Coming in at just £99, Orange’s own-branded San Francisco handset is one of the cheapest Android phones around. That low price-tag doesn’t mean you can expect a budget experience though, with the San Francisco offering 3G, Wi-Fi, Android 2.1 (Eclair) and GPS – could it be the low-cost smartphone experience you’ve been dreaming of?
What we like
With a slim design and high-quality materials, the ZTE-made Orange San Francisco has the feel of a more expensive smartphone, although the plasticky buttons do give it away. The screen is fairly responsive and the 400×800 pixel resolution offers a crisp display when perusing menus and texts.
As always, we’re fans of the 3.5mm headphone jack which doesn’t limit you to Orange-made headphones.
We also like having so many homescreens to customise and play with. The Orange widgets and many and plentiful, but can be a little clunky and annoying – we’d rather have the Google Maps app than Orange Maps, for example. It’s quicker and more intuitive.
Sending text messages uses the same interface as most Android phones – you’ve got threaded messages and a fairly basic user interface to play with. Typing in portrait mode is a real pain because the touchscreen isn’t really responsive enough to register each key as they’re so close to one another. That said, swiveling the phone ’round to landscape makes typing a much more pleasurable experience.
What we don’t like
As with many Android handsets, we find it a bit annoying that only the power-button acts as a screen unlock – it’d be more convenient if any button took you to the lock screen for easy access.
We’d like a camera shutter button for taking pictures – the onscreen button can be unresponsive and result in blurry photos. While photos look fine on the small screen, videos are a different story. We suppose we should be grateful to even have the ability to record video but when the output is this low, what’s the point?
It’s great that a low-cost phone can give you such great access to a variety of apps; however, you can’t use the app shop if you’re on Wi-Fi, which seems ridiculous. The other thing to bear in mind is that the handset runs Android 2.1 – which is now two editions behind the latest version. Not all apps will be compatible with the 2.1 software.
The handset doesn’t offer much in the way of internal memory, but Orange bundles a 2GB microSD card with the San Francisco, and you can always upgrade this to a larger capacity card.
This is the best budget Android handset we’ve seen to date. It’s by no means perfect – it can run a little slow, the camera isn’t amazing and the connectivity a little ropey – but it’s a capable handset with a good quality screen and running Android; for £100, you can’t go far wrong.