Acer Liquid E3 and Z4 Hands On: Budget Phones Made for Taking Selfies

LG isn’t the only smartphone maker adding back-mounted buttons to its flagship smartphones. Acer’s newly announced mid-range handsets, the Liquid E3 and Liquid Z4, both feature a rear key for snapping photos and come with software that seeks to make multitasking easier.

With its $236 Liquid E3 and $136 Liquid Z4, Acer is focusing more on software and features than beefy specs. The E3, which is the higher-end model of the pair, features a 720p display, 13-megapixel camera and runs on a 1.2-GHz quad-core MediaTek processor. The Z4, comparatively, sports a low-res 480p display, a 5-megapixel camera and is powered by a 1.3-GHz dual-core processor.

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Acer is emphasizing easier camera access as the E3 and S4’s standout feature. By long pressing the rear button, we launched the E3’s camera app almost instantly. When using the Z4, however, we sometimes had to press and hold the button multiple times before the camera app appeared. Acer tells us that users can assign different tasks to this button that can be launched with a quick tap rather than a long press. The rear button is meant to make it easier and more natural to snap selfies, rather than having to reach around for the camera button on the side or front of a device. Although we weren't very impressed with the rear key on LG's G2 flagship, using this button to take self photos on Acer's devices seemed like a practical use for a rear-mounted key.

The Liquid user interface is also a large part of what makes the E3 and Z4 somewhat unique. With Acer’s Float feature, we seamlessly ran multiple different apps on the home screen and over the app launcher. We appreciate how easy it is to access the Float menu through Acer’s UI as well. Simply tapping the Android back navigational button pulls up a scrollable menu of Float apps.

Users can also choose to access this menu even quicker by inserting a floating toolbar widget with these options on the home screen. As is the case with LG’s QSlide apps, Float apps can be dragged and dropped anywhere on the screen. However, you can’t change the transparency of these windows like you can with LG’s QSlide apps. Still, we enjoyed being able to access multiple apps at once and were impressed the smooth process of dragging and dropping different windows around the home screen.

Quick Mode is another new feature debuting on Acer’s Liquid user interface. Quick Mode is designed to alter the UI slightly to cater to its user. For example, Acer offers up options including the standard Android UI, a Basic Mode aimed at kids, Senior Mode for adults, Keypad Mode for making phone calls and Classic Mode. Basic Mode allows children to only call and text certain contacts, while Classic Mode opens up all of the phone’s main functions. Users are required to set up a four digit PIN to switch between each mode.

In terms of design, both handsets feature a fairly basic and lightweight form factor. The lower end Liquid Z4 features a black front outlined in a silver trim with a clean, white back. The top and bottom edges are slightly curved, creating a soft look. The Liquid E3 sports an all-black body with a subtle red trim toward the top and bottom. The top of the device is sharper and more angular than that of the Z4, but its bottom is also slightly rounded.

Both phones are slated to debut this April, but neither the E3 nor Z4 are heading to the U.S.

Lisa Eadicicco
LAPTOP Staff Writer
Lisa has been reporting on all things mobile for since early 2013. When she’s not reviewing gadgets, she’s usually browsing patent databases or interviewing experts to track down the hottest tech trends before they even happen. Lisa holds a B.A. in Journalism from SUNY Purchase and has contributed to The International Business Times, The New York Daily News and Guitar World Magazine.