Android 2.3 Gingerbread
The San Francisco 2 comes loaded with Android 2.3 Gingerbread. It's not the most recent Android phone operating system -- that title goes to-- but it's the latest version of Gingerbread and we're impressed to see it packed into such a budget handset.
Like many companies, Orange has put its own skin on Android. It's full of Orange's grey and orange colour palette, which makes everything a little drab. Be sure to put a cheerful wallpaper on it to lift its spirits.
As a Gingerbread device, you get five home screens for you to fill up with apps, widgets showing live information, or shortcuts to folders and web pages. Adding an icon to a home screen simply involves pressing and holding on the screen and selecting from a menu the icon you'd like to put down.
There's a bunch of live widgets available on Android Market. The Facebook widget updates with your friends' statuses so you don't need to open the dedicated app to see what's going on.
Any apps you don't want cluttering up your home screen will be kept in various pages of apps, accessible by a quick button on the bottom of the screen. There are other buttons too: one for apps, one to open your text messages, one to make calls and one to take you to your contacts. Those buttons are visible regardless of which home screen you're currently looking at so you'll always have quick access to the most important functions.
The three physical buttons below the screen are to help you navigate around the phone. One opens a quick menu, one takes you back a step in whatever you're doing and the middle button brings you back to your home screen when you're in an app or menu.
As an Android phone, you get full access to the hundreds of thousands of apps and games in Android Market so you can join the ranks of all the other Angry Birds and Plants Vs Zombies players across the globe.
You also get a whole host of Google's treats including Maps and Navigation, which gives you turn-by-turn driving directions. That's great news if you often find yourself hopelessly lost.
Orange's attempts to customise the Android 2.3 Gingerbread experience aren't exactly ambitious -- and it's not the most visually appealing look we've ever seen -- but it suits this budget phone well and will appeal to someone who's looking for a more simplistic, fuss-free experience.
Under the hood of the San Francisco 2 is an 800MHz processor and 512MB of RAM. That's not enough power to bother the smart phone dual-core powerhouses, but it's an admirable amount for such a budget handset.
Navigating around the phone was pretty swift and hassle-free. The processor has enough juice behind it to make swiping around the home screens and opening menus quick and mostly free of delay. Launching apps was similarly nippy with the YouTube player opening with minimal delay. Bear in mind that when your phone is loaded with apps and live widgets, there's more strain on the processor so expect things to slow down a little.
When we ran the Quadrant benchmark test, we saw that the San Francisco 2 just had the edge in the power stakes over the-- a phone that still offers a pleasing experience, despite being completely overshadowed by its big brother, the .
If you're hoping to download demanding 3D games like Blood & Glory, then you'll quickly realise that the San Francisco 2 really doesn't offer enough juice. Running tough tasks quickly slows the phone down, resulting in a less than ideal experience.
Battery life on smart phones is never much to write home about. Orange reckons you'll get around 4.5 hours of talk time out of the San Francisco 2, which would be a fairly decent amount. It also says that it'll slumber in standby mode for 10 days, which seems ambitious.
It's lower power processor won't suck as much juice as the dual-core handsets, so in a battery duel, you can probably expect your phone to beat your mate's iPhone 4S, so long as you're not running anything too demanding.
On the back of the phone you'll find a 5-megapixel camera with an LED flash. There's various white balance and exposure settings to help you get more creative with your snaps.
Results from the camera were fairly good for a low-end device. Colours were handled quite well and although exposure and sharpness weren't great, we've certainly seen worse efforts from phones before. It's definitely not going to replace a dedicated compact digital camera, but if you just want to grab a few shots of your dog going mental in the park, it'll do the trick well.
Getting images from the phone is very easy. Simply plug it into your computer via USB and your phone will ask you if you want to use USB storage. Tap Yes and a folder will open on your computer, allowing you to take out all the photos you've been taking to share with the world.
There's a front-facing VGA camera too, which is great news if you're wanting to video call your friends using services like Skype.
The San Francisco 2 is a great improvement over its predecessor. It not only looks better, but it offers a smooth interface and a decent performance that belies the low price tag.
If you're after smart phone functionality on a budget but don't want to carry around an embarrassing piece of tat, the Orange San Francisco 2 is worth checking out.