Better known for its affordable laptops, tablets and other gadgetry, Acer seems keen to stake out some ground in the budget-to-mid-range smartphone market too.
It’s the first phone we’ve seen from the Taiwanese firm since the ultra-cheap Liquid Z4 and the slightly dearer Liquid E3 appeared in February, but there are more affordable Acer handsets on the way.
The sticker price for an unlocked Acer Liquid Jade stands at £229 (around $360, AU$400), though you can probably better this online; as yet there are no details of what you can expect to pay on contract, or even if it will be available through the usual operator channels at all.
That puts it firmly in the mid-range, substantially cheaper than the big hitters (such as the Samsung Galaxy S5) but a step above the budget models (such as the Motorola Moto E).
It’s going up directly against the likes of the Sony Xperia M2 and the Motorola Moto G – and that means the phone has a tough fight on its hands.
It’s the best-looking Acer smartphone to see the light of day so far, we’ll give it that much
The Acer Liquid Jade is something of an oddity in many ways: it looks unlikely to make it to the States and in Asia it comes as a pair with the Leap smartband.
The Liquid Jade offers some unusual features like dual SIM capabilities and a whopping 13-megapixel camera but cuts back in other areas — there’s no 4G support here, for example, which is a shame as the high-speed data network rolls out across the country.
The key question is: has Acer done enough to make the Liquid Jade stand out in a crowded mid-range field? Or is it another handset destined to sink without trace outside of Asia?
You’re not going to hear any sharp intakes of breath when you take out the Acer Liquid Jade in company, but then you’re not going to be embarrassed to have it on show either. It’s a neatly designed, light, 5-inch handset with a faux-metal trim around the edges, and it’s functional without being spectacular (something of a running theme for this phone).
I like 5-inch screens – for me they hit the sweet spot for a large-ish display that you can still just about use with one hand – but the 720 x 1280 IPS display gives the game away that this isn’t a premium handset.
With a 294ppi resolution it’s crisp and bright in use, but it’s one of the corners that have been cut to get to this price. Functional but not spectacular, again.
There’s space for two SIMs if you’re busy living a dual identity
The handset measures 140.5mm x 69mm x 7.5mm (5.53in x 2.72in x 0.30in) and weighs in at a very light 110g (5.64 oz) – that’s 20g lighter than the Nexus 5 I usually carry around with me. It’s difficult to fault the design, though it feels a little cheap and is very plasticky (which means fingerprints can be a problem on the back).
It feels comfortable and well built when held and the protruding camera lens around the back isn’t really a problem. The micro USB port sits on the base, with the headphone socket on top together with the power button; the dual-SIM card and microSD card slots are on the left with the volume controls in the usual position on the right.
The camera lens protrudes slightly from the back but it’s not a massive problem
That microSD card slot certainly helps: there’s only 8GB of on-board storage, presumably another corner-cutting tactic to keep the price down.
Black, grey, green and white options are shown on Acer’s website but it was the black one I had in to test for this review.
What’s most notable about the Acer Liquid Jade is that there’s very little of note about it. The dual-SIM capability seems a novelty more than anything else and most of the rest of the handset’s specs are par for the course. If you were wanting to pick out the phone’s highlights (or indeed lowlights) then you’d be struggling for material.
Perhaps the biggest eyebrow raiser is that 13MP camera – megapixels are by no means everything, of course, but that’s a step above most other handsets out there (even the iPhone 6 settles for an 8MP snapper). More on the camera later in this review, but it’s worth pointing out here.
The 13MP camera is a cut above most other phones in this area of the market
The price could be another distinguishing feature of the Acer Liquid Jade, but while you could label it as affordable, a £200 outlay is still significant. Considering it’s up against the very good value Moto G, the Liquid Jade doesn’t quite look cheap enough (though to be fair it’s thinner and lighter than the Motorola handset).
There’s a glut of mid-range Android and Windows Phone models on the market and the Acer Liquid Jade hasn’t got the features to make it stand out from the pack.
The battery life can swing from pretty average to pretty impressive, as I’ll explain shortly, but this can vary from user to user and it’s not really enough to tip the balance significantly.
The Acer Liquid Jade is a phone that does well in most areas – design, camera, battery life, software, price – without really getting you up out of your seat.