Posts Tagged android phones

My Mount Rushmore of Android smartphones

With more than seven years of Android smartphones under our belt, drug I thought it would be fun to take a look back at some of the more important releases. There are dozens of manufacturers around the globe, tadalafil having produced hundreds of models over time.

Ask anyone who has followed the Android space for some time and you’ll find that, decease invariably, there are certain devices that have higher levels of credibility, or those that resonate more loudly. There are a select number of handsets that are looked upon much more favorably than others.

Some phones are known for changing the way other manufacturers approach their designs. Some have unique designs that introduce new materials or boast record-setting benchmarks. In an industry that is constantly evolving, we find there are a lot of phones that tread into new and interesting places. But, what makes up the best Android phones of all time?

Let’s take a look at what I’ll term the “Mount Rushmore” of Android smartphones. Before going any further, I would like to point out that this is a totally personal list in that it is not indicative of what the other writers at AndroidGuys may think. The goal is to have other staff create their own list of phones with respective reasons for selecting them.

To qualify this list, I am not looking for the most popular Android smartphones. Rather, I am looking for areas such as innovation, design choices, sales strategy, impact on consumers, and other variables.

Suffice it to say, it was not easy trimming this list down to four models. I returned to my selections a few times before publishing this article and found myself wanting to swap stuff in and out. But, for the sake of having fun and creating a “time capsule”, this is what I’ve come up with – today.

T-Mobile G1

HTC | 2008

The granddaddy of them all, this was the first device ever to run Google’s Android operating system. It landed not long after the Apple iPhone, and it was a completely different approach to the new era of smartphones. Whereas Apple’s choice was to take touch screen experience and tie it into its own ecosystem, this one involved a variety of players. Moreover, its “open source” nature meant that it would play nicely with just about anything and anyone willing to put in some effort.

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Key hardware specs:

  • 3.2-inch 320×480 pixel display
  • 528MHz processor
  • 256MB ROM
  • 192MB RAM
  • 3.2-megapixel rear camera
  • 1150mAh battery

In addition to being a collaborative effort on the partner front (HTC, T-Mobile, and Google), the G1 was also somewhat of a hodgepodge of hardware. Indeed, there was the touch screen display which measured in at 3.2-inches and featured a 480×320 pixel display. But, slide open the unit and you’ll find a QWERTY keyboard with five rows of physical buttons underneath. And, as if that weren’t enough, this phone also featured a trackball for navigation. It wasn’t the prettiest of phones, and it was everything the iPhone wasn’t. In short, the nerds had something new to rally around.

Although there was a retail-ready product, at launch Google still had a long road ahead of itself in terms of Android and the software ecosystem. Even early adopters would ultimately relent that it felt unfinished and lacking. Hell, it even felt to some like we were beta testing in the wild. Despite the shortcomings the phone proved that people would consider the platform as a viable alternative to the other players of the day. In short, this one paved the way for all other Android products. For that very reason, this is the George Washington on my Mount Rushmore.

Droid

Motorola| 2009

The device that still frames conversations today, the Droid was the first Android smartphone that people recognized by name. Think about it, there are still people who lump together all Android phones under a “Droid” umbrella.

“Is that your new Droid?”

Thanks to an incredibly ambitious marketing campaign, we learned early on that this was everything that the iPhone wasn’t. Ah yes, back in the days when Android phones were quickly evolving with groundbreaking hardware and software capabilities. A removable battery? Widgets? Open software development? A camera with a flash? YES PLEASE.

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Key hardware specs:

  • 3.7-inch 480×854 pixel display
  • 512MB ROM
  • 256MB RAM
  • 5.0-megapixel rear camera
  • 1390mAh battery

Remember the commercial that started out with the indie pop sounding music that quickly morphed into an almost scary wake-up call? It shook us and put the world on notice. We didn’t even need to see it to be intrigued.

Another key reason that the Droid fascinated us was that it would be Verizon’s first foray into Android. Oh, and it was Motorola’s entry into the Android space, too. New efforts from big named, established mobile players? Count us in.

Although the Droid family would go on to include smartphones from Samsung and HTC, it was this singular model that remains ingrained in our memory. None of the Droid phones since this one were as memorable or likely as popular.

In terms of hardware, the Droid offered users a physical QWERTY keyboard and a really cool navigational pad. It wasn’t necessarily that much more powerful than other Androids at the time, but it certainly looked the part. It was angular, black, and looked all business. That didn’t stop women from picking one up, though.

Perhaps just as important as the hardware for the Droid was its software. This was among the first phones to launch with Android 2.0 Eclair and quickly updated to 2.1. Chief among the reasons to want this particular build of Android was that it came with Google Maps Navigation (beta). Yes, for the first time, Google would give users a cloud-based turn-by-turn navigation app at no cost; it’s built into the operating system! Other noteworthy features in Android at the time were interactive wallpapers, voice controls, more home screens, and support for more than one Google email account.

We’ve seen a lot of product names and lines over the last seven years, many of which have gone away. One that has stuck around, however, is the Droid brand. The name still calls for attention in 2016. And, while it’s still an exclusive partnership between Motorola and Verizon, the family of phones commands respect. Had the original Motorola Droid faltered, it’s hard to imagine where we would be today.

Nexus One

HTC | 2010

Although it arrived some sixteen months after the G1, the Nexus One was nothing like its HTC-made counterpart. It was sleek, polished, and running a much smarter software system in Android 2.1 Eclair. The Nexus One also offered up some substantial improvements in hardware as compared to the first-ever Android.

In short, the Nexus One was created to accelerate the innovation in the smartphone space. It was Google’s way of saying, “this is the benchmark for where we think phones should be today”. Once it was introduced, other phones were quick to keep pace and buyers got more bang for their buck.

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Key hardware specs:

  • 3.7-inch 480×800 pixel display
  • 1GHz Snapdragon processor
  • 512MB ROM
  • 512MB RAM
  • 5.0-megapixel rear camera
  • 1400mAh battery

What made the Nexus One so interesting, to me at least, was that it wasn’t sold via a traditional wireless carrier at first. Indeed, the phone was offered direct from a Google website with support handled via forums. To average smartphone buyers, this model barely registered on their radar. For fanboys and enthusiasts, however, it was a very cool concept.

Unfortunately, this sales method would prove to be ahead of its time as customers were not ready to buy a phone they couldn’t physically touch. Google would ultimately sell the Nexus One through select carriers, but it was slow to happen and mostly toward the latter half of its life cycle. In fact, Google would eventually scrap its online store — for a few years — for Nexus phones and work closer with service providers.

It would take another 3-4 years before US customers were cool with the concept of buying a phone outright and then pairing it with a carrier. We still have a long way to go here as customers still like to purchase their handsets through a service provider, but, Google had/has the right thing in mind.

The Nexus One represented everything an Android lover would look for: pure, unadulterated software on top of cutting-edge hardware. Reviews were almost universally positive for the phone, but it still fell short of some end of year lists. Nevertheless, Google would be undeterred and release a new “Nexus” model almost annually, ushering in the latest version of Android at the same time.

Whether or not we might term the Nexus One a success is debatable; even today’s successors aren’t runaway sales champions. It’s more about what the phone represents, however, as to why it’s on my list. It was ambitious and unheard of, especially in the United States. It would be another five years before average consumers would be hip to the idea of purchasing a phone outright and picking the carrier later. Were it not for the Nexus One we might not have ever seen phones like the Moto X or heard of companies like Blu or Nuu Mobile.

Galaxy S3

Samsung | 2012

The first few years of Android were an incredibly frustrating time for smartphone buyers. Why? In a word, exclusives. It seemed that every single phone that came along was tied to a specific carrier. This meant that you had to consider switching service providers if you were interested in a particular phone. And, guess what – they weren’t all that competitive against each other.

Even the first two generations of Samsung Galaxy S phones were not exempt from the stranglehold. Here, in the United States, the original model was offered across the four major carriers with four distinct names: Captivate, Vibrant, Epic 4G, and Fascinate. To make matters worse, each was slightly different in configuration and none of them had the exact same dimensions. Sprint’s version, for instance, featured a QWERTY keyboard while everyone else went touchscreen-only.

The successor would be no better as it came with a dozen variations globally, with a host of them coming stateside. Raise your hand if you remember code names and models like Hercules, Attain, Within, Skyrocket, Captivate Glide, and Epic 4G Touch. Oh, and don’t get me started on the fact that not all models were launched at the same time.

Imagine the pain in the butt it was to find a case for your phone. Imagine being a case maker and trying to forecast which models were worth backing.

The Samsung Galaxy S3 changed the game for smartphones here in the US. For the first time, we would see one design spread across all versions. For the first time, we had four major carriers ready to offer the same phone, at the same time. For the first time, we had this “choice” we kept hearing about when it comes to Android. Choose the phone and choose the carrier.

galaxy_s3Key hardware specs:

  • 4.8-inch 720×1280 pixel display
  • 1.4GHz quad-core processor
  • 16/32MB ROM
  • 2GB RAM
  • 8.0-megapixel rear camera
  • 2100mAh battery

Samsung would go huge with the launch of the Galaxy S3, dropping in some 100+ markets within a matter of weeks of each other. Not only that, but Samsung took the fight directly to Apple with its ads and marketing strategies. Does it really feel like almost four years have passed since that first commercial that had iPhone users waiting in line for the “next big thing”?

It didn’t hurt that the Galaxy S3 was a pretty significant step forward in hardware. Although configuration differed across countries and carriers, we were now talking about readily accessible phones with quad-core processors, 32GB storage and 2GB RAM. The 4.8-inch screen was sizable for the time and users generally loved the 8-megapixel rear camera. In addition to a couple of storage options, it was also possible to select from a number of colors, too. Did the polycarbonate shell feel cheap? Sure. Did it stop people from buying it? Hardly.

Android purists and fanboys would have plenty of criticism over the custom software experience TouchWiz, but average users didn’t seem to mind. Samsung baked in a host of custom apps and services, many of which doubled up the stuff that came with Android. Key features introduced in the S3 include Smart Stay, S Voice, and Pop-Up Play. All of this stuff, of course, was an obvious play to pull consumers into its own ecosystem and away from reliance on Google. Did it matter? Not really. Sales for the Galaxy S3 were through the roof and the phone landed on many “best of” lists.

Samsung didn’t push the envelope for the next few successors, but it did overhaul the line for 2015. Samsung continues with its Galaxy S line of phone today; we’re looking at the S7 launching in the next few weeks.

Wrapping Up

You have no idea how hard it was to put this list together. I struggled with my own personal faves such as the HTC EVO 4G or Galaxy Note 2 not finding one of the spots on this list. We had internal discussions at AndroidGuys about which phones we’d come up with; every writer had a different combination. Some of us changed each time we thought of the concept.

Looking ahead, I am certain there will be another game changer of sorts. That’s the beauty of Android; it’s an always-evolving and competitive landscape.

I would love to hear about your Mount Rushmore of Android phones. Leave me a comment below with one or more picks and why it deserves to be etched in rock for all time.

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Get the XIAOMI Mi4C Android Lollipop smartphone for just $250

Do you know who the world’s fifth largest smartphone manufacturer is? You would probably guess LG, there Motorola, search or HTC but you’re very wrong. Xiaomi is the fifth largest smartphone manufacturer in the world, but hasn’t made its way into the U.S. just yet. The four other manufacturers who are bigger are Samsung, Apple, Huawei, and Lenovo in that order. Xiaomi sold over 70 million smartphones in 2015 and for good reason: phones like the Xiaomi Mi4C are fully loaded and cost less than $300.

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For a limited time only you can get the Xiaomi Mi4C at gearbest.com for just $249.99. It even comes with the hexa-core Snapdragon 808 processor that powers Google’s Nexus 5X.

Get the Xiaomi Mi4C at gearbest.com.

1446085089510-P-3157428

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Main features:

Display: 5.0 inch, 1920×1080 Pixel
CPU: Qualcomm Snapdragon 808 64bit Hexa Core 1.44GHz
GPU: Adreno 418
System: Android 5.1
RAM + ROM: 3GB RAM + 32GB ROM
Camera: 5.0MP with 85 degree wide-angle, f/2.0 aperture front camera + 13.0MP 5 element lens, f/2.0 aperture back camera
Sensor: Light sensor, G-sensor, Proximity sensor, Hall Sensor
Feature: Gyroscope, Electronic Compass
Bluetooth: 4.1
GPS: Yes
SIM Card: Dual SIM dual standby, Dual Micro SIM
Network:
2G: GSM 850/900/1800/1900MHz
3G: WCDMA 850/900/1900/2100MHz
4G: FDD-LTE 1800/2100/2600MHz

 

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The post Get the XIAOMI Mi4C Android Lollipop smartphone for just $250 appeared first on AndroidGuys.

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14 sweet tech gifts for Valentine’s Day

Did you know Valentine’s day is just around the corner? You better make your dinner reservations now if you haven’t already. The traditional gifts to show your love are cards, decease chocolates and roses. There’s nothing wrong with those traditional gifts, but sometimes your significant other may want something different. Many of you can get away with not getting gifts, but why risk it? Isn’t it better to make someone happy and show your appreciation and love for them rather than to complain and call Valentine’s Day a Hallmark Holiday?

We’re a tech site and as such we have 14 Valentine’s gift suggestions for you. But you better order your gift soon if you haven’t already. The 14th is less than two weeks away.

Google Nexus 6P and Huawei Smart Watch – Save $50 on both from Google.com

google

Operating System
  • Android 6.0 Marshmallow
Display
  • 5.7 inches
  • WQHD (2560 x 1440) AMOLED display at 518 ppi
Rear Camera
  • 12.3 MP¹
  • 1.55 µm pixels
  • f/2.0 aperture
  • IR laser-assisted autofocus
  • 4K (30 fps) video capture
Front Camera
  • 8MP camera
  • 1.4 µm pixels
Processor
  • Qualcomm Snapdragon 810 v2.1
  • 2.0 GHz Octa-core 64-bit
  • Adreno 430 GPU
Memory & Storage²
  • RAM: 3 GB LPDDR4
  • Internal storage: 32 GB, 64 GB, or 128 GB

Bose SoundLink Color Bluetooth Speaker – $129.99 LINK

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  • Clear, full-range sound you might not expect from a compact speaker
  • Voice prompts make pairing your devices easier than ever
  • Up to 8 hours of music from rechargeable lithium-ion battery
  • Wireless connection to your smartphone, tablet or other Bluetooth-enabled device

 

Sphero BB-8 App-Enabled Droid – $135.99 LINK

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  • Authentic Movement: Guide your BB-8 with a smartphone or tablet
  • Listens & Responds: BB-8 recognizes and reacts to your voice
  • Holographic Messaging: Record and view virtual holographic videos with BB-8
  • Autonomous Behavior: BB-8 has a mind of its own – explore the Star Wars galaxy together
  • Adaptive Personality: Your BB-8’s unique attitude and actions evolve as you interact
  • Authentic Movement: Guide your BB-8 with a smartphone or tablet
  • Listens & Responds: BB-8 recognizes and reacts to your voice

Samsung Gear S2 Smartwatch – LINK

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  • Function meets style with elegant curves and premium finishes
  • Intuitive circular interface and rotating bezel for easy navigation
  • Access to important notifications, texts, and updates at a glance
  • Compatible with Android 4.4 and later with 1.5GB RAM. Some features may not be available. For best compatibility, connect with Samsung Galaxy devices.
  • Wireless charging dock included
  • 1.2-Inch Display Size
  • 4GB Internal Memory / RAM 512MB

Amazon Echo – $179.99 – LINK

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  • Plays all your music from Prime Music, Pandora, iHeartRadio, TuneIn, and more using just your voice
  • Fills the room with immersive, 360º omni-directional audio
  • Allows hands-free convenience with voice-control
  • Hears you from across the room with far-field voice recognition, even while music is playing
  • Answers questions, reads audiobooks and the news, reports traffic and weather, gives info on local businesses, provides sports scores and schedules, and more with Alexa, a cloud-based voice service
  • Controls lights and switches with compatible WeMo, Philips Hue, Samsung SmartThings, Wink, Insteon, and other smart home devices
  • Always getting smarter and adding new features and skills–over 95 added since launch

Kindle Fire 7″ – $49.99 LINK

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  • Beautiful 7″ IPS display (171 ppi / 1024 x 600) and fast 1.3 GHz quad-core processor. Rear and front-facing cameras.
  • All-new Amazon Underground, a one-of-a-kind app store experience where over $10,000 in apps, games and even in-app items are actually free – including extra lives, unlocked levels, unlimited add-on packs and more
  • Enjoy more than 38 million movies, TV shows, songs, books, apps and games
  • 8 GB of internal storage. Free unlimited cloud storage for all Amazon content and photos taken with Fire devices. Add a microSD card for up to 128 GB of additional storage.
  • Updated user interface – Fire OS 5 designed for quick access to your apps and content plus personalized recommendations that make it easy to discover new favorites
  • Up to 7 hours of reading, surfing the web, watching videos, and listening to music
  • Stay connected with fast web browsing, email, and calendar support

Magazine Subscription to Texture – LINK





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Google Play Store

With Texture, you have an all-access pass to world’s best magazines. So anytime you want to read something great, you can. Choose any issue from a catalog that includes all the top magazines in every category.

It’s magazine reading without limits. Flip through an entire issue that hit newsstands today. Or dig into a single article from a back issue in the vast archive. Audio and video exclusives bring extra dimension to the experience.

Caseco Blu-Toque Dual Layered Bluetooth Knit Hat – $49.99 LINK

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  • Wear your Blu-Toque while walking the dog, working outside, commuting, or going for a jog.
  • Knit from soft synthetic wool, Blu-Toque is lightweight, warm, and water resistant.
  • Blu-Toque is universal?it works with any Bluetooth device.
  • Take calls and listen to music right from this integrated beanie. No more headphones, no more wire

August Smart Lock – Keyless Home Entry with Your Smartphone, Red – $149.99 LINK

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  • Secure – Safe, keyless access to your home with iOS and Android smartphones
  • Easy DIY Retrofit Install, – Replace the interior of your existing deadbolt; outside is unchanged
  • Total Control – You control who has access to your home and manage how long their access lasts
  • Always On – Powered by batteries means it’s always on, even if your power, Wi-Fi, or cable go down

Behmor Connected Temperature Control Coffee Maker – $299.99 LINK

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  • Customizable, temperature control coffee maker with phone app for easy operation
  • Free Behmor app works on Apple iOS 7 and higher (available now); Android 4.0+ and higher (available January 2016)
  • Create your favorite brewing profile including brewing temperature and pre-soak time or select from app’s library
  • Delayed Brew option heats the water waiting to brew
  • Double walled thermal carafe holds 8 5oz cups per brew cycle

WeMo Switch, Wi-Fi Enabled, Control your Electronics from anywhere – $39.99 LINK

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  • Turn appliances and electronics on or off from anywhere. Never worry if you left the iron, coffeemaker or hair straightener on. Turn on the nightlight for your little ones!
  • Easy to install and simple to use
  • Set schedules and receive customized notifications
  • Works with any smartphone or tablet running Android 4.0 and higher or iOS 5 and higher. Electrical Rating120V/15A/60Hz/1800W
  • Compatible with Amazon Echo for voice control hands-free convenience

1byone Wireless Bluetooth 4.0 Speaker Dimmable Multicolored LED Light Bulb – $30.99 LINK

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  • Multicolored & ever-changing – Small smart LED bulb can convert 7 main colors – over 16 million supported colors, plus warm and cool white. You can choose your favourite color for each situation to surround you in your room.
  • Music playing via Bluetooth – Connect to your bluetooth devices easily, and the built-in Bluetooth speaker enables you to enjoy music anywhere. Play music from the app or your usual program and have the bulb change colors automatically.
  • Smart Functions – This smart light bulb can play your music, match the lights to the music, has a normal white lights mode, can adjust the brightness, can be renamed and can set a timer in the app to switch off / on. Wake up to your favourite music and color or come home with lights already switched on.

Jabra SPORT PACE Wireless Bluetooth Headset – $99.99 LINK

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  • Premium wireless sound and inline buttons to control music or phone calls
  • Secure and comfortable fit with behind the ear wearing style and multiple sized ear gels
  • Built toward US Military standards for rain, sweat, shock and dust resistance (IP54 rated)
  • Rapid charge feature to provide an hour’s worth of bather life in only 15 minutes of charging. Reflective cable for early morning or nighttime usage
  • Integrated training via Sport Life App to provide in-ear readouts during workouts: pace, time, distance, calories burned. Also works with most popular 3rd party sports applications.

Honor 5X Metal Body Unlocked Smartphone – Gold 16GB $199.99 LINK

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  • Unlocked Dual SIM LTE smartphone with three card slots. Supports nano-sim, micro-SIM, and a microSD card up to 128GB. Works with AT&T and T-Mobile Networks.
  • Sleek, robust housing crafted from aircraft-grade aluminum made with four metal finishing processes.
  • An accurate fast fingerprint sensor improves with time and unlocks in 0.5 Seconds. Set your fingers as shortcuts to call contacts and take photos.
  • Powered by Android 5.1 Lollipop with 16GB Internal memory and 2 GB RAM. A Qualcomm 64-bit Octa-Core Processor renders a smooth, responsive experience.
  • A Picture perfect 5.5-Inch, 1080P full HD display can Show off your 13MP Camera pictures with shooting modes like time-lapse, slow-motion, and perfect-selfie.

The post 14 sweet tech gifts for Valentine’s Day appeared first on AndroidGuys.

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Blu Vivo XL review

Blu Products is an American-based (Miami, FL.) smartphone maker who has been around since 2009. With a primary focus on Android and Windows handsets, the company’s bread and butter is unlocked and less expensive alternatives to other, more familiar manufacturers.

As of today, Blu — Bold Like Us –splits its smart phones into three distinct series. The Dash is the most affordable of its models while the Studio is the mid and upper tier stuff. The Vivo line is where you’ll find the high-end and more polished designs.

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The Vivo XL Excel, first introduced at CES in early January features a 5.5-inch display, a 13-megapixel rear camera, and a 5-megapixel front-facing camera. Powered by an octa-core Mediatek processor, the phone packs 16 gigabytes of storage (ROM) with two gigabytes of memory (RAM). It is not a groundbreaking device by any stretch, however it is a package which most typical smartphone users might consider looking into.

We recently spent a few days with the Vivo XL and have put together the following review for you. Please read on for our impressions and takeaways.

First Impressions

The first thing you notice about the phone is actually the box that it comes in. It’s gold and made of a bit thicker construction than most cardboard boxes.  Coupled with a striking black print, the box sets the tone for a more premium smartphone experience.

Upon taking the handset out we notice that it was thinner and lighter than expected. In terms of overall footprint, the phone is pretty close to what you’ll get with the Nexus 6P. At 5.5-inches it’s just a smidge shorter than the Google handset.

blu_first_impression

After inserting the battery and putting the back case on, the phone feels not unlike the Samsung Galaxy S3.  Although people are often quick to call this material a plastic design, it is actually more of a polycarbonate or synthetic material. Indeed, the battery cover has some give and bending in it, but the honeycomb print on the inside helps keep it from cracking.

Handing the phone off to a couple of people for a quick reaction, the first things typically said were that it was a “nice feeling phone”, that it “looked more expensive than it is”, and it was “comfy”.  Before going further, I should point out here that the retail price of this phone is only $150. Yep, that is without a contract. And, as if that weren’t enough, the phone supports two SIM cards so you can bounce around from carrier to carrier or mix business and personal lines.

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The gold finish on the front somewhat reminds us of the matte gold on the Nexus 6P and it almost borders on the rose gold that you’ll find with the iPhone. The model we reviewed was the Liquid Gold so we imagine the Rose Gold version is even more in line with the Apple counterpart. Other colors offered include Chrome Silver and Midnight Blue.

The battery cover has a pattern printed on it however it is not physically textured. While it certainly looks as if it would have a grip, it is smooth to the touch. Another quick impression before turning on the phone was that this battery cover was quick to pick up fingerprints and smudges. The front however was more forgiving.

But, whereas the rear of the Vivo XL easily picks up finger traces, it is also very easy to wipe down. A simple swipe against a shirt or pant leg and we’re back in business. Were you to put this into a protective case there might be nothing to discuss here — this is somewhat of a non-starter of an issue.

General Details

Powering on the phone we found that it offered up bright and sharp display that was easy on the eyes. Although enthusiasts and early adopters might scoff at the bezel around the display, we’ve seen worse and we are quick to remember the value proposition. Remember, we are not dealing with a phone that runs $500 to $700. It would be unfair to compare the traits and hardware materials to something in that realm.

As mentioned before, the Vivo XL supports two SIM cards. It is worth noting, however, that you will have to remove the battery if you want to swap in or out a SIM card in the first position. The second position is more on the side and is accessible simply by removing the battery cover.

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The phone supports a micro SD card for expansion. Should the 16GB of storage not be enough, simply add your memory card to increase it.

The power button is on the right hand side just about half way up with the volume buttons slightly higher up the phone but still on the right. The headphone jack is on the top of the phone and is set off to the left about 25% of the way. On the bottom we find the USB Type C port.

Display

With a resolution of 720 by 1,280 pixels, the image looks better than it sounds on paper. Once you get into that 5 inch and five and a half inch space, anything below this is going to look very pixelated. And, while this doesn’t look nearly as sharp as a 1080p or 2k screen, we had no problems reading text and images we’re still very clear.

The display is very bright with a decent amount of contrast. Also, it is possible to adjust the LCD effect from neutral to cool or warm. What this does is slightly tweak the picture by adding or removing a small degree of color. It is a minimal change, going from one to another and is not something that adversely impacts anything you might do on a daily basis.

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As expected, there are options to adjust the brightness level manually. Additionally you can set adaptive brightness to dim and lower light settings or brighten itself when outside or in a place where it is called for. In a related note, there’s also an option to adjust economical backlight which automatically adjusts — wait for it — backlight to save power. Toggling on and off you can see what it does for you in different environments. Do know that messing with these sort of settings can have an impact on your battery life, good or bad.

Performance

The Vivo XL draws power from the MediaTek octa-core processor and 2GB RAM. While not a top-tier device by 2016’s standard, we found that this model still punches above its weight. As devices are treading deeper into the 3GB and 4GB realm of memory, we are sometimes quick to want that from our phones. Maybe it comes from trying to future-proof ourselves with desktop computers or laptops, however we should remember that the average user does not necessarily need that much performance.

To test general usage, we installed a handful of applications and games that a typical smartphone user might enjoy. Examples include various social media apps and casual games. We did not find that the phone was necessarily laggy or unresponsive even when we opened up multiple apps at a time. Moreover, hopping from one app to another went as smoothly as we would expect, and the overall performance was actually better than we had hoped for out of a phone at this price point. In other words, don’t let the 2GB RAM deter you.

We had erroneously anticipated becoming frustrated with the experience. It was thought that at some point during testing we would find a flaw or something specific in its performance to point out that says, “see, this is why the phone only cost this much.” Alas, we did not. There were some quibbles, of course, but nothing that pushes the phone out of its price range.

When it comes to the topic of speakers and sound, the phone could be a touch better.  There are no stereo speakers to be found here. Should you play music or a video, your sound will come from the back of the phone.

The speaker grille is just below the battery and, while it puts out a reasonably loud sound, it did have a little bit of tin to it. Again, we have to give the benefit of the doubt because of the price. We are not paying for dual front facing speakers;  we have heard worse on phones in the past and have been content.

Battery lasted us well into a second day of usage, which is what we’d hope for in a 3,150mAh unit. Once the 6.0 Marshmallow update is pushed out and the Doze feature is added we would expect to squeeze out even more. The USB Type C charger replenished the battery at an average rate – adding roughly 25 percent juice in an hour’s charging.

Camera

One area where the phone comes up a little short is in the aspect of the camera. Although there are plenty of software features and customizations to be found, the overall quality leaves a bit to be desired.

In testing the camera, we notice that it doesn’t handle range as well as other models. But, this is where we remind you to consider the cost of the phone. Bearing that in mind, it still performs as expected. Truth be told, we know people who have smartphones with much better cameras that ultimately take bad photos. For whatever reason, they are content with poorly shot images with blurry subjects and terrible lighting. This wouldn’t fare any worse than what they’re currently putting on Facebook.

Click here to see an entire gallery of photos taken with the Blu Vivo XL (Google Photos)





As you can see from the gallery of images the camera blows out the white. Even in using the HDR and/or playing with the flash, we found that white edges in lighting and on the edge of items don’t look as clear or sharp as we want. This is not to suggest you can’t clean them up or run them through a photo program for sharing on social media or messages. Let’s be honest here, we are not printing out our photos or hanging them on a wall. If that is the type of using you plan to be, then you certainly do not want to look at this phone.

IMG_20160128_114250
IMG_20160128_115527
IMG_20160128_120021
IMG_20160128_122041

Generally speaking, the camera captured the subjects quickly and without too much time to focus. We were particularly impressed with the speed in which the phone captured and saved photos and HDR mode.

As far as overall options are concerned, the Blu Vivo XL offers more than you’d expect out of a budget-friendly phone. There’s plenty here to play around with (see below) when it comes to filters and settings for unique images.

camera_filters

We could spend paragraph talking about images, however it ultimately comes down to use your preference. If you look at the gallery and think to yourself hey this is sufficient for me, then there you go. But, if your first reaction is to point out picture flaws and where it comes up short, then this is not for you.

Software

Powered by Android 5.1 Lollipop out of the box, Blu promises this will be upgraded to at least 6.0. We don’t know when that will happen so keep that in mind if you are expecting the latest version of Android. Yes, there are handsets coming out with the newer version of Android, but we venture to guess the target demographic doesn’t really know or care that much about the different versions of Android.

As someone who has spent time with all versions of Android, we have become reliant on some of the features that come with marshmallow, but that is just a personal preference and experience. If you need the latest and greatest, then we lost you a while back.

What we like about this phone is that it is essentially a stock Android experience with no major UI customization.  The first time you use the phone you will find a home screen configured with some shortcuts, folders and widgets. Noticeably, the phone does come with Opera installed as a browser option. The app is prominently displayed on the home page right next to the phone, camera, and messaging icons.

blu_os

Interestingly enough, there is no button to open up any sort of app tray. Instead, your apps and games are accessible by swiping the home screen. For those of you who have spent time with other brands or versions of Android this may feel a little awkward at first — and maybe a nuisance.

We like to install a custom launcher on our devices so our experience is uniform and tailored to suit our specific needs. It helps us when jumping from one model or device to another on a regular basis.

If you prefer a minimal or clean desktop, you may find yourself a little put off by the Blu way of doing things. Download a lot of apps and you potentially have pages or screens full of icons.

The phone does come with Google Mobile Services which means you get all of the standard applications including Gmail, Maps, YouTube, Drive, Hangouts, and the Play Store. This is an important distinction that not all lower price manufacturers offer.

Look around a bit and you’ll discover there are knock off brands and very inexpensive models on the market. On the surface they may appear to be the phone you want, but play with the software and you see where corners are often cut. Rest easy knowing that with the Blu Vivo XL you can get into the Play Store and download all the titles you expect.

In addition to the Google suite of applications, we found the phone was preinstalled with a couple of Amazon titles including the standard Amazon app, Kindle app and one designed to install other apps and games.

Other preinstalled applications worth noting include an FM radio which works when you plug in headphones, a compass, “Torch” (flashlight), and Yahoo weather. McAfee security comes pre-installed on the phone as well and is designed to keep a watchful eye on your mobile experience. If you don’t like it, you can remove it.

In terms of keyboard the phone is set up to use TouchPal 2016 as the default. This means that you can theme your keyboard or customize it with a wide variety of settings. Some of the options here include toggling word gesture, a dedicated number row, auto-correction, and auto-capitalization. You can also switch the keyboard to learn from your messages and import contact names. This is helpful if you have friends or family or the occasional email with a contact that has a unique name. We’re more of a Google keyboard lover, however this was not that difficult to get used to.

blu_theme_park

The Chameleon application is pretty cool if you are looking to create a custom or handpicked theme. Simply point the camera at an object or room and you’ll be able to select color droplets based on what’s seen. These colors, once applied, will change your wallpaper as well as the various menus and setting screens.

Along the same lines there is a Theme Park application which lets you choose from a variety of wallpapers including static images and live wallpapers. There are also a half-dozen themes to choose from which are essentially bundles based around a common design.

Digging around a little deeper in some of the settings, you will find options to adjust gestures notifications and other personal preferences. It is also possible to set separate ringtones and message tones for the different SIM cards.

Although the Android OS is pretty much untouched, there’s a little bit here that adds to the overall experience. Nothing that should slow down an Android update from rolling out, mind you, but enough to help it stand out from a pure stock build.

Conclusion

We were impressed with the total package of the Vivo XL.  It was not all that long ago that we paid double for lesser phone and felt okay about it.

As more users become acclimated to the concept of buying a phone and then selecting the carrier, devices such as these will stand out. As much as we like a flagship experience like a Samsung Galaxy S6 or LG G4, it is sometimes hard to justify paying that much money every few years. This goes double if you are on a prepaid carrier and do not have the luxury of equipment installation pricing. If you are looking to pay for your phone up front, then you want to get as much bang for your buck as possible. A phone like the Vivo XL truly is bang for the buck.

Unlocked is the way to go. You need to get used to that concept as soon as you can. Blu, one of the emerging brands to watch in this space, only concerns itself with GSM-ready devices free of any carrier influence.

There is peace of mind knowing that you can leave your carrier behind and still use the same phone when you go across the street to a different provider. Tossing the secondary SIM card here and there’s added flexibility for international travel or multiple phone lines.

Also in its favor is the fact that it’s pretty much untouched Android. That’s a big win for people who don’t like custom UI’s or excessive skinning and preloaded applications. Blu hasn’t necessarily proven to be incredibly adept at pushing out software updates, but that could be a non-issue for Average Joe types. As long as it’s supported with security updates and patches any vulnerabilities, we’re okay recommending the 5.1 Lollipop release.

There is peace of mind knowing that you can leave your carrier behind and still use the same phone when you go across the street to a different provider. Tossing the secondary SIM slot and you have flexibility for international travel or multiple phone lines on the same device.

The Vivo XL is thin, sharp looking, and offers a big display at a small price. For a lot of people, that’s all that matters. The camera could be better and the sound could be more robust, but we could also be looking at a $200 phone instead.

In thinking about the target demographic, we  feel that this is more than sufficient enough to get the job done. Heck, there’s even a little bit left over, too.

Where to Buy

Launching today (January 29), the Vivo XL can be had at Best Buy for a downright incredible price of $99. While that’s a $50 savings off its normal cost of $150, it’s only a short time promotional rate. Look for a wider retail and online seller availability in the coming weeks.

The post Blu Vivo XL review appeared first on AndroidGuys.

Tags: , , , , , , , ,

Blu Vivo XL review

Blu Products is an American-based (Miami, FL.) smartphone maker who has been around since 2009. With a primary focus on Android and Windows handsets, the company’s bread and butter is unlocked and less expensive alternatives to other, more familiar manufacturers.

As of today, Blu — Bold Like Us –splits its smart phones into three distinct series. The Dash is the most affordable of its models while the Studio is the mid and upper tier stuff. The Vivo line is where you’ll find the high-end and more polished designs.

blu_back_android

The Vivo XL Excel, first introduced at CES in early January features a 5.5-inch display, a 13-megapixel rear camera, and a 5-megapixel front-facing camera. Powered by an octa-core Mediatek processor, the phone packs 16 gigabytes of storage (ROM) with two gigabytes of memory (RAM). It is not a groundbreaking device by any stretch, however it is a package which most typical smartphone users might consider looking into.

We recently spent a few days with the Vivo XL and have put together the following review for you. Please read on for our impressions and takeaways.

First Impressions

The first thing you notice about the phone is actually the box that it comes in. It’s gold and made of a bit thicker construction than most cardboard boxes.  Coupled with a striking black print, the box sets the tone for a more premium smartphone experience.

Upon taking the handset out we notice that it was thinner and lighter than expected. In terms of overall footprint, the phone is pretty close to what you’ll get with the Nexus 6P. At 5.5-inches it’s just a smidge shorter than the Google handset.

blu_first_impression

After inserting the battery and putting the back case on, the phone feels not unlike the Samsung Galaxy S3.  Although people are often quick to call this material a plastic design, it is actually more of a polycarbonate or synthetic material. Indeed, the battery cover has some give and bending in it, but the honeycomb print on the inside helps keep it from cracking.

Handing the phone off to a couple of people for a quick reaction, the first things typically said were that it was a “nice feeling phone”, that it “looked more expensive than it is”, and it was “comfy”.  Before going further, I should point out here that the retail price of this phone is only $150. Yep, that is without a contract. And, as if that weren’t enough, the phone supports two SIM cards so you can bounce around from carrier to carrier or mix business and personal lines.

blu_battery_cover

The gold finish on the front somewhat reminds us of the matte gold on the Nexus 6P and it almost borders on the rose gold that you’ll find with the iPhone. The model we reviewed was the Liquid Gold so we imagine the Rose Gold version is even more in line with the Apple counterpart. Other colors offered include Chrome Silver and Midnight Blue.

The battery cover has a pattern printed on it however it is not physically textured. While it certainly looks as if it would have a grip, it is smooth to the touch. Another quick impression before turning on the phone was that this battery cover was quick to pick up fingerprints and smudges. The front however was more forgiving.

But, whereas the rear of the Vivo XL easily picks up finger traces, it is also very easy to wipe down. A simple swipe against a shirt or pant leg and we’re back in business. Were you to put this into a protective case there might be nothing to discuss here — this is somewhat of a non-starter of an issue.

General Details

Powering on the phone we found that it offered up bright and sharp display that was easy on the eyes. Although enthusiasts and early adopters might scoff at the bezel around the display, we’ve seen worse and we are quick to remember the value proposition. Remember, we are not dealing with a phone that runs $500 to $700. It would be unfair to compare the traits and hardware materials to something in that realm.

As mentioned before, the Vivo XL supports two SIM cards. It is worth noting, however, that you will have to remove the battery if you want to swap in or out a SIM card in the first position. The second position is more on the side and is accessible simply by removing the battery cover.

blu_sim_microsd

The phone supports a micro SD card for expansion. Should the 16GB of storage not be enough, simply add your memory card to increase it.

The power button is on the right hand side just about half way up with the volume buttons slightly higher up the phone but still on the right. The headphone jack is on the top of the phone and is set off to the left about 25% of the way. On the bottom we find the USB Type C port.

Display

With a resolution of 720 by 1,280 pixels, the image looks better than it sounds on paper. Once you get into that 5 inch and five and a half inch space, anything below this is going to look very pixelated. And, while this doesn’t look nearly as sharp as a 1080p or 2k screen, we had no problems reading text and images we’re still very clear.

The display is very bright with a decent amount of contrast. Also, it is possible to adjust the LCD effect from neutral to cool or warm. What this does is slightly tweak the picture by adding or removing a small degree of color. It is a minimal change, going from one to another and is not something that adversely impacts anything you might do on a daily basis.

blu_vivo_xl_display

As expected, there are options to adjust the brightness level manually. Additionally you can set adaptive brightness to dim and lower light settings or brighten itself when outside or in a place where it is called for. In a related note, there’s also an option to adjust economical backlight which automatically adjusts — wait for it — backlight to save power. Toggling on and off you can see what it does for you in different environments. Do know that messing with these sort of settings can have an impact on your battery life, good or bad.

Performance

The Vivo XL draws power from the MediaTek octa-core processor and 2GB RAM. While not a top-tier device by 2016’s standard, we found that this model still punches above its weight. As devices are treading deeper into the 3GB and 4GB realm of memory, we are sometimes quick to want that from our phones. Maybe it comes from trying to future-proof ourselves with desktop computers or laptops, however we should remember that the average user does not necessarily need that much performance.

To test general usage, we installed a handful of applications and games that a typical smartphone user might enjoy. Examples include various social media apps and casual games. We did not find that the phone was necessarily laggy or unresponsive even when we opened up multiple apps at a time. Moreover, hopping from one app to another went as smoothly as we would expect, and the overall performance was actually better than we had hoped for out of a phone at this price point. In other words, don’t let the 2GB RAM deter you.

We had erroneously anticipated becoming frustrated with the experience. It was thought that at some point during testing we would find a flaw or something specific in its performance to point out that says, “see, this is why the phone only cost this much.” Alas, we did not. There were some quibbles, of course, but nothing that pushes the phone out of its price range.

When it comes to the topic of speakers and sound, the phone could be a touch better.  There are no stereo speakers to be found here. Should you play music or a video, your sound will come from the back of the phone.

The speaker grille is just below the battery and, while it puts out a reasonably loud sound, it did have a little bit of tin to it. Again, we have to give the benefit of the doubt because of the price. We are not paying for dual front facing speakers;  we have heard worse on phones in the past and have been content.

Battery lasted us well into a second day of usage, which is what we’d hope for in a 3,150mAh unit. Once the 6.0 Marshmallow update is pushed out and the Doze feature is added we would expect to squeeze out even more. The USB Type C charger replenished the battery at an average rate – adding roughly 25 percent juice in an hour’s charging.

Camera

One area where the phone comes up a little short is in the aspect of the camera. Although there are plenty of software features and customizations to be found, the overall quality leaves a bit to be desired.

In testing the camera, we notice that it doesn’t handle range as well as other models. But, this is where we remind you to consider the cost of the phone. Bearing that in mind, it still performs as expected. Truth be told, we know people who have smartphones with much better cameras that ultimately take bad photos. For whatever reason, they are content with poorly shot images with blurry subjects and terrible lighting. This wouldn’t fare any worse than what they’re currently putting on Facebook.

Click here to see an entire gallery of photos taken with the Blu Vivo XL (Google Photos)





As you can see from the gallery of images the camera blows out the white. Even in using the HDR and/or playing with the flash, we found that white edges in lighting and on the edge of items don’t look as clear or sharp as we want. This is not to suggest you can’t clean them up or run them through a photo program for sharing on social media or messages. Let’s be honest here, we are not printing out our photos or hanging them on a wall. If that is the type of using you plan to be, then you certainly do not want to look at this phone.

IMG_20160128_114250
IMG_20160128_115527
IMG_20160128_120021
IMG_20160128_122041

Generally speaking, the camera captured the subjects quickly and without too much time to focus. We were particularly impressed with the speed in which the phone captured and saved photos and HDR mode.

As far as overall options are concerned, the Blu Vivo XL offers more than you’d expect out of a budget-friendly phone. There’s plenty here to play around with (see below) when it comes to filters and settings for unique images.

camera_filters

We could spend paragraph talking about images, however it ultimately comes down to use your preference. If you look at the gallery and think to yourself hey this is sufficient for me, then there you go. But, if your first reaction is to point out picture flaws and where it comes up short, then this is not for you.

Software

Powered by Android 5.1 Lollipop out of the box, Blu promises this will be upgraded to at least 6.0. We don’t know when that will happen so keep that in mind if you are expecting the latest version of Android. Yes, there are handsets coming out with the newer version of Android, but we venture to guess the target demographic doesn’t really know or care that much about the different versions of Android.

As someone who has spent time with all versions of Android, we have become reliant on some of the features that come with marshmallow, but that is just a personal preference and experience. If you need the latest and greatest, then we lost you a while back.

What we like about this phone is that it is essentially a stock Android experience with no major UI customization.  The first time you use the phone you will find a home screen configured with some shortcuts, folders and widgets. Noticeably, the phone does come with Opera installed as a browser option. The app is prominently displayed on the home page right next to the phone, camera, and messaging icons.

blu_os

Interestingly enough, there is no button to open up any sort of app tray. Instead, your apps and games are accessible by swiping the home screen. For those of you who have spent time with other brands or versions of Android this may feel a little awkward at first — and maybe a nuisance.

We like to install a custom launcher on our devices so our experience is uniform and tailored to suit our specific needs. It helps us when jumping from one model or device to another on a regular basis.

If you prefer a minimal or clean desktop, you may find yourself a little put off by the Blu way of doing things. Download a lot of apps and you potentially have pages or screens full of icons.

The phone does come with Google Mobile Services which means you get all of the standard applications including Gmail, Maps, YouTube, Drive, Hangouts, and the Play Store. This is an important distinction that not all lower price manufacturers offer.

Look around a bit and you’ll discover there are knock off brands and very inexpensive models on the market. On the surface they may appear to be the phone you want, but play with the software and you see where corners are often cut. Rest easy knowing that with the Blu Vivo XL you can get into the Play Store and download all the titles you expect.

In addition to the Google suite of applications, we found the phone was preinstalled with a couple of Amazon titles including the standard Amazon app, Kindle app and one designed to install other apps and games.

Other preinstalled applications worth noting include an FM radio which works when you plug in headphones, a compass, “Torch” (flashlight), and Yahoo weather. McAfee security comes pre-installed on the phone as well and is designed to keep a watchful eye on your mobile experience. If you don’t like it, you can remove it.

In terms of keyboard the phone is set up to use TouchPal 2016 as the default. This means that you can theme your keyboard or customize it with a wide variety of settings. Some of the options here include toggling word gesture, a dedicated number row, auto-correction, and auto-capitalization. You can also switch the keyboard to learn from your messages and import contact names. This is helpful if you have friends or family or the occasional email with a contact that has a unique name. We’re more of a Google keyboard lover, however this was not that difficult to get used to.

blu_theme_park

The Chameleon application is pretty cool if you are looking to create a custom or handpicked theme. Simply point the camera at an object or room and you’ll be able to select color droplets based on what’s seen. These colors, once applied, will change your wallpaper as well as the various menus and setting screens.

Along the same lines there is a Theme Park application which lets you choose from a variety of wallpapers including static images and live wallpapers. There are also a half-dozen themes to choose from which are essentially bundles based around a common design.

Digging around a little deeper in some of the settings, you will find options to adjust gestures notifications and other personal preferences. It is also possible to set separate ringtones and message tones for the different SIM cards.

Although the Android OS is pretty much untouched, there’s a little bit here that adds to the overall experience. Nothing that should slow down an Android update from rolling out, mind you, but enough to help it stand out from a pure stock build.

Conclusion

We were impressed with the total package of the Vivo XL.  It was not all that long ago that we paid double for lesser phone and felt okay about it.

As more users become acclimated to the concept of buying a phone and then selecting the carrier, devices such as these will stand out. As much as we like a flagship experience like a Samsung Galaxy S6 or LG G4, it is sometimes hard to justify paying that much money every few years. This goes double if you are on a prepaid carrier and do not have the luxury of equipment installation pricing. If you are looking to pay for your phone up front, then you want to get as much bang for your buck as possible. A phone like the Vivo XL truly is bang for the buck.

Unlocked is the way to go. You need to get used to that concept as soon as you can. Blu, one of the emerging brands to watch in this space, only concerns itself with GSM-ready devices free of any carrier influence.

There is peace of mind knowing that you can leave your carrier behind and still use the same phone when you go across the street to a different provider. Tossing the secondary SIM card here and there’s added flexibility for international travel or multiple phone lines.

Also in its favor is the fact that it’s pretty much untouched Android. That’s a big win for people who don’t like custom UI’s or excessive skinning and preloaded applications. Blu hasn’t necessarily proven to be incredibly adept at pushing out software updates, but that could be a non-issue for Average Joe types. As long as it’s supported with security updates and patches any vulnerabilities, we’re okay recommending the 5.1 Lollipop release.

There is peace of mind knowing that you can leave your carrier behind and still use the same phone when you go across the street to a different provider. Tossing the secondary SIM slot and you have flexibility for international travel or multiple phone lines on the same device.

The Vivo XL is thin, sharp looking, and offers a big display at a small price. For a lot of people, that’s all that matters. The camera could be better and the sound could be more robust, but we could also be looking at a $200 phone instead.

In thinking about the target demographic, we  feel that this is more than sufficient enough to get the job done. Heck, there’s even a little bit left over, too.

Where to Buy

Launching today (January 29), the Vivo XL can be had at Best Buy for a downright incredible price of $99. While that’s a $50 savings off its normal cost of $150, it’s only a short time promotional rate. Look for a wider retail and online seller availability in the coming weeks.

The post Blu Vivo XL review appeared first on AndroidGuys.

Tags: , , , , , , , , , ,

Blu Vivo XL review

Blu Products is an American-based (Miami, FL.) smartphone maker who has been around since 2009. With a primary focus on Android and Windows handsets, the company’s bread and butter is unlocked and less expensive alternatives to other, more familiar manufacturers.

As of today, Blu — Bold Like Us –splits its smart phones into three distinct series. The Dash is the most affordable of its models while the Studio is the mid and upper tier stuff. The Vivo line is where you’ll find the high-end and more polished designs.

blu_back_android

The Vivo XL Excel, first introduced at CES in early January features a 5.5-inch display, a 13-megapixel rear camera, and a 5-megapixel front-facing camera. Powered by an octa-core Mediatek processor, the phone packs 16 gigabytes of storage (ROM) with two gigabytes of memory (RAM). It is not a groundbreaking device by any stretch, however it is a package which most typical smartphone users might consider looking into.

We recently spent a few days with the Vivo XL and have put together the following review for you. Please read on for our impressions and takeaways.

First Impressions

The first thing you notice about the phone is actually the box that it comes in. It’s gold and made of a bit thicker construction than most cardboard boxes.  Coupled with a striking black print, the box sets the tone for a more premium smartphone experience.

Upon taking the handset out we notice that it was thinner and lighter than expected. In terms of overall footprint, the phone is pretty close to what you’ll get with the Nexus 6P. At 5.5-inches it’s just a smidge shorter than the Google handset.

blu_first_impression

After inserting the battery and putting the back case on, the phone feels not unlike the Samsung Galaxy S3.  Although people are often quick to call this material a plastic design, it is actually more of a polycarbonate or synthetic material. Indeed, the battery cover has some give and bending in it, but the honeycomb print on the inside helps keep it from cracking.

Handing the phone off to a couple of people for a quick reaction, the first things typically said were that it was a “nice feeling phone”, that it “looked more expensive than it is”, and it was “comfy”.  Before going further, I should point out here that the retail price of this phone is only $150. Yep, that is without a contract. And, as if that weren’t enough, the phone supports two SIM cards so you can bounce around from carrier to carrier or mix business and personal lines.

blu_battery_cover

The gold finish on the front somewhat reminds us of the matte gold on the Nexus 6P and it almost borders on the rose gold that you’ll find with the iPhone. The model we reviewed was the Liquid Gold so we imagine the Rose Gold version is even more in line with the Apple counterpart. Other colors offered include Chrome Silver and Midnight Blue.

The battery cover has a pattern printed on it however it is not physically textured. While it certainly looks as if it would have a grip, it is smooth to the touch. Another quick impression before turning on the phone was that this battery cover was quick to pick up fingerprints and smudges. The front however was more forgiving.

But, whereas the rear of the Vivo XL easily picks up finger traces, it is also very easy to wipe down. A simple swipe against a shirt or pant leg and we’re back in business. Were you to put this into a protective case there might be nothing to discuss here — this is somewhat of a non-starter of an issue.

General Details

Powering on the phone we found that it offered up bright and sharp display that was easy on the eyes. Although enthusiasts and early adopters might scoff at the bezel around the display, we’ve seen worse and we are quick to remember the value proposition. Remember, we are not dealing with a phone that runs $500 to $700. It would be unfair to compare the traits and hardware materials to something in that realm.

As mentioned before, the Vivo XL supports two SIM cards. It is worth noting, however, that you will have to remove the battery if you want to swap in or out a SIM card in the first position. The second position is more on the side and is accessible simply by removing the battery cover.

blu_sim_microsd

The phone supports a micro SD card for expansion. Should the 16GB of storage not be enough, simply add your memory card to increase it.

The power button is on the right hand side just about half way up with the volume buttons slightly higher up the phone but still on the right. The headphone jack is on the top of the phone and is set off to the left about 25% of the way. On the bottom we find the USB Type C port.

Display

With a resolution of 720 by 1,280 pixels, the image looks better than it sounds on paper. Once you get into that 5 inch and five and a half inch space, anything below this is going to look very pixelated. And, while this doesn’t look nearly as sharp as a 1080p or 2k screen, we had no problems reading text and images we’re still very clear.

The display is very bright with a decent amount of contrast. Also, it is possible to adjust the LCD effect from neutral to cool or warm. What this does is slightly tweak the picture by adding or removing a small degree of color. It is a minimal change, going from one to another and is not something that adversely impacts anything you might do on a daily basis.

blu_vivo_xl_display

As expected, there are options to adjust the brightness level manually. Additionally you can set adaptive brightness to dim and lower light settings or brighten itself when outside or in a place where it is called for. In a related note, there’s also an option to adjust economical backlight which automatically adjusts — wait for it — backlight to save power. Toggling on and off you can see what it does for you in different environments. Do know that messing with these sort of settings can have an impact on your battery life, good or bad.

Performance

The Vivo XL draws power from the MediaTek octa-core processor and 2GB RAM. While not a top-tier device by 2016’s standard, we found that this model still punches above its weight. As devices are treading deeper into the 3GB and 4GB realm of memory, we are sometimes quick to want that from our phones. Maybe it comes from trying to future-proof ourselves with desktop computers or laptops, however we should remember that the average user does not necessarily need that much performance.

To test general usage, we installed a handful of applications and games that a typical smartphone user might enjoy. Examples include various social media apps and casual games. We did not find that the phone was necessarily laggy or unresponsive even when we opened up multiple apps at a time. Moreover, hopping from one app to another went as smoothly as we would expect, and the overall performance was actually better than we had hoped for out of a phone at this price point. In other words, don’t let the 2GB RAM deter you.

We had erroneously anticipated becoming frustrated with the experience. It was thought that at some point during testing we would find a flaw or something specific in its performance to point out that says, “see, this is why the phone only cost this much.” Alas, we did not. There were some quibbles, of course, but nothing that pushes the phone out of its price range.

When it comes to the topic of speakers and sound, the phone could be a touch better.  There are no stereo speakers to be found here. Should you play music or a video, your sound will come from the back of the phone.

The speaker grille is just below the battery and, while it puts out a reasonably loud sound, it did have a little bit of tin to it. Again, we have to give the benefit of the doubt because of the price. We are not paying for dual front facing speakers;  we have heard worse on phones in the past and have been content.

Battery lasted us well into a second day of usage, which is what we’d hope for in a 3,150mAh unit. Once the 6.0 Marshmallow update is pushed out and the Doze feature is added we would expect to squeeze out even more. The USB Type C charger replenished the battery at an average rate – adding roughly 25 percent juice in an hour’s charging.

Camera

One area where the phone comes up a little short is in the aspect of the camera. Although there are plenty of software features and customizations to be found, the overall quality leaves a bit to be desired.

In testing the camera, we notice that it doesn’t handle range as well as other models. But, this is where we remind you to consider the cost of the phone. Bearing that in mind, it still performs as expected. Truth be told, we know people who have smartphones with much better cameras that ultimately take bad photos. For whatever reason, they are content with poorly shot images with blurry subjects and terrible lighting. This wouldn’t fare any worse than what they’re currently putting on Facebook.

Click here to see an entire gallery of photos taken with the Blu Vivo XL (Google Photos)





As you can see from the gallery of images the camera blows out the white. Even in using the HDR and/or playing with the flash, we found that white edges in lighting and on the edge of items don’t look as clear or sharp as we want. This is not to suggest you can’t clean them up or run them through a photo program for sharing on social media or messages. Let’s be honest here, we are not printing out our photos or hanging them on a wall. If that is the type of using you plan to be, then you certainly do not want to look at this phone.

IMG_20160128_114250
IMG_20160128_115527
IMG_20160128_120021
IMG_20160128_122041

Generally speaking, the camera captured the subjects quickly and without too much time to focus. We were particularly impressed with the speed in which the phone captured and saved photos and HDR mode.

As far as overall options are concerned, the Blu Vivo XL offers more than you’d expect out of a budget-friendly phone. There’s plenty here to play around with (see below) when it comes to filters and settings for unique images.

camera_filters

We could spend paragraph talking about images, however it ultimately comes down to use your preference. If you look at the gallery and think to yourself hey this is sufficient for me, then there you go. But, if your first reaction is to point out picture flaws and where it comes up short, then this is not for you.

Software

Powered by Android 5.1 Lollipop out of the box, Blu promises this will be upgraded to at least 6.0. We don’t know when that will happen so keep that in mind if you are expecting the latest version of Android. Yes, there are handsets coming out with the newer version of Android, but we venture to guess the target demographic doesn’t really know or care that much about the different versions of Android.

As someone who has spent time with all versions of Android, we have become reliant on some of the features that come with marshmallow, but that is just a personal preference and experience. If you need the latest and greatest, then we lost you a while back.

What we like about this phone is that it is essentially a stock Android experience with no major UI customization.  The first time you use the phone you will find a home screen configured with some shortcuts, folders and widgets. Noticeably, the phone does come with Opera installed as a browser option. The app is prominently displayed on the home page right next to the phone, camera, and messaging icons.

blu_os

Interestingly enough, there is no button to open up any sort of app tray. Instead, your apps and games are accessible by swiping the home screen. For those of you who have spent time with other brands or versions of Android this may feel a little awkward at first — and maybe a nuisance.

We like to install a custom launcher on our devices so our experience is uniform and tailored to suit our specific needs. It helps us when jumping from one model or device to another on a regular basis.

If you prefer a minimal or clean desktop, you may find yourself a little put off by the Blu way of doing things. Download a lot of apps and you potentially have pages or screens full of icons.

The phone does come with Google Mobile Services which means you get all of the standard applications including Gmail, Maps, YouTube, Drive, Hangouts, and the Play Store. This is an important distinction that not all lower price manufacturers offer.

Look around a bit and you’ll discover there are knock off brands and very inexpensive models on the market. On the surface they may appear to be the phone you want, but play with the software and you see where corners are often cut. Rest easy knowing that with the Blu Vivo XL you can get into the Play Store and download all the titles you expect.

In addition to the Google suite of applications, we found the phone was preinstalled with a couple of Amazon titles including the standard Amazon app, Kindle app and one designed to install other apps and games.

Other preinstalled applications worth noting include an FM radio which works when you plug in headphones, a compass, “Torch” (flashlight), and Yahoo weather. McAfee security comes pre-installed on the phone as well and is designed to keep a watchful eye on your mobile experience. If you don’t like it, you can remove it.

In terms of keyboard the phone is set up to use TouchPal 2016 as the default. This means that you can theme your keyboard or customize it with a wide variety of settings. Some of the options here include toggling word gesture, a dedicated number row, auto-correction, and auto-capitalization. You can also switch the keyboard to learn from your messages and import contact names. This is helpful if you have friends or family or the occasional email with a contact that has a unique name. We’re more of a Google keyboard lover, however this was not that difficult to get used to.

blu_theme_park

The Chameleon application is pretty cool if you are looking to create a custom or handpicked theme. Simply point the camera at an object or room and you’ll be able to select color droplets based on what’s seen. These colors, once applied, will change your wallpaper as well as the various menus and setting screens.

Along the same lines there is a Theme Park application which lets you choose from a variety of wallpapers including static images and live wallpapers. There are also a half-dozen themes to choose from which are essentially bundles based around a common design.

Digging around a little deeper in some of the settings, you will find options to adjust gestures notifications and other personal preferences. It is also possible to set separate ringtones and message tones for the different SIM cards.

Although the Android OS is pretty much untouched, there’s a little bit here that adds to the overall experience. Nothing that should slow down an Android update from rolling out, mind you, but enough to help it stand out from a pure stock build.

Conclusion

We were impressed with the total package of the Vivo XL.  It was not all that long ago that we paid double for lesser phone and felt okay about it.

As more users become acclimated to the concept of buying a phone and then selecting the carrier, devices such as these will stand out. As much as we like a flagship experience like a Samsung Galaxy S6 or LG G4, it is sometimes hard to justify paying that much money every few years. This goes double if you are on a prepaid carrier and do not have the luxury of equipment installation pricing. If you are looking to pay for your phone up front, then you want to get as much bang for your buck as possible. A phone like the Vivo XL truly is bang for the buck.

Unlocked is the way to go. You need to get used to that concept as soon as you can. Blu, one of the emerging brands to watch in this space, only concerns itself with GSM-ready devices free of any carrier influence.

There is peace of mind knowing that you can leave your carrier behind and still use the same phone when you go across the street to a different provider. Tossing the secondary SIM card here and there’s added flexibility for international travel or multiple phone lines.

Also in its favor is the fact that it’s pretty much untouched Android. That’s a big win for people who don’t like custom UI’s or excessive skinning and preloaded applications. Blu hasn’t necessarily proven to be incredibly adept at pushing out software updates, but that could be a non-issue for Average Joe types. As long as it’s supported with security updates and patches any vulnerabilities, we’re okay recommending the 5.1 Lollipop release.

There is peace of mind knowing that you can leave your carrier behind and still use the same phone when you go across the street to a different provider. Tossing the secondary SIM slot and you have flexibility for international travel or multiple phone lines on the same device.

The Vivo XL is thin, sharp looking, and offers a big display at a small price. For a lot of people, that’s all that matters. The camera could be better and the sound could be more robust, but we could also be looking at a $200 phone instead.

In thinking about the target demographic, we  feel that this is more than sufficient enough to get the job done. Heck, there’s even a little bit left over, too.

Where to Buy

Launching today (January 29), the Vivo XL can be had at Best Buy for a downright incredible price of $99. While that’s a $50 savings off its normal cost of $150, it’s only a short time promotional rate. Look for a wider retail and online seller availability in the coming weeks.

The post Blu Vivo XL review appeared first on AndroidGuys.

Tags: , , , , , , , , , ,

Blu Vivo XL review

Blu Products is an American-based (Miami, FL.) smartphone maker who has been around since 2009. With a primary focus on Android and Windows handsets, the company’s bread and butter is unlocked and less expensive alternatives to other, more familiar manufacturers.

As of today, Blu — Bold Like Us –splits its smart phones into three distinct series. The Dash is the most affordable of its models while the Studio is the mid and upper tier stuff. The Vivo line is where you’ll find the high-end and more polished designs.

blu_back_android

The Vivo XL Excel, first introduced at CES in early January features a 5.5-inch display, a 13-megapixel rear camera, and a 5-megapixel front-facing camera. Powered by an octa-core Mediatek processor, the phone packs 16 gigabytes of storage (ROM) with two gigabytes of memory (RAM). It is not a groundbreaking device by any stretch, however it is a package which most typical smartphone users might consider looking into.

We recently spent a few days with the Vivo XL and have put together the following review for you. Please read on for our impressions and takeaways.

First Impressions

The first thing you notice about the phone is actually the box that it comes in. It’s gold and made of a bit thicker construction than most cardboard boxes.  Coupled with a striking black print, the box sets the tone for a more premium smartphone experience.

Upon taking the handset out we notice that it was thinner and lighter than expected. In terms of overall footprint, the phone is pretty close to what you’ll get with the Nexus 6P. At 5.5-inches it’s just a smidge shorter than the Google handset.

blu_first_impression

After inserting the battery and putting the back case on, the phone feels not unlike the Samsung Galaxy S3.  Although people are often quick to call this material a plastic design, it is actually more of a polycarbonate or synthetic material. Indeed, the battery cover has some give and bending in it, but the honeycomb print on the inside helps keep it from cracking.

Handing the phone off to a couple of people for a quick reaction, the first things typically said were that it was a “nice feeling phone”, that it “looked more expensive than it is”, and it was “comfy”.  Before going further, I should point out here that the retail price of this phone is only $150. Yep, that is without a contract. And, as if that weren’t enough, the phone supports two SIM cards so you can bounce around from carrier to carrier or mix business and personal lines.

blu_battery_cover

The gold finish on the front somewhat reminds us of the matte gold on the Nexus 6P and it almost borders on the rose gold that you’ll find with the iPhone. The model we reviewed was the Liquid Gold so we imagine the Rose Gold version is even more in line with the Apple counterpart. Other colors offered include Chrome Silver and Midnight Blue.

The battery cover has a pattern printed on it however it is not physically textured. While it certainly looks as if it would have a grip, it is smooth to the touch. Another quick impression before turning on the phone was that this battery cover was quick to pick up fingerprints and smudges. The front however was more forgiving.

But, whereas the rear of the Vivo XL easily picks up finger traces, it is also very easy to wipe down. A simple swipe against a shirt or pant leg and we’re back in business. Were you to put this into a protective case there might be nothing to discuss here — this is somewhat of a non-starter of an issue.

General Details

Powering on the phone we found that it offered up bright and sharp display that was easy on the eyes. Although enthusiasts and early adopters might scoff at the bezel around the display, we’ve seen worse and we are quick to remember the value proposition. Remember, we are not dealing with a phone that runs $500 to $700. It would be unfair to compare the traits and hardware materials to something in that realm.

As mentioned before, the Vivo XL supports two SIM cards. It is worth noting, however, that you will have to remove the battery if you want to swap in or out a SIM card in the first position. The second position is more on the side and is accessible simply by removing the battery cover.

blu_sim_microsd

The phone supports a micro SD card for expansion. Should the 16GB of storage not be enough, simply add your memory card to increase it.

The power button is on the right hand side just about half way up with the volume buttons slightly higher up the phone but still on the right. The headphone jack is on the top of the phone and is set off to the left about 25% of the way. On the bottom we find the USB Type C port.

Display

With a resolution of 720 by 1,280 pixels, the image looks better than it sounds on paper. Once you get into that 5 inch and five and a half inch space, anything below this is going to look very pixelated. And, while this doesn’t look nearly as sharp as a 1080p or 2k screen, we had no problems reading text and images we’re still very clear.

The display is very bright with a decent amount of contrast. Also, it is possible to adjust the LCD effect from neutral to cool or warm. What this does is slightly tweak the picture by adding or removing a small degree of color. It is a minimal change, going from one to another and is not something that adversely impacts anything you might do on a daily basis.

blu_vivo_xl_display

As expected, there are options to adjust the brightness level manually. Additionally you can set adaptive brightness to dim and lower light settings or brighten itself when outside or in a place where it is called for. In a related note, there’s also an option to adjust economical backlight which automatically adjusts — wait for it — backlight to save power. Toggling on and off you can see what it does for you in different environments. Do know that messing with these sort of settings can have an impact on your battery life, good or bad.

Performance

The Vivo XL draws power from the MediaTek octa-core processor and 2GB RAM. While not a top-tier device by 2016’s standard, we found that this model still punches above its weight. As devices are treading deeper into the 3GB and 4GB realm of memory, we are sometimes quick to want that from our phones. Maybe it comes from trying to future-proof ourselves with desktop computers or laptops, however we should remember that the average user does not necessarily need that much performance.

To test general usage, we installed a handful of applications and games that a typical smartphone user might enjoy. Examples include various social media apps and casual games. We did not find that the phone was necessarily laggy or unresponsive even when we opened up multiple apps at a time. Moreover, hopping from one app to another went as smoothly as we would expect, and the overall performance was actually better than we had hoped for out of a phone at this price point. In other words, don’t let the 2GB RAM deter you.

We had erroneously anticipated becoming frustrated with the experience. It was thought that at some point during testing we would find a flaw or something specific in its performance to point out that says, “see, this is why the phone only cost this much.” Alas, we did not. There were some quibbles, of course, but nothing that pushes the phone out of its price range.

When it comes to the topic of speakers and sound, the phone could be a touch better.  There are no stereo speakers to be found here. Should you play music or a video, your sound will come from the back of the phone.

The speaker grille is just below the battery and, while it puts out a reasonably loud sound, it did have a little bit of tin to it. Again, we have to give the benefit of the doubt because of the price. We are not paying for dual front facing speakers;  we have heard worse on phones in the past and have been content.

Battery lasted us well into a second day of usage, which is what we’d hope for in a 3,150mAh unit. Once the 6.0 Marshmallow update is pushed out and the Doze feature is added we would expect to squeeze out even more. The USB Type C charger replenished the battery at an average rate – adding roughly 25 percent juice in an hour’s charging.

Camera

One area where the phone comes up a little short is in the aspect of the camera. Although there are plenty of software features and customizations to be found, the overall quality leaves a bit to be desired.

In testing the camera, we notice that it doesn’t handle range as well as other models. But, this is where we remind you to consider the cost of the phone. Bearing that in mind, it still performs as expected. Truth be told, we know people who have smartphones with much better cameras that ultimately take bad photos. For whatever reason, they are content with poorly shot images with blurry subjects and terrible lighting. This wouldn’t fare any worse than what they’re currently putting on Facebook.

Click here to see an entire gallery of photos taken with the Blu Vivo XL (Google Photos)





As you can see from the gallery of images the camera blows out the white. Even in using the HDR and/or playing with the flash, we found that white edges in lighting and on the edge of items don’t look as clear or sharp as we want. This is not to suggest you can’t clean them up or run them through a photo program for sharing on social media or messages. Let’s be honest here, we are not printing out our photos or hanging them on a wall. If that is the type of using you plan to be, then you certainly do not want to look at this phone.

IMG_20160128_114250
IMG_20160128_115527
IMG_20160128_120021
IMG_20160128_122041

Generally speaking, the camera captured the subjects quickly and without too much time to focus. We were particularly impressed with the speed in which the phone captured and saved photos and HDR mode.

As far as overall options are concerned, the Blu Vivo XL offers more than you’d expect out of a budget-friendly phone. There’s plenty here to play around with (see below) when it comes to filters and settings for unique images.

camera_filters

We could spend paragraph talking about images, however it ultimately comes down to use your preference. If you look at the gallery and think to yourself hey this is sufficient for me, then there you go. But, if your first reaction is to point out picture flaws and where it comes up short, then this is not for you.

Software

Powered by Android 5.1 Lollipop out of the box, Blu promises this will be upgraded to at least 6.0. We don’t know when that will happen so keep that in mind if you are expecting the latest version of Android. Yes, there are handsets coming out with the newer version of Android, but we venture to guess the target demographic doesn’t really know or care that much about the different versions of Android.

As someone who has spent time with all versions of Android, we have become reliant on some of the features that come with marshmallow, but that is just a personal preference and experience. If you need the latest and greatest, then we lost you a while back.

What we like about this phone is that it is essentially a stock Android experience with no major UI customization.  The first time you use the phone you will find a home screen configured with some shortcuts, folders and widgets. Noticeably, the phone does come with Opera installed as a browser option. The app is prominently displayed on the home page right next to the phone, camera, and messaging icons.

blu_os

Interestingly enough, there is no button to open up any sort of app tray. Instead, your apps and games are accessible by swiping the home screen. For those of you who have spent time with other brands or versions of Android this may feel a little awkward at first — and maybe a nuisance.

We like to install a custom launcher on our devices so our experience is uniform and tailored to suit our specific needs. It helps us when jumping from one model or device to another on a regular basis.

If you prefer a minimal or clean desktop, you may find yourself a little put off by the Blu way of doing things. Download a lot of apps and you potentially have pages or screens full of icons.

The phone does come with Google Mobile Services which means you get all of the standard applications including Gmail, Maps, YouTube, Drive, Hangouts, and the Play Store. This is an important distinction that not all lower price manufacturers offer.

Look around a bit and you’ll discover there are knock off brands and very inexpensive models on the market. On the surface they may appear to be the phone you want, but play with the software and you see where corners are often cut. Rest easy knowing that with the Blu Vivo XL you can get into the Play Store and download all the titles you expect.

In addition to the Google suite of applications, we found the phone was preinstalled with a couple of Amazon titles including the standard Amazon app, Kindle app and one designed to install other apps and games.

Other preinstalled applications worth noting include an FM radio which works when you plug in headphones, a compass, “Torch” (flashlight), and Yahoo weather. McAfee security comes pre-installed on the phone as well and is designed to keep a watchful eye on your mobile experience. If you don’t like it, you can remove it.

In terms of keyboard the phone is set up to use TouchPal 2016 as the default. This means that you can theme your keyboard or customize it with a wide variety of settings. Some of the options here include toggling word gesture, a dedicated number row, auto-correction, and auto-capitalization. You can also switch the keyboard to learn from your messages and import contact names. This is helpful if you have friends or family or the occasional email with a contact that has a unique name. We’re more of a Google keyboard lover, however this was not that difficult to get used to.

blu_theme_park

The Chameleon application is pretty cool if you are looking to create a custom or handpicked theme. Simply point the camera at an object or room and you’ll be able to select color droplets based on what’s seen. These colors, once applied, will change your wallpaper as well as the various menus and setting screens.

Along the same lines there is a Theme Park application which lets you choose from a variety of wallpapers including static images and live wallpapers. There are also a half-dozen themes to choose from which are essentially bundles based around a common design.

Digging around a little deeper in some of the settings, you will find options to adjust gestures notifications and other personal preferences. It is also possible to set separate ringtones and message tones for the different SIM cards.

Although the Android OS is pretty much untouched, there’s a little bit here that adds to the overall experience. Nothing that should slow down an Android update from rolling out, mind you, but enough to help it stand out from a pure stock build.

Conclusion

We were impressed with the total package of the Vivo XL.  It was not all that long ago that we paid double for lesser phone and felt okay about it.

As more users become acclimated to the concept of buying a phone and then selecting the carrier, devices such as these will stand out. As much as we like a flagship experience like a Samsung Galaxy S6 or LG G4, it is sometimes hard to justify paying that much money every few years. This goes double if you are on a prepaid carrier and do not have the luxury of equipment installation pricing. If you are looking to pay for your phone up front, then you want to get as much bang for your buck as possible. A phone like the Vivo XL truly is bang for the buck.

Unlocked is the way to go. You need to get used to that concept as soon as you can. Blu, one of the emerging brands to watch in this space, only concerns itself with GSM-ready devices free of any carrier influence.

There is peace of mind knowing that you can leave your carrier behind and still use the same phone when you go across the street to a different provider. Tossing the secondary SIM card here and there’s added flexibility for international travel or multiple phone lines.

Also in its favor is the fact that it’s pretty much untouched Android. That’s a big win for people who don’t like custom UI’s or excessive skinning and preloaded applications. Blu hasn’t necessarily proven to be incredibly adept at pushing out software updates, but that could be a non-issue for Average Joe types. As long as it’s supported with security updates and patches any vulnerabilities, we’re okay recommending the 5.1 Lollipop release.

There is peace of mind knowing that you can leave your carrier behind and still use the same phone when you go across the street to a different provider. Tossing the secondary SIM slot and you have flexibility for international travel or multiple phone lines on the same device.

The Vivo XL is thin, sharp looking, and offers a big display at a small price. For a lot of people, that’s all that matters. The camera could be better and the sound could be more robust, but we could also be looking at a $200 phone instead.

In thinking about the target demographic, we  feel that this is more than sufficient enough to get the job done. Heck, there’s even a little bit left over, too.

Where to Buy

Launching today (January 29), the Vivo XL can be had at Best Buy for a downright incredible price of $99. While that’s a $50 savings off its normal cost of $150, it’s only a short time promotional rate. Look for a wider retail and online seller availability in the coming weeks.

The post Blu Vivo XL review appeared first on AndroidGuys.

Tags: , , , , , , , , , ,

Samsung needs to make radical changes to revitalize its Galaxy lineup

Samsung still dominates the Android smartphone market with its Galaxy S series and Note line. But the once powerhouse has been slipping and has changed upper management a couple of times in order to revive its mobile lineup. Last year brought on a revolutionary change for Samsung where they sacrificed expandable memory and a replaceable battery for an all metal and glass build. While that pleased many, pilule it also angered fans like me who prefers functionality over high quality materials. And since then, Samsung changes its upper management again signaling a failure in last year’s lineup.

16GB of memory isn’t enough for most when 5-7GB of that “16GB” is already being used before you turn your phone on. Paying another $100 for an additional 16GB memory is a joke when you can buy a 32GB card from Amazon for $10. Many people still use their Galaxy Note 3, Note 4, S3 and S4, and having a replaceable battery is vital to maintaining power throughout the day. Batteries for those phones are $10 or less and if you have taken care of your phone, the only item you would need to replace is the battery as they have a maximum amount of recharge cycles.

home-touchwiz

Samsung claims to have “cut back” on the level of modifications to Android with the Galaxy S6 and Galaxy Note5. This simply was not true. All of those modifications require more power, faster processors and more RAM. Those additional TouchWiz features also cause long term stability issues and slow Samsung from releasing major software updates like Android M. No one knows when they’re really going to get Android M especially when you add on carrier customizations and added level of updates. TouchWiz is still in full effect on current Galaxy phones, but Samsung got slightly better about hiding them.

Screenshot_2015-10-25-17-11-30 Screenshot_2015-10-25-17-11-36 Screenshot_2015-10-25-17-14-23

What Samsung needs to do in order to regain and also add new customers

LG and Huawei are looking to kick Samsung’s butt this year. So is Apple with a complete redesign in its iPhone 7. Samsung needs to go beyond the build materials this time around and actually give users value, updates, affordable accessories, and top level customer service.

Get rid of TouchWiz and stop letting carriers add bloat

Kill TouchWiz. Don’t mess with us anymore and tell us you scaled it back. Just kill it and start over. Follow Motorola’s lead and just give select useful features. No one uses 95% of the junk you install on the phones especially when they are duplicates of Google Play apps. S-Voice, Galaxy App Store, annoying sounds, ugly looks all need to go bye-bye. The investment on wasted duplication software can’t be spent better else where. It’s not only a waste of money, but it is a waste of performance and space.

Keep it simple. All of those TouchWiz additions help contribute to memory issues, overheating, lag, and poor performance. When we pay for 3 or 4GB of RAM, and the fastest Exynos processor according to benchmarks, we expect it to be fast. We don’t want that extra money to be spent on compensating for the terrible software Samsung overlays onto Android. Both the Nexus 6P and 5X outperform Galaxy devices because the software is unadulterated and both devices have far inferior internals.

Samsung also needs to stop letting carriers add in their bloatware. On AT&T, Samsung lets AT&T install over 25 apps that can be disabled, but not deleted, and it wastes over 1.5GB of memory. And to make matters worse, AT&T has to update Samsung’s update to, Google’s update which means the flagships from Samsung regularly take six to twelve months just to get a major update.

Give us our value back in our hardware

Samsung charges the most of all Android manufacturers for its devices, and has set the standard for $650-800 smartphones, but are regularly cutting back on features. Samsung needs to bring back replaceable batteries. And Samsung also needs to bring back microSD card slots, especially when the base model Galaxy S6 only has 16GB of memory. Sure the Nexus 5X has a fixed amount of memory, but it only costs $350 versus $650 of the S6 edge. And the Nexus 5X isn’t the flagship, instead it is a mid-range smartphone.

removable-batteries

Samsung also needs to put wireless chargers and headphones “in the box” to give more value. Headphones are vital to most people and it shouldn’t have to be an additional cost when they used to be provided for free. Only Apple truly sticks to giving its customers headphones. Wireless charging technology is here, especially with Samsung devices, and it is time they start coming free in the box too. Flagship prices deserve flagship accessories. The Nexus 6P handily beat the Note5 and S6 in reviews this year, but costs over $200 less which means they have money in the mark-up to give us more. The Nexus 6P even came with USB Type-C which is better than micro USB in every way.

EP-PG920IBEGWW-272186-0

Set up hardware repair centers

Without a doubt, Apple kicks every other manufacturer’s bum when it comes to customer service. Apple retail stores are more than just sales centers. Educational and tutorial classes are offered, and a repair center is there in the store to fix broken screens and bad batteries. It’s one of the main reasons why Apple keeps its customers happy, because they don’t have to be without a phone and can have it fixed within minutes.

Samsung already has stores within Best Buy stores so all it needs to do is invest a little more into taking care of its customers. I have heard way too times why people switched from their Samsung device to an iPhone because there were too many problems that they didn’t know how to fix. As an Android enthusiast, I know if these people had access to experts like Apple offers, their problems could be fixed in minutes too. And that would bring customers back.

May11_AppleGeniusBar

Mentality Shift

If Samsung can switch its mentality to, “what can I give to the customer” instead of “what can I take”, all of these changes will come naturally. Arguably, the Samsung Galaxy S3 was its best Samsung phone ever. Since then most of its phones have been great, but they are loaded with issues. Galaxies run well for about a year and then after that you need to upgrade your device. The S3 on the other hand lasted well over two years for many, and that quality stemmed from a mentality of trying to give the customers what they want versus how much profit can be made.

Android enthusiasts are smart enough to see past the all glass and metal build, and want Samsung to go beyond and think harder. Kill Touchwiz and reinvent the overlay on Android. Give headphones, wireless chargers, replaceable batteries and expandable memory. When the Galaxy phones cost so much that you can only afford to replace them once every two years, those types of things matter. And spend a little more to improve customer service which is a must have in today’s day and age.

Editorial Correction – the S6 comes in 32GB memory standard. Sorry for the mistake.

The post Samsung needs to make radical changes to revitalize its Galaxy lineup appeared first on AndroidGuys.

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What the hell is Amazon Underground anyway? Here’s our complete guide to Amazon’s powerful app

One of my favorite topics to write about is how to “save you money”. I’ve recently focused on unlocked smartphones, cialis but there’s a quicker and easier way to save you money. That is by using the Amazon Underground App. You all know Amazon.com, but you may not know about its alternative to the Google Play Store, which is its own app store that is 100% compatible with almost all Android devices and it can save you thousands of dollars on downloads.

The Amazon Underground App Store is even better if you have a subscription to Amazon Prime which costs $99 per year and opens up access to a free music, books and videos.

The Amazon Underground App Store is one of those deals that seems too good to be true, but I assure you it is not. You really need to give it a try and you may never pay for another app again.

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What is the Amazon Underground App Store?

  • The Amazon Underground app includes enhanced features that aren’t available on the Amazon Shopping app found on Google Play
  • Shop millions of items including movies, TV shows, songs, books, apps, games, and audiobooks
  • Get over $20,000 in apps, games and even in-app items that are actually free (available in the United States, United Kingdom, Germany, and France)
  • Stream Amazon Instant Video movies and TV episodes via the Amazon Instant Video player
  • Quickly search, get product details, and read reviews on millions of products on-the-go
  • Find products, read reviews and compare prices instantly by scanning a barcode and using your phone’s camera.
  • Get notifications on the latest deals and track your orders
  • Instantly scan Amazon gift cards and apply them to your Amazon account using your phones camera
  • Tap the microphone icon and say “track order” or “track my last order” or “where is my camera?” to see your open orders. Reorder items quickly by saying “reorder paper towels” or “buy more batteries” (US only)
  • Buy with confidence, knowing that all transactions are securely processed

 

How to install the Amazon Underground App

  1. Download Amazon Underground for Android

2. You’re going to need to change the settings in your phone to allow third party apps to be installed. Don’t worry, this won’t void any warranties and it won’t install viruses. Google doesn’t want the Underground app in the Play Store so you need to change one setting to allow this app to be installed.

  • Go to your phone Settings page
  • Tap Security or Applications (varies with device)
  • Check the Unknown Sources box
  • Confirm with OK

3. Go to Downloads

  • Open Downloads on your device by going to My Files or Files
  • Tap on the Amazon App file(Amazon_App.apk)
  • Tap Install when prompted

Once you install the app it will perform like any other app on your device.

Start downloading “actually free apps” from the App Store

You can download and install free apps, or paid as well from within the app. All you have to do is sign into your Amazon account to get started.

Or you can go to the Amazon Underground Store from your desktop and install the games or apps remotely to your connected devices. All you have to do is click “Get app” and the app will automatically download to your device when you are on WiFi.

 

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Amazon’s “actually free” OfficeSuite Professional app

OfficeSuite Professional $14.99 at the Google Play Store

OfficeSuite Professional $14.99 at the Google Play Store

 

Star Wars: KOTOR free using the Amazon Underground app, normally $9.99

Star Wars: KOTOR free using the Amazon Underground app, normally $9.99

You really need to try Amazon Underground today

It’s 100% free to install, is a great alternative to the Google Play Store, and it takes advantage of one of the great features of Android where there are more options where you can get apps. Amazon offers over $20k in free apps and in-app purchases on productivity apps through games. Amazon has you covered and there are no strings attached. Stop wasting your money on apps in the Google Play Store and give the Amazon Underground app a try today.

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Amazon Underground – LINK

Amazon Underground Apps – LINK

Amazon Coins

If you do actually want to purchase apps you can save even more by purchasing Amazon Coins. You can save up to 15% if you buy coins in bulk, but it isn’t necessary. It’s just an option to keep up your sleeve if you ever do decide to make purchases within apps.

Amazon description:

Enjoy apps and games for less! Save up to 15% on apps, games, and in-app items by purchasing Amazon Coins. The more you buy, the larger the discount. It’s just as easy to give Amazon Coins as it is to buy them for yourself. Amazon Coins are redeemable on thousands of apps, games, and in-app items from your Kindle Fire, Android phone or tablet, and on Amazon.com. Purchased coins are immediately deposited into your account and they never expire.

 

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The unlocked UMI ROME 5.5″ Android Lollipop phone is on sale for $114 for a limited time

One of my favorite topics to write about is unlocked Android smartphones. As you readers become more informed as to the real price of smartphones, prescription you need to consider your options for devices that are available to you.

While we do have many options for unlocked smartphones in the U.S., sales countries like China have far more and they are extremely well priced. I look for unlocked smartphones almost every night(yeah I need a life), medical so that I can help inform you of the latest and greatest deals. You won’t find these deals from sources like Target or Best Buy, instead they are from third party sites who sell direct from China. And I personally place orders from each company to assure you that you can trust them with your money too.

The latest deal I found is for the unlocked UMI ROME 5.5″ Android 5.1 Lollipop smartphone from banggood.com. The UMI ROME isn’t a brand you’ve likely heard of before, but it should be on your radar because the ROME is just $113.99 right now for a limited time. It comes with an octa-core processor, 3GB of RAM, 16GB of memory and a very premium HD AMOLED display. AMOLED displays are usually only found on devices over $400 like the Samsung Galaxy line or the Nexus 6P and Nexus 6. So to find an AMOLED display on a display priced less than $150 is a needle in a haystack.

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The UMI ROME is a GSM only phone so it will work on networks like T-Mobile and AT&T. Again let me reiterate that the UMI ROME will only cost you $113.99 with free shipping and a 72-hour price match guarantee. Find it cheaper somewhere else and Bang Good will refund the price difference.

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UMI ROME $113.99 – LINK

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Model  UMI ROME
 Band  2G: GSM 850/900/1800/1900MHz
 3G: WCDMA 900/2100MHz
 4G: FDD LTE 800/1800/2600MHz
 Sim Card  Dual Micro-SIM Card Dual Standby
 Service Provide  Unlocked
 Style  Bar
 Color  Black, Gold
 Shell Material  Metal + plastic
 System
 OS  Android Lollipop 5.1
 CPU  MTK6753 Octa core 1.3GHz
 GPU  ARM Mali-T720
 ROM  16GB
 RAM  3GB
 Screen
 Display Size  5.5 Inch
 Type  AMOLED HD Touch Screen
 Resolution  1280 x 720 pixels
 Support Format
 FM Radio  Yes
 Video File Format  3GP/MPEG4
 Audio File Format  MP3/WAV/AMR/AWB
 Earphone Port  3.5mm
 Cable Port  Micro USB
 Card Extend  Yes, support external Micro SD/TF card up to 64GB

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