With no disrespect to HTC, Samsung, or Motorola, it's nice to see an Android phone from someone new. Not that the former three don't make great devices; it's just nice to see a fresh face in the crowd every once in a while, and in this instance, that face is Acer. Once again, our friends at Expansys USA hooked us up and sent us the Acer Liquid, the company's first Android device. It's a solid offering and even comes with a number of extras that enhance the phone's multimedia capabilities. However, the Liquid doesn't surge with power and hit some speed bumps during our testing period, so we wouldn't recommend it for anyone who needs a high-performance device. It's more of a middle-of-the-road offering for consumers that'll help you stay organized and connected, while having a little fun along the way. The Acer Liquid is currently available in the U.K. and is heading to Canada's Rogers Wireless this spring. There are no plans to bring it to the U.S., but you can buy one unlocked for around $400.
Like a number of other Android devices, the Acer Liquid is an all touch-screen device but has more of a fun, hip side to it. The glossy white chassis (the phone is also available in red or black) provides a nice contrast against the black screen, and with the capacitive touch-sensitive controls below the display, you get one smooth, streamlined design. It's fairly compact at 4.52 inches tall by 2.51 inches wide by 0.5 inch thick and at 4.76 ounces, the Liquid is lightweight without feeling too fragile, though the plastic casing makes the smartphone just a bit slick.
The Liquid features a 3.5-inch WVGA (480x800) capacitive touch screen that's quite beautiful. The high-resolution display smoothes out images and text. Colors don't quite pop off the screen as they do on the Nexus One, but they're still bright, and we were able to read the screen outdoors.
The touch screen is mostly responsive, but we felt it required bit more pressure to move between home screens and scroll through lists. It also affected the use of the onscreen keyboard, which is of the standard Android variety, since it didn't register a number of our touches. It wasn't bad but it just didn't feel quite as sensitive as some of the other devices we've tested, such as the Nexus One, and it definitely slowed us down. There is a built-in proximity sensor and accelerometer that works in most applications and was swift to change screen orientations, but no multitouch capabilities. You can't even double-tap the screen to zoom.
For the most part, the user interface looks a lot like standard Android. You get three home-screen panels that you can customize with shortcuts and widgets, and there's a pull-out apps tray at the bottom of each screen. However, it's not a true Google Experience phone, and Acer has added some of its own touches. By default, on the left panel, there's a small toolbar at the top of the screen that provides shortcuts to your multimedia content. Whichever type you choose--photos, music, or video-- you will then see the corresponding files displayed in a semi-circle as thumbnails, which you can then rotate through until you've found the desired file. There's a similar item on the right panel that displays all your browser bookmarks. You will also notice some differences in the dialer and calendar.
From any place on the phone, you can easily return to the home screen using the shortcut button right below the display. There are also touch-sensitive controls for the menu, search, and back. We should note that the home and back button don't have the usual house and arrow icons; instead they're represented by a rectangle (home) and less than sign (back). A couple of other tips: by holding down the Home button, a screen will appear that will show mini windows of all your running apps, allowing you to easily switch between tasks. Also, on top of the device, you'll get LED indicators for new e-mail, calls, and low battery life/charging status.
In addition to the notifications, there is a 3.5mm headphone jack on top. On the right side, you'll find a volume rocker and a camera activation/capture button, while the left side houses the power/lock button. It's been a while since we've seen this, but the Acer Liquid uses a Mini-USB port for charging/PC syncing instead of Micro-USB.