud, but a noticeable distortion is present when at the highest volume.
On the battery front, the device packs a non-removable 2,300 mAh unit, which offers surprisingly great battery life. During the three days of real world battery life tests, I had no trouble getting the phone to last throughout a full day of use, with just over three and a half hours of screen on time each day. The lower resolution display, power efficient MediaTek chip, and lack of LTE support are certainly contributing factors, but some credit lies with the software optimization as well. One area that the BLU Selfie really shines is with regards to the performance of the battery.
Given the name of the device, there are a lot of expectations from the camera performance, and while BLU has been resolute in their marketing of the 13 MP Sony IMX 135 cameras found both up front and on the back, the performance is unfortunately disappointing.
The camera application is quite minimalistic and simple to use, with a few settings available, such as white balance and image quality, along with normal and panoramic shooting modes. Given the selfie-centric nature of this device, a few beauty enhancement features are also included, giving you the ability to make your eyes bigger, slim down your face, and smoothen or whiten your skin. The camera software is pretty simple to use, with options in the settings to adjust white balance and image quality, normal and panoramic shooting modes, and a few beauty enhancement features.
The device comes with a dual LED flash, flanking the very large sensor on the back. The flash does get very bright, and unfortunately floods the subject in low light conditions, making some shots look worse than they should have been. As expected, the BLU Selfie takes some decent looking shots in well-lit environments or outdoors, but a certain amount of grain and out of focus objects are noticeable when zooming in to the shot. The rear camera seems to have problems focusing, and the slow shutter speed requires very steady hands to get a shot without any blurring. The overall quality is just about average, with a lot of the shots taken lacking color, and coming with excessive amounts of noise.
The front-facing camera is placed in the center of the bezel at the top of the phone, and the single flash is to its right. The front-facing flash is what BLU calls Glam Flash, and is designed to offer the right amount of light when you need it most and performs very well. It is bright enough to illuminate the face, but not blinding, while taking a selfie. It does sometimes take up to four seconds to finally capture an image with the flash on, so you have to be extremely still if you want to increase the chances of your selfies being in focus. Overall, I would say that the front facing camera takes just average looking selfies, except at a larger 13 MP.
The BLU Selfie comes with Android 4.4.2 Kitkat out of the box, which is disappointing given the fact that it is a new release, and further, there doesn’t seem to be any plans for an official update to Android 5.0 Lollipop in the works either. However, BLU is still supporting the device with OTA updates for bug fixes and general improvements in performance.
The myHome launcher is on top, which doesn’t come with an app drawer, leading users to rely on folders to stay organized. Custom icons are present for the system apps, and any third party applications you download are denoted with a circle around them. The lack of an app drawer does take some getting used to, but you do always have the option to download a third party launcher from the Google Play Store to return to a more familiar software experience.
|4.7-inch IPS LCD
720p resolution, 312 ppi
1.7 GHz octa-core MediaTek MT6592
13 MP rear camera with dual LED flash
13 MP front-facing camera with flash
Bluetooth 4.0, GPS, Wi-Fi 802.11b/g/n
16 GB, expandable up to 64 GB
white, blue, black
146 x 66.3 x 9.6 mm
The BLU Selfie is available in white, blue, and black, and is priced at $249.
So there you have it – an in-depth look at the BLU Selfie! Although the device comes with a unique design, decent display, good performance, and impressive battery life, the expectation that comes from its name of great camera performance is unfortunately not met. As mentioned, the competition in this segment is very intense, and there are some wonderful offerings available from some other OEMs at this price point. Despite is very distinctive look that is sure to turn heads, the overall experience is rather lacking, making the BLU Selfie somewhat difficult to recommend.