Orange is arguably the best network to choose if you want a cheap Android smartphone for under £100 and has been ever since the first San Francisco handset came along. Now there is a sequel on the prowl, using updated hardware from Chinese manufacturer ZTE to encourage pay as you go mobile fans to invest in a multifunctional model.
The Orange San Francisco 2 does not change a huge amount when compared to its predecessor. However, the hardware alterations that have been made all feel considered and necessary to enhance the experience, rather than arbitrarily enacted as part of an arms race between rivals, as can be the case at the top end of the market.
The San Francisco 2 sticks with a largely identical 3.5 inch touchscreen display, echoing the screen found on the first model. This has a resolution of 480×800, which is a rarity in the sub-£100 price range. It is also bright and legible in most surroundings, so you will never feel like you are squinting to see onscreen elements or having to zoom in unnecessarily when browsing the web.
Android 2.3 is onboard, updated from 2.1 found on the first phone. Orange has gone to work with its own custom user interface, although the key Android elements, such as the presence of five homescreens with customisable widgets, remain intact.
To help bring Android 2.3 to life the San Francisco 2 has a faster 800MHz processor. This may sound slightly underpowered when you look at the dual and quad core CPUs which are beginning to reign supreme on more expensive models, but ZTE has clearly worked hard to optimise the hardware and software so that it never feels too laggy or sluggish.
On the back of the San Francisco 2 you will find a five megapixel camera which works surprisingly well and is much more capable than the 3.2 megapixel snapper of the original. More unusual is the presence of a front-mounted secondary camera for video calling, which few other budget Android handsets can boast.
The whole phone is housed in a plastic shell which is slimmer and lighter than its forebear. Some entry level mobiles can feel like they are built of very cheap materials, but this is not the case with the San Francisco 2. It may look a little bit like a Sony Ericsson knock-off, but the quality of the construction means that it wears its copycat tendencies well and you will not feel ashamed to use it in public.
Wi-Fi, 3G, GPS and Bluetooth crowd together inside, while 512MB of storage space will let you download a few apps from the Android Market before you have to start thinking about buying a microSD card to add more room for your files.
The Orange San Francisco 2 is probably quite a good reason to use mobile recycling to sell your old phone and upgrade to a much more refined, powerful model. You may have to rub your eyes in disbelief every time you remember the price and compare that to its power and flexibility.