Orange San Francisco (ZTE Blade) Review



  • Brilliant screen
  • Feature packed
  • Incredible price


  • Orange Bloatware
  • Poor Camera

Key Specifications

  • Review Price: £99.00
  • 3.5in AMOLED display
  • 3G, GPS, WiFi
  • Android 2.1
  • 3.2MP camera

Everyone loves smartphones. Well maybe not, but that would seem a fair conclusion to the latest stats from analysts Gartner which claim one in five of all handsets sold now officially isn’t dumb. In real terms this clocks up as a whopping 326m smartphones in Q3 alone, traditionally the quiet period before the Christmas rush. Consequently world + dog + dog’s collar is trying to make smartphones ever more appealing, particularly to those on a budget. The Nokia C3 and HTC Wildfire are great examples of this, but they’re about to receive a major kick in the pants…

On the surface little makes sense about the weirdly named Orange ‘San Francisco’. Known outside the UK as the ‘ZTE Blade’, it packs a feature set to give the Wildfire nightmares. It is thinner (116 x 56.5 x 11.8 mm vs 106.8 x 60.4 x 12 mm), lighter (110g vs 118g) and more powerful (Qualcomm QCT MSM7227-1 600 MHz processor vs Qualcomm MSM 7225 528 MHz processor). It has the same 3G, WiFi and GPS functionality and both sport Android 2.1.

More importantly however it eschews the Wildfire’s perfectly respectable 3.2in 240 x 320 pixel touchscreen for a whopping 3.5in AMOLED with a massive 800 x 480 pixels. In fact the only area it seems to lose out on is the camera: 3.2 megapixels with autofocus and no flash to a five megapixeler with both autofocus and flash. Most remarkable of all though is price. The £229.99 Wildfire is wonderfully wallet friendly, but on pre-pay the Orange San Francisco is just ”£99”. Yes, we’re baffled. That said we’re even more baffled that, given this remarkable price/performance, Orange has done its absolute best to mess it up.

You won’t notice this when you take the San Francisco out of its box. For such a cheap handset build quality is excellent. Squeezing the sides hard can elicit the smallest of creaks, but in truth there is little to choose between it and flagship phones like the original Google Nexus One and HTC Desire. The San Francisco also sports the same matt finish as these illustrious models so the only finger marks you collect will be on the screen.

Meanwhile everything is sensibly located with volume buttons on the right side and a headphone jack on the top. The micro USB charger port resides on the left side (arguably the bottom would have been better, but it’s a small bugbear all things considered) and the micro SD and sim card slots are located under the battery cover, though thankfully not under the battery itself. So far so very good.

Then again Orange’s sabotage only becomes apparent when you switch the San Francisco on…

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