Blu Products is a relatively new phone manufacturer that was launched in August 2009 and is based in Miami. The company is mainly focused on the Latin American market, though it will attempt to sell its products in the U.S as well. In the meantime, Blu's current offerings are mostly unlocked GSM models, so they should be compatible with AT&T and T-Mobile in the U.S. Blu also appears to be targeting the young and hip crowd with its highly colorful marketing materials and lower-cost handsets.
The Blu Speed is one such handset, and while it may look like a generic messaging phone at first glance, it actually has a number of interesting features that might trick you into thinking it's a smartphone. These include Wi-Fi, e-mail, an FM radio, an MP3 player, a 2-megapixel camera on the back plus a front-facing VGA camera, and two SIM card slots so you can have two different phone numbers in one. The construction is a little cheap, and we're not thrilled with the photo quality, but we applaud the number of features crammed into a compact, unassuming device.
The Blu Speed has a decidedly dull design. At 4.33 inches long by 2.40 inches wide by 0.51 inch thick, the Speed doesn't look at all distinguishable from most other messaging phones on the market. Its rounded corners do make it easier to hold in the hand, but the glossy plastic construction gives it a rather cheap feel.
The 2.4-inch TFT display is nothing to write home about, either. It's rather lackluster, with 65,536-color support and 320x240-pixel resolution. You can adjust the appearance of the date and time, the display's brightness, and the backlight timer. The interface is sparse with white graphic icons that glow when you roll over them. At the bottom row of the home screen are six default shortcut icons for the main menu, the contacts list, the messaging menu, e-mail, Java apps, and MSN messenger. These shortcuts can be customized by going into the Settings menu.
The buttons on the navigation array have that same plastic feel as the rest of the phone. They are easy to press down, but they can get quite slippery. There are two soft keys, the Talk and End/Power keys, and the optical mouse in the middle. The optical mouse is similar to the one on the BlackBerry Torch; you can use it to go through the menu and select items. We found it a little tricky to use at first, but fortunately we were able to adjust the sensitivity of the optical mouse in the settings.
The QWERTY keyboard underneath the array is quite compact, but the keys are separated enough from each other that you could certainly dial and text by feel. The number keys are highlighted in white, and dedicated keys include the Alt key, the Shift key, the Symbol key, and of course the Space key. We're also slightly surprised to note that the dollar sign has its own key as well. On the whole, the keyboard was easy to use, but because the keys are so tiny, typing wasn't as quick as we would like.
The Micro-USB charging jack and 3.5mm headset jack are on the right spine, while the volume rocker sits on the left. On the top is the keylock button that also acts as the power key. The camera lens is on the back. You have to remove both the battery and the battery cover to access the microSD card slot. Also behind the battery are two SIM card slots for two different phone numbers.
The Blu Speed has a 1,000-entry phone book, with room in each entry for three numbers, an e-mail address, a company name, and a birthdate. You can add a photo or even a short video clip for caller ID. You can also add the contact to a caller group and assign them one of 25 polyphonic ringtones. A few of the phone's organizer functions include a tasks list, an alarm clock, a world clock, a notepad, a calculator, and a currency converter.
As for connectivity, you get Bluetooth, the ability to synchronize media over USB, and even Wi-Fi, which we rarely see on non-smartphones. This goes well with the mobile Web browser on the Speed, which happens to be a version of Opera Mini. Other Internet features include MSN, Yahoo, and Facebook Messenger applications.
Perhaps the most surprising is that the Speed comes with Skype Mobile so you can call someone over VoIP. You can even conduct video calls, because the Speed has a front-facing VGA camera.