The Acer Iconia Smart certainly looks smart, with its tall screen sporting a 21:9 aspect ratio. The Smart's size edges it towards tablet territory, but its long and thin shape means it ultimately manages to retain its identity as a fairly pocket-friendly phone.
The Smart will be available in the UK from 1 May for a currently undisclosed price. Here are our first impressions from Mobile World Congress.
The first thing you'll notice about the Smart is its size. It packs a giant, 4.8-inch screen, making it a competitor to oversized phones like the Dell Streak and HTC Desire HD -- phones that are more than halfway to being tablets. The Smart is even branded with the Iconia badge seen on Acer's tablet range. The 5-inch Smart, 7-inch Iconia Tab A100 and 10-inch Iconia Tab A500 demonstrate how the line between phones and portable computers has blurred, as they all have similar features and offer a choice of screen size.
Even though it's approaching tablet size, the Smart definitely looks like a phone. That's because it's long and thin -- the 1,024x480-pixel screen has an extra-wide, 21:9 aspect ratio. That's the ratio of many cinema releases, and we've previously seen it on televisions such as the Philips Cinema 21:9. The Smart even uses telly-style LED edge lighting. Only a dribbling fool would argue that a cinematic aspect ratio means a mobile phone can offer a truly cinematic experience, but films do look great on the Smart -- they're really crisp and clear.
The Smart will output content to a high-definition TV via HDMI, or wirelessly via DLNA. The phone offers 14.4Mbps HSDPA for speedy Web browsing over 3G, or 802.11n Wi-Fi when you're connected to a wireless hotspot. Bluetooth 2.1 is also built-in.
The phone's tall and slim dimensions make for an interesting optical illusion. The Smart is huge but doesn't look it because of its proportions. At 65mm wide, it also slips into a trouser pocket more easily than a wider device would.
The Smart 's case is all metal, apart from a small removable plastic section that conceals the battery. Maybe we have phone fatigue as a result of fingering so many phones this week, but we found the plastic battery cover didn't click back into place as smoothly as we'd expect.
The Smart gets its smarts from a 1GHz Qualcomm Snapdragon processor. It senses movement on six axes, thanks to a built-in gyroscope and accelerometer.
The Smart runs Google's Android 2.3 Gingerbread operating system. That means you'll have access to all of the apps in the Android Market, and the browser will support Flash, unlike the iPhone. You can also have multiple Web pages open at the same time.
The best thing about the ultra-wide screen is that Web pages have more room to breathe. Hold the phone in landscape mode, and websites can be displayed at a greater size than on smaller phones, so you can have readable text and still see the whole page on the screen. That means no pesky scrolling to the left and right when you're reading.
Acer has also added a few features of its own on top of Android. One cool feature places thumbnails of your favourite websites on the home screen in a nifty animated ring. You swipe your finger around the ring of live thumbnails to dial through the different sites until you spot something you want to read.
There are the usual four Android buttons built into the phone's frame, for quickly accessing your home page, searching your phone or the Web, pulling up options, and taking a step backwards.
On the back of the phone, there's an 8-megapixel camera, with an LED flash for illuminating your subject. On the front of the phone, there's a 2-megapixel camera, so you can video call friends and family, and maybe even threaten an enemy or two.
It remains to be seen whether the handset's giant screen and smart-phone power will suck up battery juice rapidly. That's something we'll look into when we take the Smart for a proper long-term test.
The Acer Iconia Smart pushes the upper limits of phone size, and will be too big for many users. Nevertheless, the screen's 21:9 aspect ratio helps to make the phone feel pocketable, and also makes video very watchable. The screen really comes into its own, though, when you're browsing the Web.
Edited by Charles Kloet