by James Tromans, 2 years ago
The Acer Liquid Stream comes courtesy of Phandroid, who spotted the device at Google I/O the other day. Well, Acer certainly look as though they are upping their game as the device has recently received…
The beTouch E110 from Acer is by its own admission, “Smart ‘n Simple”. We took this entry level device for a spin and were pleasantly surprised by its build quality and overall functionality. However, despite jumping through the hoops and then some for what the consumer expects of an entry-level device, the beTouch E110 reminded us of phones 12 months older that do much the same thing, for the same price. Nonetheless, the device worked… well. It is very simple to use and you get more than what you might expect for your money. Read on to find out more.
The Acer beTouch E110 is an example of an ordinary touch-screen phone. This is something with which we are all familiar. The resistive screen and hardware buttons comprise the majority of the front-face. In truth, the device is good looking, but not in an exciting way. After all, there is very little one can do to jazz up this style of device without spending a fortune on the build. For what it is, the physical aspects of this device do not disappoint.
The matte effect that finishes off the Acer beTouch E110 is a great addition because the device picks up less fingerprints. It is a perfect way to complete a compact device that fits nicely in your pocket. It is a similar size to the HTC Hero, albeit smaller, measuring in at 103.5mm x 54mm x 13.4mm (4in x 2.1in x .5in). The proportions of the beTouch E110 were spot on in terms of its weight, size and build quality. Not too light, or too big, it just feels “right” in your hand. Another “pro” for this device is that the screen really does push up quite close to the edges of the phone. I really like it when designers make the screen real-estate a primary concern when thinking about their ergonomics.
The display itself is described as a ‘super-sensitive 2.8” touch screen’. The problem? The screen is resistive. I have tried different types of resistive and capacitive screens and the Acer beTouch E110 is average. As a resistive display, it requires more pressure than a capacitive screen. As such, it does not feel ‘super-sensitive’ if you have ever tried a capacitive screen. Furthermore, the colours were a little washed out, although nothing too serious. The brightness can be controlled and this is a necessity if you are outside. With sunlight shining down onto your beTouch E110, you will need it set to maximum brightness. This will, of course, decrease battery life, but certainly alleviates the issue very well. If you are new to the smartphone market and you are looking to simply discover the internet, then the screen will probably leave you satisfied.
The device offers a selection of hardware buttons. Positioned on the front of the device is a ‘handy 5-way navigation key for easy access to all applications’. We found the navigation very easy to use and believe it to be a clear strength of the device. There is also a power key on the front of the device along with a standard menu button. The left-hand-side simply offers a memory card slot, while the right hand side offers a volume jogger and a micro-USB port. This type of USB port comes as a welcomed addition, and something that Acer have clearly taken into careful consideration. We only wish more manufacturers would get involved with using a consistent charging and connection standard such as this. Things are getting better on this front, but we’re not completely there yet. On the top face of the device we find a 3.5mm head-phone jack. Again, something Acer has done well to achieve. In terms of softkeys, there are four positioned directly below the screen. These include a Home key, Search key, Back key and Menu key.
On the back of the device we find the 3.0 megapixel digital camera. We were not expecting to see market-leading performance from this little bad-boy but it turns out it does a fine job for snapping those unexpected moments. Still, you certainly would not want to leave your Canon at home if you were looking to do any real photography. We shall discuss this a little more later.
The first thing we would like to mention about the core functionality of this device is the battery life. It is excellent. There is no denying it, no matter how smart your smartphone is, if you are continually worried about using it because the battery might die, then it is no good. The Acer beTouch E110 excels in this department primarily due to the inclusion of a 1500 mAh battery. This is the same size battery in the Samsung Galaxy S which uses a 4’’ display. You can imagine that on a smaller, less powerful device like the beTouch E110, how far a 1500mAh battery can go. Bravo. Ironically, the aspects that make the device entry level are what afford it such great battery life too. “For every cloud there is a silver lining.”
Having spent a decent period of time with the Acer beTouch E110, I found that the 3G connectivity afforded by the device provides excellent call quality. The 3G connectivity is a first-rate addition to an otherwise fairly ordinary device. Of course, we wouldn’t have really expected anything less from Acer here, but it is still important that they pulled through. In general, we achieved strong signal around the center of the commercial and residential areas, and, most importantly, when inside, too.
With the inclusion of a 3G radio, it goes without saying that Acer is clearly marketing this device to first time mobile Internet users. Indeed, this is still a fairly easy market to exploit, with a significant portion of the populations around the world still not using smartphone technology.
The data speeds achieved by the device were what you would expect from a 3G radio and they were not compromised just because the beTouch E110 is an entry level device. Take note. If you are after a cheaper way to gain 3G connectivity I can highly recommend this smartphone. Other connectivity options, like Bluetooth, also worked great. Unfortunately there was no Wi-Fi, which is a big bummer.
A lot of the added value gained from using this device is found within the bundled applications that come with the beTouch E110, including Twidroyd Pro. This is the full version of the popular Twitter client. Usually you have to pay for this from the Android market. Indeed, the social networking aspects that make up the core functionality of this device are numerous. I found it very easy to keep up to speed with my Facebook account and could easily update my status. This leads us onto the multimedia features of this smartphone.
Multimedia, Applications and UI
I’ll say it upfront. There is no Android market. Once you are over this, for an entry-level come mid-range device, the beTouch E110 is completely satisfactory in terms of multimedia and applications. This is in large part due to the Android 1.5 OS. Sure, there are devices out there running Android 2.2 now, but for the first-time smartphone user, Android 1.5 should suffice. With that said, we would still like to see Acer support this device with an upgrade. Given the market right now, even late adopters will soon learn that when they pick their device, they are not just picking something in the store. In reality they are picking something which they have to live with for sometimes up to two years. On-going support from manufactures is a necessity and something that will differentiate the successful ones from the failures.
As previously mentioned, the Acer beTouch E110 offers a fully fledged version of Twidroyd Pro. This is excellent for keeping up to date with Twitter. Acer also offers some interesting games from Gameloft, including the amazingly popular card game UNO and Block Breaker Deluxe 2. We really feel that bundling applications for the sake of it is not something that will tempt too many people. However, carefully selecting a handful of games like this may be appealing to the discerning consumer, and we really enjoyed playing these games on the beTouch E110.
We alluded to the camera before. It’s more of a gimmick than anything else, but worth having. The photos were great for assigning to contact photos in your phone book, but viewing them on your larger PC screen really showed up the short-comings of what a 3MP sensor will achieve. Nonetheless, we think that even a feature phone user will expect a camera, and this is certainly not a step in the wrong direction.
Stepping into the realm of hardware and multimedia, the 3.5mm headphone jack is an awesome addition to this device. These days, this particular feature is often the make or break characteristic when choosing a new device. The option to use one’s own headphones with the beTouch E110 is very important. Combine this with the memory card expansion slot and the device measures up as a perfectly viable alternative to your MP3 player.
Crossing the bridge between multimedia and user interface, the device also comes included with ‘Acer Spinlets’ for Music streaming. These were fun to use, for sure, but we’re not sure how important they will be if you are seriously considering this device. Indeed, Acer has made some minor adjustments to the User Interface, and the multimedia widgets go by the name of ‘Acer Liquid UI’. We couldn’t find anything bad to say about these, other than you might not notice them.
Included with the device is the Nemo player application. As Acer state, this provides easier and optimized viewing of multimedia contents. We found this particular application easy to use, but nothing particularly worth taking notes on. One interesting aspect of the beTouch E110 that we failed to spend much time with was the Acer UrFooz application for creating, managing and sharing avatars on varying social network services. In theory we think that this could be a fun to use, but we are not convinced of its longevity.
It is worth nothing that the rest of the beTouch E110 is stock Android 1.5 Cupcake. There is no ‘With Google’ for this device meaning that it does not come with bundled Google Mobile Services. The internet browser is the stock Android version and serves its purpose well. Indeed, it is much better than any feature phone web browser and if you are making that jump to the smartphone, you will not be disappointed. For more information on the standard Android 1.5 web browser, check out the original reviews of the G1.
While testing the Acer beTouch E110 it was always important to bare in mind that the device is entry level, mid-range at a push. As such, the price point reflects this. After carefully considering this we find the beTouch E110 to be an excellent option for someone who is looking to make the leap from the feature phone to the smartphone. Putting the benefits affording by Android to one side, the physical device as a whole was spot on.
Considering the negatives next, the Acer beTouch E110 is rather boring and not innovative in any way. We do not believe that this lack of imagination is justified just because it is an entry level device. Also, the resistive touch-screen will always be a sticking point for us. Capacitive screens are much more responsive and generally better, but we must remember that the device is far cheaper than anything Samsung roll out with a Super AMOLED display. To put it into context, we have come across better resistive touchscreens, but this isn’t the worst, either. It is certainly average. We also miss Wi-Fi and the Android Market (a lot).
However, for around £150.00 ($229.17) including tax, unlocked and SIM free, we feel that this device is certainly worth the money. It feels like a really awesome feature phone, and an average entry level smartphone. This works, though, since Acer are really marketing the device to the feature phone market, enticing them to jump to the smartphone with the Acer brand.