Bluboo has created one of its best-looking smartphones and gave it a huge battery, all for under $150 USD.
The Bluboo S8 Plus does share a name with another popular smartphone, and it does also share some design cues from that device, but it's not quite the same. The Bluboo S8 Plus sports an 18:9 display, with some pretty small bezels and a truly gigantic battery, but is that enough to make it your next smartphone?
The Bluboo S8 Plus has a 6-inch 1440 x 720 display, which gives it an "HD+" resolution. This is an IPS panel made by Sharp as well. Inside, there is a MediaTek MT6750T octa-core processor inside (four Cortex-A53 cores clocked at 1.5GHz, and four Cortex-A53 cores clocked at 1.0GHz). That is paired with 4GB of RAM and 64GB of storage, there is also a micro SD card slot available for expanding storage on the Bluboo S8 Plus.
Bluboo has joined the dual-camera trend, and is using a 13-megapixel sensor as the main sensor on the back and a 3-megapixel sensor supporting it. The front-facing camera is a 5-megapixel shooter. There's dual LED flash on the back, as well as autofocus available. There's no phase detection or laser auto-focus on the cameras here either. For connectivity, it does support WiFi 802.11 a/b/g/n/ac on both 2.4GHz and 5GHz. There's also location tracking via A-GPS, GPS and GLONASS. With Bluetooth 4.1 on board, and as far as sensors go, it sports a G-sensor, Proximity sensor, Ambient Light Sensor, Geomagnetic Sensor and an accelerometer. Rounding things out, it sports Android 7.0 Nougat, as well as a 3600mAh battery which is non-removable.
In the Box
With the Bluboo S8 Plus, the company includes a slew of paperwork, as you'd expect, along with a clear TPU Case. But what's interesting here is that Bluboo includes two USB-A to USB-C cables, as well as two headphone dongles. This is really nice to have here, in case you lose one, you still have another you can use. There's also the wall adapter, which is an EU adapter, for those thinking about importing this to the US.
At first glance, you would think that the Bluboo S8 Plus was actually a Samsung Galaxy S8 Plus. The antenna lines are the same, the ports are the same (aside from the headphone jack missing), and even the speaker is in the same spot. But the Bluboo S8 Plus is a bit thicker, and you wouldn't notice that unless you had both devices with you. The Bluboo S8 Plus is made of glass, which makes it a bit fragile. The back is curved at the edges, which makes it feel really nice in the hand, and there is also that camera bump. Bluboo has gone with vertical cameras here and the fingerprint sensor right below it.
On the left side of the S8 Plus, you'll find two buttons for volume control. So, instead of going with one rocker for adjusting the volume, Bluboo opted for two separate keys, which actually makes the entire affair easier to use given its overall design. On the right side of this Android phones, there is a power button. The top is where you'll find the SIM card tray, which is a dual SIM tray, or the second SIM card slot will work as a micro SD card. And of course, on the bottom, there is a USB-C port and a speaker. The left side of the USB-C port, though, is empty, and it leaves us wondering why Bluboo couldn't add a headphone jack there. Since the phone isn't really that thin, so there should be plenty of space inside for one. But nonetheless, there is no headphone jack here, which is another trend in 2017 that this phone is following.
In the hand, the Bluboo S8 Plus feels really nice. It's a glass slab, basically, and with the curved edges on the back, it fits more comfortably in the hand, without it possibly slipping out. Even though it is a 6-inch device, it is just a tad larger than the Samsung Galaxy S8 (really between the Galaxy S8 and Galaxy S8 Plus), so it's not a huge device, despite the large display, and that's the benefit of going with that 18:9 ratio.
On paper, the resolution here seems really low, coming in at just 1440 by 720 pixels. That's basically HD+ and not a resolution we've really seen on many 18:9 devices this year. But it is here on the Bluboo S8 Plus, and it's not as bad as it might sound, even when stretched across 6 inches. We're unable to see individual pixels on this display, and it does still get very bright, almost too bright in some instances. But it also gets very dim, which is a bit surprising, since this is an IPS display, and usually those panels don't have a huge scale for brightness. However, it is good to see here.
The colors on this panel, however, is where things take a turn. The colors are not that great. If you turn the brightness up, almost to max, you'll see some colors are blown out. Which is something we haven't really seen on mobile display panels in quite some time. This is an IPS panel, so the blacks aren't that deep and actually look more gray than black. As long as you don't keep it at max brightness all the time, though, it should be just fine.
This is another area where the Bluboo S8 Plus suffers. There's an octa-core processor inside from MediaTek here, which has four cores clocked at 1.5GHz and four clocked at 1GHz. So it's not going to be the fastest device running out the door, obviously, but it does stutter from time to time. Especially if you have quite a few apps open, which is actually a bit weird considering the device has 4GB of RAM, which should be plenty for Android Nougat. Now it isn't always lagging or stuttering, but it does do it from time to time. It is bearable, and it is also hard to tell when it's going to lag, seeing as it does also happen sometimes when there is basically no other apps open.
Gaming performance on the S8 Plus is also bearable. Don't expect to play some heavy duty titles on this phone, that needs a lot of graphics power to get things done. Because it's just not going to happen, unfortunately. So if you are looking for a phone that can do some great gaming, you may want to look elsewhere. Seeing as this is a $149 smartphone, you can't expect it to outperform those that are $700, especially when it comes to gaming.
Bluboo also took a cue from Samsung with the fingerprint sensor here. It's part of the camera module, which looks very similar to the Galaxy Note 8's module but turned, so that the fingerprint reader is actually in the right spot (read: a spot you can actually reach). Ideally, we would like the fingerprint sensor a bit further from the camera, so we don't touch the lens when trying to unlock the device, as that will inevitably happen, and get smudges on the lens. But as far as using the fingerprint sensor goes, it works and works well. Now it's not the fastest fingerprint sensor in the world, but it is pretty accurate. It only failed to recognize my finger if I had it misaligned or in a different angle then when I set it up. So definitely not a deal breaker.
Phone Calls & Network
The Bluboo S8 Plus is an unlocked, GSM smartphone. So we've been using it on T-Mobile throughout the review process. The device works on EDGE only in the US, there's no support for 3G or 4G LTE networks in the US. This is actually common among smartphones made for the Chinese market, like this one. Just for reference, the supported bands are listed below:
GSM: 800, 900, 1800, 1900
WCDMA: 900, 2100
LTE-FDD: 800, 900, 1800, 2100, 2600
Having said that, we were able to use the Bluboo S8 Plus on T-Mobile's network to make calls, and everything worked as expected. There is no HD Voice support or VoLTE support here, so calls were made over T-Mobile's legacy voice network and worked just fine. Surprisingly, the Bluboo S8 Plus does support WiFi Calling, so you can make calls over your WiFi network if you don't have a great signal from your carrier. Which is nice to see, especially on an unlocked device.
When it comes to benchmarking, we ran AnTuTu, Geekbench 4 and 3D Mark on the Bluboo S8 Plus, and the scores were not that high, but about where you'd expect them to be, given the hardware it is running on. On Geekbench 4, it scored 621 in the single-core test, and 2659 in the multi-core test. Over on AnTuTu, it scored a 42,393. Now that sounds very low, obviously, but we are also talking about a much slower processor, compared to what you find in more expensive, flagship devices, so the score should be lower. Finally, in 3D Mark, it picked up a pretty respectable 391. Of course, you can see the full results in the gallery below.
With a 3600mAh battery and an HD+ display, you'd expect battery life to be pretty impressive on the Bluboo S8 Plus, and indeed it is. The battery life on this phone is darn impressive. During the review period, we've been able to get through a good day without it dipping below 50%. Even with heavy usage, it's still tough to get it below 50% in a single day. With this smartphone, you can likely squeeze out a good 6-8 hours of screen on time, without even trying too hard. It's pretty good. And part of that is due to the incredible standby this phone has. It can go overnight and still be at 100%.
Now charging is the flip side of battery life, and well, there's no fast charging here. So you're stuck with something around 2A. In fact, the charger in the box is a 2A charger. Which isn't dead slow, but it is slower than most other phones on the market right now. You can get this one fully charged from 0 to 100% in about three hours though. So, it's definitely good for charging up overnight since it does last all day anyway.
At the time of writing this review, the Bluboo S8 Plus was running on Android 7.0 Nougat, with version 2.0 of its own skin overlay (which doesn't appear to have a name), as well as the July 5th, 2017 security patch. And obviously that is a pretty old security patch, and it's not even the latest version of Nougat, never mind the latest version of Oreo. We did not receive any updates during the review process, but that isn't all that surprising since we've only been using the device for a short time.
Software on the Bluboo S8 Plus is pretty decent. It's mostly stock Android 7.0, with some changes. A bit more changes than what you would see on a Motorola or a OnePlus smartphone, but still close to stock. The biggest changes are in the launcher, notification shade and settings. The launcher does not have an app drawer, this is common on smartphones made for the Chinese market. There's no option to add an app drawer either, but you can simply install Nova Launcher or another third-party launcher and bring that back. So this means that all of your apps are on the home screen. Bluboo does have a rather interesting page to the left of the home screen though. this shows some of your recent apps at the top, highlights, and then "Hot News". It almost appears to be its own version of Google Now. Many may wonder why Bluboo even opted to create something like this, but keep in mind that the S8 Plus here is being sold in China, Google is banned in China, so this is a good alternative that actually works pretty well. Since we are using this in the US, we are seeing a good number of US-based news and topics on this page.
The notification shade actually has similar toggles to LG. Though the background is actually translucent, which makes it easier to use at night and in the dark, as a white background would strain your eyes in a dark environment. The toggles are gray when off and turn to a white background, with different colors for the icon, when turned on. There's also a brightness slider there, which is really nice to see, since not every phone provides this in the notification shade. Then you have your notifications, which work just as expected on Nougat. However, we have noticed with Inbox notifications, the subject text will be in black, and it's very difficult to read, even with the background being translucent. Otherwise, notifications work just as expected.
There are a few interesting apps installed on the Bluboo S8 Plus, one is called the Freezer. This app allows you to freeze apps, and keep them from running in the background, so you can save a bit more juice. I threw in some of the benchmarking apps in there, specifically AnTuTu since it kept running (even after a force stop) for some reason, something we haven't seen on other smartphones. But this is a good way to squeeze out a bit more juice out of this phone. There's also Quick Touch. Now, this allows you to have a floating button on the screen - which can be dragged around the display - and it gives you quick access to a number of different shortcuts, like settings, locking the phone, opening the camera, the alarm, calculator or just going home. You can also jump to a few settings here, like WiFi, GPS, Bluetooth, Airplane mode and mode. These are also customizable, should you want to change these up a bit. Bluboo also has an app called Clone, which sounds like it could be shady, but in actuality, it is an app that you can use to move all of your content from one phone to another. So it's actually pretty useful if you don't want to lose any data when upgrading to a new smartphone.
Now there is one thing that many people will not like about the Bluboo S8 Plus, and that is the ads on the lock screen. However, these only appear when the phone is charging. So you are not seeing an ad every time you unlock the phone, but it is a bit annoying to see nonetheless. Seeing as there's no way to get rid of these ads, but at least you won't see them all that often, especially if you are only charging the phone at night.
Software here on the Bluboo S8 Plus is not perfect, but it'll get the job done, for sure. It's actually pretty speedy on this smartphone, aside from the occasional stutter which we talked about in the performance section. There's also a ton of space for apps and games, since there is 64GB of storage available here.
The camera is, well not perfect. It is decent here. Surprisingly, the camera actually does better inside with decent light than it does outside with sunlight. A few images that we took outside came out with the background blown out a bit. Of course, part of that is due to the amount of snow in these images, but one main example is of the "No Parking" sign in the gallery below. You'll notice that the reds on that sign look a bit faded. Also, the tree branches are not that crisp and clear. This could be due to the camera attempting to blur part of the image for a bokeh effect, but it doesn't look like a great picture at all. So this camera will give you some good images, and other times, some okay images.
This camera does have a "Bokeh" mode, and it's not that good. So the camera will select an area in the middle of the photo to keep in focus and blur the rest of the image. It doesn't focus on an entire subject like other smartphones do. Another example here is of a box of headphones in the gallery below. I took a picture of the top of it, and it couldn't even keep that whole top part in focus, as you can see. And it also kept part of the background in focus. This is something that can be fixed with software, however, so hopefully, that is fixed in the future. Bluboo does also allow you to adjust the aperture, going all the way to f/0.8, which is actually the lowest we've seen, since Huawei and Honor only drop down to f/0.95. It looks good at f/0.8, but it would be better if it kept an entire subject in focus instead of just a small area.
There's only a few modes available on this camera, otherwise, it is pretty plain. You get a video mode, photo, Beauty, Face-Cute and then Bokeh. Missing here is a manual or professional mode, which is something that should be on every camera, as it allows you to really get a good image, even if the "auto" mode is not that great - as is the case with this phone's camera. The bottom line on the camera here is, don't expect it to replace your point and shoot, but it will work in a pinch.
No Headphone Jack
The Bluboo S8 Plus is a decent smartphone. It's also a pretty cheap one, coming in at just $149 right now, and at that price, it really isn't that bad. We've definitely seen much worse at this price point, so that's worth keeping in mind. The biggest strength for the S8 Plus here is the build quality and a truly massive battery. Being able to use this phone all day long and still having around 50% of battery left when it's time to go to bed is really nice to see, and something you don't see often.
Should I buy the Bluboo S8 Plus?
If you're looking for a phone that has great battery life, sure. But if you want something that has a great display, a high-end camera, and a headphone jack, there are other options at this price point right now. Including the Honor 7X that we reviewed recently, which is $50 more, but it does a lot more than this phone here while also being compatible with US bands. So, if you are in the US, you'll want to look past the Bluboo S8 Plus, but if you are in Europe or Asia, it's a pretty solid choice at this price point.