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Orange San Francisco Android Phone Review


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#1 Richard Hammond

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Posted 31 October 2010 - 11:17

Firstly I make no bones about not being the most eloquent person on these forums so this isn't going to be the best review in the world but here goes.

Orange San Francisco Android Mobile Phone, also known as the ZTE Blade.

I've had this phone now for about a week and I thought I would offer my views just in case anyone was on the fence about buying this device. My last Android device was the T-Mobile Pulse and it put me off Android a bit as it was very slow at navigating and starting new applications and as the San Francisco is the new budget phone 'to have' I thought I would take a chance and see what you would get for your money these days.

So to kick this off and to get the biggest PRO about this phone is its £99 price tag (not including the £10 top-up you have to purchase). For £99 you get a lot, and i do mean a lot, for your money:
  • Android 2.1 Eclair
  • 600Mhz Qualcomm MSM7227 Processor
  • 512Mb Ram
  • HSDPA
  • 3.2 MP AutoFocus Camera
  • 3.5" 800x480 WVGA OLED Capacitive Touchscreen
  • 802.11 b and g WIFI
  • Bluetooth
  • FM radio
  • GPS
  • Accelerometer
  • Digital compass
  • Light sensor
  • Proximity sensor

What you get in the box:
  • The phone itself
  • 2Gb MicroSD Card
  • 1250Mah Battery
  • Micro USB cable
  • Hands Free Headset
  • UK Plug to USB charger

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The look of this phone is on part with most other android handsets out there, grey with silver or chrome highlights, the phone itself has a slightly rubberized feel to it which is a welcome thing as having a glossy backed phone means lots of fingerprints and they arent very comfortable to hold. It certainly feels like a £99 device but it is solid no flexing or creaking.

The front of the San Francisco has the 3.5" OLED Touchscreen and below this the home menu and back button which also serves as LED notification, a small light underneath the key will flash when you have new notifications which brings me to my first niggle with this device is there is no physical navigation button, most android devices have at least an optical trackball or a physical d-pad and this phone has neither so its frustrating when you make a spelling mistake and have to stab your finger around the word till you get the correct place to delete the offending letters.
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On the top is the 3.5mm headphone jack and the Power/Sleep Button which brings me to my second niggle about this device is how cheap the power button feels, it wobbles around and sits uneven but this is a relatively minor niggle. On the left hand side is the micro usb port and the right the volume up and down buttons and the speaker, there are no other physical buttons on this phone. On the back is the 3.2MP AF camera which is raised from the back cover.

I'm not going to go into detail on the OS as the first thing I did was unlock the phone then replace the customised Orange ROM with a de-branded 2.1 ROM. For general usage this phone is really snappy I was surprised how quick it was considering my last android device wasn't a pleasant experience. Swiping your finger around the OS is a joy as everything moves fluidly, Apps and Widgets load instantly, 3D apps such as games run well with a hint of low frame rate but games are more than playable I loaded Angry Birds on and it was just as fluid as the iPhone version I had played previous.

My favourite thing about this handset is the OLED screen, quite how they managed to squeeze this much hardware into something so cheap is nothing short of amazing, the 800x480 resolution coupled with the OLED screen makes things very crisp, clear and bright, colours are nicely saturated and you can view the phone from any angle and not get any sort of colour distortion, one thing i found is that in daylight the screen has a blue tint but inside under incandescent lighting the screen can take a reddish tint.

The camera is nothing to write home about, it has adequate performance outdoors in daylight but without a flash of any kind its indoor/dark light performance leaves a lot to be desired.

All in all £99 is a steal and I highly recommend purchasing this phone if you are on the fence or on a budget.

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#2 andrew_f

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Posted 31 October 2010 - 12:06

It looks like a strange mix between stock Android and Sense. Who manufactures this?

Edit: sorry I missed your paragraph about the OS.

#3 OP Richard Hammond

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Posted 31 October 2010 - 12:29

ZTE are the manufacturers, the OS that came with the phone was customised by Orange and that went straight away, im using a de-branded rom. The dialler is the one that comes with the ZTE its a carbon copy of the HTC Sense dialler but not the actual HTC Sense one.

#4 torrentthief

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Posted 31 October 2010 - 12:43

I was looking at this a few weeks ago, you can get it even cheaper on hotukdeals with codes. What is the highest resolution it can record video at? Can you upload some sample videos and photos? I've got a HTC Wildfire, my 2 biggest problems are the low res screen (240x320) and the videos are 256x352 or something similar. If those 2 things were fixed i'd be very happy. I wonder if this orange phone will get android 2.2 update, my HTC will be before christmas claim HTC, can't wait.

#5 Subject Delta

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Posted 31 October 2010 - 12:59

The hardware platform of that phone is surprisingly generous for the price, once Android 2.2 is able to be hacked onto it, I imagine performance will pick up even more

#6 OP Richard Hammond

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Posted 31 October 2010 - 13:09

I was looking at this a few weeks ago, you can get it even cheaper on hotukdeals with codes. What is the highest resolution it can record video at? Can you upload some sample videos and photos? I've got a HTC Wildfire, my 2 biggest problems are the low res screen (240x320) and the videos are 256x352 or something similar. If those 2 things were fixed i'd be very happy. I wonder if this orange phone will get android 2.2 update, my HTC will be before christmas claim HTC, can't wait.

I will try and take some sample pics, it can record video at 640x480. i read that it could take VGA video but i cant seem to find the option for it.

The hardware platform of that phone is surprisingly generous for the price, once Android 2.2 is able to be hacked onto it, I imagine performance will pick up even more

Yeah, there is a 2.2 Froyo port already but its not ready for general use just yet.

*edit* sorry i couldnt find anything interesting to photograph.
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#7 torrentthief

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Posted 31 October 2010 - 22:06

you live in blackburn, i can see darwen tower :p The outdoor photo looks poor once viewed at 100%, the indoor photo is really bad. Think i'll stick with my HTC Wildfire for the time being, hope some more well priced android phones come out soon, hoping for 1 with 800x480 video aswell as the same res for the screen, my screen isn't usable for webpages due to the res.

#8 Subject Delta

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Posted 31 October 2010 - 22:27

Obviously not a snapper's phone, but I imagine it would be a bit better in stronger sunlight

#9 Pauleh

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Posted 07 November 2010 - 12:51

Wow, for the hardware specs you get and for that price, I'm really impressed with it. Looks quite professional too, I think. If I didn't already have an iPhone 4 I would definitely get one of these.

Did you find it difficult unlocking it from Orange? I prefer o2 personally. :p

#10 Hollow.Droid

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Posted 07 November 2010 - 13:00

Cheap, good looking and most importantly it's got at least one good developer working on it, this is an awesome looking phone. If my Nexus One ever takes a fall this would be the first phone I'd snap up!

#11 Quattrone

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Posted 07 November 2010 - 13:02

I am sorry but if they only give you 2gb of HD, the iPhone give you 16gb. iPhone win.

#12 Hollow.Droid

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Posted 07 November 2010 - 13:13

I am sorry but if they only give you 2gb of HD, the iPhone give you 16gb. iPhone win.


Seriously? You just have to be trolling. iPhone = High end smartphone, this is clearly an entry level device/budget phone as the OP states.

#13 tsupersonic

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Posted 07 November 2010 - 13:14

I am sorry but if they only give you 2gb of HD, the iPhone give you 16gb. iPhone win.

Not like you can't put in a higher capacity micro SD card :rolleyes: I bet your iphone can't do that :shifty:

#14 tom01

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Posted 07 November 2010 - 13:15

I am sorry but if they only give you 2gb of HD, the iPhone give you 16gb. iPhone win.


Well you could get two 16GB Ipod Touch's with the change he saved.

#15 OP Richard Hammond

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Posted 07 November 2010 - 13:22

Wow, for the hardware specs you get and for that price, I'm really impressed with it. Looks quite professional too, I think. If I didn't already have an iPhone 4 I would definitely get one of these.

Did you find it difficult unlocking it from Orange? I prefer o2 personally. :p

Yeah ive always wanted a nice high res screen and didnt want to pay £300+ to get one it was only by chance i spotted this phone and soon as i saw the specs i was sold, it was pretty easy to unlock from Orange it only cost me $4 from NCKCodes

I am sorry but if they only give you 2gb of HD, the iPhone give you 16gb. iPhone win.

for £99 you get 2Gb, you can get 32Gb MicroSDHC card for about £60 so £159 for phone and memory card its still £340 cheaper than 16gb iPhone 4 and £440 cheaper than 32Gb iPhone 4.