Amazon Blu R1 HD review: Just barely good enough to get by

The Blu R1 HD starts at $50, works on T-Mobile or AT&T, and will arrive on your doorstep in two days. It is, for all intents and purposes, an Amazon phone.

Not the Amazon phone, the Fire, that failed so hard a few years ago. The R1 HD is a phone made by another company, with a few customizations by Amazon, and sold by Amazon.

For Prime members who are fully entrenched in Amazons ecosystem, from Photos to Music to Video to Cloud Drive, the Blu R1 HD comes preinstalled with every Amazon app from the factory.

Now, before you get too excited, you have to remember its a $50 phone.

Amazon ads all up in your face

In June, Amazon announced a new program in which the company takes preexisting Android devices, preloads the complete suite of Amazon apps and tweaks the operating system. Those tweaks allow Amazon to push ads to the lock screen of the device, similar to what the company has long done with its Kindle lineup.

It’s not all bad news. The ads fill up the lock screen when you don’t have any pending notifications. But if you do have pending notifications, they just show up like any other notification.

It’s jarring to see the ads at first, but after a few days I got used to seeing them every time I woke up the phone. If you flat out dislike the idea of ads on your phone, you’ll want to look elsewhere. Also, know that you can’t pay a one-time fee to remove them later like you can with the Kindles with ads.

Hope you like seeing ads on the lockscreen.

Image: screenshot: jason cipriani/mashable

And using Amazon apps.


In exchange for letting Amazon shove ads in your face every time you pick up your phone, the company knocks the price down.

For example, the Blu R1 HD with 16GB of storage and 2GB of RAM normally would set you back $110. Someone who purchases the same phone through Amazons Prime Exclusive Phones will get a $50 discount, making the total cost for an unlocked smartphone $60.

Theres a less equipped version of the Blu R1 HD with 8GB of storage and 1GB of memory you can get for $50. Both models have a microSD card slot capable of accepting cards up to 64GB.

Motorola has partnered with Amazon on two of its Moto G4 devices, priced at $100 and $150 after the discount.

Google and Amazon apps


The Blu R1 HD runs Android 6.0 Marshmallow, and as previously mentioned comes preloaded with Amazon apps. The good news is when you enter your Amazon credentials during setup, all of the Amazon apps Prime Music, Video, Photos, or Alexa are already set up for use with your account.

For what its worth, you cant completely remove any of the Amazon apps, which makes sense. You can, however, disable the apps so you dont have to look at any unused app icons.

Theres little in the way of customizations from Blu, save for an option to schedule a time for the device to turn itself off and on.

Outside of that, the Blue R1 HD provides a pretty basic Android experience. No frills, no fluff, just Amazon and Google playing nice together.

Surprising performance


I was somewhat surprised at how well the Blu R1 HD performed during my time with the phone. As it cost $59, my expectations for the device were very low. I anticipated having to wait for emails to open, apps to launch, and taps or swipes to register.

For the most part, I was wrong and the phone handled common tasks as one would expect. In other words, emails promptly opened, apps launched with quickness, and taps or swipes were registered without any delay.



Gaming, however, is where the Blu R1 HD begins to show its low-end specs. Asphalt 8 is a game I play on all review devices as a way of pushing the device to its limits (plus I enjoy the game quite a bit).

On the Blu R1 HD, graphics stuttered as the phone tried to keep up with gameplay. Its not enough to make the game unplayable, but its not something I could do for an extended chunk of time.

My loudest gripe, outside of the camera, has to be the display’s brightness. I couldnt leave the auto-brightness setting turned on because any lower than 80 percent brightness and the screen was just too dim. Ultimately I left the display set to max, and found it to work in all environments.

Overall battery life was just alright. Youll probably get a full day of use out of it, but barely.

Crummy camera


I think this is the first smartphone camera I wouldnt feel comfortable applying the good enough for Facebook tagline to.

I dont know how else to say it, but the photos are bad. Like really bad. Colors are either overly muted and not all that realistic, or so overblown that the photo is, again, not close to reality.

Camera samples


Image: jason cipriani/mashable

Then again, maybe Im expecting too much from a phone that costs $1 more than Apples leather case for the iPhone 7 Plus. Yes, the camera can take pictures and video, just dont expect to be happy with the results on most occasions.

Should you buy it?


The vast majority like 99.75 percent of the time, that answer is no. The Blu R1 HD is a $50 phone with more concessions than giving Amazon access to blast ads to your lock screen. The camera alone almost makes it a no-go. Heck, for $50 more you can get the Amazon Prime Exclusive version of the Moto G4 Play and find yourself with a battery camera and superior battery life.

With that said, for someone who has met the sad fate of losing a phone and cant afford a new iPhone or Samsung Galaxy phone, the Blu R1 HD will get the job done.

And who knows, maybe the ads you see from Amazon will save you money on purchases you were going to end up making anyways.

Blu R1 HD

The Good

Ridiculously cheap Noticeable Amazon integration

The Bad

Screen is too dim Laughable camera Slow performance at times

The Bottom Line

If youre on a tight budget and just want a phone to get by, you cant go wrong for $50.

Read more: