Orange have already managed to bring to the table a lot of budget-class PAYG handsets, namely the San Francisco and the San Francisco II. The San Diego is another prime example as it does contain a mouth-watering spec for £199.99.
Before we mention the spec we will take a look at the design first which it has to be said bears a passing resemblance to the iPhone 4. However the device does have its own unique design touches, including four traditional Android touch sensitive buttons (Back, Menu, Home & Search) at the base of the 4” (600 x 1024) screen. And the phone does sit nicely in the palm of your hand.
To the top of the phone you have a 3.5mm headphone port alongside a power button - though this does require a bit of pressure to turn on the handset. At the sides of the phone you have an exposed microHDMI port, standard volume controls, a dedicated camera button (which also requires a bit of pressure to use) and a microSim port cover which can be opened using a paper clip.
With the latter it should come as no surprise that the back cover (which also houses the 8MP camera lens, led flash and Orange/Intel Logos) cannot be removed officially*, thus you won’t be able to swap out the battery or upgrade the 16GB of internal storage. *We say cannot be officially removed because there is a way to remove the cover, gain access to the battery and microSD card slot un-officially, as this video clearly shows http://youtu.be/6-FkK7Htohs, but by default the microSD card still does not work as Orange have disabled this?!.
Orange do not specify the size of the battery either, they claim a talk time of up to 8 hours and standby up to 14 days is possible, however in the real world for general heavy use or video playback the results are not what we would call brilliant, so you will need to keep the charger handy (however more on the Battery performance later).
Lastly directly beneath the buttons you get two speaker grills (we found audio output was respectable) next to the phones microUSB port.
Plans are in place to upgrade the OS to ICS, but as it stands you get Gingerbread ver 2.3.7 and Orange’s standard overcoat and propriety apps included.
The UI is not great it has to be said as the 5 layered home screen does not even have space for standard WiFi controls in the notification bar. The main application menu is also based on a traditional - Android - vertical scrolling affair without the ability to create custom folders for your apps.
Most of the apps, including the Music player are bog standard to, and Orange’s standard propriety apps can’t be removed either. At least their gestures app, for allowing you to open programs by drawing on the screen, is a nice touch. However the UI is not a major issue in some ways because you can always get hold of a 3rd party alternative from the Google Play store.
Thanks to the high-res screen fonts do appear sharp. Icons though are a little on the small side due to the displays 297 ppi pixel density.
Our main gripe with the screen though is that the high ppi made portrait typing. In the end we had to use the landscape board for all of our typing.
Even with the above we still wouldn’t say that the screen was that vibrant or bright (even at max brightness), but we did find the colours - in films or when streaming HD YouTube videos - looked more natural than say a SUPER AMOLED display.
This is the first phone we have seen to have an Intel Atom CPU installed and we have to say the 1.6 GHz CPU/1GB RAM combo did a good job. In our two benchmark programs we ran (Vellamo and AnTuTu) the device scored 1279 in Vellamo (which tests browser performance) compared to the Motorola MAXX we have just reviewed with a score of 1035. In AnTuTu (which measures CPU/Memory and memory card read/write speeds amongst other things) the Orange scored 5634 overall and the Motorola scored 6205, which is an expected result given that the Motorola has a dual-core 1.2Ghz CPU.
In the real-world the Atom CPU allowed us to run most games quite comfortably and streaming/browsing performance was solid as well - though we are not a huge fan of the Orange default browser in terms of usability.
Camera wise you have the dedicated camera button on the device to help you take shots, but this does require added pressure to function. The camera however does have a fair amount of features to play with which you can adjust by simply sliding out the menu options from the left of the screen. Some of the features include burst mode, various focus modes and exposure adjustment settings. Shots taken outside actually came out pretty good! There were a few images that were less impressive, in terms of colour matching, but overall it was not bad at all. However shots taken indoors were less effective, but you could say that about most of the Smartphone cameras on the market.
In terms of battery tests we normally leave the wireless antenna running while setting the backlight to Max. We then run a video for 2 hours and 15 minutes to gain an idea of how much battery life is left from a full charge.
Battery life was under-par in this respect with only 50% remaining from a full charge. When we switched to general tests involving streaming content, playing games and listening to music the battery the Orange also proved less effective than we had hoped. The higher-res screen does have a negative impact on life and the phone had dropped by 23% of battery life in less than 40 minutes. So taking into consideration the backlight being set to max you are probably looking at a daily charge with this phone if you want to do a lot of multimedia.
While we are not a fan of the battery life, keyboard and Orange customisation of this phone we still feel that the device has a lot of potential if you are willing to tinker (namely add a custom ROM, access the microSD card or change the launcher (UI)). The Intel Atom CPU is solid and the camera takes some good shots to. For £199.99 we have seen far worse smartphones that cost twice the price!