Bluboo Maya Max: Massive potential but massive disappointment (phone review)

Before we get into the review, I want to start out with a bit of an explanation. I’ve had the Bluboo Maya Max for around two months. The journey with this device has certainly been an interesting one and is the central case of why people are afraid to buy products from companies they don’t know.

I’ve had two review units and neither have worked correctly. The software on the first device was not final and frankly broken. Working with Bluboo’s support saw them ask me to download an application onto my computer that was in Chinese to apply an update and I could not get to work even with assistance.

The second review unit seemed to have faulty hardware. The battery discharged down to nothing and then refused to turn back on after charging. To me, this says faulty hardware but Bluboo told me they’d have another software patch for me to flash before no longer responding to emails.

I will conduct as much of this review as I can because I believe that these issues are important to consider when purchasing a phone intended for other markets. Companies that have no infrastructure in the United States tend to be a risky proposition due to the lack of support and updates. This is the prime example of what can go wrong. Now, on with the rest of the review.

Introduction

The rise in popularity of importing devices is on the rise. We’ve seen excellent offerings from companies like Huawei, Xiaomi, Oppo, Gionee, and ZTE that don’t have great infrastructure in the US and importing them from third-party marketplaces like Gearbest tends to be the only way to get them. Popular in these devices has been rising because customers see them as a fun and cost-effective alternative to any old Galaxy or iPhone.

Bluboo is a Chinese company that is stuffing amazing specs in a phone for a low, low price. Normally priced at $179, the Maya Max features has some excellent specs.

  • Processor: MediaTek MT6750 1.5GHz octa-core
  • RAM: 3GB
  • Storage: 32GB
  • Display: 6.0″ 1080P with Gorilla Glass 4
  • Camera: 13MP Main, 8 MP front
  • Battery: 4200mAh with Quick Charge
  • Software: Android 6.0
  • Connectivity: USB type-C

Build

As you can see, the Maya Max is spec’ed like a flagship but with a budget price. The phone also includes features like 6000 series aluminum, a fingerprint scanner on the back, a mute switch, VoLTE, and a dual-sim card slot. Beyond the specs, the phone feels really nice in the hand and looks like a show-stopper. On paper, it’s one of the better phones for the price available right now and in person, it’s very impressive.

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The Maya Max has an impressive 85% screen to body ratio. The phone is only slightly larger than my Pixel XL but fits an extra .5″ of display in there. While the size difference does feel significant the phone is still pretty easy to handle due to good weight distribution and even better ergonomics. The back of the phone is very slightly curved so it sits in the hand nicely. Add in the fact that it’s relatively light for its size and it turns out that the Maya Max is easier to handle than some smaller phones.

One thing that really can make or break the experience of a device for me is volume and power buttons. Crappy, mushy buttons show a true lack of attention to detail or the company cheaping out on an important component. Luckily, Bluboo stuck true to its design principals with high quality and well functioning buttons. There is a mute switch that sits directly below the sim tray on the right side of the device that reminds me why I miss my iPhone sometimes. The switch puts the phone into silence, rather than vibrate mode, but it’s a convenient solution none the less.

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The phone utilizes on-screen buttons so the chin is bare, while the top of the phone is dotted with a camera and sensors around the speaker. If it’s one thing that Bluboo nailed with the Maya Max it’s the bezels. The bezels on the side of the device are almost nonexistent and the chin and top of the device are just big enough to get the required components in. I love the design of the Maya Max.

The top of the device houses the headphone jack (thankfully) and the bottom houses two drilled grills. A speaker sits behind the right grill and a microphone behind the left. Around back we find a fingerprint scanner that reminds us of the Nexus 6P and a raised, round camera hump with a dual-tone flash in-between.

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I really couldn’t have been more pleased with the physical design of the Maya Max. It really screams “premium” and goes toe-to-toe with any other device on the market in terms of quality, in my opinion. While you may prefer others for their size or materials, you’ll be forced to admit that the Maya Max is a beautiful device.

Software

This, unfortunately, is where things fell apart for me. My first unit shipped with broken software that saw constant app crashes and the phone locking up for long periods of time. I was informed that the phone couldn’t accept an over-the-air (OTA) update and I would have to update the phone by plugging it into my computer and downloading Bluboo’s software. As I mentioned at the beginning of this review, it never happened due to the software being in Chinese. I do hope that Bluboo gets the software finalized and in good working order because a beautifully built device is being held back by broken software.

I believe a lot of these Chinese or Korean companies will not have success in the US market due to their software. These companies tend to strip out a lot of what makes Android great (stop taking away my app drawer!) and replaces it with bright, obnoxious colors and the duplication of apps that are already on the device. Samsung seems to have gotten the message with its recent iterations of TouchWiz. Hopefully, companies like Bluboo follow suit because even when the software was working, I didn’t enjoy the experience.

Yes, the app drawer is noticeably absent on the Maya Max. I also found it odd that on a 6.0″ device, Bluboo limited you to four icons across. There is obviously room here to add more icons comfortably and it’s needed since all of your icons will be showing. Folders are for whatever reason incredibly hard to create due to the fact that the touch sensitivity and accuracy isn’t excellent.

Several themes come with the device and you can download more through a theme store. I didn’t find any of the included ones very appealing and they honestly don’t alter the appearance that much. It’s nice that they included this feature, but it’s certainly not going to sell any devices.

The Play Store is installed, but that’s about it for Google’s apps. I downloaded a few apps here and there but it’s mostly filled up with Bluboo’s apps like Hitap Keyboard, SIM toolkit, FM Radio, and Theme Store.

The software is pretty spartan. If stock Android bothers you for its lack of features, the Bluboo Maya Max isn’t going to be your cup of tea either. Bluboo just isn’t consistent in its software enough. Some Google apps are skinned, some are replaced, some are completely untouched. Add in the weird quirks like not being able to reset the device to factory settings (yes, seriously) and you have a difficult to use contradiction on your hands.

Battery

Unfortunately due to the software issues we had with the Maya Max we cannot provide a reliable review of the battery life. However, we can give you some of the facts about the device and that will play into what battery life you may get.

The Maya Max has a 6″ 1080P display and a 4200mAh battery. Those are both pretty big numbers and the battery capacity being on the high end of anything on the market today. Bluboo made a choice to go with a 1080P display (probably due to cost) and it really should benefit you in battery life. Pushing all the extra pixels of a QHD display not only takes processing power but battery power too.

One thing that will negatively affect your battery life is the lack of supported bands in the United States. I tested the Maya Max with a T-Mobile sim and was disappointed to find that I only picked up Edge coverage. The device supports the following bands:

  • 2G: GSM 850/900/1800/1900MHz
  • 3G: WCDMA 850/2100MHz
  • 4G: FDD-LTE 800/1800/2100/2600MHz

If you’re using AT&T you will be able to pick up 3G on the 850 frequency, but no LTE for you either. With the constant searching for a better signal (especially indoors), the battery life could take a hit.

Reference guide to US carrier bands and networks

Conclusion

If you’re afraid of buying a Chinese phone from a site like Gearbest, this review is not going to do you any favors. This is pretty much the worst case scenario. Luckily for me, Bluboo supplied the review units so I’m not out any money, but I could easily see that happening to someone. There are a lot of great companies making wonderful devices that haven’t hit the shores of the US yet and I would encourage you to do you research to see how they deal with their customers when you’re making a purchase. Don’t let this one case scare you off.

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As for the Maya Max… if I could load stock Android onto it, it might be an amazing device. Unfortunately, it’s held back by broken software and puzzling design choices. If Bluboo gets the software figured out, I’d love to give the phone another review because I think there’s a ton of potential here. It has one of the best-built phones out there with some excellent features and a comfortable design.

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