Acer Liquid E1, Z2 Smartphones Unveiled Prior to Mobile World Congress

Ahead of the year's biggest mobile industry convention, Acer shows off two smartphones aimed at midmarket users.

Acer is hoping to draw some notice to its latest smartphones, the Liquid E1 and the Liquid Z2 Android-based handsets, before the yearly mobile industry juggernaut that is Mobile World Congress (MWC) in Barcelona, Spain (Feb. 25 to 28), drives the competition for attention to "Hunger Games"-style intensity.

The Liquid E1 features a large 4.5-inch quarter-high-definition (qHD) display, dual-core processor, and two speakers with DTS sound for volume maximization. A Float Caller notification feature reduces interruptions from incoming calls and messages by displaying a notification window that pops up and lets users take calls or reply with quick messages.

Other features include a zero-shutter-delay camera, which captures images momentarily and snaps fast-action sequences with 4-, 8- and 16-burst shooting. An integrated Moodagent feature creates music playlists based on an individual's mood or uses songs from the library to create playlists that match a person's mood and taste in music. Users can also stream music from their PCs through AcerCloud, a file-sharing and media management solution that lets them retrieve and share multimedia and data files using a variety of computing devices.

The entry-level Liquid Z2 features a quick-mode navigation tool, a 1GHz processor and runs Android 4.1 Jelly Bean with a 3.5-in. display. Other features include a 3MP or 5MP camera that launches in just 1 second, panoramic and multi-angle modes, and continuous shooting (up to 99 shots). The speakers are also equipped with Sound Retrieval System (SRS) technology, which is designed to deliver greater clarity and deeper bass.

Targeted at feature phone upgraders, first-time and multimedia users, the handsets sport a new industrial design in Pearl White and Carbon Black and dual SIM cards, and will initially be available in France, Belgium, the Netherlands and the Ukraine, followed by Russia, the U.K. and Italy, though specific dates were not set.

Acer's goal to break more successfully into the smartphone market includes efforts to gain a foothold as a low-cost smartphone provider in emerging markets like China, where the high cost of premium handsets like Apple's iPhone 5 leaves a large segment of the population that wants features like Web connectivity and productivity applications but can't afford more sophisticated hardware.

At the same time, the company is facing falling sales of its notebook PCs. The world's fourth-largest PC vendor is grappling with shifting consumer interests, as mobile devices like smartphones and tablets become increasingly popular and users reconsider replacing a desktop or notebook PC with one of these devices.

Smartphones continue to drive overall mobile phone sales, and the fourth quarter of 2012 saw record smartphone sales of 207.7 million units, according to a report earlier this week from IT research firm Gartner. Worldwide mobile phone sales, however, totaled 1.75 billion units in 2012, a 1.7 percent decline from 2011 sales.

Apple and Samsung together raised their worldwide smartphone market share to 52 percent in the fourth quarter of 2012, up from 46.4 percent in the third quarter of 2012. Samsung ended the year in the top position in both worldwide smartphone sales and overall mobile phone sales.