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Orange San Diego review

 Review: June 2012  

Last updated April 2013

Rating: 4 stars

In a nutshell: The Orange San Diego is an Android smartphone with a superfast Intel processor.



At first glance, the Orange San Diego looks like just another mid-range Orange-branded handset, but it's actually a landmark device. It's the first Android phone with an Intel processor. The Atom processor runs at up to 1.6GHz, making it as fast as anything out there. And although it's a single-core processor, it's hyper-threaded, so it can behave like a dual-core processor when it needs to, and can even vary the clock rate to conserve battery life when it's not being used to its full.

The phone runs Android 2.3 (Gingerbread) instead of the latest version, but it runs fast. PcPro have tested it and it runs faster than the iPhone 4S and nearly as fast as the Samsung S3, which is astonishing for such a low-cost product. But there's a "but" coming. A small number of apps - mostly games - won't work on the San Diego, as they use machine-level code that won't run on the Intel processor. We're not talking about stuff like Angry Birds, which runs without any problems, but certain graphics-intensive 3D titles. Be aware of this if you're into mobile gaming in a serious way.

Apart from that, the San Diego works like any other Android smartphone, except that it over-delivers in nearly every respect. Before continuing with the review, let's just remind ourselves that we're talking about a mid-range phone that costs less than £200 and is free on contract at £15 per month. For that much money we have no right to expect high-end specs. And yet the San Diego delivers some surprises.

On the outside, it's just another Android phone with a squarish shape and lots of plastic. Yet the 4 inch display is bigger than most in this price range. It's just an LCD display (not AMOLED), so it isn't always perfectly readable in sunshine, but dude, count those pixels! With a resolution of 600 x 1024 it's almost HD!

The camera sounds great, with an 8 megapixel rear-facing camera capable of HD video recording plus a 1.3 megapixel front-facing camera that can be used for video calls. There's a dedicated camera button too, which is welcome. There are plenty of options, and you can capture up to 10 photos in a second. In practice though, don't expect too much quality from the pictures.

GPS works well, as usual on Android devices, and with 4 inches of screen available, map browsing is very friendly indeed.

The web browser is fast, thanks to the Intel processor. Data access is also rapid, with 3G HSPA and Wi-Fi options for internet access. In fact connectivity is excellent across the board. You'll find Bluetooth, USB and HDMI, as well as NFC tucked away.

As with all Orange-branded devices, the software has been tinkered with, which is always dangerous. You'll get Orange apps with the phone, and a few tweaks of Android too. Frankly we worry about this, but we can't point to anything that Orange have actually broken. An Ice Cream Sandwich update is expected later in 2012.

Onboard memory is plentiful at 16GB, although only 11GB is available to the user. RAM is very generous at 1GB, so there's little chance of apps crashing or slowing. There's no memory card slot however, and incidentally the battery is non-removable too.

Which brings us on to battery life, which is supposed to be a key selling point of the Intel hardware. Curiously, the quoted battery life figures don't sound very impressive, but that just shows how meaningless they are, as the San Diego definitely outperforms most similar phones, giving 2-3 days between charges in normal use. Remember that any phone with a 4 inch screen is going to struggle when compared to an old-school Nokia.

So, we've got to ask: Intel, what on earth took you so long to get here? If this is a taste of things to come, we say bring it on! Very fast performance and good battery life sounds like the holy grail of the smartphone world to us. And we're sure that developers will very quickly get the hang of any compatibility issues that may be lurking in the small percentage of apps that won't run properly on the Atom processor.

Yes, the camera isn't the best; yes, it's only an LCD display, not Super AMOLED; and yes, there's no microSD memory card slot. But the San Diego over-delivers in so many other respects that we're willing to forgive it a few glitches. We'd say that the San Diego compares very favourably with similar-priced competitors such as the Samsung Galaxy Ace 2, HTC One V and Samsung Galaxy S3 Mini.

Orange San Diego features include:

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Orange San Diego user reviews

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Average rating from 10 reviews:

Reviewed by Fareha from Pakistan on 7th Jul 2014
I want to throw this in front of a truck but can't bcoz unfortunately this is a gift from my sister n worst gift ever don't want to mention the problems bcoz they are countless but really I want to smash this phone.

Reviewed by dave kenrick from UK on 18th Mar 2014
Just had rant at orange over this product..I've had 6 replacements of the San Diego in 1.5 yrs. it keeps getting gliches that cant be fixed so they replace the handset, and all the hassle is just not worth it. Generally its an adequate phone and the camera is good but keeps breaking down....'unable to open application' sends shivers down my spine. so many gliches i cant begin to tell you how frustrating it has been. Orange just wont listen , they say i'm in contract so can only replace like for like and wont give me a different phone.. I've been a business customer for 15yrs..and is doesn't count for jack. when my contract runs out in October its bye bye orange.

Reviewed by Pip from UK on 6th Feb 2014
We got 2 of these phones in December 2012 - one for me, and one for our son. Both started developing cracks to edge beading on the black and chrome / silver areas within 3 months, but as we both hold our phones differently, vertically and horizontally, the fine cracks were in different places! eventually we got them sent away after many battles, and Orange repaired them in November 2013, as had to be within the 1st year g/tee?, and then the camera button went on sons phone, repaired, now 2 months later mine has developed software problems, took to store, they said back everything up, then re set to factory settings, done that still happened, screen went randomly blank, and it turned itself off as and when it felt like it, even with good battery. Away from repair as I type. Few problems, but loving the phones still, so without these problems, I would give it 5 star, but as few ongoing problems give it a 3 star (good) Orange / EE reluctant to sort initially, said we had dropped phones, but s a staff member recommended phones in first place, and his San Diego also had same facia cracks, but I held my ground, mentioned this, and they repaired under warranty! awaiting the software fix now! Missing my phone even with problems!

Reviewed by Sang3eta from UK on 12th May 2013
Phone now comes with Ice Cream Sandwich Android 4.0.4.
Had the phone 20 days and the case is covered in cracks already. Some games won't run on this phone either. I cannot get Candy Crush Saga or Grand Theft Auto to show in the Google Play store even though the phone is capable of running them!

I made a video showing the cracks here:

Reviewed by abdolreza from uk on 31st Mar 2013
ok guys
i'm using this phone for about a year now and thats not because it is a great phone because i have no other choise for nest 10 months.
at tyhe begining it looksd amazing but after a 2 weeks the on/off button breaks and i sent it back and replaced with a new one wich bopdy after a week developed cracks and the second time on/off button brakes.
and i'm using it now with break button.
the camera is the worse i have seen the software and the screen responce is ok.i waited 7 months for my uncocking code, there is imposible to unlock it other tyhan orange company.
the sound is no good the calling quality is poor.
it is a flag ship of chinees made phone after all and nothing good ever comes out of chinees factory.
be aware and keep away.

Reviewed by reza from uk on 1st Feb 2013
ok i have this phone for about 7 months.
every thing about the software is amazing but hard ware is big red alert.
twice i've had the power bottom broken and hard to find a dissent respond from this orange people. body made from cheapest plastic available in china, easily cracking and there are no spare parts.
all i can say is stay away if you can.

Reviewed by Simon from UK on 7th Oct 2012
I think it's a very good low-mid budget phone - certain games won't work on the 486 but major apps seem fine, phone is quick, but a month in mine seems to be developing a habit of crashing during charging.

There seems to be so few out there, I don't know if there are any known reported faults with this phone

Reply by reza from uk on 31st Mar 2013
look further brother there are more than few problems, actualy apart from software every thing is problem with it. good luck with yours though

Reviewed by Simon J from England on 13th Aug 2012
The phone is quality. For the price it browses quickly has a good camera and is a stylish bit of kit. I upgraded from a Blackberry so the user friendly San Diego is a refreshing change. It is a good all rounder and punches well above it's weight. It's fast at browsing the app store is easy to use. It's easy to text on, the screen is huge and pixel sharp, clear display, calls are crystal clear and the phone comes pre-loaded with extras such as Navigon sat nav.

My wife has a Samsung Galaxy S2 and compared to that the San Diego is on par. It might not have the street cred image and people with more expensive phones might look down their noses at you but don't be put off by that. The Orange San Diego is a cracking phone. The price it is available at is a bargain and equally equipped phones are at least 100.00 more, or on contracts 10-15 pounds a month more.

Give it a try. You won't be disappointed

Reviewed by Peter G from UK on 5th Aug 2012
I got this fone from UK orange telesales (courier mail). I transferred my contacts to new sim, but when I started up the new fone, it said no contacts available. Eventually it decided there was also no sim installed. I took it to an orange shop, and they couldn't get the sim tray to open. They advised returning it, so I did.
The experience has put me off this one.
Think I will go with the lower spec but well liked san francicso 2.

Reviewed by Katya Ness from Noskiv on 19th Jul 2012
I had this phome for.a week the took it back its just awfull the camera on my nokia 7373 lamore is better! You can snap the back cover off and there is a hidden sd slot under rhere tho...

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