“ Brand: Orange / Rebranded version of the ZTE Blade Smartphone / Android v2.1 „
I'm still really annoyed with Orange over my experience with signing up to a 24 month contract to get their San Francisco smartphone. I looked at all the options in store before deciding that this phone would be right for my needs and agreed to pay £25 a month for two years in exchange for a certain amount of minutes, texts, data usage and this handset - which was supposed to be one of the better ones on the market at the time.
I really liked the phone when I first got it set up, it offered me lots of android applications like the ability to read Kindle books on my phone, play a spot of Angry Birds when I was bored and of course check my facebook and surf the web in general too. It had a neat, organised phone book that was easy to use and the text message and picture messaging facilities worked smoothly as well.
What most appealed to me initially was that the phone looked and felt like a sleek more expensive smart phone, on par with the more expensive Samsung rivals. The layout of the phone was smart, convenient and most importantly customisable. As with most (if not all) Android systems, I could swipe between multiple screens and keep my short cut icons where I wanted them. So for example I had one screen off to the right where I kept applications that my child could use, such as drawing apps, for when we were out and about waiting for something.
This is a touchscreen phone though, and that's really where my problems began. After a few months I noticed that there was a delay between me touching or swiping the screen and the phone responding. Unfortunately though this problem was intermittent, and of course both times I took it into the phone shop it worked fine! They suggested I try a factory reset, which was a huge inconvenience but worth a shot. I did this, and the phone seemed to respond a little better for a few weeks. But before long, the same problem recurred. At first it was just that the screen was slow to respond, but eventually I found it was freezing up altogether and I had to switch the phone off and on again to get it to work at all. Sadly by this point, the twelve months guarantee was up. The phone had become almost completely useless and I had no come back with Orange to get it fixed or replaced.
Worst still, I was still effectively paying for it as I was tied in to a 24 month contract. Of course Orange insisted that this was just the charge for my call plan. They told me to buy another handset myself or pay a huge get-out fee to cancel the contract early that wasn't worth doing. I had to go to Tesco and buy myself a £40 Orange Samsung Tocco and continue to pay the £25 a month contract fee for the duration of the year. To say I wasn't happy is an understatement since I couldn't even access the internet on my Tocco (despite the claims on the box and in the manual that I could).
On top of all that, even when the phone was working I found that my internet access was painfully restrictive. Facebook took ages to load on this phone and I gave up trying to upload photos to there from my phone. I found that google worked, but trying to select from the search results was a time consuming nightmare - not least because the links were so small and the touchscreen so poor at responding. I was paying for internet access that was ineffective, slow and painful. Thanks a bunch Orange!
Suffice to say I am now with Tesco mobile, using a better quality Samsung handset that I bought outright. I won't go back to Orange, I don't recommend this particular phone and I certainly won't be signing up for another 'free handset' contract in a hurry.
The Orange San Francisco's real name is the ZTE Blade and this re-branding can cause real trouble in some cases when trying to find support online for the handset.
That aside, for the price of this phone (£100 when I bought it and around £70 now) you do get a decent entry-level smartphone which will enable you to gain the basic functionality of such a device without the dent in your wallet that other devices come with.
As an android smartphone, on the software side it is almost identical to any other. The main difference is the mediocre Orange branded applications which, without some more advanced knowledge, you are stuck with as they cannot be uninstalled. These apps include a weather app, news app and all of these generic pieces of software which already have established leaders (such as the BBC) which do a better job. One app which is fairly useful from Orange is called "Your Orange" and this can display account information and details of your current phone package which means that you always know where you are within your monthly limits, I did like this.
My main concern with this phone is the fact that it is incredibly slow as it comes from the box - generally a device is at its fastest when brand new, but not in this case.
In order to combat the incredibly poor performance from-the-go of this phone, I replaced the pre-installed ROM with a custom ROM called CyanogenMod 7. Whatever Orange did with their ROM is resolved by CyanogenMod as well as by every other ROM I have tried. This is surprising as one would have thought that Orange, the supposed makers of the phone, would be able to not screw up the software.
*You're Safe Now*
The build quality of the phone is something to be desired, very plastically although it does have a decent weight behind it - not enough to make it a hassle to carry around but not too light as to encourage you to drop the device frequently. The back cover of my phone has split along the middle as the power button has fell off, I have to be very careful for the entire case to not break and for the battery to not fall out now.
I have had the Orange San Francisco for around a year and can honestly say that it is a great phone for the money. The screen is sharp and responsive and it has sufficient processing power and memory to work for most things you would want it to do. One annoyance is that it cannot run flash player which can be irritating if you are a regular mobile web user. However, the battery life seems better than most smart phones if you treat it correctly and it has served me well over the past 12 months.
The original firmware on the phone as supplied by orange is slow and full of unnecessary stuff. However, with some basic tech skills, you will be able to update and improve it to faster and more useful firmware that makes it a better phone. There is a great online community that will provide support for this so it is not too difficult even for a basic user.
I have just opened a new contract with Orange and this phone was one available on my choice of contract, its a nice looking phone that is very easy to use with Android features.
I am not brilliant with phones and all the different applications so when i first used this phone and down loaded free apps from google play store i was charged for the updates i kept receiving for easch app i had downloaded, i was unaware i had to go into my applications settings and untick a specific box to disable these updates from happening, so was not impressed as i incured extra charges for that!
Despite that this phone is very good, you can personalize it quite a bit to fit with the way you prefer things on your phone and the layout of the programs screen is simple and easy to use.
The camera is ok, its not the best camera i have had on a phone and there is a delay of about 2 seconds when you press the shutter to take a photo which is frustraiting when you are trying to get a quick snap of your excitable 2 year old!
I bought this phone just over a year ago as I had a budget of £100 pounds and really wanted a high quality smart phone for no more than my budget and I came across this particular one whilst searching on line. I'd never seen it advertised before until I visited the orange store on line and found that it was a phone specialised by orange themselves and not available by another company in the UK (I have found that overseas the phone has an alternative alias known as the "ZTE Blade" but is exactly the same phone inside and out).
Starting with the general appearance of the phone, it looked like a knock off iPhone alternative with a cheap plastic and enamel coated case that easily chipped off after a couple of months and looked scruffy. The case also covers the camera area and this cracked ever so easily but if this happens you can find replacement cases on ebay for a couple of quid, however it's not really appealing if you find that the cover cracks in front of the camera and you have to remove it in order to take a picture - annoying! However this may not happen to everyone but the sentiment is there as it is rather fragile on that particular area.
The accessibility and ease of use actually confused me for a while, and I'm usually 'tech savvy' as it were and I had previously owned another touch screen phone before this one so It wasn't because of that.
I found that the keypad was terribly calibrated and I often found myself taking three times as long to text or dial a number as I made so many mistakes that even predictive text couldn't figure out what I was trying to say. There isn't even an option for you to re-calibrate the keypad for your specific needs which annoyed me as I relied on my phone to stay in touch with a number of people - obviously, but I found myself avoiding doing so because of how frustrating the keyboard was and even my friends said so when I lent them my phone for a text or a call, they would be asking me last out of everyone because of it.
The battery life is atrocious and I had to charge mine daily, even if I didn't use it much. It also took hours and hours to charge so I had to force myself into a routine where I made sure my phone was charging through the night and also take my charger with me to college so that it didn't die during the day when I needed it. I find that battery life is one of the most important factors of a mobile phone and out of the several phones I've owned this one has been the worst.
I wouldn't recommend it to anyone as it pretty much seems to be a case of "you get what you pay for" as they say it's the cheapest smart phone on the market, there's a reason for this as it's so poorly put together and is made from cheap materials. I am glad I now own a different phone as it was just a nightmare to use.
OK, that was a terrible headline.. but still.
The Orange San Francisco, also known as the ZTE Blade, is an entry level Android smartphone. It's the cheapest Android phone you can currently buy, and is very good value for money.
I'll be referring to the phone as the Blade in this review, as it's easier to type the San Francisco. Over here in the UK, it's known as the Orange San Francisco.
Starting with the looks, the Blade does look very nice and sleek. It's pretty thin for a smartphone, at 11.8 mm thick, and slides in and out of your pocket with ease. The Blade comes in two colours: black (greyish) and white. I chose the black one. On the outside of the phone, you have the power button on the top, which also locks the screen when pushed, and when held, opens up the Profiles menu and allows you to turn off or reboot the phone, as well as a standard 3.5mm headphone jack. On the left side, you have the Mini USB connector, on the right you have the volume rocker switch, and the bottom, a tiny hole with the microphone. Under the screen you have 3 buttons: Home, Menu and Return. Home will take you straight to the 'desktop', the menu button takes you to the Main Menu where you can view and load all the apps you have, and return takes you back one screen. The back panel is easily removed, as it's held on with small but pretty strong clips. Form here, you can access the battery, the SIM card slot, and the MicroSD card slot.
Hardware wise, the Blade uses a 600MHz AMRV6 processor which, compared to more expensive Android phones isn't the best, but it's certainly fast enough to run many applications, and an Adreno 200 GPU, which provides very nice 2D and 3D graphics.
It also has 150Mb of on-board storage, 512Mb RAM (memory) and 512Mb ROM (for OS installation). The Blade includes a 2Gb MicroSD, and accepts MicroSD cards up to 32Gb, allowing a substantial memory upgrade, for videos, music etc.
The Blade has a very nice 3.5" AMOLED (or LCD) touchscreen with multi-touch capabilities, with 256k colours onscreen and a decent resolution of 480 x 800, which provides plenty of detail. It's very bright and vibrant, and reacts to touches very well.
The Blade, as with every other phone, comes with a fairly decent 3.2Mp rear facing camera, but no front facing. The camera has a resolution of 2048x1536 and has an auto-focusing lens.
Every smartphone has accelerometers, and the Blade is no exception. I'm sure you all know what the accelerometers do, but if you don't, they detect the orientation that the phone is in, rotating the screen accordingly. They are also used to play accelerometers-enabled games, which on the Blade works very well.
I think the ONLY weakness of this phone is the OS... it came installed with Googles' Android 2.1 'Eclair' OS, which was out of date when the Blade was released. I think at the time, Android 2.2 'Froyo' was released. Orange/ZTE had announced that, by the end of June/beginning of July, an updated to 2.2 would be available, but by THAT time, 2.3 'Gingerbread' was released... so the Blade was even further behind. Nevertheless, the 2.2 upgrade never happened, so Blade users were left way behind.
However, unofficial Android ROMs were being created by members of the public, designed to work on phones not originally intended to have an upgraded OS, such as the Blade. One of the more popular ones is the CyanogenMod 7 ROM, which comes in Android 2.2 and 2.3 flavours, so you can install a version of Android 2.3 on your Blades, despite them not having the official upgrade. I'm using CyanogenMod 7 Android 2.3 on MY Blade at the moment, and it's awesome. Very smooth, very fast... it's great. CyanogenMod are currently working on getting Android 4.0 'Ice Cream Sandwich' working on various Android phones. Once they have a stable ROM, I'm installing it on my Blade ASAP.
Obviously, there are downsides to using a third-party ROM, such as it can void your warranty, and a failed ROM flash can completely brick your phone, rendering it useless. The benefits are, you remain up to date if the phone will never get an official OS upgrade, and if it's branded, like the Orange San Francisco variant, it will come installed with many branded apps, which take up space. By installing a third-party ROM, you will remove EVERYTHING that's branded, freeing up space. Now, other than the Orange logo on the back, there are no apps on my phone that relate to Orange. Thus, I also have more space for ROM storage and the like. If you DO install a third-party ROM, MAKE SURE you know what you're doing and MAKE SURE you install the one designed for your phone.
Like the iPhone, there are thousands of apps and games on the Android Market. Some free, some paid.... the best thing about the paid for apps, is that they are very cheap. I bought the full version of Fruit Ninja for about 70p or so. Apps and games can range between 50p to £5.00, which is very cheap. The purchase is tied to your Google account, so you only need to purchase the app/game once. If you need to download it again, you can with no extra cost. There are some apps and games that aren't compatible with all makes and models of phones, which is a shame. I wanted the FireFox browser for my Blade, but it isn't compatible. So I had to do without.
File transfer is easy. Just attach the supplied USB cable to your phone and your PC, select 'Turn on Storage' and the Android logo goes from Green (not connected) to Orange (connected) and the MicroSD card will show as a regular drive in My Computer. Just copy and paste your files as you would normally. When connected via USB, the battery will also charge. You can chose NOT to connect to the PC, and just have it charge. I have had a problem with this, though. When I try to mount the phone to my PC, it will go through the motions, say it's connected, the Android will turn orange, but will then instantly turn back to green, un-mounting itself from the PC. I have no idea if the phone is at fault, or if it's my USB ports. I've had this fault for some time now, sometimes it works, most of the time it doesn't. I end up having to unmount the SD Card from the phone, remove it and insert it in a MicroSD card adapter, in order to get files on it. Very tedious and time consuming, but I have no other choice.
Connectivity is available via the USB, Bluetooth or wireless (802.11 b/g) connection. I always use wireless at home and connect to my router. Speed is fast and the connection is very reliable, it has never lost connection on me yet. I haven't used the Bluetooth yet, so I'm not sure how good the connection is. You can also use the HSDPA connection, for on-the-move internet. I have used this method, and it works great. Since mobile internet uses credit on your phone, make sure you keep an eye on the duration of your web browsing. While we're on the subject of connectivity, unless you're on a contract, always disable mobile data, so the phone isn't always connecting in the background. I did this by installing an app called APNDroid, which disables the mobile data until you re-enable it. Leaving the mobile internet connected, means you'll use credit without knowing. I think this varies between the phone provider and what apps are running in the background. I found this out the hard way, after going from £20 credit to 90p credit over night, because my Blade kept connecting to the mobile internet while I slept. A WORD OF WARNING!!
Customization of the Blade comes in the form of custom wallpapers. You can select any photo from the gallery and display it as a wallpaper. You can also get Live Wallpapers which are basically animated wallpapers. I'm currently using a Slideshow style Live Wallpaper, where you can select a folder of photos to display as a slideshow, a la Windows 7. While the Live Wallpapers look very nice, they do drain your battery life. You can also choose an audio file as your ringtone, SMS alert or alarm. You can also download 100's of themes for Android. I'm sure you're all aware that themes change the overall look of the OS, changing things such as fonts, icons and colours.
The Blade comes with a basic media player for audio and video playback, but there are many third-party media players on the Marketplace you can try. The built-in media player is more than adequate for your media needs, though, and does what you need. Videos will need to be converted to an MP4 file before they will play on the Blade. MP3s and WAVs will play on the Blade without a problem. The single speaker (not stereo) is pretty loud and very clear, as long as the original media track is clear. If it's too loud, the audio will sound distorted. Just turn the media volume down on the Blade, and you should be OK. You can also link any MP3 or WAV to a contact, so you know who's calling before you look at the screen. You can NOT link an audio track to a contact for SMS, but this can be done through a third-party SMS app, such as GoSMS.
Moving onto messaging. I have no problems typing out messages with the on-screen keyboard. When flipped horizontal, it turns into a full-sized QWERTY keyboard, and it's far easier to type since the keys aren't as small. Using the keyboard while the phone is vertical is OK, but not ideal. For some reason, the character indicator is only visible when vertical, so if you're typing while horizontal, you can't see how many characters you've typed and how many messages you've stretched to, so you either have to keep flipping between vertical and horizontal, or just type in horizontal. As mentioned above, using an app like GoSMS allows you to customize certain aspects of the message, such as adding a signature and choosing a custom ringtone as an SMS alert, which the built-in SMS app can't do.
The home-screen has 5 'desktops' on which you can add shortcuts to any app or game. Sliding your finger across the screen left or right will move to the next screen, where you can add more shortcuts. You can add more home-screens if you want, should you run out of space.
The camera, as mentioned above, is a 3.2Mp camera. Not the best, but it does take really clear and sharp photos. The better the environment and lighting, the clearer the photo will turn out. If it's too dark, the photos appears blurred and pixelated. Unfortunately, there is no flash. The camera has 2x digital zoom and auto-focus. If you hold the camera button down, the camera will auto-focus first. Once you let go, the camera will take the photo. There is no dedicated camera button on the side, and is instead on-screen. This makes it tricky to take photos with the camera facing you, since you have to bend your finger around to the front of the phone. The way I do it, is hold down the camera button, move the phone in front of me, THEN let go. Annoying, yes... but it's the easiest way. The camera also acts as a digital video camera. While it won't replace your 15Mp HD camera anytime soon, the video quality is clean and clear and the audio is great, so the Blade is also enough for general video capturing.
The Blade comes with Google Maps, which also means it has GPS capabilities. I'm not 100% sure if you are charged for this, since it uses mobile internet, so best check before you use it for a 3 hour journey, otherwise you could end up with a hefty credit bill.
You get a basic web browser with the Blade, so you can obviously browse the web. Again, it does what you need it to do, but there are third-party browsers available, such as Dolphin and Opera. The built-in browser doesn't support Adobe Flash, meaning you can't watch YouTube (or any other) Flash based videos. I believe the same goes for other browsers, but don't hold me to that. However, there is a free YouTube app you can install, which allows you to watch YouTube videos (only YT) without the need for a separate browser. Browsing on the Blade is only as fast the connection you're connected to, but some heavy sites can take longer, as the Blade has to cache the files as they download. But all-in-all, with the nice, big, multi-touch screen, web browsing is a pleasant experience.
The most important thing about the phone is using it AS a phone. And I'm pleased to say... as a phone... it's brilliant. The calls are always clear and crisp, I've never had a problem hearing the caller speak and they say they can always hear me clearly. There are no problems with using the on-screen dialer as the keys are nice and large, and impossible to push the wrong key. Or you can always chose via a contact, which is just as easy. Like other phones, you can turn on the internal speaker so you can use it hands free, without having up against your ear. The phone also features a proximity sensor. When you have the phone up against your cheek, to make sure your face doesn't press any keys, the proximity sensor turns off the screen once the phone is next to your face. Sometimes, you may have to recalibrate the sensors, as they may end up keeping the screen off, even after you've moved it away from your face. I've had this problem once, but after the recalibration, never happened again.
I guess the last thing to talk about is the battery. While the battery lasts a fair amount of time, it can go dead within a few days. Turning off all connectivity (wireless, bluetooth, data), setting the screen brightness to Auto and haivng a static wallpaper (not Live Wallpaper) will help increase the battery life. At it's optimal performance, you'll get up to 192 hours on stand-by and up to 4 hours talk time.
At £100, the Blade/San Francisco is the cheapest Android smartphone you can buy.. and still IS the cheapest Android phone you buy. The Blade is packed full of decent hardware and software, loads of apps to choose from, a good camera, a crisp LCD touch-screen, wireless/bluetooth, and a lot more besides, you can't go wrong. There are better Android phones out there... more EXPENSIVE Android phones... but for the price of the Blade, you really can't go wrong. I personally recommend this phone to anyone wanting to enter the world of smartphones, but doesn't want to enter it too high, or too expensive.
BUY IT! :)
Cheap would be a good way to describe the San Francisco. Out of the box it performs reasonably well but is slowed down quite excessively by the addition of the Orange preloaded software.
If you know how to install your own version of Android to it, the device really shines. However, if you don't wish to install anything over it, you might find yourself wishing you'd spent some more on a phone in the first place.
The camera quality is pretty poor - you'll be looking elsewhere if you want to take pictures. The battery life is pretty good should you not have 3G running, otherwise it's comparable to pretty much every other smart phone out there. In terms of size, it's a nice size and fits nicely in your pocket, comapred to some of the larger HTC models and the more rectangular shape is possibly nicer than the iPhone however the lack of screen space really cramps using it online or even in text messaging.
Though the phone is locked to Orange, it's fairly easy and simple to unlock for free by googling on the internet so you can run it on whatever you want.
Overall, it's a basic smartphone that does the job but others out there perform better. If budget is your main reasoning for holding out on a smartphone, this little one will perform everything you ask of it and a price that wont break the bank.
That said, mine was sold on to fund an iPhone purchase.
I bought this phone after much abuse from my wife about the state of my old one, a coal powered Nokia from the early 1800s. My initial impression was favourable and within a week i was swiping the touchscreen like a teenager and writing texts that actually made sense!
This was the first time I had been talked into a contract with a mobile phone company and I was happy with the ten pounds and change monthly fee that was quoted. I would advise caution here however as on receiving my first bill I had managed to rack up some extra charges with calls and from internet usage! Whilst this wasn't in the league of some of the horror stories I've heard of it was about double the amount I thought I had signed up for. To be fair to Orange though once I had called them and questioned them about this they did give me some tips which has reduced the bills in later months.
The other gripe with the phone is the build quality, although it initially seemed robust I did manage to get a load of pocket dust under the screen within a couple of weeks. Then it wouldn't let me re-charge the handset. Although Orange happily replaced the handset this had to be done by delivery rather than instore. This involves waiting at home for the best part of a week while Orange deliver three phones that don't work and finally one that does.
The phone itself is easy to use and the touchscreen is responsive with very little lag between touching icons and the on screen response. This includes occasional gaming on the phone for which the response time is very important. The inbuilt predictive text also works quite well although could be improved by 'learning' words that I use often but not in the phones dictionary. The phone works on the android platform and as such has a large number of apps (both useful and pointless)that can be downloaded to the phone.
The phone has a reasonable camera and video recorder although I don't use these very often. It can also be used to access the Internet and e-mails.
In conclusion a bit hit and miss, liked the phone disliked the hassle and build quality, 6/10
I purchased the Orange, San Francisco (also known as the ZTE Blade) 12 months ago. I bought the white one as I thought that the black one was a little predictable and I like to be different when buying new things.
~HOW I WENT ABOUT BUYING THE PHONE~
Before I had this phone I had the Nokia E63 and was on a 18month contract with 3 that was £15 a month, the phone was free. So I searched and searched for another 18 month contract and found that pretty much every 3 phone contract had bumped up not only the length of the contract to 24 months but also the price. The price for my contract , if I wanted to get it again, was going to cost me £30 a month for a 24 month contract. I was very shocked. So I searched around to see how much it would cost to buy a phone of my choice and then by a sim only contract. I found this ZTE Blade on the Orange website for £109. At first I thought this was really expensive , but then I found a 12 month sim only contract with 3 for £10 a month. I worked out that in a year it would cost me about £230 a year for the phone....sounds expensive doesn't it? Ahh see, then I worked out how much it would cost me to get a 24 month contract at £30 a month , with a free ZTE blade and it worked out at a whopping £720 .... OH MY GOODNESS!!! Now not only was the 12 month contract cheaper with this phone but I also managed to get 300 text with 3000 mins and free 1gb internet a month. Brilliant. So I purchased them... And I was thrilled!
~ APPEARANCE ~
Now onto the phone - The appearance of the ZTE black is slim and sleek. It is light weight and fits nicely into the palm of your hand. Below are the dimensions :
Length - 116mm
Width - 56.5mm
Depth - 11.8mm
Weight - 130g
The white phone has a smooth shiny back, whereas the black/grey has a matte back which is easier to grip than the white one. The white can be slippery but the black is easier to grip. The screen is smooth and a touch screen. I wouldn't say that it is as good as the Iphone, it can be quite sensitive.
There is the charger port on the side of the phone , volume control on the other side (which is much like the Iphone), head phone port on the top of the phone, and the on/off button at the top of the phone (again, very much like the Iphone).
There is a Home, Menu and Back button on the lower front of the phone. And on the back is the camera.
When you go to unlock the phone , the unlock scheme is identical to the Iphones. The sweeping motion bar to unlock the phone is simple and easy to use. You can have a code too if you wish to have some more privacy.
The camera is a 3.5 megapixel camera. It takes reasonably good quality pictures however it doesn't have a image stablizer like some phones do, so the pictures tend to blur with the slightest movement. In other words if you have relatively shaky hands then you will find it difficult to take a good picture. The upload is very simple - You can upload straight to Facebook, Twitter, Picasa, Bluetooth, Email, Gmail or you can message it to somebody. You can also have the option to crop and rotate the image.
To view your images you go to your Gallery and view as you would on a normal phone. It is quite clever actually as if you tilt the phone from side to side, the album then tilts so you see your picture at a different angle. Pointless spec but quite amusing for a period of time!
Messaging is as easy as 1,2,3. You simply tap on the messaging app and you can write away to friends and family. The one thing I will pick at which annoys me A LOT is predictive text....I still haven't found the off button for this so I have to check my texts before I send them thoroughly in case there is a typo. Another thing that you may find difficult is if you have big fingers. Luckily for me my hands are very small so I can type away with no mistakes, however my brother who has this phone in black, has found it difficult at times as the lettering and numbers are quite small.
Emailing is very simple to. There is a email app for general emails or there is a gmail app for people that have gmail accounts. Emailing is simple and is very much like the texting.
Storing your contacts is very simple too. Just type in your friends name and number and hey presto! But you can add much more information than this. From email, to address to facebook, to youtube pages! Quite clever really !
You get what's called the 'Market' on android phones. Again, very much like the app store, just called something different and has a slightly different layout. You simply find an app you want and download it. It is very clever because it automatically updates your apps for you - If they are paid updates it does ask you first which is good.
Gaming has never been made more simple. Simply download a game, tap on it, play it! The quality is very good. Very crisp and runs fast. The range of games that you can get is endless ! My favorite games are Angry Birds and Doodle Jump!
I have downloaded a 'App Killer' which shuts the apps down after you have used them. That is one thing that this phone does which is annoying - it leaves apps running after using AND it even opens up app which you don't use. Confusing but with the app killer it makes shutting them down a lot easier! I do suggest getting that otherwise it'll half your battery life and slow your phone right down!
There are many many many more apps that you can get on this phone. The phone itself is fast, crisp and easy to use. If you have used an Iphone or Ipod before then using this phone will be like a piece of cake!
The range of ring tones is pretty good too. From jazz to pop to classical, put it this way - you have a lot more choice than most phones! You can also purchase or download more using the apps from the app store! I was very fond of this as I like my music!
Phoning is very simple too. You can either scroll through your contacts to ring someone or you can simply type the number in on the keypad.
The battery life is relatively good too. I managed to go about 4 days straight without charging it. However if you use it constantly then I give it about 5 hours. The charging takes a couple of hours.
It also has 150mb of internal memory however you can buy a microsd card which can allow up to 32gb of memory.
~WHATS IN THE BOX?~
In the box there was the phone, instructions, a charger and a USB cable which attaches onto the charger
Overall this is a nice phone for perhaps a teenager however for a business or work person this may be a little too complex and time consuming. It is a solid phone , I should no as I have dropped mine several times! It is like the Iphone but not the Iphone - so if you want a phone that is like the Iphone I suggest getting this because it is more or less the same just looks a little different and it is on android.
PLEASE NOTE THAT THIS REVIEW IS ALSO ON CIAO! UNDER THE SAME NAME X
The San Francisco is fantastic for those new to Smartphone's, or those that aren't particularly tech-savvy. The device is user-friendly and features a 3.2 Megapixel camera. The camera is perhaps one of the weakest points of the phone. The standard of picture quality many other Smartphones on the market can produce leaves the San Fransisco feeling somewhat like a downgrade from a potentially better phone. The handset itself is sleek, yet bold, and comes in both Black or White.
That being said, the device is packed with an App-market, an easy to access email feature, and many customizable aspects such as the touch keyboard and wallpaper layout. For those looking for a powerful Smartphone, this may not be the phone for you. However, the San Fransisco is fantastically simple to use and is by no means a bad phone. It may be a better phone for your teenage son or daughter, particularly as Android is on the rise. However, this may be a somewhat lack-luster device for some, despite being an absolute bargain at the £100 mark.
The Orange San Francisco seems like a fantastic phone with good features and a low price tag. However, with the low price tag comes low quality performance. I'm going to start with the positives: The screen on this phone is fantastic, good indoors and out with high resolution. It's not too laggy and very customizable. The sound quality is OK and is easy to use for calling and texting. Now for the negatives: The WiFi on this phone is terrible. It can't find my hub unless I'm about 8 feet or less away from it, whereas any other electronic device can find it from the end of my garden. This is a major problem but not the only one: If you have more than one text conversation going, it starts to send texts to the wrong people! This could potentially be not only annoying, but embarrassing too. It's very slow when taking pictures and video quality is also awful. If you're thinking of getting the San Francisco, I'd willingly pay a bit extra for the HTC Wildfire S.
This phone is currently priced at just over £100 and shows excellent value for money. It is one of the cheapest Android based phones around. For all of the features it packs, the phone is relatively small sized and lightweight compared with its competitors. I was particularly impressed with a few of its other features.
Firstly its great for email and social networking with both twitter and facebook apps as well as many others. Secondly its expandable microsd slot means you can keep plenty of music on the phone and you can listen to it all on almost any kind of headphones due to its 3.5mm jack.
The camera at 3.2 megapixel isn't the best by any stretch of the imagination and the processor is a little slow. As once you have a few apps running you soon notice the phone starting to struggle but for little over £100 you can't complain too much. All in all this is an excellent phone!
I came across this phone at the beginning of the year, marketed as a cheaper, entry-level smartphone for those not wanting to fork out a fortune on a contract or iPhone. The reviews seemed pretty good, even though I wasn't familiar with Orange phones, so I decided to give it a go. I was actually quite impressed; true, technology is continually moving along so you could buy the now upgraded version, but for the price the specs and usability weren't bad.
This phone has been released as the Orange brand's San Francisco, aka the ZTE Blade. The interchangeable names get confusing, but that aside, ZTE wasn't a brand I'd heard of before coming across this. As it's an Orange specific phone you can only get it from Orange, so I bought it from the website (which had a good first purchase cashback rate on Quidco, in case you use that!). It sells for around £100, which puts in the lower end of the smartphone budget bracket.
... What's In The Box? ...
The phone itself (of course!)
Charger (which is quite funky because it has the USB connector as part of the charger, so you just unplug it from the charger)
... Keeping Up Appearances ...
The San Fran measures up as follows: Length 116mm, depth 11.8mm and width 56.5mm, with a weight of 130g. I'd say this is quite a lightweight phone, and relatively thin in comparison to some I've seen. The screen is a
3.5-inch capacitive touchscreen, with multi-touch functionality, which is a good enough size to be doing smartphone-type things on. Just underneath the screen is a bar (click function, rather than part of the touchscreen), which has the basic functions of home, menu and back. Nice and simple. However, as I have an older version iPod Touch I can notice the difference quite quickly. The resolution is pretty sharp and has a good contrast, with the backlighting making details quite clear. It's when you come to zoom or move around web pages that the sensitivity and functionality lets it down a bit.
Looking at the phone, I would say it's quite attractive. A large-ish clear screen, not too wide or deep, and if you get it in black/grey is looks quite smart and neat. I find that holding this in my hand is quite comfortable. I do have quite small hands (no rude jokes please!) but I can get my little paws around this and find texting practical, just about, one handed. Despite a plastic covering, it still has a feel of durability, with the material not really being one to scratch easily on the back which is always a bonus. I don't use a screen protector on mine after a fault with my initial San Fran, and I'm not that delicate with it anymore. It gets chucked into my bag and yet it's remained undamaged and unscratched, which is fairly impressive.
On the top you have the on/off switch, which can put your phone to 'sleep' to save you touching the touchscreen accidentally. To the left is the USB connection / charger connection, and to the right are the up/down volume keys. There's also a strip of silver down each side which adds to the classic, neat appeal of this phone.
... Specifics ...
Some of the general specifics include :
3.2mp camera (no flash)
150MB internal memory, can expand to 32GB
Android 2.1 Operating System (Éclair)
WiFi & 3G
... Android Appeal ...
I didn't really know much, if anything, at the time about Android. It's basically just a form of operating software, a bit like if you said you run a Windows 7 PC. I just wasn't sure of the specifics, but I can see the difference now using phones with differing processors and operating systems. The San Fran uses Android 2.1, which is slightly outdated because it was only a month or two later that version 2.2 came out. The processing speed, and overall usability, doesn't match up to an iPhone, but it is a fraction of the price. Switching between apps, using the internet, changing screens from messages to phonebook etc doesn't run as smoothly or as quickly and responsively as it could, but it's more than useable. We're only really talking fractions or seconds of delay and sluggishness, so it's really nothing major. I just like to think that you're getting the best you can for the price paid when comparing it to other phones, in which case pointing out the system is outdated does factor in to that.
... Battery ...
This is advertised as having 4 hours talk time and 9 days standby time in terms of battery life. The more a phone has, and the more things you run on it, even in the background without necessarily realising, the more quickly the battery will drain. At first the life on it was okay; I was sending texts but little else and it lasted a couple of days. A few months down the line and I start noticing that the battery is needing to be charged every day because the bars are doing down, and I don't want it to run out whilst I'm not at home to be able to recharge it. This is when I've not even been running anything or using anything that much. So, be warned that if you want to be using apps and the internet and such, that the battery could be far better. But, having said that, battery life seems to be a major bone of contention with most smartphones, so you could say that this just doesn't really stand out from the crowd as being any better in this department.
... Usability ...
Using the touchscreen is something that takes a bit of getting used to, especially if you've not used one before. This was my first touchscreen, and my first smartphone, and it was quite awkward at first when texting. The benefit is that the teeny tiny keypad you get to text on can be made into a larger keypad when turning the phone horizontally. I'm not convinced that the turning of the phone is as receptive as it could be, but it works okay.
Finding your way around the phone's menus also takes a little getting used to, but it's fairly practical and common sense in terms of how it's laid it.
... Is The Future Orange Or Unlocked? ...
This comes locked to Orange, but if you want the freedom to use a different sim then luckily this is easy to do. I came across a site with instructions on doing this safely and effectively; it took only a few minutes, it was free and it meant I could use my old sim on a different network :) I think Orange may have cottoned on to this and made the upgraded San Fran more difficult to crack, but the point is that you needn't worry about unlocking or paying to get it done because it's easy enough to do at home with a little help from the internet.
... Camera ...
I was a little disappointed with the camera. It's only 3.2mp, which isn't tooooo bad, but the average now for a smartphone seems to be about 5 for a similar price band. The thing I found a bit irritating was that it has no flash, so the practicality and use I've had out of the camera has been quite limited. Day time photos aren't too bad, though the whole auto focus thing is quite off-putting; it'll keep trying to fix itself when all you want to do is take the damn photo, yet it insists on making minor adjustments until it's too late and you've missed your photo opportunity! Loading the camera application itself isn't the fastest of things either, so you need to be quick off the ball when wanting to take snaps. Storing and viewing photos, however, is easy and straightforward, as is the ability to email / text them on.
... Applications ...
Unfortunately as this is an Orange phone, it comes bundled up with Orange logos and apps, plus branding that's as inconspicuous as a Diet Pepsi TV product placement with everyone on screen drinking a can of it & putting their thumbs up. You can try to take some of this off (look online for unlocking and debranding for free).
I wasn't too keen on many of the Orange apps, though they may appeal to some. I found them quite slow, or just unnecessary, so I've not used them much. For those that are interested, it does have GPS, or Maps, which you can access with an Internet connection.
You get your usual suspects in terms of general applications, such as an alarm, calendar, gallery, FM radio, calculator etc. I was a bit annoyed that the calendar is linked to Google, so you can't just use it when you want, you need to be online & log in. A list of all applications comes up when you press 'menu', which is on the bar on the front of the screen as opposed to the touchscreen.
As this is an Android phone, any apps you want to download can be done so by going through the Android market, an app for which is pre-installed on the phone.
... Internet ...
This has Wifi and 3G, so you can connect wirelessly whilst out and about (like I do by using the Cloud network at the local Wetherspoons!) or via your network provider.
You can manage Internet connections under 'settings' when you press the Menu key, and it's all relatively straightforward. Getting a connection usually works ok, even if it doesn't always pick up the best signal. I've been in the pub before and my iPod Touch has picked up the Wifi when my San Fran hasn't, but on the whole it's not too bad. Speeds, on the other hand, aren't really anything to shout about. When connecting by 3G I often give up trying to check emails or do anything online because it takes too long to download.
... Any Problems, Houston? ...
The major problemo struck after I'd had it only a month and a half. The touchscreen stopped being as responsive; sometimes it would freeze on the homepage, other times it wouldn't work at all, sometimes it seemed to do the opposite to what I wanted it to (ie. When trying to drag right to left to unlock the phone, it would try to drag left to right). But, having bought this with Orange, I called them and discussed the problem after realising it wasn't just going to 'sort itself out'. Thankfully they were really helpful and offered to send me a replacement phone. The next day a guy came to my house, picked up my old phone and gave me a new one. But, you keep your old battery and SD card. Still, at least now the touchscreen works and months later it still works fine.
The slightly smaller problemo was with the back case. It explains in the box how to take this off and put it on properly so as not to cause damage, which I followed. However, there was always a small bit to the top of one corner that never quite matched up. That's also the only area of my phone to show any damage, which is still very small. In that respect I found the plastic to be, well, quite plastic-y, but on looking at the phone it doesn't look tacky and it has, other than that, be quite robust and well built.
... Sweet Memories ...
The San Fran comes with an internal memory of 150MB, which can be upgraded with expandable memory to 32GB, which isn't bad. The microSD cards can be bought at a reasonable price online, and they slot in easily. I've not had any problem with the memory on my phone, even though I'll admit I don't store that much on there. I think the average user should be fine with 32GB, if not just the 150MB internally.
Overall... I would recommend this as a good entry-level smartphone with lots going for it within the sub £100 category. It does have some niggles, so it would be worth considering the upgraded version or perhaps shopping around and splashing out a little more for something that challenges the San Fran's slight downfalls.
I hadn't thought I would need a smartphone before trying this!
But I've very quickly been turned from someone who would say "there's no need for all that technology in your pocket" to someone showing off all the options to other people!
The highlights of this phone for me are that it is easy to use, very straightforward to manage, and easily links in to facebook and other online networks. For example, when you take a picture with the camera it is very easy to either post it to facebook or email. I like this because sometimes I'll want to post to facebook, but other times it will only be of interest to a few people, in which case I can email it.
The applications available for android phones are fantastic, and well in advance of the options available on blackberrys, for example. There are also far more free applications than apple or blackberry phones offer.
This phone has replaced my organiser - because I can link it to my office calendar; I can listen to some digital radio stations in areas which don't have digital reception through GPS which is fantastic when I'm listening to a programme and get into the town centre; and the apps and games are great.
My only downsides with the phone are that while battery life is good *for a smartphone* - using the camera or applications for a while will run down the battery - it isn't anywhere near my old Nokia which could run for a week without a charge. I get about 3 days with reasonable use which is, lets face it, pretty good for a smartphone.
My only other comment is that switching to a touchscreen has made texting slower and more difficult for me. I was very used to my old phone! A full qwerty keypad would be nice, but as phones which have that are far more expensive I'll be happy with what I have.
I was looking for a cheap android phone and didn't want to get stuck in another 18 month contract. It was between this and the HTC Wildfire. The specs were almost identical, the CPU and screen on this were supposed to be better whereas the camera on the Wildfire was supposed to be the better of the two. In the end i thought that if i need to take any proper pictures i can use my actual camera so i popped down to Argos, who had these on offer supposedly.
It was down as £99 on their website, in reality the wanted £109 as they wouldn't / couldn't sell me one without me buying a top up. I thought its only a tenner so i decided to go for it. What Argos had done was remove £10 from the price of the mobile so it showed up as a sale item, and then add that same tenner back by only selling it if a top-up is bought at the same time, which is quite crafty. Its available for about that price most other places anyway.
The packaging was the usual small black box that orange give with all phones, it contained the battery, headphones, charger/usb cable and 2 manuals. As soon as i opened it, i took out everything but the manuals and put the box away just in case. You don't really need a manual to tell you about how to use a smart phone unless you've never used a smart phone before.
The first thing i did was charge the phone. Orange have including a rather nifty plug which takes a USB lead. The USB lead is a micro-usb which is also used to connect the phone to the computer.
It also came with a 2gb memory card, which is enough for quite a few music tracks, videos and pictures. It would cost you about a fiver for a 8gb card if you need more space, so this wasn't a problem. Once the phone was fully charged i decided to unlock it and put on the latest android software which is gingerbread. The Modaco website has a community dedicated to android phones and through that website you can unlock this phone for free and also get the software which is as easy as putting it on your memory card and just turning your phone off and then back on again whilst holding certain buttons.
Once i had done all the above i was ready to test the phone out properly. The main criticism of this phone is that orange load it full of crapware, which in effect slows it down. This isn't a problem if you upgrade to the latest software though as it removes all traces of anything Orange. The basic functionality of the phone is very easy to use, it comes with Google maps, calendar, contacts and emails that all sync with the Google servers. These can then be used on the phone of on your main computer.
The camera is a 3 megapixel camera and takes a decent picture providing there is enough light. Its useless if there isn't enough light. The videos are just a bit below OK, the quality on the phone is almost acceptable but its very pixelated. I tried changing the settings to very high and trying it with different codecs but the end result was always the same. I expected these sort of results though so was not really disappointed.
The call quality was quite good, and sending emails/sms is a breeze as soon as you replace the existing keyboard with Swype. The WiFi speeds are quite good on this and the bluetooth connected seamlessly to my car, so the connectivity cannot be faulted.
My main concern about this phone is that it does not support flash, this can be overcome by using sites that convert the flash to something else but it defeats the purpose of it. The music quality on the phone is OK although the speakers are a bit tinny, most people would probably use headphones or bluetooth so this isn't a big issue. Talking of headphones, they are OK but a little uncomfortable, they probably need getting used to. I have some seinheissers so these headphones just go into my spare junk pile.
I normally try Fruit ninja in order to test a phone as it is a graphics intensive game and wanted to see how phone would perform under a bit of pressure. The graphics weren't as good as my Galaxy S, but they were non the less acceptable. The phone did slow down a little when too many fruit were on the screen, but not enough to make the game unplayable. The touch screen is a little insensitive though and requires a bit of a hard poke. All in all the screen and hardware of the phone perform quite well for a budget phone, the only things letting it down are the camera, the insensitive screen and no flash, all of which are just minor problems for me.