Orange San Francisco review

Barry de la Rosa
25 Jan 2011
Our Rating 
Price when reviewed 
inc VAT

It has a great screen, but we’re not keen on Orange’s extra software and there are better alternatives for the same price.



Android 2.1, 3.5in 480x800 display

The San Francisco is a handset exclusive to Orange, but it's built by ZTE, the same company that makes the budget ZTE Racer. The San Francisco is a far better phone than the Racer, however: it has a larger screen with a massive 480x800 resolution, as well as all the usual features you'd expect to find in an Android smartphone: Bluetooth, WiFi, GPS, and a 3.2-megapixel camera. Android 2.1 may be two generations old now, but it’s still very capable.

Orange San Francisco

After our experience with the Racer, we were expecting a poor screen, but we needn't have worried: the San Francisco's display is a vast improvement. Although it's only 0.7in larger, it has more than twice the resolution, making images pin-sharp. Colours are vibrant and the capacitive touchscreen is responsive. The phone has a relatively slow 600MHz processor, compared to many current Android handsets’ 800MHz or 1GHz chips, but we didn't notice any lag in the interface or when opening apps.

Orange San Francisco right side

Although it sits in the same budget category as the Racer, the San Francisco is well designed and feels fairly sturdy. The plastic case is light and has a rubberised finish which makes it easy to grip, while angular chrome-effect stripes along the sides add a touch of style. The fascia is fairly plain, with only a small strip below the screen with the Home, Menu and Back buttons. In our light usage battery test, the San Francisco managed just under 23 hours, which is fairly standard for a smartphone. If you use WiFi, GPS and 3G data regularly, you'll most likely need to charge every night.

Orange San Francisco left side

The 3.2-megapixel camera has no flash, so it's not suitable for low-light shots, but otherwise we found its pictures to be surprisingly good; images were far less smudgy than on other smartphones. There's no physical shutter button, and there's a long pause between tapping the on-screen button and the shot being taken, so it's a pain trying to shoot moving subjects. Videos are captured at a maximum resolution of 352x288, hardly even good enough for YouTube.

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