Acer has recently released a large number of smartphones running Windows Mobile 6.5 and the E200 is near the lower end of the price scale. It is ironic, however, that it is one of the nicest looking Acer phones released and feels much more solid and expensive than most of the others. The design is sleek and modern and fits in the hand very well- it seems as though Acer has taken a different track with the E200 and successfully found its feet in the world of smartphone design.
It is a curious mix of smartphone in a feature phone casing, but is also one that manages to be both which is highly unusual. The 3 inch WQGA screen dominates the front and is just at the limit of what I would consider functional for Windows Mobile 6.5- it feels quite small and the included stylus may need to be used more than you would like, but practice makes a difference and it can still be classed as finger and thumb friendly. The keys below the screen are not the best and the main navigation key if tricky if you have fat thumbs. I still struggle to use it effectively and tend to stick with the touch screen for most functions. Around the edges we have all the standards such as volumes buttons and a camera key, but there is no 3.5mm headphone jack which we tend to expect on every new smartphone these days. Also absent are shortcut keys such as menu, back and Windows which again means that you will be using the touch screen most of the time.
Sliding down the keypad reveals a standard number pad which is fairly easy to use. The keys are flush and not great without looking, but they do the job. My main curiosity lies in the fact that there is a physical sliding keyboard at all- I can’t quite see why it is needed when an onscreen keyboard could have been used in the phone application like they are in most other WM phones. Having said that I am far from an advocate for standard number pads and in particular on smartphone operation systems so I suspect there are a number of users who will prefer this method of input.
For specifications the E200 is close to complete and includes a 3.2 Mega Pixel camera, which reminds me of the earlier WM cameras from HTC i.e. not very good, a fast-ish processor married to adequate memory, HSPA and GPS. There is no Wi-Fi which will be a barrier to some, but that is the only genuine omission I can find here. The E200 fills a gap in the market for users who want a stylish smartphone which they can use when they need to and for those who do not need to tweak every facet of the experience.
Voice quality is very good and the music reproduction was also better than I expected, and so was video playback. There is little doubt that this phone compares well with other Windows Mobile 6.5 devices on the market and just maybe it performs better than even Acer expected it to. I get the feeling that this was supposed to be a budget phone which is priced to entice feature phone users into the world of smartphones, but that Acer has accidentally created an offering which is so much more than they intended.
Of all the phones I have used this week, the E200 has surprised me the most. It is quick, feels great in the hand, looks good and most importantly does what it needs to without fuss. It may not be exciting and will win few awards for originality, but for the price it is a worthy phone and one which deserves to grab large swathes of the feature phone / smartphone ditherers who cannot decide which route to go down. Well done Acer- things are improving all of the time.