If during the last 12 months you wanted a cheap but decent prepaid smartphone there was really only one choice, the Orange San Francisco. But now its big brother is in town – the Orange Monte Carlo. Orange Monte Carlo Orange's Monte Carlo: a good bet? This is another handset from Chinese manufacturer ZTE that in its homeland …
Another ZTE bargain..... dammit I can't justify another phone purchase though, the missus has only just taken on the SF... haha!
Is this the new phone name meme?
HTC Basingstoke, Samsung Slough, Sony Ericsson Basildon
Yup, you got it... Did you not hear about the Nokia Beachy Head?
LG John o' Groats
I have TM's the name so don't even think about it.
...no, I can't bring myself to say it. It's in TW18, Surrey.
Sounds like the SanFran then. A decent phone for the normal user. An absolute bargain for those willing to root it and put on a decent ROM thereby getting around "most" of its foibles (the orange crap, lack of video/games performance and lack of RAM).
Picked up a Galaxy Europa at the weekend for the wife. £50(+£10 credit) from 3 and £8 to unlock. It is already a nippy, decent device - albeit with a 2007-era screen. With a fresh ROM it should be a cracker and, for the price, you just can't even be bothered to worry about the poor camera or lack of multitouch.
Check out Motafoca ROM
I stuck it on my wife's phone and she gets almost 4 days battery life in normal use
no unlock found yet
Big caveat right now: can't be unlocked without waiting 3months for Orange to do it, with monthly topups needed in those months according to some reports. You'll want to run this on contract or watch Orange raid your wallet on PAYG, no escaping to a cheaper network. I personally wouldn't consider running on Orange PAYG with data enabled.
Buying now intending to unlock is a gamble, they changed the ludicrously easy Blade/San Fran unlock and you ought to assume they did it properly this time. Until someone finds a crack... ;) That 3months+topups+£20 unlock fee is a hefty surcharge that needs factoring in.
The other caveat: there's a 1GHz version due sometime which may have an ARM7 CPU, though there's no confirmation it will be on Orange so pricing is pure guesswork.
The good news: existing Orange users should be able to get it for £120 by calling Orange, which is almost a no brainer buy, even with the unlock overhead.
I'm going to wait to see what happens, £120 with a cheap unlock would work for me now but there are more versions due and the 1Ghz version should be a massive improvement. With Medion looking like launching a version there should be some interesting price competition soon.
Considering ZTE have said they wanted to bring their brand to the UK like HTC have, it is a good bet that they will launch a phone at some point without Orange. A 1Ghz phone that can do flash sounds great :D
Unlocked ZTE Skate
£220, so if you're confident that the Orange branded one can be unlocked cheaply soon, buy Orange.
unlocking's the key to success
The ZTE Blade in all it's incarnations wouldn't have caught on if it wasn't fast/free/easy to unlock.
I bought mine on a trip to the UK, had it unlocked in 5 minutes and flashed to a new ROM in 30, all while giving a lecture on something technical.
The Xperia Mini...
... just cost me £150 from the warehouse for vehicular communication, SIM-free (OK you have to pay a tenner for an Orange or T-Mobile top-up) which, apart from the screen size, is a rather better-featured phone for the money. Reasonable camera, HD video(ish) and Flash.
For anyone (like me) who was previously unfamiliar with Android I'd suggest they try and borrow a phone for a day or so before they even fork out as much as £150, particularly if they want to use PDA-like features. It's superficially slick but there are too many (un)usability nuances that just aren't there yet and which just annoy me - and which thousands of lookalike apps in the market claim to solve but don't. Web browsing is the only thing it appears to do better than my now ancient N95. I was expecting something a bit more finished by 2.3...
Has a screen resolution of only 320 x 240, I believe, which may be a factor for some.
@Xperia Mini Screen Size
The old X10 is 320x240; the new Mini (confusingly identified by the lack of X10 in its name...) is 320x480 which is still admittedly small (as I said), but is actually big enough to be usable.
Mini has 320 x 480, one of the "classic" Android resolutions and quite respectable for the screen size.
You were probably thinking of the much lousier Xperia X10 Mini rather than Xperia Mini, damned SE and their silly nomenclature, beaten only by Nokia...
Admittedly I've never seen it on a faster phone but Angry Birds runs fine on my Blade so I would have thought the Skate would be more than adequate. Maybe the ROM is to blame.
fine but not perfect, not consistent
It noticeably slows on our Blade on any complex level, you can see it dropping to 1/2 and 1/3 speed at times - possibly more on recent Seasons levels. TBH it drops frames on all but the simplest, emptiest levels. The physics is too much for 600Mhz ARM6, 800Mhz won't help much.
Not a phone to buy for high end gaming.
Still playable though. Unlike the shocking performance on my ancient ARM11 G1!
My friend's Blade runs Angry Birds fine on the earlier levels, but the frame rate slows to a crawl later on in the game, when there's more than a handful of objects in the level.
It's the GPU, not CPU
My Nokia C7 with its meager ARM 11 680MHz plays Angry Birds quite well, thanks to Broadcom GPU chippery.
Stick with the San Fran
The screen is no higher resolution, it doesn't run apps any better, and it doesn't have more memory, so for a significantly higher price than the San Fran I'd suggest that over this. At £100 you can get away with the limitations more reasonably than at £150.
Moving from the T-Mobile Pulse Mini to OSF was a big step forward - mainly the bigger screen. I don't see any point in upgrading to OMC especially with no unlock. Skip a generation and wait for a really capable avi & flash player methinks.
Please tell me
Orange have not borked yet another ohone by making their crapware non-removeable - EVEN THE SODDING GAMES TRIALS!!!
i just don't get these guys.
Anyone from Orange care to comment?
Re: Please tell me
"borked yet another ohone by making their crapware non-removeable"
Depends what you mean by removable. All of the crapware can be removed in such a way that you will never come across it. Just install a new launcher and uninstall the games etc. from the App manager. However, as it is all installed in the ROM, removing it will not free up the available storage. To do that, you need a new ROM - which will not be far off. If it takes past the end of September I'd be amazed.
“That Riviera Touch”
Just how old are your sub-editors? Even I can only just remember it...
Only a slight step up from the San Francisco then. Not being able to play flash is disappointing, I can play angry birds OK on my San Fran, cyanogenmod of course!
If you want this cheaper, then wait for the ZTE branded imports to start arriving, should be another month or so I would expect, when Orange most likely lose their exclusivity.
I don't see why the ZTE branded versions would be any cheaper, I'd imagine it would be the exact opposite in fact. The only way Orange can sell this phone so cheap is by subsiding it with shedload of crapware and hopefully clawing back the initial lost profits through new customers gained.
"As a video player the Monte sucks baboon nuts."
Not bothering with even a nod to the concept of el Reg being a techy news site then?
How can a phone too slow to run this, that and the other be excused for being a budget model at 150 squid? £15 & a £10 topup, perhaps, but for £150 I'd expect something that works.
I'm 94 you know.
from the author
@ Mike Flex
Mike, I take your point but I had to judge the MC as a handset costing well under half the price of my own 800 x 480 4.3" Android handset, the Desire HD.
As a video and games machine the Monte is poor, but for everything else it's fine.
The large screen makes working in Google Docs or Docs to Go a joy, ditto web browsing as long as you are prepared to forgo Flash. Similarly, for reading/writing e-mail, looking at Facebook, using your Google Calender or reading eBooks - which I do a lot on my phone - the large screen is an absolute boon.
Is it worth an extra £50 over the San Fran? In my book yes because I really don't like working on a phone with a screen any smaller than 4 inches and frankly the larger the better.
I would have liked a good GPU, at least 1GB of system storage, a better camera and a glass screen - just as I have on my own phone - but at the moment you are not going to get that for £150.
Yes the Monte C. is flawed, but it's a still a lot of phone for the money, hence my rating.
You can snag a used HTC Desire on eBay for the same price, altho there's not many right now .
Wait around just a little longer until the 18 months contracts people took out on the HTC Desire are up and you'll see an influx of them onto eBay.
Ditto for any other higher end android phone that came onto the market 18 months ago. (although arguably, the desire is the one to go for)
If your not averse to using second hand (and the risk involved with eBay), it seems by far the better option than being lumbered with a subpar performer for the same price.
That's not such a clear cut option - assuming you can find a decent unabused Desire for £150 you have to make do with a screen that is a more than half an inch smaller, no warranty and the same amount of system storage. Also the Desire doesn't exactly have a bullet-proof reliability reputation and I for one would be very cautious about paying out £150 for an 18 month or two year old model.
For what it's worth a friend has just sold her old Nokia on eBay and bought a Monte Carlo and so far is very happy with it, esp the way Google Nav works on the big screen and the space she has for the virtual keyboard.
"esp the way Google Nav works on the big screen and the space she has for the virtual keyboard."
Hope she never has to use Nav whilst data roaming. Unless she is a millionaire.
It's free on Nokia Maps.
I never got nokia maps working on my old phone, and fortunately, now GMaps allows you to pre-cache 10mile^2 areas ahead of time. Of course, this means you have to pre-empt where you might get lost, but it's better than nothing.
(Personally I'd rather be lost than use data roaming)
Orange San Francisco "cheap but decent"? I'll give you cheap, but the only way it is decent is as a replacement for a Gameboy, or for window-licking geeks who like to fiddle with their ROMs.
Worst battery life, camera, reliability, call signal strength. Absolutely terrible phone, regardless of what cooked ROM is on board.
That's a bit harsh, I've had a San Fran for nearly a year - running CyanogenMod - and it's been faultless. Nothing wrong with the call signal strength, battery life or reliability. Camera is a bit shit I grant you, but no worse than I expected. For £100 it's a cracking bit of kit. The one thing the SF is NOT is a decent replacement for a Gameboy - it lacks the CPU, GPU and RAM for a decent gaming experience.
Can't help but think that a lot of these negative comments are being driven by a pretty unrealistic expectation of what you should expect for £100 or £150. Like the reviewer has said, the Monte is no Desire HD, but a HD will cost you way over twice the price.
this has the same CPU as the galaxy ace and I own the galaxy ace. I did try playing with the Monte Carlo in a orange store and it was very slow.
the res on the ace is 320*480 and runs at 59fps on neocore.
plays the first angry birds no problems and need for speed etc.
even has tethering option too.
and only £149 at cpw with normal top up on three network
Come on, you need a Cortex A8 class CPU to be taken seriously now.
Don't tell me it'd make it £350, because it bloody well wouldn't.
If you think Qualcomm is costly, go for something on an extreme budget - how about Telechips? They will flog you a Cortex A8 processor for peanuts, and it will be more respectable than an old ARM being clocked up a bit to pretend like it's a new CPU.
I was excited about this one, as I got the good lady a SanFran for Xmas to replace her WinMo phone and was highly impressed. When I saw the specs on this one I was put off - basically the same for £50 more. So I bought a 'used' Moto defy instead for £125 (an unused unwanted upgrade) from off of the net and haven't looked back. Fast, well specced (for the price) and coffee proof, its awesome (once the motoblur crapware was removed and replaced with a CM7 image). Its also cheaper than a second hand Desire which apart from having a nice screen is a bit rubbish specs wise.
My conculsion, get a SanFran for £100 or for a bit more, a Defy.