New iPhones are out for the holiday season and there are several to choose from. If you want to buy your child the iPhone 8 for the eighth day of Chanukah, it can cost you over $800. If you want your child to be the envy of the entire schoolyard, you’ll spend up to $1,149 for the privilege of owning an iPhone X. I will not be reviewing these
iPhones as I am more than content with the smartphone I purchased last June for $59. You read that correctly: your technology reviewer, who craves all the latest technological gadgets, is happy with a budget smartphone—and, I stipulate, so will your children.
I’m not going to engage in the debate about whether a smartphone is appropriate for your middle-school child. You can read about all the pros and cons elsewhere. However, once you make the decision to buy your child a smartphone, I implore you to look at alternatives to the increasingly and audaciously expensive iPhones.
In the past, I’ve made the mistake of buying iPhones for my children. They inevitably break, one way or another—cracked screens, water damage (rice anyone?)—and even if you buy a bulletproof case, phones can still be lost or stolen. I have had an Apple ID hacked and I watched helplessly as the expensive phone became worthless. Even when I paid for a warrantee, the deductible cost more than the $59 phone that I have been so satisfied with for the past half-year.
I bought the Blu R1 HD Android-powered phone on a whim. My high school daughter’s iPhone was literally in pieces. The screen was shattered and the home button was dislodged from the screen. It was comical to see her clinging to the device. She was ready to spend every dollar she ever saved from birthday gifts and babysitting jobs on her next iPhone, but I intervened and begged her not to. The excellent negotiator that she is, I ended up buying the Blu on Amazon for myself and handed her my existing iPhone. That was the last time (perhaps forever) that I held an iPhone.
Before you excommunicate me for swearing off the device that changed the world and opting for a budget phone, please note that I splurged for the upgraded-memory version of the Blu, as the basic version was just $49. There is a newer version available for under $100, and many more for under $200. My phone has a 5” screen, which is actually bigger than the iPhone 8. Perhaps I don’t have a keen eye for this, but the resolution looks as good to me as my old iPhone. The phone delivers 4G LTE speeds through the carrier of my choice. Navigating the apps is also identical to what I have experienced on iPhones. The Blu has the full Android Play app store, which is the Android parallel to Apple’s app store. You can download almost every app that an adult or child would need: Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Snapchat, Candy Crush or Sling Kong; you name the app and it is just as functional on the Blu phone as on the latest iPhone. I have all my home automation apps running on the Blu phone. Of course, the phone also has Bluetooth, front and rear cameras with video, and a speaker phone.
To be fair, several features the iPhone flaunts are not available on the Blu. For starters, you will have to give up facial and fingerprint recognition. 3D touch and other small bells and whistles may be absent as well. The camera on the Blu is certainly not as robust as the iPhone’s—especially in low light. However, for the selfies and silly photos that dominate my kids’ social media posts, the camera on the Blu would suit just as well. For me personally, when I want quality photos, I carry a DSLR. But for basic photos for social media or depositing checks via a banking mobile App, the Blu works just fine.
On the other hand, my Blu phone has several features that you will not find on any iPhone. For one, it has expandable memory storage; I can install a microSD card, as needed. My wife opted for an iPhone but did not pay for the extra memory and now struggles to keep her phone relevant. She can’t keep photos or too many apps and must delete two items for every additional item she wants to download. It is hard to believe that for $1,000 or more you don’t have the feature of a $49 phone. The Blu also comes with dual SIM cards, which will come in handy for that overseas trip you take—again, a feature that is strangely absent from the iPhone. Finally, the battery on the Blu phone seems to last longer than my old iPhone. These are big advantages for the underdog.
It is easy to fall for the marketing and fanfare that goes along with the release of each new iPhone. I don’t mean to be unappreciative of the innovation the first iPhone brought forth to the world. However, after 10 years, the competition has closed the gap and the utility difference has certainly converged. Honestly, since I made the switch, I feel free from the price premium shackles of Apple. It certainly takes a degree of boldness to make the switch, and that is what Blu stands for: Bold Like Us. Join us and have a Happy Chanukah.
Note to Readers: Dov Pavel’s tech column is scheduled to run again in our Dec. 21st Career / Business Link section and will appear in that section monthly going forward.
By Dov Pavel
Dov Pavel is a tech enthusiast who is not affiliated with any of the companies whose products he reviews. The opinions he expresses are solely his own. Dov is not a halachic authority. Readers should consult their own rabbi as needed. Dov lives in Teaneck with his wife and three children.