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PREVIEW: Acer Liquid Android 1.6 WVGA Touchscreen Smartphone
Posted by Arne Hess - on Wednesday, 04.11.09 - 13:24:47 CET under 08 - Reviews - Viewed 48937x
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Early October, Acer finally announced its long-awaited first Android smartphone, the Acer Liquid. And beside being Acer's first Android smartphone, it's also the first Android device which runs on Qualcomm's Snapdragon platform as well as featuring a yet unique WVGA touchscreen at 800x480 pixel. Running on Android 1.6 (aka Donut), the Acer Liquid is powered by a Qualcomm QSD 8250 Snapdragon CPU at 768 MHz and supports quadband GSM/GPRS/EDGE as well as triband UMTS/HSDPA/HSUPA at either 900/1800/2100 MHz (European version) or 850/1900/2100 MHz (North American version). Also onboard are WiFi b/g, Bluetooth 2.0+EDR as well as aGPS, a digital compass and a G-sensor as well as a light sensor.

The Acer Liquid, which will be available in white/black, red/black and black/black, features a refreshing design, somewhat a mix between a smartphone, a personal navigation device (PND) and a media player. It comes with curves and seems to stand for a unique design-language, Acer identified for its current range of smartphones.

Quite unusual and yet unique for an Android smartphone is the lack of a D-pad or trackball but the Liquid only sports the Android typical home, search, back and menu keys, which are touch sensitive. This means that the device is mostly used through the touchscreen. However, also available are the smartphone typical volume up/down rocker, a camera shutter key which also starts the camera application and a power/stand-by button. Furthermore the device features a mini USB port for charging and connecting the device to the PC as well as a 3.5 mm stereo headset plug on the top, where also three LED notification icons can be found. One for unread messages, one for missed calls and one for the battery status.

At a size of 115x64x12.43 mm, the Liquid weights 135 g only and features a 3.5" WVGA (800x480) capacitive touchscreen. WVGA is yet also new for Android devices and was just enabled by Google with the recent introduction of Android 1.6 code-named Donut. The autofucs camera on the back supports 5 megapixels and can be used for photos and videos. However, even if it is a 3G phone, the device doesn't feature a front-facing camera for UMTS video telephony.

The Liquid is backed-up by 256 MB SDRAM for user applications and storage and 512 MB FLASH ROM for the Android operating system and embedded applications. The memory can be expanded by microSD cards. The removable and replaceable 1,350 mAh Lithium Polymer battery is said to be good for up to 5 hours talk-time in UMTS mode and up to 6 hours in GSM mode.

As said, the Acer Liquid is running on the recently released Android 1.6 platform which adds great benefits to Android smartphones and therefore to the Liquid also. And while the device isn't a so called Google branded Google Experience phone, the end-user will not find a real difference to Google Experience phones because all Google Mobile services, including Google Maps, Gmail, Android Market, YouTube as well as Google Talk and the availability to synch the device against Google's web services, are present! The only difference to Google branded phones is, that firmware updates won't be distributed by Google but by Acer.

Also Acer has - more or less - taken the original Android GUI and only modified it slightly - for instance the dialer or the camera UI - while other parts like the contacts or calendar are mostly unchanged.

However, Acer added some useful applications in addition to Google's original set of Android applications. Therefore a user will find Documents To Go preinstalled, which allows to open and view Office documents as well as RoadSync (including RoadSync Calendar and RoadSync Mail) which supports Microsoft's Exchange ActiveSync protocol to provide wireless direct push of E-Mails as well as synchronization of Microsoft Exchange calendars and contacts. While this isn't too important for consumers (here's Google offering Gmail and Google Calendar), Exchange support is highly required for corporate users. Like the publically RoadSync version, also the Liquid's version features a homescreen widget.

Way more consumer oriented and yet pretty much Acer Liquid exclusive (Documents To Go and RoadSync can be downloaded from the Android Market anyway) are the Liquid's Media Server, nemoPlayer, Spinlets and urFooz, which are preloaded as full versions, not as trial versions only.

If connected to a W-LAN, the Media Server allows to share on the phone stored music, photos and videos to any connected PC. This means a user can easily show the latest vacation photos on a friend's PC, without copying the photos to the PC.

And while the Acer Liquid also comes with Google's original, yet pretty basic, Android music player, Acer also added another one called nemoPlayer which can handle music, videos and photos and supports more formats than Google's media player does. It even offers a nicely designed finger- and gesture-friendly user interface and allows to snap photos and record videos straight from the application. There's even a homescreen widget available which allows to control the played music, straight from the homescreen.

Kind of interesting is Spinlets, a free music service which streams selected music as well as offering access to the artist's official website, YouTube channel, MySpace and Facebook account.

urFooz a portable profile, so far already available on the Web, that connects you to your multiple social profiles and accounts. It's designed to be a simple way to share your content (photos, videos, bookmarks and more) and social networking profiles all in one place, including Facebook, Flickr, Twitter and YouTube. It's all on Fooz Card, which is much like a baseball card - one side has your avatar, the other has all your personal stats and social profiles! What makes urFooz interesting is that it's portable and gets updated dynamically. It lives on the Acer Liquid as well as in the user's browser as a self-contained app that you can take anywhere online. A Fooz Card contains a Fooz Avatar which can customize to reflect your tastes and interests.

In addition to these external services, Acer also enhanced the Android platform with further social networking services called Acer Share. For instance is it possible to send captured photos straight from the camera to Facebook and Flickr.

And also the contacts can be synchronized with either Facebook or Flickr. For instance will synchronized contacts show the latest status updates in the contact details.

While Acer added a good amount of 3rd party applications and self-developed enhancements, Acer really added these enhancements as careful as possible.

Final Conclusion

Yes, it looks like that Acer's first Android smartphone could be a winner. It combines everything a winning smartphone need these days. It comes with a unique and refreshing design, in three fashionable colors, and it features the latest and greatest hardware and software. It's definitely a real competitor to the HTC Hero, which also features a 5 megapixel autofocus camera but sports a HVGA Android-typical touchscreen only as well as a real competitor to the Samsung Galaxy which also features a 5 megapixel autofocus camera, even with a flash, but also only supports Android's 1.5 HVGA screen resolution. These days, VGA or even WVGA is a must have for smartphones and beside being the Android smartphone with the biggest touchscreen, the Liquid is also one of the fastest, soon available Android smartphones, thanks to the Qualcomm Snapdragon CPU.
I had the pleasure to test the Acer Liquid the recent weeks and I was positively surprised how well an Android smartphone can be used without a D-pad; I haven't missed it a single minute yet. All together, even if the Liquid I was able to use, was an early marketing sample, it's very stable and here the customer definitely benefits from Acer's long-time experience in the PC and Laptop market.

Also I was impressed by the tools and utilities Acer added. While keeping the Android flavor, Acer did a good job in enhancing Google's Android platform wherever necessary. Sure, it's not yet perfect, I would like to see an improved soft-keyboard as well as a kind of smart-dialing application for faster contacts access, but the multimedia and social networking integration makes the Acer Liquid a real fun device, which stays connected to your social networks. Now, all it needs is a Twitter client/integration also and it would be my perfect social media phone.
However, Acer also took care that it connects to Microsoft's Exchange environment. While there's no local sync option to Outlook, thanks to RoadSync, it easily connect to any Exchange server and therefore provides real-time push-mail, calendar and contacts synchronization, outside the Google-world.

Altogether Acer really impressed me with its first Android smartphone and it looks like, the company is on the right track to become a major in the smartphone-game. It's definitely a worth addition to today's majors, HTC, Samsung and soon Motorola. The Acer Liquid can be a worth phone for connected media fans which want to still have as much Android as possible with as much enhancements as necessary.

The Acer Liquid is expected to be available in the upcoming weeks across Europe, a price wasn't announced so far.

Cheers ~ Arne

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