While smartphone enthusiasts typically care deeply about every spec inside the phones they buy, there's one feature that nearly every smartphone owner wants: a good camera. In fact, on several occasions, I've had friends and family ask which phone they should buy based around that one qualification: which phone has the best camera? Needless to say, a good shooter is a pretty big deal in the smartphone world.
With a name like Selfie, to say that Blu's newest handset is all about the camera experience would be pretty accurate. Not only does it have a 13 MP rear shooter, but also a 13 MP front camera with flash. Basically, what most phones have on the back, the Selfie also has on the front. Other specs are pretty decent, as well:
|Display||4.7-inch 1280x720 display with Gorilla Glass 3|
|Processor||1.7 GHz Octa-Core MediaTek MT6592 with ARM MALI 450 GPU|
|Camera||13 MP f/2.0 rear shooter with dual LED flash, 13 MP front with "Glam Flash"|
|Ports||microUSB, 3.5mm headphone jack|
|Wireless||(GSM/GPRS/EDGE) 850/900/1800/1900 MHz, (4G HSPA+ 21Mbps) 850/1900 or 850/2100|
|Dimensions||146 x 66.3 x 9.6 mm; 136g|
|Available colors||Black, Blue, White Gold|
|Cameras||Yeah, it has dual 13 MP cameras. But they're also good 13 MP cameras. I'm quite impressed.|
|Performance||It has the same MediaTek processor as the Vivo Air, which is a nice little octa-core chip. I haven't had a single performance-related issue with any device using this chip. It also has 2GB of RAM, which is a nice upgrade over the Vivo Air.|
|Form factor/display size||A 4.7-inch display in 2015? Be still my heart. I love it.|
|Display||Like most higher-end Blu handsets, it has a beautiful display. That's even more important on a phone that's basically designed around the cameras.|
|KitKat||It's not running Lollipop, and I'm not sure that it ever will. That's unfortunate, because this little guy could be killer with a version bump.|
|No LTE||I don't hate HSPA, but LTE is just better/faster. There's no arguing it, really.|
|No Now access||Sigh. Blu did so good with the Vivo Air, it depresses me that all of its handsets I've tried since still don't get Google Now access right. C'mon guys, just do exactly what you did on Air. Or use on-screen buttons. Either way, just give me Now...now.|
Appearance, Hardware, and Build Quality
The first thing that you'll notice about the Selfie when you pop it out of the box is its unusual shape. I don't personally find it off-putting or otherwise uncomfortable, but I can see how some users may not like it. I actually think it makes for an interesting and provocative-looking device that fits the overall vibe set for the unit: a modern, edgy, trendy phone designed for folks who like to take pictures and want the best camera experience they can get. If I had one quarrel with the Selfie on a superficial level, it's the name - this phone is actually a lot more than just a selfie machine with a killer front shooter, and I think the name may push certain types of users away because it sounds more like it's for a teenage drama queen than a serious Android user. To dismiss this phone simply based on the name (as unappealing as it may be) is a disservice to an otherwise solid little handset. But I digress - we're supposed to be talking about hardware here.
Continuing around the phone's unique oval-ish shape, you'll find the usual array of buttons and ports: power on the top, volume rocker on the left side, microUSB charging port on the bottom, and SIM slot on the right side. There's also a dedicated shutter button the right side, because what would a phone all about the cameras be without a shutter button?
The front panel of the phone is pretty standard for a Blu handset, with menu, home, and back capactive keys at the bottom (though the menu button actually looks like a recents key). The 13 MP camera and "glam flash" are of course found at the top, just above the 4.7-inch screen. The back panel actually wraps around the bottom of the phone and to the front, which gives the phone and even more distinct look. Speaking of, the back is probably the most interesting-looking part of the device to me, with the huge camera ring and dual LED flash. Don't get me wrong, just because it's big doesn't make it bad - I actually think the camera layout looks pretty sweet. It just looks like it would take good pictures, if that makes sense. And if it doesn't make sense, well...I'm sorry.
Another thing to note about the Selfie is the intriguing design of the SIM slot. Like many other Blu handsets, the Selfie is a dual SIM phone, but this is the first time I've seen a design like this. The majority of the time, dual SIM phones either have two SIM trays or both slots are behind the battery door. In the case of the Selfie - which does not have a removable back - both SIM cards go into the same tray: one micro, one nano. But here's where it gets really interesting: the second slot (the nano slot) is also where the SD card goes! The orientation of the card is different depending on the use - the SD card will be aligned just like the microSIM in slot one, whereas if this slot is used for a nanoSIM, it goes "sideways" (for lack of a better word). If you're wondering how one could use both SIM slots and have an SD card at the same time, there's the catch: you can't. It's one or the other - secondary SIM or microSD card. That could be a drawback for dual SIM users who need to expand storage.
On an unrelated note, I said "slot" seven times in the last paragraph. That's a lotta slot.
Now that we've taken a (rather close) look at the Selfie from an aesthetic standpoint, let's talk about how well it all works together - how well made this thing is. Keeping in mind that this is a $250 smartphone, I think the build quality is solid. It's not an all metal chassis, so keep your expectation in check. The back is a smooth, reasonably durable-feeling plastic and it's surrounded by an aluminum band on the sides and top. All the seams are very clean, and it doesn't creak or pop. All the buttons are clicky and firm, and it just feels well made. As always, I'm impressed with what Blu is able to offer at this price point.
Display and Camera
Oftentimes I'll lump these things together in the "hardware" section of shorter reviews, but since the cameras are such a key feature of this device, and the display goes hand-in-hand with getting good shots from the camera, they both get their own section. So yeah.
Let's start with the display.
Like I've already mentioned a couple of times, the Selfie is packing a 4.7-inch 720p LCD. It's covered by Corning Gorilla Glass 3 for scratch resistance, and Blu did its usual tweaks to make the colors pop. Like most of the company's higher-end handsets, the display looks fantastic. I've said it at least a dozen times at this point, but I'm always impressed with how its lower-res displays are able to produce a level of clarity that one would expect at a much higher resolution. I realize the display size has a lot to do with it, as well - 720p at 4.7 inches is about 312 PPI, after all. I guess what I'm really trying to say is that at no point did I look at the Selfie and said to myself "yeah, this really needs a 1080p display." 720p looks just fine on it.
And then there are the cameras. Both the front and rear shooters have the same specs: 13MP cameras with Sony IMX135 sensors. The primary (rear) camera has a dual LED flash, where the front only has one flash (which Blu refers to as "Glam Flash"), which is really the primary difference between the two.
To top off the camera experience, Blu also designed its own camera software just for the Selfie. It features what the company calls Final Touch Software, which offers eye modifications, face thinner, smooth skin, and skin brightener tweaks. All four features are controlled using a 1-100 slider, which makes it quick and easy to dial in just the right amount of modification.
If I had to say something negative about the cameras, here it is: they can be pretty slow. For something that's designed around the idea of taking pictures, I would like to see it snap those shots a little bit quicker. There's not a massive amount of lag, but it's definitely not as fast as my Moto X, either. Like with most devices, though, the better the lighting, the quicker the shot. I've also found that if you manually focus on the subject first, then the shots come off a bit quicker.
As far as image quality is concerned, I was personally pleased with the results from the Selfie on most occasions. Like the majority of cameras, it can get pretty grainy in low-light situations, but otherwise I think it does a good job. Here are some example images from a recent visit to the Perot Museum of Nature and Science in Dallas, TX.
Note: Some of the exhibits are behind glass, which caused an unavoidable glare. You should be able to tell which ones are which pretty easily.
Selfie-ing with some of the locals and making some science with my boy. We scienced the hell out of some stuff.
Software and Performance
In terms of software, the Selfie is a nearly-stock KitKat experience. The primary difference is the launcher, which is similar to the iOS-style launcher that Blu has used in the past. The big thing to note about this iteration of the launcher is that it can actually use Android widgets. So basically it's kind of like a marriage of the iOS-style all-icons-all-the-time look, just with Android widgets. I'll be honest - I kind of hate it. I just can't not haven an app tray. I can't. I installed Nova almost immediately. Much better.
Otherwise, it's pretty straight up - not a lot going on in the way of tweaks and other software modifications.
When it comes to performance, you can expect a very similar experience to the Vivo Air, though the Selfie does have an extra geebee of RAM, which makes it a little bit better. I can't really feel that difference, but I know it's there. Oftentimes that's enough of a difference.
But really, the Selfie doesn't feel like it's lacking at all. It's got a 1.7GHz MediaTek octa-core processor, which I actually really like. I've tried three different devices with this processor in them now, and all of them performed wonderfully. Hate on MediaTek all you want, but I think this is a great little chip, especially considering the price point in which you'll find phones that have it: $200-250. For that price, the performance is solid.
I think the Selfie is an interesting phone with a unique design, a couple of really good cameras, and great display. On the downside, I'm bummed that it's running KitKat with no plans to get bumped to Lollipop, and I really wish it had LTE. Honestly, I could probably get past the KitKat thing if LTE were in the picture, because between you and me, KitKat runs better than Lollipop ever has for me. The memory management is just superior in 4.4 builds. Fact. Still, I just can't help but love Lollipop. It's pretty.
But for $250, I think this is a solid little phone. The performance is good and it has enough RAM to get the job done. The bottom line is this: if you're looking for the best camera experience you can get from a mobile device under $400, this is without a doubt the phone to buy - silly name be damned.
The Selfie is available in black, blue, and white gold, and you can get it now from Amazon. Grab one below.
MIAMI, April 27, 2015 /PRNewswire/ -- BLU Products, the market leader in unlocked devices in the United States, unveiled their one-of-a-kind flagship device, the BLU Selfie. As the name suggests this smartphone provides the ultimate photography experience with a 13MP front and back camera. BLU continues to challenge the wireless industry with diverse design and creative concepts, at exceptional prices and this device proves their commitment to that.
True self-expression, capturing the Kodak moment or snap and go, whatever trendy tagline is most spoken of, the brand new BLU Selfie defines all. With its much-anticipated launch, BLU is once again bringing out the top guns into an otherwise non innovative smartphone segment. Design of the BLU Selfie is in depth and thorough; its streamline form, the premium brushed metal finish, a friendly user interface, as well as the ergonomic design that enables comfortable one-handed use is just the tip of the iceberg. Just like you would expect on a premium device, there is Corning Gorilla Glass 3, a gorgeous 4.7" HD display with 720 x 1280 resolution that includes BLU Infinite View Technology (IPS), and BLU Nex-Lens Technology(OGS) together to provide vivid colors, brightness and an unbeatable view from any angle.
"The BLU Selfie is the culmination of what one would want in an epic smartphone with camera experience. All our effort to achieve the most user-friendly high end camera function a smartphone is evident on our BLU Selfie. With a massive 13MP camera with Sony Lens, that speaks volume," said Samuel Ohev-Zion, CEO of BLU Products.
The BLU Selfie provides superior camera experience with a 13MP main camera, 13MP front facing camera with Sony IMX135 sensors and 2.0mm aperture with 1.12(mu)m size pixels. With friends and family around for a perfect "usie". The BLU Selfie is equipped with an impressive 88 degree angle lens feature that will capture the perfect view. Both cameras provide advance features such as dual LED flash and Glam Flash with BLU Bright + Technology for consistent quasi-professional lighting. For the picture perfect glamorous shot, BLU Final Touch Software is an instant image enhancer that gives you multiple levels of beautifying effect. The Selfie's processor is a potent 1.7GHz Octa-Core processor with battery efficient technology, 2GB of RAM, 16GB of internal memory and a micro SD slot that holds a memory card up to 64GB. For world travelers and for those that have business and personal phone numbers, the BLU Selfie comes with dual sim capabilities. For all selfie enthusiasts out there looking for a great smartphone with all the tools necessary to snap a memorable picture, the BLU Selfie is your answer. Never miss a moment in time!