Smart phones are no longer the preserve of the well-to-do. There are plenty of touchscreen phones around that offer many of the features you'd find on the iPhone 3GS or HTC Legend, for a fraction of the cost. Among them is the Acer beTouch E110, which runs Android 1.5. It can be yours for free on a £10-per-month, 24-month contract, or about £150 SIM-free.
The E110 sports a 71mm (2.8-inch), QVGA touchscreen. Unfortunately, it's quite disappointing. As it's of the resistive variety, you'll have to apply some pressure to the screen in order for it to register your input, and there's no multi-touch support. As resistive screens go, this one is pretty sensitive, but, if you're expecting the smooth, effortless, gliding experience afforded by a capacitive touchscreen, you might want to look elsewhere. The display is colourful, but the screen resolution is also very low, so everything looks rather blurry, and viewing photos won't be a very enjoyable experience.
The E110 runs Android 1.5. Criminally, there's no access to the Android Market, so adding new apps to the E110 is out of the question. Seeing as access to the Android app store is one of the best things about the operating system, this is a real kick in the groin.
Acer has pre-loaded a few apps onto the E110. There's a Facebook app and Twidroid for handling your Twitter account over a 3G network, both of which do a passable job of keeping you in the loop. The E110 features GPS, if should you feel like tracking your progress on a long journey, and a Web browser that will suffice for a quick Google session, but really nothing more. There's no Wi-Fi connectivity, so your Net-based activities will be limited to areas where you can get a strong signal, and won't be as speedy as a standard broadband connection.
The menu interface itself isn't too bad. There are five screens of widgets that you can scroll through using the touchscreen. The main menu is accessed by dragging an arrow icon up from the bottom of the screen.
One gripe is that the call-end button locks the phone when you use it for any purpose other than hanging up. On most other phones, the call-end button will take you back to the home screen, so this is something that could take some getting used to and will almost certainly prove annoying.
More frustrating than this, however, is the tiny on-screen keypad used for inputting text. The keypad is really very small, and hitting the right part of screen is a trying process. There's no spell-check feature either, which only adds to the tribulations you'll endure. Unlike other Android handsets, there's no full Qwerty keyboard, or option to type in landscape mode.
The E110 sports a 3-megapixel camera. Its shots are of a reasonable quality, but the blurry screen won't do them any justice. Additionally, the camera software is sluggish, and changing settings takes a long time -- probably longer than your friends are willing to hold a cheery pose. Similar problems abound when shooting video footage.
Hip to be square?
The E110's design doesn't exactly break the mould. The matte black and grey finish on our review model (the E110 is also available in dark blue) lent it a business-like feel. The E110 may lack flair, but it feels solidly built, and, at 13mm thick, will fit snugly in your pocket.
A meagre 256MB of on-board storage is available. If you want to store anything more than a modest selection of photos and music, you'll have to plug in a microSD card.
The call quality is fine, and we didn't notice any particular lack of clarity. As for battery life, expect no more than a couple of days of use before the E110 needs recharging.
The Acer beTouch E110 isn't very stylish and its low-resolution screen is disappointing, as is its inability to access the Android Market. As it stands, there's nothing too smart about this budget smart phone. We'd recommend checking out the similarly priced but infinitely better-looking Samsung Monte.
Edited by Charles Kloet