Review of the Blu Win HD Smartphone
By Sanjeeva Wijeyesakere
Published on 03/07/2015
Having used Android phones since the release of the T-mobile G1, I recently took a step away from the Android ecosystem and switched to using a Windows Phone 8.1 device as my primary mobile device. My old Galaxy Nexus was starting to show its age, and delays (or failure) in getting OS updates had started to sour my interest in non-Nexus Android devices. The new Nexus 6 appeared to be a decent phone, but the $650 price tag is a step back from what the Nexus line represents - decent mid-range mobile devices at a reasonable price.
I also considered getting an iPhone. While the build quality of iOS devices is excellent, Apple's desire to lock-down iOS and limited customization options make these unusable as productivity tools.
Having ruled out the two big names in the mobile sphere, the next option was a Windows Phone. I had never tried out this OS and was somewhat hesitant to take the plunge. In particular, I was worried about the availability of applications I use on a daily basis. However, after looking through the applications I use on my phone, it appeared that most of them (such as Evernote) are available on Windows Phone. The Google applications (GMail, Chrome, Hangouts, etc.) are not available. However, since I rarely use Google apps and services on a mobile phone, their non-availability was not a serious impediment.
My next step was to decide which device I should purchase. While the Lumia line is by far the most prevalent in the Windows Phone ecosystem, my interest was piqued by the Win HD, which is made by a Florida-based company called Blu. In addition to its reasonable price-tag (an unlocked Win HD phones sell for about $180 on Amazon.com), this device contains features that are rarely seen in most US phones such as dual SIM slots (useful if you travel overseas and want to use a local carrier to avoid roaming charges). The Win HD also has a FM radio that lets you listen to local radio stations without using your cellular data service.
On the topic of cellular data, being a GSM device, this phone is not compatible with CDMA networks. This means that in the United States, your use of the Blu Win HD is limited to AT&T and T-mobile (and MVNOs that use these networks).
The Blu Win HD
The Win HD looks a bit like an HTC One M8, but is made of plastic and lacks the M8's distinctive front-facing speaker. It comes in several colors including orange, yellow and white. The phone contains a quad-core Snapdragon 200 CPU running at 1.2 GHz, 1 GB of RAM and 8 GB of internal storage (the storage can be augmented by an additional 32 GB using a microSD card). Furthermore, unlike most recent flagship phones, the Win HD's battery is removable. In addition to the phone, battery, charging cable and earphones, Blu also includes a silicone case and a screen protector.
For a phone that boasts a 5-inch 1280 x 720 pixel screen, the Win HD feels surprisingly light and even though this isn't a high-pixel density screen, the text is crisp and clear. The phone comes with Windows Phone 8.1 pre-installed, but when you first boot the device, it will update itself to the latest version (which, as of writing this article is Windows 8.1 update).
The Windows Phone 8.1 home screen with live tiles (Weather and Stocks)
Being my first Windows Phone device, I found the OS to be extremely intuitive and visually appealing. Overall, Windows Phone is a well-designed mobile OS that makes it easy for the end-user to rapidly access the various features of the device. You can customize your home screen to include shortcuts to frequently-used applications.
One of the unique aspects of Windows Phone (and Windows 8) is the use of live tiles - a combination of a shortcut icon and a widget. These afford you rapid access to pertinent information (such as the current weather) without having to open the application.
Mobile Internet Explorer
The primary browser in Windows Phone is Internet Explorer, a browser that I rarely use on the desktop. Personally, I have used Netscape and its descendants since the days of Netscape Navigator 3. As such, relying on IE as my primary mobile browser was something that I thought would take some time to adjust. However, much to my surprise, I found the mobile version of IE to be a fast, efficient, standards-compliant browser that is as good as its competition (Chrome, Firefox and Safari).
Overall, I find the Blu Win HD to be an excellent phone that is well worth its price and can recommend it to anyone in need of a reasonably-priced unlocked smartphone. Furthermore, Windows Phone is a fine mobile OS that is every bit as user-friendly as Android or iOS.
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