Orange Berlin £70
6th Dec 2007 | 00:00
Orange's first city-themed phone
In a welcome break from thoroughly non-mnemonic serial numbers, Orange has taken the provocative (though some might say downright obvious) step of giving their latest phone an actual name.
The Berlin is the first of Orange's new series of city-themed handsets. The idea is that if Orange's mobile tariffs can be personalised as types of animals (dolphin, racoon etc) then handsets can be described as cities.
Difficult to tell exactly why they came up with the Berlin handle for this one. Everything about it seems to be deliberately understated - this isn't a phone you would pick out of line-up with the usual 'look at me' suspects.
It's a fairly low-spec number that's apparently designed to appeal to Orange's 'Dolphin' subscribers - people who text more than talk, which tends to mean the youth market. But with that in mind, it works very hard behind the scenes to deliver the goods.
For starters, the look is a mean and moody matt black - it doesn't draw attention to itself and isn't even shiny. But the reason for the matt finish is its lightly rubberised plastic casing - this phone won't slip around when you set it down, but with its curved edges it's still smooth enough to slide easily into the pocket.
It feels sturdy and well built and it slides open with a satisfying clunk and a very nice ice blue backlight for the keys. The keypad itself is a model of economy - the buttons are on the small side, but well enough defined that pressing them is never difficult.
The camera lens is located under the slide, so you'll need to open the phone to use it, which seems a bit strange in these post-Sony Ericsson Cyber-shot times.
Quick access to the camera comes from holding down the play button on the side, then it can be used in either portrait or landscape mode. There are five size options (176x144 - 1600x1200) and up to 8x zoom, which sounds good, except that it won't work if you're using the higher resolution mode.
There's a flash, auto timer, plus a small range of effects and a night mode - not an exceptionally well equipped camera in other words, but all the basics are covered. The picture quality is decent enough too, better than you might expect on a mid to low-end phone like this, and show up well on the sharp, 262,000-colour screen.
By comparison the video is jerky and fuzzy, and you'll need to hold the phone very still to get anything like a decently viewable clip. Music is a core feature of this phone, and again, it's treated in an unfussy but effective way.
There are media player controls on the side (play/pause, FWD, REW), though you'll need to go through the menu to access the player since there's no quick access button. You can transfer tracks using Bluetooth (it will work with wireless headsets too) or the phone's fast USB connection and of course download from the internet using the fast 3G connection.
A shame then that the sound quality with the supplied headphones is atrocious - tinny, compressed, with no body or tone, and actually becomes quite painful to listen to after a fairly short time.
Replacing the headphones really did work wonders though - it's generally a good idea of course, but in this case it's probably essential. The FM radio is nicely intuitive however, and picked up a good range of stations. It will store up to 99 of them too.
There's the option to add a memory card for additional tunes and videos, though none is supplied with the phone - but with an impressive 80MB on board already, you may not have need for one.
You don't get much in the way of games, just a demo for puzzle solver Brain Juice and a demo for building teaser Tower Bloxx, neither of which are likely to detain you for very long. Other useful apps however include a voice recorder, for making notes on the move, PC synchronisation so you can keep up to date with your emails and contacts, a stopwatch and a world time converter.
There's nothing overstated about this phone, but it is startlingly efficient, and perhaps that's what inspired its name.
Then again, the next handset in the city series has recently been announced - the Tokyo is a plain-looking candy bar with a lower spec so we've even less idea how that one got its name, and at present, there are no plans to release the city series outside of the UK, so the chances of a London or Edinburgh handset seem unlikely.
But confusing name or not, the Berlin is a marvellous example of the less is more principle - if you don't need a phone to project your personality, and just get on with the multimedia job, it'll be with you for longer than a weekend break.
Ease of use 7
Call quality 8
Networks: Orange only