The BLU Advance 5.0 is a low-end, budget-friendly phone that offers a vanilla Android experience with a sufficient display, all for the ultra-affordable price of $59.99. While we haven't personally tested the handset, we can draw some strong conclusions from researching the features, specs and consensus of current owners. By those measures, the Advance 5.0 looks like a strong bargain, though it goes without saying that you'll have to make a lot of compromises.
Who Is It For?
"BLU," which stands for "Bold Like Us," is more than the name of the Florida-based manufacturer and the phone: The Advance 5.0 is designed for those who are bold enough to want as much phone as possible for under $60. You can purchase the BLU Advance 5.0 from Amazon.com (exclusively) for $59.99.
The BLU Advance 5.0 comes GSM-unlocked, meaning that it will work on AT&T and T-Mobile, and their respective MVNOs, such as Straight Talk, Net10, MetroPCS, Cricket, Pure TalkUSA.. This phone does not come CDMA-compatible, however, so Verizon and Sprint customers will have to look elsewhere.
Key Specs and Features
The BLU Advance 5.0 features a 5-inch, BLU Infinite View IPS LCD display with a screen resolution of 854 x 480, a 1.3-Ghz and quad-core MediaTek 6580 processor, 768MB of RAM, 4GB of internal storage with a microSD slot that lets you expand your internal storage, a 2-MP front camera with LED flash, a 5-MP rear camera, 4G/HSPA+ cellular connectivity, an 1,800mAh battery, and Android 5.1 Lollipop running as the OS.
The 5-inch display seems to be the minimum screen size for Android smartphones now, and IPS LCDs are much more cost-effective than the more-colorful AMOLED panels you find on premium phones like the Samsung Galaxy S7 or Google Pixel. The device runs on a quad-core MediaTek processor. This is a sign that BLU has cut some financial corners to bring this affordable phone to market, because most mainstream phones use Qualcomm Snapdragon processors. The screen resolution (854 x 480) is below the quarter-HD (qHD) level, which is another sign of a budget-friendly device, though the removable 1,800-mAh battery will probably get you through the day considering the immensely low resolution.
The 768MB of RAM and 4GB of internal storage are far below mainstream specs, so you're getting minimal multitasking capability and not a lot of room for apps.
The 2-MP and 5-MP cameras are not much sharper than what you'd find on most feature phones, another hint at the Advance 5.0's budget friendliness. Though the Advance 5.0 has 720p video recording, ReviewLamp says in its BLU Advance 5.0 Review and Camera Test YouTube video that the quality is more reminiscent of 480p than HD, distorts details such as the outlines of leaves on bushes, and blurs the sun's encounter with green leaves when it shines on them, for example.
The BLU Advance 5.0 comes preloaded with Android 5.1 Lollipop, which brings Project Volta, Google's battery-saving software, to Android. Of course, Google revamped its battery-saving mode with Doze Mode in Android 6.0 Marshmallow, but there's no word on when or if Advance 5.0 users can expect Marshmallow to land on their devices.
The phone does allow for expandable storage. This will be a relief for users, considering that the device comes with only 4GB of internal storage. When you factor in that the Android OS and default apps take up so many GBs of space, that means you'll have a smaller storage amount than 4GB to play around with and will need to buy a microSD card. Just keep in mind that you won't be able to save every app to your SD card, so make sure your expandable storage is devoted to camera photos and videos.
The dual-SIM card capability is a nice bonus. The BLU Advance 5.0 features a nano-SIM card slot and a regular SIM card slot so that, with two SIM cards from different carriers, you can select one carrier for calls, one carrier for texts/data and so on. Dual-SIM smartphones are rare in the U.S., but common in other parts of the world.
The BLU Advance 5.0 features a metal chassis with a plastic leather (or pleather) back cover that feels like leather to the touch and is reminiscent of the build of Samsung's Galaxy Note 4, for example. There is some plastic in other places on the device, making the bezels prone to creaking at times, user reviews say. With the current crop of high-end Android smartphones featuring glass, metal and a composite of the two materials, plastic is now being reserved for low-end devices.
What Owners Are Saying About the BLU Advance 5.0
Since the BLU Advance 5.0 is an Amazon exclusive, we decided to see what Amazon customers have to say about the handset. Many praise its lack of bloatware, pure Android experience, budget-friendly price tag and ability to run games with relative ease.
Others view the 4GB of internal storage as too little for apps and photos, particularly considering that only 1.1GB of storage is available right out of the box (enough for one game, but perhaps none of your favorite games; only 650MB is free for your own apps, with the other space being consumed by Google Chrome, some basic Amazon apps, etc.). Owners complain that the build has a hollow feel and flexes with a little pressure, so you shouldn't expect an ultradurable handset at this ultra-affordable price point.
The USB port is at the top of the phone instead of the bottom of the handset (most smartphones on the market, regardless of price point, place that port at the bottom), making plugging in the phone to charge it an awkward process. Users claim that the BLU Advance 5.0 has trouble recognizing SD cards from any manufacturer, and that the 1,800-mAh battery provides only 4-5 hours of life and can drain to zero randomly in the middle of a phone call. Those who use their phones sparingly can reasonable expect one to two days of battery life.
Games will cause the device to warm considerably, some Amazon customers say, and, despite the freedom to add an additional 64GB of storage, not every app can be saved to the SD card (no adoptable storage present). Last but not least, one customer says that box instructions ("Before you return this phone, please call customer service and tell us why") hint at an ongoing problem with BLU phones that the company refuses to fix on its own. Some customers have had to turn in defective units.
The BLU Advance 5.0 shows that $60 can take you places, but those places are often bumpy, with problems to follow. If you want more storage out of the box to fix the space issues Amazon customers have complained about, you can always order the BLU Advance 5.0 HD, which has a display with HD (1280 x 720p) resolution and double the internal storage (8GB for the Advance 5.0 HD as opposed to the 4GB of the Advance 5.0), all for just $10 more than the price of the Advance 5.0. If you can spend up to $100, you can get the Moto E, which has a higher-res screen, a decent camera and 8GB of storage.
Budget-friendly shoppers who see $60 as a deal could also consider the BLU RH1, which has an HD (720p) screen, 8GB of internal storage and 1GB of RAM (as opposed to the Advance 5.0's 768MB of RAM), all for just $50 ($10 cheaper than the BLU Advance 5.0). A $60-$70 2GB of RAM option is also available for the BLU RH1, which is a far more enticing offer. People considering another manufacturer should look at the Moto E, which features a 4.5-inch and quarter-HD (qHD) display, a Snapdragon 410 processor, a water-repellent and splash-resistant coating, Corning Gorilla Glass, and a 2,390-mAh battery, all for just $20 more than the $60 Advance 5.0 ($80).