Right out of the box you get Android's characteristically excellent integration with free Google services like Google Maps and turn-by-turn voice navigation, search, YouTube, and Google Talk. In addition, there's Bluetooth 2.1, Wi-Fi, and assisted GPS (A-GPS) support, and essential apps like a clock, an alarm, a stopwatch, a calendar, and a calculator. There's also the standard Android music player, which lets you build playlists and organize your song library. Android's hot-spot and tethering capabilities are also onboard, as we mentioned above, but keep in mind that carriers usually impose an additional $20 to $30 monthly fee to use them.
Blu has bundled third-party apps with the Tango as well, including the Hi5 and Orkut social networks (particularly popular in South America), an FM radio, the Animal Farm game, a demo version of a third-party Facebook app (this is different from the official Facebook effort), and an audio recorder app. The Android Market holds an additional 150,000-plus apps that you can use to customize your experience.
If you have a microSD card installed, you'll be able to use the combination camera and camcorder. Interestingly, the Tango's software differs from the stock Android shooter. For starters, the interface buttons are in a different location and have a unique look and feel. You can adjust the photo size and quality, white-balance effects, and brightness. Onscreen controls let you zoom in and out. There are fewer options on the Tango than on other Android phones, but we do like seeing them visually represented as icons rather than as plain text. The same goes for the camcorder feature. You can share photos and video through the usual social networking, e-mail, and Bluetooth channels, and upload videos to YouTube.
Photo quality was acceptable. Colors looked appropriately bright and edges were fairly sharp. Strangely, the camera sometimes produced photos washed with an orange or blue hue. Video quality was also decent, without too much jerkiness or blurriness on playback, but it also suffered from dramatic changes in color temperature. The Tango struggled with natural light during indoor shots, often creating overexposed pockets.
We tested the unlocked, quad-band (GSM 850/900/1800/1900; 3G HSDPA 850/1900) Blu Tango in San Francisco using T-Mobile's network (voice and data performance will vary by network). Call quality was poor, with a thick, pervasive layer of background noise accented by crackling. Voices sounded muted, but mostly natural. Calls dropped a couple of times while walking around downtown San Francisco, but held steady for the duration of one hour-long call. On their end, we sounded muffled to some callers. Others had better luck, saying we sounded hollow but fairly true to life, with no background disturbance.
Speakerphone quality was noticeably better. The blanket of white noise was still present on our side, but it was barely noticeable with the phone so far from our ear. Our callers still sounded vaguely off and echoey, but the volume remained strong for us. Our callers, on the other hand, said we sounded quieter and still muffled, but less so than before.
Blu Tango call quality sample
It took about 27 seconds to load CNET's Web-optimized site on the Android browser, and almost 2 minutes to load CNET's full site, which is graphically rich. The New York Times' mobile site took closer to 45 seconds to fully load, and it was also about 2 minutes for the full site. As always, results vary by network, signal strength, location, and time of day. That said, we'd hardly call these speeds blazing; many Android phones can render Web sites faster.
That takes us to the phone's performance as a whole, which was notably slow on the Tango's 600MHz processor. We had to wait a beat for the phone to execute the simplest tasks, like waking up and presenting the lock screen, and launching the dialer and other apps.
The Tango has a rated battery life of 6 hours with 3G use and 12 hours with 2G use, and a rated standby time of 20.8 days on its 1,200 mAh lithium ion battery. According to our tests, it has a talk time of 7 hours and 11 minutes. According to FCC tests, the Tango's digital SAR is 1.3 watts per kilogram.
The Tango's specs start out adequately enough with Android 2.2 Froyo and a decent 3.2-megapixel camera, but then the small, resistive touch screen derails it all by creating a cramped, hostile typing environment that taunts those with sizable fingers or short nails. Cheap build quality compounds poor design choices like the screen specs and lack of a camera shutter button. We know Blu isn't pretending the Tango is anything more than it is, but in our view it doesn't even live up to its modest promise. If you're looking for an Android starter phone, try any of these first. However, if you simply must have an unlocked Android GSM world phone, at least the Tango is more affordable than its rivals with $500 price tags.