Bluboo is another smartphone manufacturer coming to us from China. They offer up some pretty interesting smartphones that are running stock Android, and at rather low prices. The Bluboo Maya is one of their newer models (with the Maya Max being their newest) and this one is on sale for under $100, which is a pretty incredible price for what you get here. However, that leads some to believe that Bluboo may be cutting corners somewhere to get that price so low. Well that's what we'll be looking for in our full review here of the Bluboo Maya. Spoiler alert: It's a really good Android-powered smartphone.
Spec-wise, the Bluboo Maya has some pretty decent specs. There's a 5.5-inch 1280x720 resolution JDI IPS panel here. Inside there is 2GB of RAM, and it's powered by the MediaTek MT6580A processor. That's a quad-core processor that's clocked at 1.3GHz. That is paired with the ARM Mali-400 GPU as well. As far as storage goes, there is 16GB of storage available, and there is a micro SD card slot available too. There is a 13-megapixel camera around the back, which has an aperture of f/1.8. The front-facing camera is a 8-megapixel shooter with a f/2.8 aperture.
Dimensions for the Bluboo Maya are 77mm x 153mm x 8.33mm and it weighs in at 184 grams. It's a dual SIM device, although it sports mini SIM and micro SIM. For location it uses GPS and A-GPS. WiFi includes 802.11 b/g/n as well as dual band and hotspot. There's Bluetooth 4.0 support as well as A2DP. As far as the bands go, they are listed below:
In the Box
Inside the box, you don't get a whole lot with the Bluboo Maya. You're basically looking at the smartphone being right there on top, with the micro USB to USB Type-A cable and wall adapter. Of course there is some paperwork included here. The Bluboo Maya comes without the battery in the back of the phone. Something you don't see to often, but the back and the battery are both removable here on the Maya.
Hardware & Build Quality
These inexpensive smartphones coming out of China always seem to amaze us, especially when it comes to build quality. The Bluboo Maya may look fairly plain from the front (in fact, my first thought was that it looked like the Honor 5X which Huawei launched earlier this year). But the back is where things get interesting. Bluboo has gone with a sort of triangle pattern on the back of the Maya, which looks really cool, especially in the gold version we have here. The pattern isn't all that we like about the back of the Maya, the device also has a rigid back. This is a big deal because it means that the Maya actually has some grip to it. While many phones are slippery - especially higher-end and higher-priced models - the Maya has plenty of grip making it almost impossible to actually drop the phone.
The back is removable here, so is the battery. Those of you that want a smartphone with a removable battery, this is a great option, in a world where removable batteries are virtually extinct. Under the back cover, you'll also find the SIM card slots and micro SD card slot for expanding your storage. You'll notice that there are only two slots there, and that's because the micro SIM and micro SD card use the same slot, while the mini SIM card uses the other slot. There is a diagram above the slots showing you how they work.
Button placement here is pretty spot on. The power button is below the volume buttons on the right side of the device. However, the volume buttons are individual buttons. Making it a little tough to determine which is which, at first. But that gets easier to distinguish, the more you use the phone. The top of the device houses the 3.5mm headphone jack - a feature that more and more smartphones are getting rid of this year. While the bottom has the micro USB port along with the dual speakers. While they aren't front-facing speakers, it is still nice to see two speakers here on the bottom, and not one with the other actually being a microphone.
In the hand, the Bluboo Maya feels really nice. It's a 5.5-inch smartphone, so it's not exactly large, but it isn't small either. Even with the fairly large top and bottom bezels. Of course, the bottom bezel is a bit larger due to the capacitive buttons there. It's also nice to see that some manufacturers know to include a recent apps button, which is on the right side on the Maya with the back button on the left. However, the issue we have with these capacitive buttons is the color. They are gold, so they blend in with the face of the phone. And unfortunately, they don't light up at all. So sometimes it can be a bit tough finding the right button. Again, after using it for a good while, muscle memory takes over. Then again, if you pick up one of the other colors available, the capacitive buttons will likely be easier to see, so that's also worth taking into account if you are looking to pick up the Bluboo Maya.
In 2016, a 5.5-inch display that has a 720p display seems pretty uninteresting right? Many would think that it's a pretty low-end smartphone (which given the price, it really is) and that you're going to see pixels on this display. Well that may have been true a few years ago, but even with 720p panels not being as popular as they once were, they are still improving. I've been pretty impressed with some 720p panels as of late, and the one here on the Bluboo Maya doesn't disappoint either. The display is a bit cool though, but you can change that up in the settings, since Bluboo does have MiraVision included here. So you can choose between normal and vivid, or change the individual settings yourself. You don't see individual pixels on the Bluboo Maya, even if you are trying to find them. They just aren't there. Now it's true the display would look even better if it were a 1080p panel, but it also wouldn't be under $100.
When it comes to the digitizer, there's nothing to complain about here either. There does appear to be a hiccup or two every so often, but some of that may actually be due to the heat - since the US is in a massive heat wave right now and we've seen the same issues appear on the Nexus 6P and LG G5 in recent days. But otherwise, the digitizer works pretty much perfect. That's a corner that is usually cut to bring down the price on these cheaper smartphones.
Inside, there is the MediaTek MT6580A processor. This is a quad-core system-on-a-chip that is clocked at 1.3GHz, and is paired with the Mali-400 GPU and 2GB of RAM inside. So obviously this isn't the most high-end smartphone on the planet. But given what it's working with, it performs really well. During normal usage - which includes watching YouTube, using Instagram, Snapchat, Facebook, Twitter, Gmail, etc - the Maya performed pretty well. About as well as other recent smartphones with just 2GB of RAM. Typically, 2GB wouldn't be enough, but since it does have stock Android 6.0 Marshmallow on board, it runs it pretty well. Not that surprising given the fact that Google has been working hard to make Android run better on lower specs.
When it comes to gaming, the word that comes to mind is "adequate". Unless you're a hardcore gamer, playing things like Final Fantasy or Grand Theft Auto, you won't have any issues with the MT6580A or the Mali-400 inside. But if you are, then you'll have some issues, and the graphics definitely won't look as good on the Maya. Of course, that is also the case with less resource intensive games, when you compare it to things like the Galaxy Note 7.
Typically, we would end the "Performance" section right there. But there is something else that needs to be brought up, and we are hoping that it's just a bug that will be fixed in an upcoming update. When it comes to WiFi, for some reason the Maya will disconnect after a few hours, and it won't reconnect unless you toggle WiFi off and back on, then select the WiFi network you want to connect to. This wasn't the case with just one network either, which led us to believe that it is an issue with the Maya and not our WiFi network.
Speakers & Sound
The Maya is full of surprises and here's another one. The Bluboo Maya sports two speakers at the bottom of the device. Typically when the speaker is at the bottom, manufacturers will add another one on the other side so that it is symmetrical. But the other side is usually a microphone and not a speaker. That's not the case here. Both sides house a speaker, and that is definitely nice to see. It's the next best thing, from having dual front-facing speakers. Now just because there are two speakers here doesn't mean that you're getting high quality audio. You're just getting louder audio here. The audio quality isn't bad - we've had some phones where the audio would be a bit tinny, as well as distorted when turned up - but it isn't going to be up to the expectations of an audiophile.
Phone Calls & Network
We used the Bluboo Maya on the T-Mobile USA network. As a disclaimer here, the Bluboo Maya is not made for the US, nor its networks. And as you probably noticed from the bands we listed above, the Maya does not support LTE on T-Mobile or AT&T. And that is completely true. It does support 2G and some 3G or HSPA+, which was still plenty for us to get some usage out of the phone when we were away from WiFi. Obviously the speeds weren't up to par with our daily driver, the Nexus 6P, since that supports T-Mobile's LTE service. But they were still pretty decent.
When it came to phone calls, there weren't many issues either. Keep in mind that there is no WiFi Calling, VoLTE or HD Voice for the Bluboo Maya on T-Mobile's network, and that's due to this not being a T-Mobile branded phone. But there were no issues with voice calls, everyone could hear us just fine.
As always, we ran 3D Mark, AnTuTu and Geekbench on the Bluboo Maya and it performed about as well as we expected. It's near the bottom of the rankings on AnTuTu and that's due to the rankings basically only showing flagship smartphones, and they boast much better specs than the Maya - also a much higher price tag.
With a 3000mAh battery, we weren't sure what to expect with the Bluboo Maya, but at least the battery was removable. So that users could pop in a new one if they really needed too. The 3000mAh battery inside the Maya isn't going to get most people through the day, without a recharge. For some, it may be enough, but if you use your phone heavily, you'll definitely need a recharge. Those that are light users, it'll be perfect, and that's likely who the Maya is actually targeting here.
However, topping off the battery isn't as great as it should be. Unfortunately, the battery takes quite a while to charge. This could be us being used to these fast charging smartphones, like the Nexus 6P, Galaxy Note 7, LG G5 and many others, but the 3000mAh battery did take quite a while to actually charge up.
Software here is what we would call "near stock Android". The reason why we call it near stock is because it is stock Android 6.0 Marshmallow with a few changes on top. Even though the "About" screen shows that the version of Android is "unknown", we do know that it is Android 6.0 based on the build being MRA58K. It's also sporting the February 1st, 2016 security patch, which is actually a really old security patch and Bluboo should have pushed out a new one by now, since it is now August and that patch is 6 months old. This doesn't lend a lot of hope to the fact that we may see updates to the Bluboo Maya.
Now when it comes to the actual software, now that we've gotten the updates out of the way, the biggest change you'll see is actually the launcher. And that's a good thing, because if you don't like it, you can quickly install a third-party launcher from Google Play and be done with it. Unlike most Chinese manufacturers, Bluboo has decided to keep the app drawer here, although it is on the right side of the screen instead of the middle, and there's no option to change that. The app drawer is sorted alphabetically, on a 4x6 grid. There's no options to change this either. The icons is another big change, which you'll see that they have all been themed. A bit reminiscent of Huawei's Emotion UI. Except this is a bit more uniformed than EUI is.
That's literally all of the changes for the Bluboo Maya, when compared to stock Android 6.0 Marshmallow. It's pretty simple, but it is a bit different. Like we said, the good thing here is that you can get rid of these changes pretty easily, and you'll be back to a stock Android smartphone that's under $100. It's pretty tough to beat that in this day and age.
Bluboo has stuck a 13-megapixel shooter here on the Maya, which produces some fairly decent images. Even though the camera software is still fairly basic. You don't get many features in the camera app, you're basically stuck with auto, beauty mode and panorama. And that's it. There's no manual mode whatsoever within the camera app. Not that it was expected, but it would have been nice, especially for those that like to adjust all the settings before they snap that shot. In the settings, you are able to change the scene and white balance however, which is definitely a nice thing to see these days. There is also HDR as well as the peace sign gesture for taking selfies included. By default, the camera does not store the GPS location on pictures, but you can toggle that on, if you wish to do so. There is burst shot, which can take either 40 or 99 shots. A great way to get a GIF out of Google Photos.
The shutter here is actually quite fast, and that's a bit surprising given how cheap this smartphone is. It's another area where manufacturers typically skimp out to save money and hit the low price point. When it comes to the actual pictures taken with the camera on the Bluboo Maya, they are surprisingly good. As always, with cameras, the more light available in the picture, the better the shot is going to be. But we took quite a few images that were in low-light, and they all came out quite well actually. Obviously, this isn't going to rival the Galaxy S7 or Galaxy Note 7, but it's definitely better than some cameras we've used, especially in this price range.
Performance, for the most part
Build quality and design
Mediocre Battery Life
"Unknown" Version of Android
WiFi continually disconnects
No 4G LTE support
There's truly a lot to like about the Bluboo Maya, and if you're a fan of higher-end smartphones, there is definitely some that you're not going to like about the Maya. But you can't really argue the fact that it's a great buy for the price. You're looking at a fairly large display at 5.5-inches, along with dual SIM capability on top of micro SD card for expanding memory, not to mention the removable battery. Sure the WiFi disconnecting at random times can definitely be an annoyance, but that is something that should hopefully be fixed soon, and it doesn't take long to get it all straightened out again, anyways.
Should you buy the Bluboo Maya?
The Bluboo Maya is sort of a mixed bag for someone in the US. However if you are in Europe or Asia or are in an emerging country that doesn't have 4G LTE, then the Maya is definitely a great smartphone to pick up, especially since it has a price of just $79.99. Remember that if you are looking to import it into the US, there's no LTE support (period, never mind the bands) and only partial 3G support on AT&T and T-Mobile.
Out of all of the smartphones that are available for under $100, the Bluboo Maya probably gives you the best value for your money. At $79, this is a great phone to pick up for your kids or your parents. Or really anyone who doesn't need a high-end smartphone to check their email and send some text messages. And the best part is that it runs nearly stock Android.