Orange’s latest branded phone is another Android smartphone, this time made by Huawei. Pairing a capacitive touchscreen and full QWERTY keyboard, and very keenly priced, can it attract us away from our BlackBerries and bring in new customers from lesser feature phones?
What we like
The Barcelona is a surprisingly solid phone; especially given its price. Stylistically, it will be inevitably compared to the BlackBerry. The Barcelona’s keyboard has a satisfying rubbery surface which holds onto our fingertips well while typing.
We also liked the central button, which doubles as a cursor navi- ideal for a phone built for typing and text editing.
The rest of the phone is subtly understated; it’s 10mm deep, and the edge of the phone is uncluttered, housing only the microUSB port, headphone socket, volume rocker and power button.
Arriving as an Orange-branded phone, it’s one of the first to arrive with features like Orange Gestures and signal boost.
It’s an opinion-divider, but we liked the gesture system – it’s ideal for one-handed navigation and on smaller screened phones like the Barcelona, maximises the speed you can get to apps, contacts and more.
The small touchscreen is also responsible for the impressive battery life; we managed two days of regular-intensive use whilst testing without needing to search for the charger. The built-in speaker is suitably noisy, though sound gets distorted at higher levels.
Being an Android phone, you can access a multitude of apps covering messenging, utilities, entertainment and more. Though it may still lag behind the iPhone’s offering, it’s catching up – quick. A certain hard keyboard-packing rival’s own app store doesn’t hold a candle…
What we don’t like
At this favourable price-tag, we’d expect not everything to be perfect. We found the small screen difficult to view in daylight, and the performance of the rear-facing 3-megapixel camera was below average- lack of flash is also a shame.
With what looks to be a sub-600MHz processor, there’s a noticeable drag on multimedia tasks and intensive apps. Whilst not unusable, we found ourselves waiting around for our favourite games to load; and we’re not talking high-end premium apps. It also doesn’t have enough oomph to run Adobe Flash, and this cuts out a lot of streaming video services, like the Beeb’s iPlayer.
Being an Orange-branded set means that Orange have had their wicked way with the phone’s menus; there’s a lot of indistinguishable icons and widgets clogging up the phone.
Despite the lack of flash and a sluggish processor, we’re amazed that a phone with both a capacitive touchscreen and physical keyboard can manage a £100 price-tag. Like the HTC ChaCha, the combination of touchscreen and keyboard means some apps arrive looking decidedly lop-sided and both phones would benefit from a bit more processing power.
Compared to other cheaper Android handsets, the Barcelona is ahead of the curve, but in a side-by-side comparison with an Android phone double (or triple) the cost, it’s easy to notice its shortcomings.
The Barcelona remains in a very enviable position; it is both cheaper than a BlackBerry (its most obvious competition) with access to the far greater range of quality apps in the Android Market. And it doesn’t look bad either.