We know that RIM’s BlackBerry sets the standard for smartphones with miniature Qwerty keyboards on the front, and we know plenty of others try to follow suit. Nokia does so quite well, but makers of Android based handsets suffer. This is not always because of physical design but because Android doesn’t suit the small screens that this style of smartphone demands.
It’s all about Android
And with the Orange Barcelona, again the problem is more to do with Android than anything else. The Android version isn’t a real problem – though Android 2.2 is not quite at the leading edge. No, our concern is that Android and its associated apps just don’t sit well in a screen that is 2.6in across its diagonal corners. The 320×240-pixel resolution doesn’t help, and the end result is a squished up operating system.
Orange does try to help the situation. There’s automatic screen rotation in apps, which pushes the screen into a format taller than it is wide. Shame, then, that it doesn’t do a lot to improve readability. In both tall and wide modes, for example, we had to do a lot of scrolling to get round web pages.
Then there’s the gesture control. You can run apps by drawing a shape on the main home screen. It’s simple, and easy to set up, and it works – though it’s not a particularly original idea, and Orange does provide five home screens for widgets and shortcuts.
The other key aspect of the Orange Barcelona, its keyboard, is nicely implemented. Keys are individually domed and depress well. There’s a key that calls up smileys to the left of the space bar and two Shift keys to the left and right of the space bar that do a full shift to upper case if you double tap them, or shift a single letter if you hit them once.
Combined with a D-pad, large shortcut buttons for Android’s Home, Menu, Back and Search functions, and call and end keys, there’s plenty of button action.
You pays your money…
At a price of just £100 on Orange PAYG you can’t really expect huge things from the Orange Barcelona, and there are some obvious areas of compromise. The 528MHz processor doesn’t support Flash which is a bind, and we found YouTube video to be rather jerky. The camera lacks a flash and only shoots stills at 3.2 megapixels.
Wi-Fi and HSDPA are present though, there’s an FM radio, and of course you’ve got the Android Market to dip into. In the end, this handset does try to do right by Android within its budget. But the format just doesn’t lend itself to the operating system.
Contact: Orange on 0800 079 2000
- Good keyboard.
- Android squeezed into a screen that's too small for it.
The Barcelona has some neat features, but in the end we don't think this handset could be our long term companion. We've never been particularly impressed with smartphones that push Android into a small screen in an attempt to 'do a BlackBerry', and we aren't here, either.