When it comes to your everyday tasks, this phone generally puts in a good performance. Contacts management is a cinch with it doing a good job of automatically matching information from your SIM, email accounts and social networking services. Call quality, meanwhile, isn’t exceptional but is perfectly adequate. The loudspeaker is fairly poor though.
Texting and emailing is a little time consuming due to the slightly sluggish response as you tap away on the otherwise excellent onscreen keyboard. Those used to blasting out dozens of words a minute may find they end up with rather a lot of gobbledygook, though again with a bit of patience you get the hang of it. Being an Android phone, the selection of supported email types is top notch and the app itself is a breeze to use.
The keyboard on the Orange San Francisco II is a little slow but the layout is great.
We’ve already mentioned the sluggishness of web browsing but otherwise the experience is great. Pages are rendered correctly and it’s easy to zoom in and out of them, with the option to have text reformatted to fit the width of your screen. Flash is theoretically supported but as the phone is so slow you’re best leaving it off anyway.
When it comes to social networking, there’s not too much on this handset above and beyond the official Facebook and Twitter apps, and the contacts integration – so it’s no rival to Windows Phone in this regard – but it certainly doesn’t feel a chore just using the excellent official apps.
Mapping and navigation is taken care of by the standard GoogleMaps and Navigation apps that come with all Androids. The former is excellent for planning routes and finding your way on foot (GPS is of course onboard), while the latter does a reasonable job of car-based navigation duties. However, both require a data connection so don’t rival dedicated sat nav apps or Nokia Drive as found on the Nokia Lumia 800.
Of course, being an Android phone, the selection of apps is vast and so you should have no problems tracking down useful or entertaining ways to pass the time.
One thing downloading apps won’t help with, though, is playing video. While you can easily add support for just about any format you care to mention using extra apps, the slow hardware means you’re still fairly limited in what will play, with only low bit rate standard definition clips playing ball. Thankfully, music playback is rather better with an easy to use interface, a noise free headphone socket and plenty of volume on tap.
Shooting your own video is also a fairly limited endeavour too. You can capture up to VGA (640×480) resolution but only at 15fps according to our sample clip. Lower resolutions will shoot faster but you then end up with very low detail clips. You also can’t turn on the LED for shooting video.
Taking pictures isn’t much better as the camera simply doesn’t create very clear shots. All our test shots came out with muted colours and a general softness that was down to more than just the modest 5 megapixel resolution. It’s nice to see a slight upgrade from the previous model, especially with the LED flash now onboard but this is still very much a budget handset when it comes to photography.
It’s also a fairly budget model when it comes to battery life too, despite its slow processor. We found it regularly running dry well short of two days, so like with most smartphones a nightly charge is a must.
The Orange San Francisco 2 continues the trend of its forbear in being the best ultra budget smartphone on the market. Sure, it doesn’t take great leaps ahead of its predecessor with its improved camera and processor still lagging well behind the majority of handsets. However, the majority of smartphones don’t cost £99 on Pay As You Go, and it’s here that the San Francisco 2 does exactly what’s needed. Uniquely for an ultra budget phone it delivers a large enough and high enough resolution screen to make for a satisfying smartphone experience, if you’ve a little patience. The only way it can be beaten is if you opt for a secondhand handset, but even then you’d be looking at a fairly old model for that sort of money.
Score in detail