The Life One X3 has enough juice to keep it going for days at a time, something everyone is going to love!
BLU is a company in the US that has an interesting history. It has always released smartphones that are very cheap, we're talking under $250 most of the time. We've taken a look at a good number of their devices in recent years, and now the company is back with another smartphone in the Life One X3. This is being marketed as a smartphone with a monster battery, which it does indeed have a monster battery in the form of a 5000mAh battery pack inside. But that's not enough to get people to buy a phone. So is the Life One X3 worth your money? Let's find out.
The BLU Life One X3 sports a 5.5-inch full HD display, at 1920x1080 resolution that gives us a pixel density of 400ppi. The glass is also curved, which we'll explain a bit more later on. Powering the Life One X3 is the MediaTek MT6753, which is an octa-core 1.3GHz processor with the Mali-T720 GPU inside. There is 3GB of RAM included here, with 32GB of storage, and a micro SD card slot for expanding storage, should you need more space.
For optics, there is a 13-megapixel sensor on the back, and a 13-megapixel front-facing shooter. Both of them have a flash with them, so you'll get nice selfies even in low-lit places like bars and such. It can also record video at up to 1080p and 30 frames-per-second. Other connectivity options here include WiFi 802.11 a/b/g/n/ac, Bluetooth 4.0, as well as a micro USB port for charging the device. There is a fingerprint sensor on the front for authentication as well. Finally, the BLU Life One X3 is powered by a fairly large 5,000mAh battery inside.
In the Box
Inside the box with the BLU Life One X3, the company has included all of the usual items. So you get a clear silicon case for the BLU Life One X3, a screen protector, a wall adapter and a micro USB cable. Of course, there is the usual assortment of paperwork included in the box, as is the case with every smartphone.
Hardware & Build Quality
The Life One X3 does have a metal backside, which not only looks good, but it feels good in the hand as well. The Life One X3 does also have a slightly curved back, which really helps to make it feel good in the hand. It is available in black, which looks pretty stealthy. Now since there is such a large battery inside the Life One X3, there is no camera bump on this one. It's mostly flush with the back of the device, which is really nice to see. It's something that most customers would rather have, is a slightly thicker phone with a larger battery, over having a camera bump on the back.
Now BLU will say that the display is curved on the Life One X3, which is actually true, but it's only curved at the edges, to melt into the metal back of the Life One X3. So it is technically curved, but it's not going to change how you use the phone like a device such as the Galaxy S8 or Galaxy Note 8. The corners of the actual display are not curved either, and it's still a 16:9 aspect ratio device.
On the sides of the device, you'll find the power button and volume rocker on the right-hand side, with the SIM card slot on the left. The SIM card slot is actually pretty interesting, it's a dual SIM card slot with a micro SD card slot, so you have three slots in the tray, which is really nice to have. On the bottom of the device, you'll find the micro USB port, as well as a speaker and a microphone. The top is where you'll find the 3.5mm headphone jack, luckily, BLU did decide to keep that this time around, while many others are getting rid of the headphone jack.
The display here on the BLU Life One X3 is still a full HD display. And while most other smartphones are using a QHD panel these days, 1080p is still quite good, after all there is a pixel density of 400ppi, which is still quite high. And going with a 1080p display means BLU can charge less for this phone, while also providing even better battery life than with a QHD panel. So it's a good decision, all in all.
This panel is not the best one out there, but it's also not the worst one we've seen. It does get very, very bright. That is something you don't see a lot on smartphones in this price range. So good job there. It is also pretty vibrant. Sure, many would rather see it a bit more saturated than it is, thanks to the OLED panels out there being so saturated lately. But there's not much to complain about here. Now it does appear to be a tiny bit cool. But don't worry, you are able to change up the color of the display thanks to MiraVision support in the settings. We did do most of this review in the "Vivid" mode, which does look a bit better than the "Standard" that it ships with as default.
Performance, is not really that great. Now when we look at the spec sheet, that is a bit expected. It's sporting an octa-core 1.3GHz processor from MediaTek, with 3GB of RAM. Although, other processors that are clocked at this speed are not as slow as this phone is. It can become very slow, I've had it freeze up quite a few times while in the Play Store, just trying to download my apps and get the phone set up. Which is a pretty big problem. And throughout the review process, it didn't get much better. In fact, one big example is long-pressing home to get to Google Assistant. You long-press home and nothing happens, until you give up and think "oh maybe it doesn't have Google Assistant in the home button", then it'll popup and start Assistant. We also had quite a few times where the Google Assistant would randomly popup and start listening for a command. Very weird, and hopefully something BLU can fix in a software update.
When it comes to gaming, you should probably pass, unless it's a light title that doesn't need a lot of power. If the BLU Life One X3 can barely handle running through your everyday apps, it's very unlikely that it will do well with a game or two. So you're better off not gaming on this phone, unfortunately.
Much like the performance section of this review, the fingerprint sensor has its fair share of issues. It's the only fingerprint sensor I've used on a smartphone this year that has had issues with recognizing my fingerprint. And that is very telling. Most smartphones have no issue recognizing fingerprints these days, and are really fast, almost instant. The one here on the Life One X3 is neither fast nor accurate. It's quite slow, and it's actually a bit confusing. It will vibrate when it recognizes your finger and when you need to try again, so if you don't have the screen on already, it can be very confusing. It's pretty sad, BLU probably should have dropped the fingerprint sensor here. However, with this being the sensor, BLU is able to send out a software update and fix it, make it faster, more accurate. So fingers crossed that happens sooner rather than later.
Phone Calls & Network
The BLU Life One X3 is a GSM unlocked smartphone, so it'll work on AT&T, Cricket, T-Mobile, MetroPCS and any other MVNO's that use either AT&T or T-Mobile's network in the US, as well as most carriers around the globe. It's also a dual SIM phone, so you can pop two SIMs inside and switch between them pretty easily. The Life One X3 also supports most bands in the US, even when it comes to LTE, as you can see below.
3G GSM: 850, 900, 1700, 1900, 2100
4G LTE: 1, 2, 3, 4, 7, 12, 17, 28
We've been using the Life One X3 on T-Mobile's network during the review process, and it's worked out pretty well. It garnered about the same speeds as other devices running on T-Mobile's network in the same area, so no surprises when it comes to speed. And phone calls went off without a hitch as well. No dropped calls around here, which is nice to see as well. However, the Life One X3 does not support HD Voice, VoLTE or WiFi Calling. Not really a surprise since the majority of unlocked smartphones do not support those technologies, but still worth noting.
Now the issues we have had in terms of networks has been with WiFi. The BLU Life One X3 will randomly stop connecting to a WiFi network, or it'll connect and say it has "no internet," or (and this is my favorite part) it'll say there is an authentication problem even though it was just connected to that network with that password. Now a restart of the phone has fixed this for us, but this shouldn't be happening, it should be staying connected to the WiFi network. Hopefully this is also just a bug that BLU can fix soon enough.
The speaker here is on the bottom of the phone, to the right of the micro USB port. BLU did not opt to use the earpiece as a second speaker, so you're stuck with just that one. Which is unfortunate, because when holding the phone in landscape mode, you may cover the speaker and the sound will be muffled, and sometimes you won't get any sound at all. Speaking of sound though, the sound on this smartphone is very tinny. It does not really sound good at all. It does get fairly loud, but it sounds like it's coming from a tin can, which does not sound good, and should not be a thing in 2017. The sound is better when it comes to the headphone jack, but there's no DAC in this phone, so the sound quality there is all dependent on the type of headphones you have plugged in (which we had the Sony WH-1000X M2's plugged in, so we would likely get great audio regardless).
On the Life One X3, we ran AnTuTu, 3D Mark and Geekbench 4 for benchmarks, to see how the phone would perform. And the numbers were actually about where we expected, given the specs that this phone has. On AnTuTu, it scored a 39,415, which put it in last place, but we also have to remember that most of the phones on that list are sporting flagship specs like the Snapdragon 835. Over on 3D Mark, it picked up a score of 208, which is actually fairly decent, but gaming still isn't going to be very enjoyable on this phone. Finally on Geekbench 4, it picked up a single-core score of around 615 and a multi-core score of 2335. As always, you can see the full results in the gallery below for all three benchmarks.
There's a 5000mAh battery inside the Life One X3, and common sense would lead you to believe that it has some pretty impressive battery life. And you'd be right. But it appears that the software is not completely optimized to really take advantage of that large battery. Particularly when it comes to standby times. The Life One X3 was able to lose a good 6-8% of its battery overnight (about 8 hours), which is quite a bit of battery, considering other phones like the Pixel 2 XL and even the Moto G5S Plus, are closer to around 1-2% over the same period. But when you are using the phone, it does last quite a long time. We were able to get around 3 hours of screen on time in a single day, and that was still with 51% of its battery left. That was after a full day of use, so the phone will last you a good two days, if not a bit more depending on how you use it.
With a 5000mAh battery powering this phone, this means it's going to take longer to charge than something with a 3000mAh battery, which is true. Especially since this does not have Qualcomm's Quick Charge 3.0, largely since it does not use a Qualcomm chipset. But it does have a form of fast charging, which isn't that fast in 2017. It can support up to 2.4A out of the box, which is somewhat fast, it's about on par with Quick Charge 2.0. And with a 2.4A power adapter, you're able to fully charge this phone in just under 3 hours. Still quite a long time, but you do have to remember that there is such a large battery pack in this one, so it does make sense that it takes much longer.
At the time of reviewing the BLU Life One X3, the phone is running on Android 7.0 Nougat with the September 5, 2017 security patch. That is a fairly old security patch for a phone that has just launched in December 2017. But it is still newer than most other phones on the market, for what it's worth. Now, we do need to talk updates. BLU does not typically send out updates to its phones, and when it does, it's usually only for its most popular devices. Since we typically stop using these phones after the review period, it's hard to say how often or how many updates the Life One X3 will get, but don't get your hopes up for regular updates for the next 2-3 years. BLU has not said whether or not this is going to get Android Oreo either.
Although it should get Oreo, because this is essentially a build of AOSP slapped onto this hardware. There are very few changes in the Life One X3's software from AOSP. Which isn't always a bad thing, but it gives a company less excuses for updating. Many would love to have a great phone with great battery life and stock Android. Which the Life One X3 does apparently tick two of those boxes. The software here on the Life One X3 has a few apps installed, other than the usual Google apps. Of course the Amazon app is here, since BLU does have that agreement with Amazon. There's also "BLU Help" which is a customer support app to help you out in case you having issues with your phone. Definitely a nice app to have installed on this phone. There's also Empire, Yahoo Newsroom, NextRadio, Amazon Prime Video, Protect and Yahoo Sports. The Protect app is an app that will measure and save your mobile data, and it does need permission for apps usage. This is one you'll likely want to remove from the phone when you get it. There's really no need for this when you have data usage built-in.
Despite being pretty plain, the software here actually works just as you'd expect. The software itself is pretty smooth on the Life One X3, although there are some hiccups here and there when doing different things. Like we mentioned in the performance section, Google Assistant does appear to randomly start up and listen for a command from you, which is really odd. But otherwise, there's not a lot to complain about here, though it would be nice if the software were a bit faster. Now you can adjust this a bit by shortening the animations in the software, under developer settings, but this only helps a tiny bit.
The camera needs some help, to be honest here. There are times where auto focus will take the subject from being in focus and make it out of focus then snap the picture. Which is really the opposite of what it should be doing, to be honest. There's also no manual mode here, so you can't move it to manual focus, or adjust shutter and ISO on the pictures you're taken. It's really a plain camera app and experience here. There are a total of four modes for the camera. There's the regular auto mode, a QR mode, Panorama, and HDR. As you'd expect, HDR mode is quite slow to capture the photo, and to make it worse, there's not much of a difference in pictures taken in HDR versus without HDR. So for most people with this phone, do yourself a favor and keep it on auto - also change the preview to 4:3 otherwise you'll be shooting with 9-megapixels instead of the full 13-megapixels.
The actual images coming out of this camera actually aren't too bad. Sure there are smartphones that can provide a much better picture, but these are still good enough for social media and such. Of course things look much better when you're outside with sunlight helping you out. But even in relatively low light, it does surprisingly well. As always, you can see examples from our time with the phone in the gallery below.
Performance is very slow
WiFi disconnecting and not reconnecting (even manually)
Poor Camera software
Google Assistant randomly popping up (like those pop up ads that used to plague the web)
This review probably sounded pretty negative, but it is honest. There are a lot of issues with the BLU Life One X3 that shouldn't be issues in 2017. Now luckily, a lot of these issues can be fixed with software updates, so hopefully BLU is able to get some software updates out to fix these things - particularly the fingerprint sensor and the camera, unfortunately the performance may not get much better even with software. Now the Life One X3 isn't going to win "Phone of the Year" for 2017, but it's still a pretty good value for those that need something to make phone calls and don't want to spend a fortune.
Should you buy the BLU Life One X3?
That's a pretty tough question, there's a lot of problems with the Life One X3, but if you're one that just needs a phone to make calls, reply to texts, browse the web and such, then the Life One X3 is likely a good phone for you. But if you're a heavy user and are tempted by that 5000mAh battery inside, you may not have a good time here.