A few weeks ago, we took a look a the BLU Life Play, which was our first foray with a BLU device. It's an impressive device that keeps the costs down by cutting corners in all the right places, which of course made me interested in other BLU devices, so the company sent me its newest handset, the massive 5.7-inch Life View. Internally, it's basically the same as the Life Play, but externally it couldn't be more different. It features a more refined aesthetic – whereas the Life Play seems more whimsical and "fun," the Life View is more "professional." The massive screen is beautiful to look at, and the overall build quality is absolutely fantastic. In short, I am once again impressed with what BLU has to offer for less than $300 (the Life View is $290).
Let's jump in.
- Display: 5.7-inch 1280x720 IPS with BLU's "Nex Lens" and "Infinite View" technologies, Corning Gorilla Glass 2
- Processor: 1.2GHz Mediatek quad-core Cortex A7, PowerVR Series 5XT GPU
- RAM: 1GB
- Storage: 16GB on-board
- Cameras: 12MP rear shooter, 5MP front camera
- Ports: microUSB 2.0, dual-SIM slots
- Wireless: Wi-Fi, Bluetooth 4.0, 2G 850/900/1800/1900, 3G 850/1900/2100, HSPA+ 42Mpbs
- Network compatibility: AT&T, T-Mobile (May be 2G only in some areas) in the U.S.
- Battery: 2600mAh
- OS: Android 4.2.1
- Dimensions and Weight: 161x82.5x8.9mm, 220g
- Price: ~$290 contract-free
- What's in the box: BLU Life View, silicone case, screen protector, microUSB cable, AC Adapter, and BLU wired earbuds
- Available colors: White
- Where to buy: Amazon, Negri Electronics
- The display. The Life View's display is very, very similar to the Life Play's. In that, I mean it's beautiful, colors are vibrant, and everything is relatively sharp. It does lose a bit of sharpness over the Play, as its screen is one inch larger while keeping the same 1280x720 resolution. Still, it looks great.
- Excellent build quality. This phone is solid from front to back, top to bottom. The build just screams "quality."
- Great battery life. This blew me away – I used the Life View for two days before having to hit the charger.
- Snappy performance most of the time. Despite having a budget processor and 1GB of RAM, the Life View performs exceptionally well.
- Mostly stock experience. It's basically stock Android with a few tweaks here and there, most of which are very useful.
- Can be choppy during intense activities, like playing games. It actually performs better than the Life Play, but I didn't notice some lag/choppiness here and there when playing things like Dead Trigger 2.
- No quick access to Google Now. Dammit, why do so many manufacturers do this? I want quick access to Now, and with so many possibilities for options (how about a double-tap of the home key?) there's no reason this isn't a thing.
- No LTE Support. Dealbreaker for some, so it gets a mention. I'm personally fine with HSPA/HSPA+, but I'm generally around Wi-Fi so my uses aren't the same as many people.
- 1GB of RAM. Like with the Life Play, it's not necessarily bad, but it's definitely not good. 2GB would go a long way in the Life View.
Build Quality and Design
The Life View is a massive step up from the more fun-living, whimsical Life Play, in terms of both build quality and user interface. It features a far more elegant aesthetic, non-removable aluminum back, and just an overall more polished "adult" look.
The bezel around that massive 5.7-inch display is white, with the 5MP front shooter at top the just beside the speaker. BLU also went with capacitive buttons for the Life View, keeping it in-line with most of their other newer devices.
The white continues around the sides of the handset, though the volume rocker and power buttons are both made from machined aluminum, with a white strip on top to match the rest of the unit. The sides of the buttons, however, show the aluminum beneath, giving it a very refined, high-quality look. The button-placement makes a lot of sense on the Life View, as power is on the right side just where your thumb should land, with the volume rocker on the opposite side making it easy to hit with your middle finger (granted you're holding the phone in your right hand, of course). The top is where you'll find the 3.5mm headphone hack, and the microUSB charging port is on the bottom.
The back is divided into three sections, which are separated by thin plastic strips of white. The top part is a removable plastic piece, which is where the SIM card slots are. It's worth noting that both of the Life View's SIM slots are for full-size cards, so if you're currently using a mini or microSIM you'll need to either switch it out or get an adapter. The largest piece of the back is a solid piece of machined aluminum and is non-removable. The bottom piece is also non-removable, but seems to be made of the same plastic material as the top. BLU did an excellent job of blending the plastic with the aluminum here – you can't visually tell the difference between the two. Tangibly, however, there is a noticeable difference.
The 12MP rear shooter is also found at the top, alongside the "BLU Bright+" LED. BLU claims this delivers better pictures in low-light conditions, but we'll see about that in the camera section. On the opposite side, there are three small copper dots which are used for wireless charging. Unfortunately, the wireless charger that supports this feature isn't yet available – BLU says it should be out next year.
The Life View feels extremely well put together. The overall build doesn't say "sub-$300 phone" at all – it screams quality. In other words, you won't find any creaky, crooked buttons on the Life View. All the seams are flush, even on the single removable piece at the top. If not for the small indention that makes it easier to remove, you probably wouldn't even know that it pops off.
All in all, I'm once again impressed at the quality that BLU is able to put out in such and affordable package.
Like its tiniest brother, the Life Play, the Life View has a beautiful screen. In fact, the displays are incredibly similar, though I think the Life View's may be a bit less saturated and a tinge brighter. Still, they're almost indistinguishable. Since I covered the Play's display pretty in-depth I'm just going to summarize that here. For a more in-depth look, check out the Life Play review.
Basically, the Life View's display has the amazing color saturation of an AMOLED display, but it's IPS. BLU uses a couple of proprietary technologies it calls Infinite View and Nex Lens to achieve such vibrancy and clarity. This is an IPS panel that looks nothing like an IPS panel. It's gorgeous, and at 5.7 inches, is good for basically anything you throw at it, from games to movies to reading and everything in between.
The one downside some people may find with the Life View's display is that it's "only" 720p. Personally, I think 1280x720 is completely acceptable on a 5.7-inch display, as everything is still sharp and clear, and text is easy to read. At 258PPI it's not breaking any barriers, and while 1080p may be preferred by many, it shouldn't be a dealbreaker.
Sound, Speakers, and Call Quality
The single external speaker on the device is found on the back close to the bottom. It's loud enough to alert you when getting a call or message, but otherwise it's actually pretty quiet. I used the Life View's speakerphone on a conference call in a completely quiet room and it was almost difficult to hear the people on the other end.
For watching the occasional video it's decent, as long as you do the whole "cup your hand around the back of the device" thing to project the sound back towards your ears. Really, you're just better off using earbuds. Luckily for you, the Life Play ships with some in the box. That's convenient.
OK guys, this is going to be hard for some of you to hear: the Life View has 16GB of internal storage and no microSD card slot. I know a lot of folks have issues with the Nexus 4 for this very reason, so it stands to reason that the same rule applies to the Life View. Personally, I find 16GBs to be plenty, but I basically live in the cloud. I definitely realize that's not practical for everyone, so if you like to carry your entire music library, keep 15+ games installed all the time, or need at least five movies with you at all times, this may not be the device for you. If you don't need those things, then you have 16GBs to work with – about 13 of which are accessible to the user.
So the Life View has a 12MP rear shooter, and it's not bad. Outdoors, color reproduction is bold and vivid, but not oversaturated. Indoors, it's decent – it's definitely nothing to brag about, but it'll get the job done. I found indoor images to be grainy (depending on the subject, of course), but still not quite as bad as some other devices. The five megapixel front shooter is also surprisingly good for snapping selfies, but as you can see, lighting plays an important roll here. Speaking of lighting, low light photos... well, aren't very good. Not the worst I've seen, but they're far from the best.
With flash, without flash outdoors – not a lot of difference.
With flash, without flash indoors
One word: beastly. The Life View may only have a 2600mAh battery, but the fact that it's sporting a MediaTek A7 processor ensures it has absolutely outrageous battery life – I used it for a little over two days without charging. That was streaming music for about 8-9 hours, 4 hours of screen-on time, and two hour-long phone calls. That experience was basically consistent the entire time I've had the Life View. Hands down, it has the best battery life of any phone I've ever personally used. And I've used a lot of phones.
Update: The screen-on time has come into question here because it shows only 2% of the battery was consumed by the screen. Unfortunately the readouts here aren't accurate – it doesn't matter how much I used the phone, Cell standby was always the top process with 25% usage. There was absolutely four+ hours of screen time here.
UI and Features
While the Life Play uses mostly stock Android, the Life View is basically a bone stock experience with a few enhancements added in here and there. The beauty of it is that you don't actually know these changes are there until you start using the device – on the surface it just looks like stock Android.
For example, if you get a text message, it pops up on the lockscreen, allowing you to unlock directly to the messaging app. Similarly, it also has a popup dialog for texts, allowing you to reply without having to leave the foreground app (this can be disabled if you're not into it).
One of my biggest complaints with the Life Play is the dialer – it's just weird. Thankfully, this has been basically revamped with the Life View to have a more stock-ish feel. It's still slightly different than stock, but the changes are pretty minimal. The Quick Settings pane is very similar to the Life Play's – it looks stock, but adds many useful toggles over stock Android.
Otherwise, you're looking at basically a stock 4.2.1 experience on a massive 5.7-inch display. There's a lot to like about that.
BLU also jumped on the gesture bandwagon with the Life View and packed it with some touchless controls. You'll find things like proximity unlock, upset silent, upset speaker, proximity answer, proximity dial, proximity incoming call, and proximity camera snap. Most of these should be pretty self explanatory – you wave your hand in front of the phone to activate the specific task. It's also worth noting that the menu options for these settings say "promixy" instead of proximity. Oops.
I didn't have any issues getting touchless controls to work as advertised, but I still find this sort of thing super gimmicky. For example, to get proximity unlock to work, the display has to be on. If you're going to go through all the trouble of reaching down to hit the power button, you might as well finish the job the old fashioned way and just touch the screen to unlock it. Hitting the physical button and then waving your hand in front of the display is just silly. The same goes for the camera gesture – you already have it open, why not just hit the shutter button? I suppose there's an instance when gestures could be useful... though I haven't been able to find one yet.
The Life View is packing the same MediaTek processor and 1GB of RAM as the Life Play, and despite having a larger screen, it chugs along just as nicely. This makes sense, because even though the display itself is larger, it's the same resolution as the Life Play's, so the CPU/GPU isn't actually having to work harder to push more pixels.
Since everything is basically the same between these two devices, it stands to reason that the performance is also identical, but that's not actually the case. Perhaps it could be attributed to the somewhat "lighter" interface, but the View is actually quite a bit snappier and more responsive than the Play. In areas where I saw some lag with the Play – like when playing Canabalt, for example – there is none on the Life View. That said, it did show some stutter when playing Dead Trigger 2 when there's a lot going on at once – say, umpteen zombies trying to eat your face. But that was the only occasion when the Life View showed any signs of slowing.
So naturally, don't expect a speed demon. It's not Snapdragon 800 with 2GB of RAM fast, but it's definitely not dual-core processor with 768MB of RAM slow, either. I found that it stayed consistently snappy throughout the duration of use, regardless of what apps were running in the foreground or background.
Compared to the Nexus 4
Overall, the BLU Life View is an excellent phone given the sub-$300 price point. If you're in the market for an oversized phone but don't want to lock into a two-year contact (or want to go with a pre-paid carrier like Straight Talk), then the Life View (or Life One, as pointed out in the intro) is an excellent choice. It's snappy, well made, and an overall pleasure to use.
During my testing, I actually didn't find any glaring issues with the device or software experience, though there are certain things worth mentioning, like root/ROM/developer support or update timelines. Both things are important to specific users, and should definitely be considered before picking up a device like this. With Android 4.4 around the corner, one has to question BLU's update plans not only for this device, but all others in the Life line – will it get 4.4? If yes, when? These are questions that unfortunately can't be answered at this time. Hopefully BLU realizes the importance of timely updates and can accommodate its users accordingly. Since the View has what is essentially a stock UI, hopefully this isn't something that's too difficult to achieve.