I have had this phone for over a month and still cannot believe the quality and features available for the price. I paid £100 (plus £20 compulsory Orange PAYG top up) from the Orange shop but I am sure the price will come down even further. At the time of writing it was available in white for £99.99 from Play.com
This is the first phone that I have purchased rather than one that is ‘free’ with a contract. The reason for purchasing was that my mobile phone contract was up for renewal and I wanted a much cheaper SIM only deal.
Additionally my provider didn’t have any phones that fitted my criteria at a price that was not ridiculous.
I had a Nokia E71 which is a very good phone but it was clunky, didn’t have a touchscreen and there wasn’t a great deal of apps available for Symbian from Nokia’s OVI site.
I also now knew what I really wanted from a phone – a decent sized touchscreen to access the Internet, a lightweight and not too clunky handset and the Android OS. In the past I have used Symbian and Windows Mobile which are both very limiting whilst Android, like the iPhone OS are user friendly, intuitive and there are lots of applications and resources available.
I looked at the LG GT540 Optimus, HTC Wildfire, Sony X10 mini and mini pro. All of these phones have plus points but their negatives simply weren’t worth the sacrifice in my opinion. The Wildfires’ screen isn’t good quality, the X10 mini is too small and the LG was more expensive for less specification.
After reading some reviews for the San Francisco and most importantly reading how easy it is to unlock for use on other networks and upgrade it to Android 2.2 FroYo (custom ROM), I was decided.
I even sold my Nokia E71 which covered almost the whole cost of the phone!
For the money this is a great phone. There are some downsides, all of which I can cope without but it would not be an exaggeration to say that this phone really belongs in the £200 bracket based upon the build quality, features available and looks.
When I was reading up on it originally a number of reviewers stated that it looked cheap and a bit tacky. If anything I think the case just looks plain, understated and average looking. It is exactly what you would want for the money – grey and black, sleek lines and nothing standout.
The screen is very easy to use and responsive even for those with fat fingers. Just turn the phone on its side and typing becomes easier for landscape making the keypad very usable. The display has a good quality resolution and enhances the web browsing and multimedia experience.
It comes with Android 2.1 Eclair and an Orange branded user interface. The branding can be removed with ease by selecting the pre-installed Launcher alternative which is much quicker than the sluggish Orange UI. There is also the option of unlocking the phone for use on other networks and installing a custom Android 2.2 FroYo ROM.
It has only got a 600MHz processor as compared to the HTC Desire and more expensive smartphones that sport a 1GHz processor. I still find it very responsive and unless you really want to play processor intensive games or open big applications, the phone is more than capable for the day to day stuff.
The handset is 11.8mm deep, 56.5mm wide and as a height of 116mm. It weighs in at 130g but compared to my Nokia E71 it doesn’t feel at all heavy. The handset feels comfortable to hold and hardly noticeable in your pocket.
The build quality is good. The phone feels solid and robust – not what you would necessary expect for a phone in this price range. The back cover is a doddle too. You flick the bottom off and the whole cover comes off easily and when you have finished it clicks back in to place. Not fiddly at all.
It does have a few weak spots including the camera – it’s functional but slow to take a picture and no use in poor light. I don’t have a problem with this as it isn’t a selling point for me. I have never really used a mobile phone as a camera and will stick to a dedicated digital camera. The battery life has been lasting me around 18 to 24 hours between charges. This could be better but I imagine that would be a larger battery and an increase in weight and dimension.
The lack of support for DivX or Flash is not a major issue for me but I could see how it could be for some users who like to watch lots of Flash content.
In terms of usability a lot of the positives are also due to the features of Android. A mobile phone used to be all about the handset whereas now it’s all about which flavour of Android the handset can host. Really I am not too bothered about who the handset manufacturer is as long as the phone looks reasonably ok, has a decent processor and I have access to Android and the Android market.
In terms of day to day use, I regularly browse the web and it is quick to load and render pages and the screen is brilliant. Gmail is equally quick, YouTube works well and I have used the Google Navigation a few times when lost in the car and although the voice is robotic and scary it is an effective sat nav tool. Basically, everything I used to do on the Nokia E71 is much easier and more accessible on this phone.
Phone calls are clear and the quality and clarity are excellent.
To summarise, the Orange San Francisco is a good quality handset that can utilise fully Android applications. It is most suitable for people who want a cheap, touchscreen Android device that is much better than the entry level price suggests.
- Affordable price
- Build quality
- Android 2.1
- 3.5 inch 480 x 800 pixel touch screen AMOLED display
- Slim case
- 2GB microSD card included
- Poor quality camera
- Battery life
- 600MHz processor
- That San Francisco font on the front of the phone!
- Orange branded user interface
- No DivX or Xvid support
- No flash support