Acer's beTouch E130 is a budget 2.6in-touchscreen smartphone running Google Android 1.6 that looks very much like it means business
The Acer beTouch E130 features a finger-friendly BlackBerry-style qwerty keypad and trackball - rare gems in the touchscreen-heavy Android market, which make tapping out emails a breeze.
A preinstalled Documents To Go app provides support for Microsoft Word, Excel and PowerPoint documents, plus PDF. And with an RRP of just £199, this work tool provides 'cheap labour'.
Given the low price of this black-and-silver handset, build quality is very good. Its 63x12x115mm chassis feels substantial in the palm, and we were happy to use the 109g beTouch in either hand, or both.
Buttons on the Acer beTouch E130's full qwerty keypad are raised in the middle yet smooth, allowing for fast, comfortable typing.
The smooth trackball is ideal for scrolling, scrolling and more scrolling - a good job, given the widescreen format of the small 2.6in display, and especially so if you increase the browser's text size. Engaging the accelerometer helps here.
A strip encasing the trackball includes Call and End keys, as well as Home, Back, Search and Options buttons. On the side of the Acer beTouch E130 is a volume rocker and micro-USB slot, at the top is a standard 3.5mm headphone jack, and at the back is a 3Mp camera and handsfree speaker.
Connectivity options also impressively span the features of a modern smartphone, with the Acer supporting Wi-Fi, HSDPA, Bluetooth 2.0 + EDR and GPS. One-click control is available for each via the home page Power Options widget.
Widgets and application icons can be added, deleted or moved between any of the five scrollable panes of the home screen, which goes a long way to aid touch navigation. Other customisation options include changing the wallpaper.
A useful selection of apps is preinstalled on the Acer beTouch E130, including Spinlets, Twidroyd, urFooz, nemoPlay, RoadSync, Facebook and Twitter. Plenty more are available through the Android Market and ready to use with a couple of clicks. Setup is simple - you need a Google account to log into, and the E130 does the rest.
Allowing background data usage enables the Acer beTouch E130 to keep your email, calendar, contacts and social-networking accounts in sync, and notify you of new messages, wall posts and even 'pokes'.
Call quality was decent, and we had no reception problems on the Vodafone network. However, used as a phone rather than a mobile computer, we found it a pain to have to first bring up the Acer beTouch E130's Dialer or press the Fn button before each digit, just to tap in a phone number.
The Acer beTouch E130's budget price is more evident elsewhere. Acer has preinstalled the outdated 'Donut' 1.6 version of Google's mobile platform, which lacks Microsoft Exchange and Flash support and won't let you add multiple email addresses.
The Acer beTouch E130 RoadSync app does let you synchronise corporate email, calendar, contacts and tasks using Microsoft Exchange ActiveSync. But applications developed for newer versions of the operating system won't be compatible, and no updates were available when we checked.
An underpowered 416MHz processor powers the Acer beTouch E130, while a low-res 320x240-pixel (QVGA) screen and a 3Mp camera (without flash) captures grainy images even in well-lit conditions. You'll also need to install a microSD card (hot-swappable) before it will work.
There's no front-facing camera on the Acer beTouch E130 for making video calls, and we found the supplied earphones no better than those usually thrown in with mobile phones.
Even after we calibrated the panel of the Acer beTouch E130 for our fingers, we struggled to select icons at the extreme edges and often reverted to using the trackball. As a resistive rather than capacitive screen, there's no scope for multi-touch gestures here either.
We also found that several games we downloaded from the Android Market demanded a portrait display, thus making some icons even smaller, despite us having turned off the accelerometer.
Thankfully, most tasks can be carried out without using the touchscreen at all.
With moderate use and background data, Wi-Fi and Bluetooth disabled, we found the Acer beTouch E130's 5.55Wh battery could stretch to around two days.
Our review model of the Acer beTouch E130 was buggy, with freeze-ups occuring more often than should be reasonably expected and the touchscreen frequently becoming unresponsive.
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