Alcatel's superbudget OT-980 showed us that Android smart phones could break the £100 barrier, and just days later Orange has repeated the trick with a phone called the San Francisco, a 2.1 Eclair-running device for £99 on pay as you go.
It's the latest in Orange's range of budget smart phones that have many of the features we expect from more expensive ones. The first one we saw was the Orange Boston in May, which never made it here. But with the San Francisco, you now get the chance to try Android without paying a large amount on a handset or a long-term contract.
As well as Android 2.1, the San Francisco gives you a 600MHz processor, 3-megapixel camera, a 3.5-inch capacitive touch screen as well as 3G and Wi-Fi connectivity. That's pretty impressive for £99 -- much better than the Alcatel, especially as the OT-980 only has a resistive touchscreen. It comes with a 2GB microSD card, but that can be upgraded to 32GB capacity.
The San Francisco will come on Orange's pay as you go Dolphin tariffs. With £10 top up on pay as you go, you get 300 free texts, access to the popular Orange Wednesdays offer and 'free Internet'. That's rather misleading as Orange caps this at a pathetic 100MB a month, which if you're going to use Android's full Web browsing capability will vanish in a few days.
Orange says any extra Internet use will cost a maximum of £2 a day, but that will be capped at 25MB, so we're not sure if you pay even more if you go past it, or are simply stopped from connecting.
The phone does appear very good value, looking like a genuine smart phone with Android 2.1 and decent-looking, if simple, hardware. But the minimal free Internet allowance worries us -- it's natural to guzzle data on an Android phone like this. Anyway, have a butcher's at the San Francisco in this low-rent video:
Update: Read our full review of the Orange San Francisco here.