Orange is starting the smart-phone party with the Orange Boston, an oddly named Android phone that's just the crest of the affordable smart-phone wave.
The Boston is built by Foxconn, famous for the iPhone and sadness, but we felt pretty happy fondling its cut-price curves. Its 81mm (3.2-inch) touchscreen was the capacitive type, and very responsive, so it only took a flick of our fingers to move around the Android interface.
The UI has only been slightly tweaked by the network, which has added Orange-flavoured on-screen icons to launch the menu, phone dialler, address book and messaging features. There's also Orange's sat-nav app and app store built in, with Orange promising a streaming TV app on its way this summer.
We probably won't see the Boston here in Britain, but we will get our own host of less pricy smart phones starting this summer. Orange tells us we can expect high-end features like those of the Boston, including Wi-Fi, GPS, 5-megapixel camera with LED light and capacitive touchscreens -- all for pay as you go prices under €120 (£100).
Orange is also planning new monthly tariffs around the €20 (£17) mark that will include a starter-sized amount of data, around 100MB. We go through that in a week, so we hope it also has an easy way to buy more without breaking the bank. Prices will be announced within the next couple of months.
We expect to see three or four of these bargain smart phones by the end of the year from Orange, all running Android. But Orange's ambitions aren't limited to Google's green robot. We'll also get cheaper smart phones running Symbian, Windows Phone 7 and MeeGo. Hwawei, ZTE and LG are all tipped to be building the phones that will carry the Orange brand.
The Orange app store is already available on some feature phones, such as the Nokia 6303, but the Android version will stock Android apps instead of Java programs. Orange says it will be picking the best and ditching the rest, as well as commissioning exclusive apps from developers to make its app store worth checking out.
But you'll still have access to the full Android Market on Orange's inexpensive smart phones. As Android junkies ourselves, we'd probably stick with the Market, but we appreciate the Orange app store could be handy when you want to see the best of the best, or if you'd rather apps were billed straight to your phone bill rather than your Google Checkout acccount.
A 5-megapixel camera with an LED light is nothing to sniff at -- although we didn't get to test it -- and Orange says high-end specs like this will be standard on its whole range of budget smart phones.