TAIPEI, TAIWAN -- Acer's smartphones never make it to the U.S. market, but the company's new Liquid S1 handset shows why that's a shame. The 5.7-inch phone sports a solid quad-core CPU, a 1280 x 720 screen and a suite of floating apps that improve the multitasking experience. We had a chance to go hands-on with the Liquid S1 and, while it's no Samsung Galaxy S4 killer, it offers a solid mid-range phone experience with some original ideas.
The Liquid S1 feature's Acer's lightly skinned version of Android 4.2. Unlike Samsung and LG, which have replaced Google's back, home and multitasking buttons with their own button structures (Samsung even puts the back button on the right side of home), Acer sticks with the traditional Android layout but makes all three functions capacitive buttons just below the screen.
Holding down the multitasking button brings up a customizable list of 8 shortcuts to your favorite apps. Below those shortcuts sit icons for floating notepad, floating maps, floating camera and floating calculator. Tapping the shortcuts for any of the floating apps launches it in a window that appears in a layer on top of the primary app or your desktop. You can open all four floating apps at once, but you cannot open more than one instance of each at a time and you cannot open any other apps as floating expect those four.
Acer is not the first vendor to provide floating apps in Android. Both LG, with its Q Slide suite of apps, and Samung with its Pop-Up Play video player offer floating windows on top of Google's OS. A number of third-party apps in the Google Play store also let you have floating browsers, video players and other floating features that Acer does not include with the Liquid S1.
However, the Liquid S1 is the first phone we've seen with a floating camera app and it's also the first to show incoming calls in a floating window. As we watched, an Acer rep called our demo phone and a small caller ID box appeared on top of the foreground app (in this case, the gallery) and allowed us to dismiss the call without changing apps.
We were also impressed with Acer's Auto Profile feature which allows you to program certain phone behavior based on your location or the time. So, for example, if you are at work, the phone will know not to disturb you and shut off its ringer. Motorola's Smart Actions perform a similar function, but we haven't spent enough time with Acer's app to know whether it is better or worse.
Acer also includes an Easy Hotspot app that allows you to share the SSID / password or your phone's hotspot with another Acer phone user, simply by creating a QR code and having that person photograph it.
There's no word yet on Acer Liquid S1 availability or pricing and there's little reason to believe this device will come to the U.S. However, if you live in an area where this phone is sold, it appears to be an interesting mid-range handset.