ZTE Blade / Orange San Francisco Review

Affordable budget phone that packs a serious punch. 

You’ll be hard pressed to find a phone that does this much in the entry/ mid price range. The ZTE Blade makes an excellent first time Android phone.

Why Android?

The Android OS is gaining popularity and an ever increasing market share. What does this really mean? More Apps, More games, More support, More meaningful things you can do with your phone.

It is a great OS that can be customized, and already has a huge variety of Apps available in the App Market.

At the time of writing the latest (stable) version of Android is 2.3 Gingerbread, and the ZTE Blade is more than capable of running a well designed 2.3 Gingerbread ROM. See ROM section below.

THE ZTE BLADE

Gorgeous sleek looking phone. Light and feels good in the hand. Has a modest price tag. Great performance and features and has a huge community who actively BUILD custom ROMS for the device.

Video Camera Quality is poor. Still photo quality isn’t great. You can barely see the screen in direct sunlight.

Build Quality:

The overall build quality is impressive for the price. The phone feels about as sturdy as any other smart phone. It has a very subtle rubber finishing around the sides, which make it easy to grip. Once the battery and back cover are in place the whole phone feels atomic. Nothing sliding about or moving.

All the connections appear to be top quality too. Let’s remember ZTE is the 6th largest phone supplier internationally.

The Display:

The ZTE Blade / Orange San Francisco comes in 2 screen options:

  • TFT Touch
  • AMOLED Touch
Benefits of TFT: Better viewing in direct sunlight, better touch, degrades better over time.
Benefits of AMOLED: Sharper and clearer image, darker blacks, better contrast.

The model I am reviewing is fitted with an AMOLED Display. Resolution is high, and image quality is sharp. This is an awesome part of the package. As I’ve said before, the screen does not look good at all in direct sunlight. You’ll battle to see anything on the screen, unless you turn the brightness up all the way.

Video Camera: 

The video camera isn’t great. It could be useful in emergency situations, but I wouldn’t rely on it for your precious memories.

SAMPLE VIDEO RECORDING ZTE BLADE

Still Image quality:

Borderline. Not as bad as the video, but not great either. Could be used when you are without a dedicated camera. Wouldn’t rely on it to take important photos with. You can find a sample image here: http://content.modaco.net/dropzone/sfsample1.jpg

GPS:

I found the GPS to be extremely quick to acquire a signal, and at the same time it can track with amazing accuracy. Do not expect perfection, but it is really close enough to be used as a fully fledged navigator, or a gps tracker. At times it is accurate down to the last 1m, while it never strays more than 5m while outdoors. Don’t try and use the GPS indoors, it doesn’t work correctly.

Battery Power:

With wifi and gps turned on the phone drains battery like a thirsty camel. But with the wifi turned off you should get about 6 hours or more of battery life, even with GPS turned on. If the phone is in sleep mode, even with wifi on, it doesn’t drain the power too badly, you’ll get more than a day of battery life like this.

Mic: Great quality, no problems, voice recognition works well.

FM Radio: Only works with the headphones plugged in. Otherwise good.

Headphones: Very soft. Seriously limiting, another flaw of the device. Max volume is about 1/2 of what I would expect.

Price: Amazing price and value for money.

Hackability:

The phone can be rooted and overclocked easily. All the good ROMS support this phone.

ROMS:

Ginger Stir Fryhttp://android.modaco.com/topic/342009-romgen2zte-gingerbread-ginger-stir-fry/

Desc: Very good ROM. My personal favorite. Everything works, and runs like a dream, even quicker than Stock Froyo. Has interesting built in stuff you wouldn’t otherwise be able to get – such as Google Car Home.

Cyanogen 7http://www.cyanogenmod.com/

Desc: Has a huge following, but some people complain about performance issues, and stuff not working.

Japanese Jellyfish RL9http://android.modaco.com/topic/327579-rom-froyo-japanese-jellyfish-rls9-2011-01-24-oledtft/

Desc: Based on Froyo is considered to be a good all rounder, but it is considered outdated and replaced by Sweedish Spring.

Sweedish Spring RL5http://android.modaco.com/topic/334849-rom-froyo-swedish-spring-rls5-2011-04-19-oledtft-gen1gen2/

Desc: A better performing and more recent version of Japanese Jellyfish.

For a good list of ROMS, please see this page : http://android.modaco.com/topic/329856-02may-roms-current-known-available-roms-for-the-zte-blade-gen1/

Links:

A must read site: http://sanfranciscoandroid.co.uk/

Android Market: https://market.android.com/

Full phone Specs: http://www.gsmarena.com/zte_blade-3391.php

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