Orange have had major success with their own branded Android phones, most notably the San Francisco which was this week replaced by the even more attractive Monte Carlo. These phones tend to be re-branded versions from far eastern manufacturers such as ZTE and Huawei and in this case, Orange have rebadged the Huawei Boulder. Also just out of the stables this month is the Barcelona which is out now on Pay-As-You-Go for only £99.
Unfortunately at AndroidGenus Central, we don’t have the facility to review this phone first hand. In fact, we cannot review much that we don’t go out an buy ourselves but I hope that an aggregated overview from the professionals will help a little. If anything…we waste our time for you!
The Barcelona is a Blackberry style phone with a full QWERTY keyboard which sits below a 2.6″ touch screen. Unlike some rivals such the Acer beTouch E210, the screen is capacitative which means you are going to be putting in far less effort to use it. That said, the biggest issue seems to be the actual size of the screen. Google’s Android is built for touch screen technology but the Barcelona (and similar phones) impede this with a small screen. The 3.2″ screen from a HTC Wildfire is pushing it to deliver the full Android experience so God only knows how cramped the Barcelona is to use as a touch screen.
Build quality is reported as being very good, comprised entirely out of plastic and only 9.9mm thick. Keyboard response is also very good with individually domed keys, “which depress a fair way and click slightly” according to KnowYourMobile. Rapid typing is easy and Orange have included dedicated a smileys key and two shift keys either side of the space bar which toggle the Caps Lock. 3G mention the “keyboard is a tad on the cramped side” so try it out first if you have chunky fingers.
The 528MHz processor is capable but does not support Flash and gives a lacklustre multimedia performance. Coupled with its small size and low resolution 320×240 pixel screen, you won’t be watching any movies or digging into BBC iPlayer on the Barcelona. However, it’ll quite happily replace your iPod via a decent microSD card (not included!) and a good music app from the Android Market.
Orange quote 7 hours talk time which was not disputed in the reviews, but expect to charge the phone daily.
A pretty full feature set with GPS, an FM radio, Wi-Fi, 3G, UMA signal boost. This sits with the usual email and web benefits that come with the 2.2 version of Android. No bluetooth is present though.
Orange have included their ‘gestures‘ functionality but while nice, it is easily replicated via an app. The Barcelona also packs a 3.2 megapixel camera with no flash which is to be expected at this price. Apparently, the shots it takes are OK but this should be thought of as a “backup” according to 3g.co.uk.
It does not seem to be that great when considering the “Android Experience”. The Orange Barcelona is a slim phone with good, if plastic build quality. But here’s the rub; when you think what the Barcelona is competing against it begins to look more attractive. The Blackberry Curve 8520 is £120 on PAYG while the budget Nokia C3 is available for £55 on-line. Neither of those phones offer the flexibility of the Barcelona despite poorer cameras, no touch screen and are 3-4mm thicker. Certainly the Barcelona is a Blackberry beater in this context although justifying it’s purchase over the Nokia maybe difficult depending on intended use (i.e. texting only). It’s also half the price of the HTC ChaCha.
KnowYourMobile are correct when they say that the “Orange Barcelona is a handset with an inbuilt disadvantage in its form factor“. But if you treat the screen as an added bonus but don’t expect to be playing Angry Birds or doing a lot of web browsing, the Barcelona looks like a very good option for those who have to have email, text and Facebook on tap wherever they are. 3G hit the nail on the head by saying it “is a bargain for anyone who wants good access to email but isn’t bothered about getting the full gaming and web experience“.
Aggregate Score: 7/10 – Probably worth it after all.