Orange's San Francisco phone is difficult to fault for £99. It has Android 2.1 rather than 2.2 and feels sluggish at times, but otherwise looks and feels like a much more costly smartphone. For buyers tempted by Android, but put off by the prices or being tied into a lengthy contract, the San Francisco looks like a real bargain.
Low cost; good quality 3.5in touch-screen; slim design
Sluggish performance at times; Android 2.1; camera could be better
£99 on PAYG tariff
Android 2.1, 3.5in capacitive touch-screen with 800 x 480 resolution, 600MHz Qualcomm MSM7227 processor, 512MB Ram, micro SD slot for storage (2GB card included), 3G/HSPA, 802.11b/g Wi-Fi, Bluetooth, GPS, 3.2 megapixel camera
Orange's San Francisco handset is not the first £99 Android smartphone to come to market, but it is the first that offers a build quality and user experience approaching that of many high-end devices, making it a great choice for buyers on a budget who have been looking with envy at the latest offerings from HTC and Samsung.
Available now on pay-as-you-go from Orange, the San Francisco has a 3.5in capacitive touch screen, 3G/HSPA network support, 802.11b/g Wi-Fi, Bluetooth, GPS and a 3.2-megapixel camera. It also has 512MB memory, and a micro SD slot for flash storage up to 32MB, with a 2GB card included in the box as standard.
In short, the handset has similar capabilities to many of the most desirable smartphones currently on sale, despite its low price. And, unlike some of the other £99 handsets, the San Francisco sports a slimline design and weighs in at just 130g.
The device is manufactured by ZTE, like the low-cost Racer reviewed earlier by V3.co.uk. However, this unit, identified in the battery compartment as the ZTE P729B, is a world apart from the Racer.
For those looking for a catch, there seems to be very few, and even these are hardly deal breakers. The San Francisco runs Android 2.1 rather than the newer 2.2 version, and runs on a 600MHz processor rather than the 1GHz chip of more costly devices. Its camera function also leaves a little to be desired.
However, we did find the handset slow at times, especially when loading web pages and finding our location using GPS. In contrast, the user interface seemed responsive when navigating around the display.
The screen is pretty impressive for a budget handset, and shows as good an image with its 800 x 480 pixels as almost any other device you are likely to see.
The San Francisco measures 56.5 x 116 x 11.8mm, making it about average for an Android smartphone. The unit feels solidly constructed, and is encased in the kind of plastic that has a vague rubbery feel. It's also discreetly styled with few controls visible on the outside.
In fact, the only physical controls are a power button on top, a volume up/down bar on the right edge, and a slender bar below the screen that provides the home, menu and back functions depending on where along its length you press.
Also visible on the outside is a micro USB port for charging and connecting to a PC, plus a 3.5mm audio jack socket for the supplied headset, which also doubles as the antenna for the phone's built-in FM radio tuner.
At the rear is its 3.2-megapixel camera, which takes reasonable quality snaps but is somewhat slow in taking them. After pressing the shutter button, there is a pause for about two seconds while the phone auto focuses before emitting an audible shutter click.