Editors' Note: As of August 4, Amazon lifted Blu's suspension. Get the details on Blu smartphone sales resuming at Amazon.
Blu smartphones have established a niche for consumers who want an inexpensive Android device that doesn't skimp on features like battery life or screen brightness. But the phones are also being accused of hosting spyware, and that allegation was enough to convince Amazon to suspend sales of Blu devices.
The spyware allegation isn't a new one: last fall, security firm Kryptowire said a number of cheap Chinese handsets, including Blu phones, contained third-party firmware that transmitted user data to a server in China. At the time, Blu said it would remove the software from its phones, but during last week's Black Hat security conference, Kryptowire said the software from Shanghai Adups Technology continues to collect user data.
That allegation was enough for Amazon to halt sales of Blu phones at its online marketplace. "We recently learned of a potential security issue on select Blu phones, some of which are sold on Amazon.com," Amazon said in a statement provided to Tom's Guide. "Because security and privacy of our customers is of the utmost importance, all Blu phone models have been made unavailable for purchase on Amazon.com until the issue is resolved."
For its part, Blu has disputed the allegations. The phone maker told Tom's Guide that it fixed the issues that Kryptowire first raised last November. "Amazon has been aware of the Adups and other applications on our Blu devices which were deemed at the time by Blu, Amazon and Kryptowire to pose no further security or privacy risk," the company's statement read. "Now almost a year later, the devices are still behaving in the same exact way, with standard and basic data collection that pose no security or privacy risk."
Blu says it expects Amazon to resume sales of its phones soon. "There has been absolutely no new behavior or change in any of our devices to trigger any concern," the company added.
Blu's R1 HD has been included as an Amazon Prime Exclusive, in which Amazon Prime members could buy the normally $100 phone for $50 in exchange for ads and offers appearing on the device's lock screen. But with phone sales suspended, the R1 HD has been dropped from that list of Prime Exclusives.
Amazon directed customers who want more information to contact Blu's customer service.
The Kryptowire report is a “non-story,” the Blu representative added.
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Philip Michaels is a Managing Editor at Tom's Guide. He's been covering personal technology since 1999 and was in the building when Steve Jobs showed off the iPhone for the first time. He's been evaluating smartphones since that first iPhone debuted in 2007, and he's been following phone carriers and smartphone plans since 2015. He has strong opinions about Apple, the Oakland Athletics, old movies and proper butchery techniques. Follow him at @PhilipMichaels.