Android device manufacturers have pretty much stuck to the standard design, that is a touch screen 3.5″-5″ with a few buttons dotted around the screen. Over the years we have seen various devices with a physical keyboard such as the G1, Motorola Milestone (Droid) or the HTC Desire Z. Only recently have manufacturers tried different form factor. Motorola came out with the Droid Pro which is a Blackberry style device, they also released the Flipout which has a rotating qwerty keyboard and most recently Samsung released the Galaxy Pro which again is a Blackberry style form factor. Acer have recently come out with their own version of this style of device, it is the Acer beTouch e210 and here is my review of it.
Qualcomm MSM 7227, 600 MHz
512 MB ROM, 256 MB RAM
Display: 2.6″ QVGA TFT
Wi-Fi 802.11 b/g
GPS / AGPS
MicroSD Card slot
Lithium-ion battery, 1300 mAh
Dimensions: 116x63x11.95 mm
110 g (with battery)
Pros – The Acer beTouch is nice to look at, it is very light, it has well laid out keyboard, a 3.5mm headset socket that is well away from the volume controls, the optical trackpad makes navigating easy, seperate shortcut keys for camera, messaging and contacts.
Cons – Resistive screen makes any interaction with the screen awkward. The qvga resolution makes some apps look squeezed into the available space. Because the screen is qvga certain apps that do not support this resolution are missing from the market. No flash for the camera. Back panel is quite difficult to get off, the longevity of this is questionable.
The beTouch is light and it fits nicely in your hand, the keyboard makes it easy to either type one handed or using your thumbs. The trackpad makes scrolling through menus quite speedy, it even lets you scroll between homescreens with it. Everything works as you would expect it to, just not as smoothly as you would expect. For instance you wake the device by pressing the end call button and you are presented with the standard Android lockscreen, where you would normally swipe from the left to the right to unlock. Here you swipe up, which is an Android problem with landscape devices not an Acer problem. The beTouch compounds this problem with its touchscreen as you really have to make an effort to slide the bar up. Luckily Acer have addressed this and you can just press menu instead and it unlocks.
The Acer beTouch runs Android 2.2 and has a very basic install of Android on it. Acer have bundled a few apps that just use up valuable internal memory space. Which like most entry level devices these days seems to be the number one problem. Once you have installed the various updates to Gmail, Google Maps etc you are not left with much space for many more apps. Once I had updated these I had 93MB remaining. This is helped out a little bit by Android 2.2 which allows you to move a portion of certain apps to the memory card. You will soon run out of space for your apps.
The main problems start when the software clashes with the hardware. I will give you a few examples. The stock version of Android does not have notification counters for messages, emails or missed calls. All you get is an icon on the notification bar. Normally to solve this problem I would go to the market and install SMS Unread Count. But because the resolution of the beTouch is qvga and most apps are made for higher resolutions the market will not show apps that will not work with it. To check this out I made a backup of the app on another device, copied the apk over and installed it on the beTouch. It worked but the icons were enormous. Luckily this program supports custom fonts so I could use smaller icons. I know other launchers such as ADW and Launcher Pro both will display notification bubbles for messages, email and missed calls. But when space is at a premium the last thing you want to do is install another launcher.
The resolution of the screen also caused problems whilst browsing the market. In landscape view the market is designed to be viewed on a screen about 800 pixels wide, the screen of the beTouch is 320 pixels wide, so it has to squish everything up. Some fonts are reduced but the app names are, so whilst searching for apps you can only see a small portion of the app names.
The next problem I came across was the way in that Android handles devices with a landscape screen. Most programs display properly in landscape view, some third party apps who have not coded their app to work in landscape do not, leaving you with a side on portrait view. The most frustrating was Tweetdeck, the timeline view was ok, but if you wanted to look at a profile of someone or search for something then you had to turn the device around to look at it. Various games also have this problem as well. Again this is not Acer’s fault it is a general Android problem. I could have easily used Plume as a Twitter client as it will quite happily display all screens in either landscape or portrait. The beTouch does have a auto rotate feature which enables you to hold the device on its side, which forces the screen into portrait view and has the keypad on the right of the screen. this features enables you to use certain apps that do not display properly in landscape such as the Android Market.
Overall it is a nice device if you are just going to be using it for messaging, emails or phone calls. If you want a device for installing lots of apps on then I would not bother. Price wise it seems a better deal than a Blackberry because of the spec, but the lack of support for the low resolution. You can pick one of these up for approx £210. Mobile network 3 are currently offering the Samsung Galaxy Pro for £149 plus a top up, which has a similar specification and a capacative screen which would improve things. So if you wanted a Blackberry style device with the option of installing a few Android apps I would probably go for the Samsung.