Wednesday, 20 October 2010

Orange San Francisco (a.k.a. ZTE Blade)

I was quite curious in getting a cheap PAYG mobile phone as a backup phone just in case the Iphone 4 packed up on me. In searching for the more reasonable mobile device, I have thought about getting a mobile device which runs on the Android platform. I am still sceptical about the Android OS as I am not totally convinced in getting one after having my hands on with a Google Nexus One the last time. The Google Nexus One was a total flop because the battery could not even last for more than eight hours! Just imagine how bad is the design of the battery by HTC! However, the good news is that they have now included an extended battery for the HTC (which will increase the size of the Google Nexus One significantly).

Overall, I don't really like the Google Nexus One mobile device as I was really unhappy with the virtual keypad as it was highly inaccurate. I was hoping for a better performance by Google.

Well, after doing some research, I have set out a plan to see whether it is possible for me to purchase a reasonably priced Android OS mobile device. The specifications will be:

OS: Android
Form: Candy bar with resistive/capacitive touchscreen
Memory: 256MB and above with the options to increase more memory through MicroSD cards
Size of the screen: 2.8" - 3.5"
Radio Band: GSM triband + UTMS

After scouting through many shops online, I have come to realise that I do have a few choices. They are: 3UK's ZTE Racer, Orange's San Francisco and Vodafone's 845. Let's start off with 3UK's ZTE Racer, shall we?

ZTE Racer
The ZTE Racer is priced at £99.99 and it features a 2.8" TFT resistive screen running on the Android 2.1 Eclair OS. After trying out for more than ten minutes on it, I have to give it a pass as I am just not happy with the device. I have nothing against the 2.8" screen but it was quite hard to press on the keypad as it comes with a resistive screen. Besides that, the viewing angle of the phone is not brilliant. The icons were pretty much washed out due to the 256K colours of the Racer itself. I would have to say that surfing the internet was a breeze though, thanks to its HSDPA capability.

I could not benchmark it's battery life but it comes with a slightly smaller battery rated at 1100mAh. Moreover, I am not really impressed with 3UK's restrictions by locking up the Racer's network to auto 2G/3G without any possibility of consumers having the ability to choose either to put it on 2G or 3G. I don't seem to have any problems in downloading and installing any applications from the Android Market or from any third party. The Racer comes with many modern day functions like bluetooth and wi-fi (802.11g). It is installed with 256MB of memory with consumer's option to increase more memory by using a microSD card. It supports A-GPS and it has an autofocus 3.15MP digital camera. So far, I am not impressed with it.

Vodafone 845
The Vodafone 845 is another product from ZTE. It has lots of similarities as the ZTE Racer saved for the fact that it comes with a bigger 1200mAh battery. I wonder if the Vodafone 845 is the same product as the ZTE Racer. The Android 2.1 on the Vodafone 845 is hampered by the resistive screen and the virtual keyboard is even worst than the ZTE Racer on 3UK's customised UI. I am not really impressed with it though.

Orange San Francisco
I do hardly pay any attention to Orange's own branded mobile phones because I consider them as inferior. However, I was really surprised when I was being shown the Orange San Francisco. I was impressed by its features and its capabilities! Let me see...First of all, it is a 3.5" capacitive touchscreen supporting 256k colours. That is not too bad though taking into account a mobile device being priced at £99. It has 512MB of memory and you can also increase its onboard memory via a microSD card. Besides that, it has the biggest battery capacity amongh the lot - 1250mAh. It runs on the Android 2.1 OS.

I paid £109 after topping up for £10 which was required by Orange. I did charge the battery for 8 hours and tried to implement 3UK's APN on the Orange San Francisco to take advantage of the free skype to skype apps. Before I could do that, I need to flash the device back to its original UI. I have managed to do it. After that, I got it unlocked for £1.50 via the internet and it was really easy to unlock though. In doing so, I could make use of of my 3UK's Sim Card.

Apart from that, I need to ensure that I can install the free skype to skype apps. It is traditionally hard for anyone to locate and install any 3UK's skype apps without buying their devices. From my knowledge, I do understand that 3UK is selling the HTC Wildfire and HTC Hero so they should have the skype app on Android. After unlocking and rooted the device, I have managed to get hold of 3UK's own skype app. You could find it here. It took me quite a while to find the app though. It is vital as you could make free skype to skype calls without having the need to ever top up if you are using 3UK's service.

If you try to download 3UK's skype app from their app store, you will be disappointed as they will not allow you to download the app as it is not an approved 3UK's mobile device. This is because they don't sell the San Francisco.

For the moment, I am quite happy with the San Francisco. I could make use of the 3UK's skype service to make free skype to skype calls without the need to top up and I could choose to lock it to 2G/3G! Having said that, I will present a detailed review about the Orange San Francisco later.

Watch this space!

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