You'll have to make do with version 1.6 of Android, aka Donut, but Acer has added its own set of apps, some of which are more useful than others. With a Qualcomm Snapdragon processor running at 768 MHz, it also promises to be speedy. But what are its strengths and weaknesses? Can the Liquid, a smartphone with a very accessible price tag, stand up to its more high-end competition? Let's take a look.
The look and feel of any phone count for a lot, and in the a world of increasingly similar smartphones, every now and again one comes along with a different style. That's the case with the Liquid, especially with the white version, although it also comes in black and red. It stands out from the crowd, so you'll either like it or loathe it. Either way, though, it's hard to have nothing to say about the design.
iPhone 3G S and Acer Liquid
The same two from the back
Although the large 3.5'', 800 x 480 screen has enough brightness and contrast to win over mobile web addicts, or fans of online video, the thickness and large dimensions of the handset left us a little baffled. There are only a few millimetres of difference between the iPhone 3G S and the Liquid, but the latter seems much bigger. One more important, and disappointing, difference, is that the Liquid's display doesn't support multitouch, so to zoom, you need to use a separate touch-based zoom control that is a lot less accurate. It's a feature that could well arrive when the phone gets an upgrade to Android 2.1 in June--just a few weeks after the Liquid e, this phone's successor, which will launch with version 2.1 of Google's OS in May.
Overall, the handset is pretty useable, apart from the physical button that controls the camera, which is too stiff. The touch-sensitive navigation buttons below the display are also a little tricky. As well as occasionally activating them by mistake when we were holding the phone--which happened much less often than on the LG GW620--we sometimes needed to tap the icons more than once to launch features like the main menu or search.
We really loved the backlit status indicators al on the top of the screen, which warn you about low battery or incoming messages, for instance. It's an excellent feature.
Backlit icons give battery and messaging alerts
Because it's so responsive, using the Liquid is an absolute treat. As we mentioned, the screen is sensitive enough to react to all of your commands, and, better still, the phone does so quickly. Essentially, it does what you tell it to do--and fast.
The Google interface in its simplest configuration
Easy shortcuts to multimedia content
You'll have to make to with basic Android interface, which is less attractive than what you'll find on some rival smartphones. In particular, we're thinking of HTC's well-integrated Sense software layer. Here, Acer has just added two scrolling decks with shortcuts to multimedia apps and Internet favourites. That's all well and good, and it works fine, but it's just not enough.
Just three homescreens
Although it hasn't added its own layer to the interface, Acer has pre-installed several apps on the Liquid. Amongst them is ReadSync Mail, which supports syncing with Microsoft Exchange, as well as Acer sync, which resembles the Motoblur system on Motorola Dext, but it's a lot less advanced. You can use it to synchronise the Liquid with your Gmail account and your contacts with Facebook.
Decent virtual keyboard
Writing SMS or e-mails using the virtual keyboard is very easy thanks to the sensitivity, accuracy and reactivity of the touchscreen display. And how does it stand up to the iPhone 3G S, which is a leader in the field? Well, we found it was almost as powerful, but in portrait mode, the Liquid's smaller virtual keyboard produced slightly more errors. In landscape mode, there's nothing between them.
Let's start this section by looking at the nemoPlayer multimedia software. We found this powerful media library very easy on the eye, but if you're serious about music, you'll want to change the headphones straight away. Not only is the sound quality terrible, they're also uncomfortable to wear.
The camera isn't great: taking a photo is tricky, because you need to zoom using the touchscreen, and then hold down a physical button for far too long. Saving your photos can take a while too. The results are far from impressive, so you'd better make sure you're in a well-lit environment (there's no flash), and photographing something still. Otherwise, you'll end up with blurry photos.
For browsing the web, the Liquid loads pages quickly, displays them correctly and, thanks to Android, makes handling favourites, history and other features a breeze.
Mangaging web pages
- Attractive capacitative touchscreen with good resolution
- Powerful web browsing
- Android Market for third-party apps
- Screen isn't multitouch / Thick
- Camera less impressive
- Poor battery life
- Only version 1.6 of Android
The Liquid S100/A1 offers great value for money. It's fast and provides a great way to access all of Google's services, so it's a shame the battery life is short and the camera so disappointing. Good news: its successor, the Liquid e, will be here in just a few weeks