The BLU C 5+5 LTE Review

Now I hate to start off tech reviews prefaced with the fact that I’m an Apple fanboy, but I think it’s only fair to get it right up front. I’ve used an iPhone as my primary phone since 2007 with the original iPhone and getting each new model every year. Plus I use all Apple computers and iPads.

So let’s talk about my newest purchase of my first Android phone, the BLU C 5+5 LTE. I’ve had an Android device before, I bought the first Nexus 7 and reviewed it. Now after having several iPhones I’ve always been interested in getting my hands on an Android phone but I wasn’t really wanting to spend $200+ on a device. So once I heard about the BLU devices my interests were peeked. Basically BLU makes some really solid Android devices that are very cheap compared to most phones on the market. They sell devices as low as $60 on up to only $300, which is cheaper than any iPhone you can buy new. I decided to step up and buy the $80 BLU phone the 5+5 LTE. Because it had 1GB of RAM and LTE I went with it.

Setup couldn’t have been easier, if you have a Gmail account you’re most of the way done. BLU devices are outfited with stock Google apps, so you’ll get Google Play, Gmail, Google Calendar/Music/Books/Drive/Chrome/Photos. It may sound trivial but on some knockoff Android devices you don’t get the Google sanctioned apps, and they are typically the best, and without the Google Play Store you’d be left without a good app store. BLU devices are also sold unlocked, so by nature they are carrier agnostic which is another good thing. Carrier Android phones come full of bloatware you can’t remove and at best takes up space on your device, at worst burns needless CPU cycles. So all of this is a big plus for an Android device. Cheap, Google services, unlocked, and no carrier bloatware. The 5+5 only has 8GB of onboard storage but you can boost it up to 128GB with an SD card. I went with a $10 32GB card, really just because it was $10, why not? Another win for the 5+5. In the Apple ecosystem iPhone storage comes in fixed increments and each level up cost $100 more. In the box the 5+5 comes with a charger, headphones, a screen protector, and a case which is pretty awesome to get for free. Screen protectors run $10-$20 and cases can be $5-$100 so to get those for free from BLU was an unexpected treat.

There’s not much to the phone itself, two buttons is all it has; volume and power. I’m not really a fan of the placement or design of the buttons. Design wise I would have preferred that they were made of the same material, and the power button is too small for my taste. The button are solid and tactically they feel good, but visually they bother me. My issue is mostly with the power button, I think it’s too small and I do not like the chrome look. The back of the phone is of a faux leather feel and it’s not bad to the touch or visually. All the corners wrap nicely around the phone and there are no sharp edges or uncomfortable ways to hold the phone. The back pops off and gives you access to the 5+5’s dual SIM slots, SD Card, and battery. The plastic clips that hold the back on seem like they could break while taking off or replacing the back, which I have had to do several times. Nothing broke so far, but I’d prefer a slide or latch method to secure the back.

The iPhone home button with Touch ID

I really miss having a physical home button, Apple pioneered this button but still a lot of Android manufactures still have one; like Samsung (of course), and HTC. It’s just so nice to have that real button there to orientate the phone and to access all the home button style features. Plus using the digital buttons takes up space on the screen. Now the buttons disapear most of the time for games, videos, and some other apps. Which just creates another issue, how do you get home while watching a video with no home button? It’s solved, sort of, sliding “up” the home button from the bottom of the screen. It’s certainly not intuative and could stump the average use who still doesn’t have the physical home button figured out. I run a computer company and I see lots of clients that ask me how to get “out of situation X” and the answer is the home button. It seems to take some people awhile to get used to using the home button for everything.

Using the 5+5 was pretty basic, it’s a modern smart phone. I was able to download most, or equivalent counterparts, of the apps I’m used to from iOS. I was not a fan of the BLU keyboard or the BLU default Android “launcher” or skin they use. But on Android those are easy to fix. I installed the default Google keyboard and installed a launcher called Apex which I had used on my Nexus 7. The 5+5 is running Android 5.1.1 and I doubt it will see an official upgrade to 6.0 for this phone. I’d looked at some ROMs (hacked versions of Android) to install on my phone, but the ROM really needs to be made for your device and I didn’t find one specific to the 5+5.

Size wise this is a big phone. It’s a 5 inch screen, but thin so it’s not to big to hold with one hand. But it is almost impossible to operate with one hand. Now as phones keep getting bigger screens there is just nothing that manufactures can do to keep the use one handed, it’s just physics. But with the nice grippy back, the 5+5 makes it a little easier to shimmy your hand around to reach further parts of the screen. Something impossible on bigger aluminum phones like the iPhone 6/6+ or the more recent HTC, and Samsung phones. You can see my comparison shot above and the 5+5 is much larger than the iPhone 5, which is clearly expected since the 5+5 is a full inch bigger in screen size. But there are certainly areas that the could have made the 5+5 smaller still. Such as the “chin”, on the 5+5 it is still about 1/2" inch long. With no home button, or any physically buttons of any kind, does it really need to be that big? Or there at all? Maybe it makes room for the USB port, but I think with little to no chin on the device you could keep you hand moved further up the device giving you more reachability overall.

I’m going to end the review with my dissapointments with the 5+5. I want to preface this with reminding you reader and myself that this is a $80 smartphone, certainly not a flagship phone, and it never was. So to be the most fair I’m going to compare it to the iPhone 5, which was released in 2012 and is pretty comparable spec for spec with the 5+5. The iPhone is the device pictures above in the comparison screen shots, and is a device that I recently switched back to for a few days.

After Apple announced the iPhone SE, I was very excited. It is basically, the iPhone 6s inside the body of a 5s, which is my favorite iPhone form factor. I reluctantly upgraded to the 6 and 6s as they came out in in 2014 and 2015, but I’ve always been against large phones and was not a fan that Apple was following suit. Sure there were times I enjoyed having a larger screen, but I always wanted to go back to the 4" inch iPhone 5s size. All this to say that after Apple announced the SE I wanted to switch to it, but I wanted to make sure it was still what I wanted, so I used my iPhone 5 for a few days and loved it. Going to back to a three year old iPhone, was not bad at all. It still runs the most current software, works with all my apps, and aside from the battery is was very usable as a day to day phone.

My biggest complain with Android is still the touch lag. It’s just horrible on Android.

The current king of low latency is the iPhone 6s at only 23ms, but the ultimate goal is of course 1ms or under. So it seems that to get input lag right it’s the right hardware and making sure the software prioritizes input. Starting with the original iPhone this has always been a big focus for Apple, and you can tell. To this day the most impressive thing about the OG iPhone was the smoothness, flicking through my contacts or swiping through pages of apps, using pinch and zoom on photos and web pages. It seemed like magic and it still does some times. Using the iPhone always seemed like direct manipulation, not my finger on glass, but rather it feels like I was touching a picture or a newspaper (webpage). Using Android doesn’t feel like that to me. Now, I KNOW. I hear you Android fanboy’s screaming at your screen right now. But I’m using a crappy $80 phone, you say. I need to try phone X, Y, or Z. Or just wait till Android version X comes out, or I need to put this sweet ROM on my device, or install this app, or, or, or… There’s always a but/or/and/wait/etc. I’m saying since day one, the iPhone has been silky smooth, and that is by choice and design. Android made different priorities and that’s ok. Screen latency might not be a big deal to a lot of people, or they may not even notice it. But I am super picky and I notice it and it drives me nuts.

Besides the latency, I only have two other minor complaints and they are certainly due to the low-end nature of the phone. The first is the camera, it’s bad. 5mp bad. That’s the same as the iPhone 4 released in 2010. Tested in optimal lighting conditions.

Shot with the 5+5

The pictures are unedited. As you can see this picture is way blown out.

Taken with the iPhone 5

As you can see the iPhone is sharper, with much better contrast and color. Again, none of this is surprising given nature of the phones. An $80 phone vs a $650 phone, it should be no contest. But I wanted to highlight the difference so you would know what you were getting into. I didn’t want anyone buying the 5+5 thinking it would have a decent camera. Android does have some great camera’s, personally I would recommend: The Nexus 6P and the Moto X Pure Edition 2015

Over at AndroidPit.com the have a comprehensive list and breakdown of phones and their camera’s.

The last thing I’ll harp on is performance. It wasn’t bad to start with but after adding all my apps, launcher, and widgets I started noticing the trouble. Apps taking too long to open, severe lag, and odd things like hitting the home button to just be taking to a black screen.

So what do I think? Honestly, I think this is a great phone for the price. As far as I can tell they only sell on Amazon, and they don’t list one over $300 (the ones over $300 are resellers), and for $150 you can get a damn good phone spec-wise.

I think it was fun to get my hands on an Android device, customize it and really get to know it. Will I still keep using my iPhone, yes. Do I plan to buy another Android device, probably not. I’ve had a tablet and now a phone. I get Android. I get why I don’t like, it’s not that it’s bad, but it’s not for me. Neither is sushi, accounting, or ballet I’m just not into those things either. More importantly I get why people, a lot of people, do like Android. And if you like Android or are looking for a quality phone with an affordable price then give these BLU phones a chance.

Justin Winchester 

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Early Adopter FTW! Paramedic by day, runs STL Computer Help by night. Obsessed with Apple products and my Xbox 360.