A well-built phone with a fast processor and good battery life, but as it's based on Android 1.6 and lacks social aggregation software, it just misses out on an award.
Android 1.6, 3.5in 480×800 display
Acer first got into the smartphone market last year, after it acquired handset maker E-ten, with a dull range of Windows Mobile devices that failed to excite us. The Liquid is a complete re-boot: it looks entirely unlike the previous models, and it runs Google’s Android mobile operating system. Inside is a 768MHz Snapdragon processor – not the 1GHz model as seen in Google’s own Nexus One, but still fast enough to make the Liquid a pleasure to use.
On paper the Liquid is about the same size and weight as the iPhone, HTC’s Hero and the Nexus One, although in reality in feels a little chunkier. The design may not appeal to everyone – our review model divided opinions with its stark two-tone design, with black and red models are also available – but the build quality feels good. The screen is bright and clear, but it doesn’t have the oleophobic fingerprint-resistant coating found on the Hero or iPhone.
There’s a dedicated camera button, a volume rocker and a 3.5mm headphone jack, as well as a mini-USB port for charging and data transfer. The power button is located conveniently on the left edge of the phone, which is handy as it doubles as a screen lock button. The other standard Android controls are made up of touch-sensitive buttons beneath the screen, which we found to be very responsive.
Our only qualm with the hardware is the lack of a lens cover for the 5-megapixel camera, which means that if you aren’t careful your photos will end up looking smeared and fuzzy. There’s no flash, either, but in our tests we found colours to be natural and contrast good – as long as the lighting was strong. A battery life of over 21 hours is impressive for a smartphone, although once you factor in WiFi and 3G usage, you’ll still need to charge it every night.
Acer has gone for a light touch approach when it comes to customising Android, and apart from a few new icons you might think you were using a vanilla installation. However, it has installed two widgets on the edges of the left and right panes of the home screen. These let you flick through a carousel of content: the left widget can show videos, photos and music, while the right widget is dedicated to bookmarks. Unfortunately, there’s no easy way to import the latter from your desktop browser. Social aggregation – the ability to import contacts from multiple services and merge them – is also notable by its absence.
Acer has bundled the Documents To Go document viewer, which can be upgraded for $15 (about £9) to edit most Office documents. There’s a media server so you can stream multimedia from your phone over your home network, and copies of RoadSync’s Calendar and Mail apps. Acer will offer a free upgrade to Android 2.1, there’s an even an app installed to check for such updates, but couldn’t say when this will be available.
With great battery life – for an Android smartphone – and snappy performance, the Liquid shows promise, but its rather basic implementation of the Android interface holds it back. When Acer releases the update to Android 2.1, which includes features such as social aggregation, the Liquid will be a great all-round package. Also worth noting, is that the Liquid isn’t currently available on a monthly contract in the UK, so for the time being you’ll have to pay for the handset up front. The combination of these factors hold it back from our top honours.
|Main display size
|CCD effective megapixels
|Video recording format
|Bluetooth, WiFi, USB
|Memory card support
|Memory card included
|GSM 850/900/1800/1900, 3G 900/1900/2100
|Edge, HSDPA, HSUPA
|Microsoft Office compatibility
|Audio format support
|MP3, AAC, eAAC+, WMA
|Video playback formats
|MP4, 3GP, H.264, WMV
|data cable, charger
|Tested battery life (MP3 playback)
|Price on contract