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Blu shows how good a $110 phone can be

Blu shows how good a $110 phone can be

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Image: Blu

For families looking for cheap budget phones for their kids, there are now phones around the $100 range that can almost pass for flagship phones from a distance. The Blu Vivo XL3 now costs $109.99 for 24 hours on Amazon. Blu is also launching an additional Blu Vivo XL3 Plus phone.

Both are budget phones, and with today’s discount, there aren’t other phones in their price range that have similar flagship-like-but-not-quite features. They’re both nearly bezel-less and have perks like a fingerprint sensor, decent storage options, and the Vivo XL3 runs on the latest version of Android. They’re not laggy phones with cheap-looking designs but actually good knockoffs of $900 phones.

I’ve been testing the Blu Vivo XL3 since mid-March and found that if I didn’t already have an iPhone 8 Plus and was shopping on a budget, this phone would have served me well. With a Mediatek 6737 processor and a Mali-T729 GPU, the phone opens apps quickly on Android 8.0 Oreo, without much lag. It also doesn’t come with many unnecessary apps or extra smart assistants, and it has 3GB of RAM and 32GB of internal storage, which is not bad for a $100 budget phone. You can also add a microSD card for an additional 64GB of storage.

Still, at such a cheap price, the Blu Vivo XL3 isn’t without its flaws. It has one front-facing 13-megapixel selfie camera that feels fuzzy and underwhelming, while its 13-megapixel rear camera is similar. The Vivo XL3’s 3,000mAh battery quickly drains over a day, even if you don’t open any apps or even touch the phone.

The XL3 has a 5.5-inch HD screen with a 720 x 1440 resolution and an 18:9 aspect ratio. Images on the screen appear pretty blurry, probably in part because of the phone’s low 293-ppi pixel density. (The iPhone 8 Plus, which has the same screen size, has a density of 401 ppi, for comparison, and Android phones are often higher.)

But design-wise, the phone could pass for a flagship Android from afar. It’s got an edge-to-edge display, volume and power buttons on the right, and a fingerprint sensor on the back. It also does facial recognition, which works smoothly but takes a bit more effort to set up.

Image: Blu

Meanwhile, the Blu Vivo XL3 Plus has a 6-inch screen with the same display, RAM, and storage specs. Instead of a Mediatek processor, it has a Qualcomm Snapdragon 425 processor and an Adreno 308 GPU. While we didn’t get to test out the Vivo XL3 Plus, from the appearance and specs, it appears to be a slightly buffed-up version of the Vivo XL3. Its front camera gets bumped up to 16-megapixels, while its battery size remains the same. But oddly enough, the Vivo XL3 Plus runs Android 7.1 Nougat instead of Oreo. When we reached out to Blu for why that was the case, it said that the XL3 Plus was produced before the XL3.

Currently, the Vivo XL3 costs $109.99 on Amazon, and the Plus costs $129.99. After 24 to 48 hours, Blu says the promotions will end and the phones will cost $179.99 and $199.99. For budget phones like these, the price is crucial. At the $200 side of the spectrum, there are plenty of worthy competitors to the Blu phones with better specs in many cases, such as the Nokia 6 or the Moto G5S Plus. But in the $100 range, these phones have decent value and aren’t anything to be scoffed at.

Update April 11th, 12:50PM ET: This article was updated with information about why the Blu Vivo XL3 Plus runs Android 7.1 Nougat instead of Oreo.