The Acer neoTouch holds the distinction of being one of the fastest phones in the world today thanks to its 1GHz Qualcomm Snapdragon processor (the same processor that powers the Google Nexus One). However the processor wasn’t enough to help the neoTouch stand tall among other smartphones.
Apart from the uber-fast processor, the Acer keeps its connectivity features well taken care of. It offers both Wi-Fi and GPS, supports 3G and even has a helpful miniUSB port to connect the data cable or the charger. Plus, another great addition is the 3.5mm headphones jack. The neoTouch has a huge 3.8-inch screen that displays a resolution of 480×800. It also has 256MB of internal memory, expandable up to 32GB through a microSD card. There is also a 5MP camera with an LED flash. The Acer also comes with the mobile office suite which allows you to edit and create Word and Excel documents and view PowerPoint and PDF files.
The neoTouch uses Microsoft’s Windows Mobile 6.5 as its OS and also allows access to Windows Marketplace, from where you can download free and paid apps for the phone. However, if you are expecting something like the iPhone’s app store or even the Android market, you are in for disappointment. There were very few free apps and even these weren’t all that useful. However, we did manage to download the free beta of Mobile Office which was pretty useful.
Design & Usability
The Acer is a large phone with a very good looking display. As a result, it looks striking and very elegant. Its resistive screen looks really good in spite of its meager 65K color output. However, the screen does not maintain its visual appeal under direct sunlight and it’s difficult to make out things being displayed. Below the display are a couple of touch-sensitive navigation buttons and the phone’s sides also has a couple of hardware buttons to control the camera and volume and a power button. These buttons are well-placed and easy to use except for the camera button which requires a little extra effort to press. Also, although the phone’s build mainly comprises of plastic, it doesn’t feel shoddy.
The neoTouch uses Windows Mobile 6.5 and Acer has also put in their own customized UI (the Acer UI 3.0) but honestly, it doesn’t feel like anything other than an afterthought. All this UI gives you is a simple grid based homescreen that you can customize with your own shortcuts. Taking into account how HTC phones use the TouchFLO interface and how the recently reviewed LG GM730 also used a greatly tweaked S-Class UI, the Acer UI 3.0 feels completely lacking.
Thankfully, the basic touch interface isn’t as much a mess as it was on the beTouch E101, the other Acer phone I reviewed. However, it still isn’t a very usable UI thanks to the screen’s resistive nature. The inconsistent nature of the interface shows up especially when trying to use the smaller icons and buttons that Windows Mobile obstinately continues to use. Also, the neoTouch’s virtual QWERTY keyboard fails to make efficient use of the large display. Typing on the keyboard resulted in numerous errors and frankly the phone’s size made typing difficult. On the other hand, the UI is quite responsive when scrolling through menus or contact lists.
Browsing the Web using Internet Explorer comes across as an archaic affair, but touch navigation is a much better process here. Call Quality was particularly disappointing and there was plenty of distortion and static audible. The battery life is also quite poor and it didn’t even last an entire day during regular usage (which included browsing over Wi-Fi and playing a couple of multimedia files).
The neoTouch’s multimedia performance is quite average. First, the 5MP although sufficient to take casual pictures is something that should have been much, much better considering the phone’s price. The images we shot were dull even though they were taken on a bright and sunny day. Colors especially were very muted. Although there is an LED flash, it is absolutely worthless since even close-up portrait shots in low-light looked very dark. The good part was that the images were noise-free and the white balance also seemed accurate. Video recording at VGA resolution resulted in a video that looked fine but had terrible frame-rates.
Audio playback was also below average and the volume was too low. It was a similar case with the external speakers. The bundled earphones were also sub-par but then again since the phone has a 3.5mm port, you can use your own set of earphones.
The Acer neoTouch is a decent phone if you are particularly impressed by Windows Mobile 6.5 and its exhaustive connectivity and productivity options. However, at US$708, the Acer’s shortcomings regarding its multimedia capabilities and its inconsistent touch UI become even more glaring.