updated 10:35 am EST, Tue February 28, 2012
Acer CloudMobile and LiquidGlow get our tests
Acer had a much more subdued presence at Mobile World Congress this year, having spent most of its energy at CES. However, it did have two new smartphones to show in Barcelona, and arguably some of its best devices yet. Read through for hands-on time with the CloudMobile and Liquid Glow.
The CloudMobile, while it doesn't have the most elegant name, is most surprising in what you don't see: excess customization. While there was an option to launch apps from the lock screen and a few custom widgets for weather and more, the almost overbearing nature of the skins on phones like the Liquid Metal has thankfully gone away. One nice touch was continuing to see your background with the app drawer up: stock Android 4.0 blacks out the image.
Acer is also one of the few so far to use the new OS' onscreen navigation keys instead of physical buttons.
Hardware has also shown an attention to detail. The 4.3-inch, HD (presumably 720p) IPS screen looks rich and has wide viewing angles; it's also a gapless display where there's no empty space between the glass and LCD, so it's bright and seems more directly connected. Acer isn't using the brand-new Snapdragon 9000-series, but a dual-core 1.5GHz MSM8260A was still more than enough to make the OS responsive. Unfortunately, we couldn't try the camera: Acer didn't yet have the eight-megapixel camera and software in a state ready to show.
The Liquid Glow isn't meant to be as impressive. All the same, we were quite pleased with it. The single-core, 1GHz Snapdragon (an MSM8255) was still quick, and the 3.7-inch, 480x800 display still looked sharp and colorful. Likely to save money, it's using hardware navigation buttons instead of a larger display; it's not necessarily worse, but it also means no contextual buttons.
And again, like the CloudMobile, Acer has kept the interface distractions to a minimum. That both improves the subjective speed of a phone that could more easily be bogged down by custom layers and keeps it focused. There's only 2GB of built-in free space, though, so you'll be turning to microSDHC to keep it fed.
Acer is shipping both in the summer, starting with the Liquid Glow. While neither has a special trick, they may be top picks just because they're very straightforward. It's odd to say given Acer's rough history, but we're looking forward to the release of both.