What makes a good budget smartphone? Is it the looks, specs, or price? Or is it a combination of all those important factors? Meet the Win JR LTE from BLU (pictured above in yellow), which arrived a while back on our doorsteps for review. We've been field-testing this bad boy for several weeks now and let's see how it held up in our hands-on review.
The Win JR LTE features a 4.5-inch 480x854 IPS display, a Qualcomm Snapdragon 410 processor clocked at 1.2GHz with a 64bit architecture. The device also features a 5MP autofocus camera. There is 512MB of RAM, an Adreno 306 GPU, and 4GB of storage. There is a 2000 mAh battery to power your smartphone needs, 4G LTE support for those fast downloads, and runs Windows Phone 8.1 (the phone is upgradable to Windows 10 too).
This device is intended to be a budget-friendly smartphone that competes head-to-head with Microsoft's own Lumia 638. BLU has done an outstanding job with the design of the Win JR LTE, featuring a totally new sleek candy coated finish (think glossy). Compared to the previous generation (the white phone in the above picture is the old Win JR non-LTE), the Win JR LTE looks amazing.
The device also features a cross hatched pattern along the color matched metallic finish on the side keys, ensuring a continuous and streamlined design. The body of the device features a round curve, making it easy to hold and offering a beautiful appearance.
Win JR LTE vs Win HD LTE
BLU is currently offering two new Windows Phone devices -- the Win JR LTE and the Win HD LTE. The new Win JR LTE from BLU is available for $99.99 at Microsoft Stores and Amazon.com, while the Win HD LTE from BLU is available for $199.99 exclusively at Microsoft Stores both online and in-store, completely unlocked with Dual Sim functionality and 4G LTE. Both devices have been completely redesigned compared to their predecessors and are upgradable to Windows 10, when the operating system is released this summer.
Looking at the specs, both devices feature LTE support as well as Dual SIM support. The JR comes with 512MB of RAM and 4GB of storage, while the HD comes with 1GB of RAM and 8GB of storage. Plenty of room for your games and media. The display on the JR is 4.5-inches, vs the 5-inch HD display. The HD is slightly heavier and has a slightly higher ppi.
The processor and GPU are both similar, and the camera is 5MP and 8MP for the JR and HD, respectively. The HD records in 1080p, while the JR records in 720p. Both devices come in a variety of color options, including grey, white, orange, and yellow. However, the HD is available in an exclusive pink color too.
So what's the big difference between these two smartphones? The price ($100 difference between the two), the RAM (512MB vs 1GB), and the screen size (4.5-inch vs 5-inch) are the three biggest differences in my opinion. Check out the specs below.
Camera quality is one of the most important factors when considering a smartphone purchase these days, let's face it. If you were in the market for a new smartphone, you are likely looking at camera specs too. The Win JR LTE features a 5 MP rear camera, which is actually decent for a budget (or entry level) smartphone, just don't expect to take any fancy shots.
In this case, we look a few outdoor shots with the Win JR LTE and the camera performed well. Launching the camera app on Windows Phone 8.1 was fast and unfortunately the settings were limited. There were no advanced camera options like adjusting the ISO, but you could choose whether or not to have flash. Holding the phone in your hands to take shots worked without any issues, since the camera lens is centered on the back of the phone. There is no dedicated camera button but you can easily tap on the screen to take your shots.
As you can see in the above shot taken outdoors during a bright morning, the picture comes out very bright. Unlike most Lumia smartphones which offer better camera controls, the Win JR LTE doesn't perform that well in bright scenarios.
Yet another bright shot with the Win JR LTE. The camera does not like taking shots in a bright environment.
The above shot was taken in the shade and as you can see the colors appear bleak and the picture quality is poor. Clearly the 5MP camera isn't the best camera i've used (considering you can easily be spoiled by using the Lumia 1020's 41MP camera). However, the Win JR LTE features a basic camera for the budget-conscious consumer, just don't expect to take amazing photos.
Let's face it, performance is another key attribute we look at when judging a device, whether it be a PC or a smartphone. The Win JR LTE is no slouch when it comes to performance thanks to its decent specs.
For a second, I was going to tell you how I felt there were two areas that suffer when it comes to performance -- the memory and the screen size. With the Win JR LTE, the screen size is 4.5-inches and features a resolution of 480x854. The device also features 512MB of RAM, which can be a pain when trying to play games that require 1GB of RAM or more.
Then I quickly remembered this device is designed as a budget friendly smartphone. BLU had to make some compromises in order to create a device that is cheap on the wallet and performed well for the budget category. If I wanted a faster device with a bigger screen, I shouldn't be looking at a budget device -- rather I should be looking at its bigger brother the Win HD LTE (read our review here).
So how well did the Win JR LTE perform? I experienced all day battery life with moderate internet usage, phone calls, and text messages. The display is very responsive, something BLU has learned from experience (the previous generation Win JR had issues with the touch responsiveness). Apps launched really quick and I hardly experienced any lag or delay.
Should you buy the Blu Win JR LTE for $99? If you're looking for a cheap Windows Phone device, I recommend the Win JR LTE -- it looks gorgeous and it runs well. However, I would prefer waiting a little longer until the price comes down just a tad bit -- $99 is a bit high for a budget smartphone.
Keep in mind that this device will only work on AT&T and T-Mobile (it will not work on Verizon, Sprint, etc). You can buy it right now from the Microsoft Store for $99 unlocked, and it comes in various color options.
Editor's note: The phone depicted above in yellow is the new Win JR LTE. The phone depicted in white is the older generation Win JR non-LTE.