We’ve been covering and reviewing the ETEN products for several years now, so were pretty excited to see how their products will evolve after the Acer acquisition.
Total of eight new phones were officially announced at the MWC, all running Windows Mobile. The F900, M900, X960 will all be originally released with WM 6.1 with the company’s new Acer Shell 2.0 which we’ll discuss later on. The DX900 will be the only device that will launch with the old ETEN’s personalization. Four additional phones, code named L1, C1, E1 and F1 will launch the second half of the year and will be running Windows Mobile 6.5.
The F900 and M900 are going to be Acer’s new high-end models. Very similar to the HTC Pro2 and the Diamond2, the F900
has a total of 4 touch sensitive keys on the front – send/receive, back
and the Windows key. The front is dominated by the now trendy 3.8
display with XVGA (800x480) resolution. No complains there, expect for
what seems to be very reflective surface, which might make viewing in
direct sunlight very difficult. The overall build-quality seems very
The M900 is very similar in design, and is going to be their top of the line model. The display is again 3.8”, still very reflective, but the keys are real, not touch-sensitive. We could definitely live without the finger-print sensor, as we do not see any real use for it, except to show off. The major difference with the F900 is the presence of full QWERTY keyboard. The sliding mechanism still needs some tweaking, as it is not very smooth and needs some extra force to be opened. The actual keyboard is excellent – the keys are arranged very well with decent size and space between them.
Cramping all that technology has taken its toll on the size and the M900 is 17mm (0.67inches) thick and weights almost 190 grams (6.63 oz) which is going to be a definite turn-down for some people.
The DX900 is a mid-range phone with dual-sim support. Being able to carry around one device with two phone number associated with it is not popular in the US, but a lot of people are doing it in Europe and Asia. The DX900 was actually the first Windows Mobile phone in the world with dual-sim support and is just rebranded ETEN DX900. Unlike the other devices announced at the MWC 2009, the DX900 will not run the new Acer Shell, but will feature the latest ETEN’s one.
The X960 is just a mid-range Windows Mobile based device, with every feature we expect to see in such device – 2.8 inch VGA screen, 3.2 mega-pixel camera and so one. There is nothing really exciting about it – decent size with decent design.
Meet the Acer Shell – Acer’s personalization for Windows Mobile OS. Like the Touch Flo (HTC) and TouchWiz (Samsung) it tries to do the operating system both finger-friendly and more intuitive. What we saw at the show were prototypes and the transitions were not smooth at all, but we still manage to like the idea. Currently, it is Acer Shell 2.0 and future versions will respectively increase the number.
Let’s start with the home screen – it shows you a virtual 3D desk with different objects (widgets) over it. It is wider than the display and by scrolling left or right you’ll see the items that are positioned on it. The cool thing is that you can rearrange them - in 3D. For example we took the Calendar and put it behind the messaging – as it goes deeper into the desk, the icon becomes smaller – really cool effect of virtual space. Most of the icons have information, for example the email has a number of new mails, the picture frame shows the last viewed image, the music player shows the last track you’ve listened to, etc. There are lots of widgets and we hope Acer will allow additional ones to be installed.
However, if people want a simpler interface, swiping a finger vertically shows the alternative home screen – a grid of icons with pages (by the way, they are marked as in the iPhone). It seems that Acer want to keep it as simple as possible, and you won’t be able to rearrange the icons here. However, once you install new applications they will appear in this list. In addition, there is a link to the Quick Menu app, which houses shortcuts to your favorite functions.
Other custom applications include favorite contacts, images gallery, music player, weather. The first one has nice thumbnails of the people but isn’t really space-friendly, showing only 4 on a page. If you have lots of friends in this list, prepare to scroll a lot. In addition there is a speed dial app which shows 10 people at a time. The Images gallery is what you’d expect it to be – large thumbnails with 3D effects, when you swipe a finger images will move so the next is shown, etc. Once you select a photo and want to zoom, do not search for pinching or some gestures – you’ll have to press zoom buttons to change the size. The music player seems fine although its design is rather old school. It displays the album art covers as separate CDs and once you lay the song, the disc increases its size showing progress bar, volume and other controls. Oh, and on your virtual desktop, click on the Windows and you’ll open the Weather app – it can show the current situation in a few cities but we are wondering why Acer has given it such an old-school look.
Overall, the interface looks nice – it isn’t revolutionary, isn’t really sleek but is definitely good. We hope Acer will add additional personalization, for example in the phone book and the messaging menus (in addition to the Easy Keyboard) that are some of the most commonly used apps.
The second batch of four device will be released the 2nd half of the year and will run Windows Mobile 6.5. The F1 will be a high-end model and it can be seen by its design, it looks sleek. It is also very slim (12mm) but that doesn’t come at the price of functionality. It has 5-megapixel camera and is powered by Qualcomm’s Snapdragon processor, running at 1GHz!
In contrast, the other three are designed to be budget smart phones. Acer will try to make them friendlier to the Average Joe and will offer some untypical features. The one is a slider with numeric keypad, so people will dial numbers or write message as on a normal phone. The other two are identical (one is 2G only, the other is 3G) and will be with exchangeable covers, so people can personalize their look. We’re told each will come with a few different covers in the box. Acer’s aim is to make their phone as affordable as possible, with prices starting from $199 and going up to $299 before subsidies.