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Orange Stockholm Review

Jonathan Morris
July 28, 2011

Produced by Huawei, the Orange Stockholm certainly looks the part, but as a budget Android smartphone does it have the features to match?

Orange seems to be on a mission to release a phone named after every major city in the world, with the latest model being the entry-level Stockholm.

Manufacturered by Huawei, it’s essentially a smaller version of the IDEOS U8150 smartphone, but having been released nearly one year on it’s somewhat harder to impress given how far things have advanced.

Smaller than the U8150, the phone has a nice pebble-like feel to it, with an easy to press button to take you to the homescreen at any time. On the side are two volume keys, with the power/lock button up top. Besides the headphone socket at the top and the USB port at the bottom, there’s very little to spoil its good looks. It looks like a phone worth more than its £80 asking price on prepay.

Also on the front are three touch-sensitive keys for back, menu and search. In terms of what you need for an Android device, it ticks all the boxes. The only thing left is the screen, which is where time hasn’t been very kind.

With a lot of the frontage being used for the buttons, there’s only room for a 2.8-inch touchscreen. If that isn’t already going to make it hard to enter text on the virtual keyboard, there’s also a 240×320 pixel resolution that limits the amount of detail you can get on the screen. There’s an increasing number of apps that require at least 320×480 pixels too.

System test

One of the key features of the first IDEOS was the fact it was one of the first handsets to ship with Android 2.2, as well as being a portable Wi-Fi hotspot. The Stockholm still comes with 2.2, but Android has been on 2.3 (Gingerbread) for a while now. The changes between 2.2 and 2.3 aren’t as big as 2.1 to 2.2, but there are still enough tweaks and optimisations to have made the update worthwhile.

The processor is identical too, which also makes it hard to compete with the latest devices. It also rules out any chance of being able to run Adobe Flash on the phone. The Qualcomm chipset is based on an early generation design, running at just 528MHz and with an equally outdated Adreno 200 graphics co-processor. The low-resolution display means you can still get a fairly decent graphic performance, but the normal operation of the phone can result in delays to do even simple things, such as bringing up the virtual keyboard when needing to enter text.

256MB of memory is also rather small, which is probably why you need to wait for things like the keyboard to load, even if you’ve used it before. The lack of RAM means even core-apps will be shut down to make room for other apps you load. Not only that, there’s very little room to install apps on the phone itself. You can install most apps on an SD card now and Orange has included a 2GB card to get you going, but for apps that can’t go on a memory card you may find yourself running out of room before you add all the apps you want.

Orange has pre-loaded a number of its own apps on the phone, as additions to the usual Google apps. So, you still get Google Maps as well as Orange Maps and Android Market in addition to the Orange app store. There’s also an app for Orange Wednesday (the two-for-one cinema ticket deal at most cinemas on a Wednesday) plus a new addition: Orange Signal Boost.

Signal surge

Orange Signal Boost is a consumer-friendly name for UMA (Universal Mobile Access). It means you can not only connect the phone to a Wi-Fi network for faster and cheaper data (as with any smartphone) but also make and receive voice calls over Wi-Fi too. The benefits are obvious if you have poor coverage in locations where you have a decent Wi-Fi signal.

Not to be confused with a femtocell (a base station you connect to your wireless router that routes voice and data over a broadband connection), the Signal Boost feature is an application that runs on the phone and can therefore work with any Wi-Fi network without the need for extra hardware. Once up and running, you get a red or green ‘home’ icon in the status bar to show if you’re connected via Wi-Fi. Orange has supported UMA for some time, but it has previously required hardware support which limited the choice of devices.

Now, thanks to Android, the Signal Boost feature is a simple application that can be added to the phone, but before any other Orange users with an Android phone think you can simply download the app to add UMA support: forget it. Besides the fact the app can’t be found on Android Market, the app needs a custom firmware, so if it isn’t an Orange branded model then you won’t be able to use the app even if you located a copy through a questionable source.

Orange is installing this app on many of its new handsets going forward and it could really make a difference to subscribers who don’t get a good signal at home or work.

Old hat

After having good things to say about the IDEOS 8150, I should be saying equally nice things about the Stockholm, but what was offered as a good value entry-level offering a year ago is now rather too dated. The phone looks and feels nicer, but Huawei has done nothing to improve the hardware inside and it shows. Even the camera interface, with virtually no options and a fiddly on-screen shutter, limits the imaging capabilities.

However, we’ve been informed that Orange could be selling this phone for as little as £50 in the run up to Christmas, so if you’re not too fussed about the lack of pixels or an average camera, it may still have some value. What could seal the deal is the Signal Boost function, as not missing a call could be more important than every other feature put together.

Verdict

The Huawei-made Stockholm is a cheap handset adapted exclusively for Orange, but it has been created from a handset that’s nearly a year old. So that’s an old screen, old processor, old camera and… well, you get the idea. Huawei hasn’t even updated the version of Android OS, leaving it on 2.2. But it does still tick along fairly well and it’s the camera that disappoints most. Orange has added its own apps and the most important one is Signal Boost – it could really make this a good buy, especially if you suffer from poor network coverage in a location served by Wi-Fi.

Ratings (Out of 5)

Performance: 3
Features: 3
Usability: 4

OVERALL: 3 

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