The BLU Win HD Windows Phone with Dual SIM LTE may be the best contract bargain yet
Back in 2014, BLU became one of a handful of new white-label manufacturers to add their services to the Windows Phone ecosystem. Offering low cost but eye-catching phones to consumers, companies like BLU brought something other than Lumias to those in the US. Perhaps more importantly, they finally offered a vision of unlocked, carrier free devices, giving consumers the ultimate choice.
The BLU Win HD was a strong first effort. With its bright colors and bold design, the Win HD had a lot of potential. However, lacking 4G LTE data is a major setback for devices in the US, where the speedy standard is found on the most basic phones. Due in part to the chipset used at the time, this was one of the roadblocks keeping the otherwise stellar Win HD out of some people's hands.
Now, in April 2015, we have a sequel: the BLU Win HD LTE. Nonetheless, this phone is much more than just faster data.
New, much better processor
The specs in the BLU Win HD LTE at first blush do not read as anything incredible. However, there is a subtle difference found in the Qualcomm Snapdragon processor that makes this phone very interesting.
BLU Win HD LTE (2015)
- Colors: Grey, White, Orange, Yellow
- Windows Phone 8.1 build 14226; upgradable to Windows 10 later this year
- 1.2 GHz quad-core Qualcomm Snapdragon 410, Adreno 306 GPU
- LTE Band 4(1700) / 7(2600) / 17(700)
- Dual SIM
- 5-inch IPS 720p display (293 ppi)
- 8GB internal storage, micro SD up to 32 GB
- 1GB RAM
- 8MB rear camera, auto-focus, flash; 2MP front-facing camera
- Sensors: Accelerometer, Proximity, Gravity, Compass, A-GPS
- 146 grams
- Wi-Fi 802.11 b/g/n, Wi-Fi hotspot
- Bluetooth 4.0
I am going to cut to the chase here: I have been using this phone for the last week, and it is a fantastic improvement from the original Win HD from 2014. Here are a couple of things that I immediately love about this phone.
Dual SIM with AT&T and T-Mobile 4G support
This BLU Win HD finally has LTE and yes, it works on AT&T and T-Mobile for those speeds (MetroPCS, Cricket Wireless, Simple Mobile, and Net 10 too, although I have not yet tried them yet). In fact, since it is a dual-SIM phone I was able to put both AT&T and T-Mobile SIM cards in the device at the same time.
Keep in mind that while dual SIM is common in other markets, it is unusual for those in the US. It is finally nice to see it in action. This is how it works. Insert both SIMs (you may need a micro-SIM adapter if currently using a nano-SIM card) and the phone will ask you to pick the configuration settings matching that carrier. In my case, I chose AT&T and T-Mobile US respectively. You can then choose which SIM handles data, and you can change this at any time (although the radios will reboot momentarily).
Since Windows Phone can handle dual SIM with ease, phone calls and SMS can go to both SIMs at the same time. It is exactly like having two phones in one. 4G LTE data, however, only goes to one SIM, which makes sense if you think about it (you really can't have two data streams in at the same time, plus that would quickly kill the battery). So if this week you want your T-Mobile SIM to handle data, you choose that one, or swap to MetroPCS the next week if you want, all within the OS settings.
BLU is not using the same design as they did last year. Instead, this model has a metal strip around the front bezel and some other minor cosmetic changes like 'cross-hatched patterns' etched into the side buttons.
Currently, I have the black version, which is very conservative looking (and yes, it bears a striking resemblance to a certain HTC phone). However, for my personal device, I will likely opt for the bright yellow or orange because they are just awesome. Even the white one stands out in a good way.
The quality of the build for the phone is also very good. No creaks, smooth finish and it feels great to hold with its soft touch paint on the back. Oh and the BLU Win HD finally has backlit keys on the front now. They still lack haptic feedback, but the fact they light up now is a big step in the right direction.
The Windows Phone OS handles 1.2 GHz speeds quite well. However, up until now we have not seen it run on the newer, beefier Snapdragon 410 processor with peppier Adreno 306 GPU. Let me tell you: it gives the Windows Phone OS just enough breathing room to make a big impact on usage. Fewer lags, quicker app launches and just a smoother experience.
Yeah, I could use the older Snapdragon 400 devices, but I did feel the slowdown. The 410, though, is the perfect fit for Windows Phone and makes the Win HD LTE feel like a different phone altogether. BLU is also boasting that this is a 64-bit processor in their sales materials as improving battery life too.
Wrapping it up
I'll be doing more on the Win HD LTE and its cheaper, smaller sibling the Win Jr LTE, later this week, including a video hands on soon. All I can say for now is that I would personally use this Win HD LTE as my main phone.
Is the 8MP camera great? I would say it is adequate, maybe what was high-end camera was a few years ago. However, for the pricing of this phone, features, performance, and design, and it is a small ding against an otherwise fantastic entry to the Windows Phone ecosystem. In fact, I think it is an improvement over last year's version, but I need to do a side by side. I have certainly used much worse at this price point.
For those yearning for a new, flagship Windows Phone, we are unfortunately still quite a few months away from that happening (I would personal guess November). If you are looking for a holdover and you do not mind spending $200, the BLU Win HD LTE is your phone. That price is not cheap, but considering you would not be renewing your contract with your carrier, it may something worth considering.
The New Win JR LTE will be available at launch for $99.99 at Microsoft Stores and Amazon US, while the Win HD LTE will be available for $199.99 exclusively at Microsoft Stores both online, and in-store, completely unlocked with Dual Sim functionality and 4G LTE.
You can find more information about the Win HD LTE from BLU here while details about the more affordable Win Jr LTE can be checked out here. Stay tuned for more coverage of the Win HD LTE and Win Jr LTE at Windows Central. In the meantime, tell us what you think of this phone in comments: yay or nay?