Since entering the smartphone market after its purchase of E-TEN, Acer has come up with some astonishingly cheap handsets. Last year it offered the bargain basement E101, which ran Windows Phone, and this year it’s trying to pull off much the same trick with the E110, except this new model runs the more popular Android operating system. You can pick up the phone SIM free online for just £150, which is an incredibly low asking price for an Android device. However, cheap doesn’t always mean cheerful, so the question is does the E110 really represent good value for money?
Obviously designing a handset to this low a price point involves making several compromises, but these aren’t all that evident from a first glance at the handset. Smaller than the iPhone, the E110 is more similar in terms of size and shape to the Samsung Genio Touch. Despite the low price tag the phone is actually quite attractive to look at. There’s a neat row of touch buttons parked directly under the screen and a stylish circular D-pad sits at the bottom of the handset flanked by the two clickable call buttons.
The handset also feels quite well built and doesn’t creak and flex like some lesser budget models. Only the slightly cheap looking metallic band that runs around the edge of the phone spoils the otherwise upmarket feel. Also, unlike the E101, this model thankfully has a standard headphone jack at the top and there’s a microUSB port on the righthand edge that’s used for both charging and syncing the handset. We also like the fact that the side mounted microSD card slot is easily accessible, as many low end phones hide it away under the battery cover.
However, as soon as you turn on the phone some of the compromises become glaringly obvious. The first is the 2.8-inch screen. Not only is it small, but it’s also got a very low resolution of just 240 x 320 pixels. As a result text and icons look nowhere near as sharp as they do on even midrange Android handsets. It also makes the onscreen keyboard quite tricky to use as the keys are so small. You really have to type quite slowly to make sure that you’re not accidentally tapping an adjacent letter to the one you want. However, to be fair we have to say that even though the screen uses resistive rather than capacitive technology, it’s actually very responsive to finger presses and swipes.
It’s not just the screen that’s been a victim of the cut backs, as the phone’s connectivity has suffered too due to Acer’s decision not to add Wi-Fi support. We’ve seen this before on budget handsets and Acer did the same thing on the older E101 model, but to us it feels like a compromise too far as it means you’re totally reliant on the 3G network for browsing the web or picking up email. This can be a major issue if you don’t get good 3G reception in your home or office. It’s a shame too because the phone has pretty much all the other connectivity bases covered as along with the HSDPA support, there’s also Bluetooth and even GPS.