BLU S1 Launch Review

Adam Matlock

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Jul 24, 2015
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If it seems like it’s been raining BLU devices lately, that’s because it has – which isn’t a bad thing. In the past month and a half, BLU has launched the latest in their flagship series, the VIVO 8, then the VIVO 8L, and now, drumroll please… they are launching the brand spanking new BLU S1. One important thing I need to mention before I get into the bells and whistles of this device is that there is an exclusive, one-day sale on Amazon today (31 October, 2017) for a reduced price of $129.99, which is a $50 discount off the normal MSRP of $179.99.
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Specs:
- An Octa-core MediaTek 6750 processor (and Mali T860 GPU), clocked at a top end speed of 1.5ghz
- 2GB of memory
- a 5.2” curved display, with 720x1280 HD resolution, made with Corning Gorilla Glass 3 (282ppi)
- A 2,800 mAh battery
- 16GB of internal storage (expandable; supports up to 64GB SD card)
- A 13MP f/2.0 aperture main camera with LED flash
- A 5MP front-facing camera (no LED flash this time)
- Runs Android 7.0 Nougat out of the box
- Dual-SIM device
- Bonus --- it also comes with earphones, a clear TPU style case, and a screen protector (installation required)
- GSM and CDMA Unlocked (only Sprint CDMA, not Verizon)

Pricing: As I briefly mentioned above, the MSRP is $179.99, but BLU has partnered with Amazon for an exclusive one-day only sale price of $129.99, available on launch. The S1 comes in two different colors: Black and Gold.

Overview and Performance: The overall performance of the phone is good, especially for the lower amount of RAM in this device. For 2017, the recurring theme for BLU specs has been at least 3GB of RAM and 32GB of storage, but the S1 has made up for some of this with a boost in the processor speed to 1.5ghz. The biggest selling points for this phone are the CDMA capability for Sprint's network (sorry Verizon users… maybe you’ll get some love in the future.), and the price-point. The S1 is a very inexpensive phone for what it brings to the table, especially at the introductory price of $129.99, but I still wish they could have found a way to cram in an extra GB of RAM. Regardless, this is BLUs first ever CMDA capable phone, and I feel like they are playing it a little conservative this one, balancing out performance but still incorporating some of their popular features, such as the fingerprint sensor, Android 7.0 Nougat, and a well-balanced processor to help draw people in. All of BLUs phones are GSM unlocked, but now they are branching out and trying to access an entirely new user base, which of course carries risks. Hopefully this device will be successful and will open the door for expanded CDMA availability in the future. In the past, Qualcomm has held a monopoly on CDMA supported chipsets which has limited the availability of products to consumers, but not anymore. This bold shift into the CDMA market by MediaTek, partnered with BLU, finally places more power of choice, and price, in the hands of the consumer. It will definitely be interesting to watch this develop further.
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Display: Overall, I have been very impressed with the graphics, especially considering the price of the phone. The color saturation and sharpness are very good for a 720p screen, and the brightness is above average as well – the graphics and visual presentation are on par with the VIVO 8L, and the S1 even has a very slight increase in ppi over it’s sibling (282ppi vs. 277ppi). The implementation is solid. 5.2” is the optimum display size for 1080p resolution, so dropping down to 720p is not as harmful to the resolution or user experience as it would be if the screen size were larger. As I used the device, the balance between the screen size and display ratio became very comfortable and I didn’t really give it any extra thought after getting used to the device.
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Battery Life: The battery life on this phone is good, and balanced. The MediaTek 6750 is a very efficient chipset, but the boost to 1.5ghz naturally increases power consumption, which will drain the battery a little faster. One other thing to take into account is that the battery is only rated at 2,800mAh. I say "only" because this is a smaller battery than what we have seen in the last few BLU phones, but the S1 was built in a way to maximize the features and abilities that it has, giving you a quality experience at an affordable price-point, which it does very well. One slightly disappointing feature for the S1 is that it only comes with a 5V/1.5A charger, and does not feature quickcharge, but the battery is smaller so naturally it doesn’t take as long to charge.
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Fingerprint Sensor: The Fingerprint Sensor (FPS) on the S1 works well, and I’m glad they decided to move it back to the front of the phone and reintegrate it with the home button. The accuracy and speed of the FPS is on par with competitor devices and won’t let you down. The S1 does appear to be slightly more forgiving with finger placement than the VIVO 8L, which seems to be attributable to the slightly wider ellipses style FPS on the front of the phone versus the circle-shaped FPS on the rear of the VIVO 8L, but this is largely an apples-to-oranges comparison and really, both of the sensors work well and are very reliable.
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Sound: The sound on the phone is good, and the volume is complimentary. The vocals are a bit tinny and overpower the rest of the sound spectrum, but that's fairly common with small, individual speakers. If you're a music buff then you probably won't be overly impressed, but it's good for watching TV shows and YouTube videos, and it certainly works with music as well, it just isn't the phones forte. Speaker placement and design on the S1 is a bit of a shift from their more recent devices. The speaker is a single, downward firing driver that is located on the bottom of the phone, versus the dual speakers of the VIVO 8, and the back-mounted speaker on the 8L. I am happy that they put it on the right side of the phone though and not the left, which makes it more difficult to cover up with your hand while you’re holding it horizontally. I am also happy to report that the S1 still has the 3.5mm headphone jack intact, which means that you can continue to rock on with your traditional headphones/earphones, and auxiliary cords. I may be a bit of a dinosaur, but I refuse to let go of my headphone jack. They’re going to have to pry this feature out of my cold dead hands before I finally move on to the world of completely wireless audio.
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Camera: The camera on this phone is the same 13MP camera but it is lacking the Sony imaging processor, which I am sure is a cost-cutting decision that had to be made to get the S1 in at such a low price. Another disappointing design change is that the S1 only has a 5MP front-facing selfie camera. Now, a 5MP selfie camera is still more than adequate and you really won’t be able to tell too much of a difference on a 5.2” 720p screen, but when you upload it to a computer or try to display it on a higher resolution screen, the differences between a 5MP camera and 16-20MP camera will become very apparent. I was very happy with the last two BLU devices in the VIVO series that really swung for the fences with their selfie cameras, so personally it’s hard to be excited about the 5MP camera that they included in the S1. That being said, the important thing to remember here is a) this isn’t a VIVO series phone, b) It’s only $129.99 if you can catch it on sale, and c) it’s CDMA compatible with Sprint. So, all-in-all, regardless of my feelings towards the selfie camera, the S1 is still very much a well-balanced phone and on par with the competition, especially in a sub-$200 phone world, but the camera definitely isn't the crown jewel of this device.
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Software: I am happy to report that the device comes with Android 7.0 Nougat, which is expected now with BLU devices. I know a lot of people are starting to expect new devices to have Android Oreo on them now, but… this is a $129 phone and there are hardly any phones with Oreo on them presently, so I don’t think there's anything wrong with choosing to launch with Nougat. BLU decided to change things up a little and revert back to the traditional pull-down quick settings menu from the top, which is blended with the notifications, just like normal Android phones. They eliminated the swipe-up gesture for quick settings, which I can’t say that I miss very much. One feature that I am happy that BLU carried over to the S1 is the swipe-right gesture for Google Assistant, which you can access simply by swiping right from the home screen, much like Bixby on the Samsung 8/Note devices. All in all, I enjoyed the software experience and I’m glad that they adjusted the UI to bring back the pull-down quick settings menu, and kept the app drawer intact as well.

Conclusion: The S1 is a very solid and efficient phone with a level of performance that will surprise you. I have been very happy with it and I think you’ll be hard pressed to find a much better phone for $129, especially one that is GSM and CDMA unlocked. It’s more than adequate for day-to-day use, and it even allows for some casual gaming (to my surprise I tested out Super Mario Run, and it performed without a hiccup!) It also has a capable camera – just make sure you temper your expectations to the price and specs of the phone. Will it blow you out of the water in any particular area? No… but it will last you a full day and get the job done. Another great selling point for the phone is that if you’re looking to pick one up and switch to Sprint, Sprint is currently offering a $200 gift card if you decide you want to bring your own device over to their network, and the BLU S1 is on the approved device list, which means that if you decide to pick one up and switch to Sprint, the phone will basically pay for itself. Even if you decide to purchase one and use it with AT&T or T-Mobile, it’s still a fantastic deal, you just don’t get a gift card.

If you’re interested in picking up a S1 device, you can find them on Amazon’s website today, 31 October 2017, with a one-day only sale price of $129.99 immediately available on launch. The normal price is going to be $179.99, but during the sale they are discounting it by $50, which is a fantastic deal. The sale officially ends Wednesday, November 1st at 11:59PM PST.

As always, if you have any questions or comments, please feel free to leave them in the comments section. If you want some more information, here is the link to my unboxing video on YouTube:

https://youtu.be/SdSG7UQM35U
 
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