Orange San Francisco II pictures and hands-on

Something people forget - especially tech journalists - is that not everyone can afford, or wants, a £500 mobile telephone. But, even people with limited money to spend on handsets may want access to some of the cool features available on smartphones and that's where the Orange San Francisco II comes in.

The phone costs £99 on pay-as-you-go - when you get a £10 top-up at the same time - but what is perhaps most surprising, is the things of which this phone is capable. It's not a basic handset in may ways, for example, it runs Android 2.3.5, which is about as good as it gets without Ice Cream Sandwich.

It's also equipped with a 3.5-inch capacitive touchscreen, which we found to be very nicely responsive and with plenty of colour and decent brightness - you can see it outdoors easily. The resolution is 480x800 too, which isn't bad for a budget phone, and it certainly does look crisp and clear. The 5-megapixel camera seems to generate some decent images in good light, and there's a flash too.

General specs are impressive enough too. It's got an 800MHz processor, with 512MB of RAM. Considered quite limited by today's standards, but actually it works fine, with only very minimal lag. You get a 2GB microSD card too, which is enough for a smattering of photos and music. Upgrading to 16GB is cheap though, and will turn the phone into a decent-sized MP3 player.

You also get access to some great Orange services too, as you would expect. There's something called signal boost, or UMA, which allows people in areas with poor mobile reception to use their Wi-Fi to increase the signal. It's pretty clever, and although you still have to pay for calls over your own Wi-Fi, it does mean you won't be unavailable for an important call.

There's also HD Voice, which is an Orange only proposition at the moment, but will be coming to T-Mobile in due course. This is an improved audio codec, that gives much higher quality in-call audio. It's not crucial of course, but it doesn't cost anything extra, and it's wonderful to see it on a budget phone too.

And, as an Orange customer, you're also able to access Orange Wednesdays - an app comes pre-installed on the phone - to get two-for-one cinema tickets on, you guessed it, Wednesday. And the company gives away a free iTunes movie rental each week too, known as Film to Go. So plenty of reasons to consider the San Francisco II, as well as for the competent hardware.

For those not on Orange, the San Francisco is also known as the ZTE Blade II, so you'll have a chance to pick up this reasonably-priced handset at some point in the future too. If you're looking to buy, the good news is you can, from the Orange Shop. The phone is, however, SIM locked to Orange, so no sneaking an o2 SIM in. 

Looking for a budget handset, does the San Francisco II interest you? 



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