Looking for a last-minute holiday gift? The Blu R1 HD smartphone has returned to Amazon—hopefully without foreign spyware this time.
Amazon recently pulled Blu's entry-level device from shelves after security researchers discovered a firmware-updating app was sending users' texts to a server in China.
The Miami-based Android manufacturer spent the last few years swapping its phone's default software for Google-approved, Blu-supervised alternatives. But the offending app, from Shanghai Adups Technology Co., remained hidden.
"We have an email history with Adups saying we did not want that functionality on our devices, and they violated our request," Blu CEO Sammy Ohev-Zion told PCMag earlier this month, detailing the latest precautions.
Blu has since pushed an update to prevent the Adups software from sending details home, and signed a contract with security firm Kryptowire to monitor their phones for the next year.
It also traded the Adups update utility for Google's, promising that all new models feature Google's OTA application.
That includes the AT&T- and T-Mobile-compatible handsets on sale now from Amazon.
The 5-inch handset boasts a 1.3 GHz quad-core MediaTek 6735 ARM Cortex processor and Android 6.0 Marshmallow, as well as dual SIM and microSD support for up to 64GB of expandable storage. Plus, it comes with an 8-megapixel main camera and 5-megapixel selfie shooter with front-facing flash.
Prime members can snag the smartphone for a discounted $49.99 (8GB + 1GB RAM) or $59.99 (16GB + 2GB RAM), but it comes with a (figurative) price: lockscreen offers and ads, including personalized deals and recommendations for Amazon product.
Everyone else can order an ad-free R1 HD smartphone for $99.99 (8GB) or $109.99 (16GB).
Five-year-old Blu got its start in the US with Android phones that were clearly sourced directly from China, often with not much alteration to their default software. That has changed over time, as the company "evolved greatly" from when "we didn't have management software."
"Now every single one of our devices is shipped with Google certification, and today we have a relationship with Google," Ohev-Zion said, tipping Blu's enlistment into a Mediatek program that helps Android phone makers implement cleaner mobile OSes.
That will make Blu phones "like a whole Google phone," Ohev-Zion added.
For more, see PCMag's review of the Blu R1 HD smartphone and the slideshow above.