Acer has been working hard to carve out a niche in the Android smartphone market for the past few years, and has shied away from using other mobile operating systems.
In an interview with V3's sister site The INQUIRER, Acer argued that this was because Windows Phone's application system was "too underdeveloped" for its tastes.
So we were surprised when Acer kicked off proceedings at MWC by unveiling its first Windows 8.1 smartphone, the Liquid M220.
Design and build
The Acer Liquid M220 is a fairly unique-looking device as it features a custom "faux silk" finish chassis that hides the fact it's actually made from polycarbonate.
Apart from this, it's a fairly standard, boxy design with dual sim inputs.
While we didn't get a chance to drop test the device, the 4in Liquid M220 does feel reasonably robust.
Screen technology is always one of the first corners most companies cut when designing affordable smartphones and this is certainly the case with Acer's first Windows Phone 8.1 handset.
Testing the Liquid M220's 4in 480x800 display on the brightly lit MWC showroom floor, the screen often looked washed out.
We found the screen was very reflective and brightness levels were also noticeably lower than we'd have liked, even when compared to other cheap handsets, like the Huawei Honor Holly or Motorola Moto E (2015).
Being fair to Acer though, the Liquid M220's display isn't any worse than competing budget Windows Phones, like the Lumia 535.
The Liquid M220's most interesting feature is its Windows Phone 8.1 operating system. As we've noted in past Windows Phone reviews, Microsoft's mobile operating system is one of the best available to business users and comes loaded with a wealth of security, productivity and enterprise focused features.
Key positives include Windows Phone's Cortana, OneDrive, Office 365 and Exchange features.
As an added bonus, Acer has also confirmed the Liquid M220 is "Windows 10 ready". Windows 10 was unveiled by Microsoft in October and is designed to bridge the gap between the firm's desktop and mobile operating systems, giving developers a single platform to work on.
Microsoft released a technical preview of Windows 10 for mobile in February for select Lumia devices.
Windows Phone has always been one of the least demanding mobile operating systems available.
In fact, its low system requirements have in the past meant Windows Phones have managed to match if not beat the performance of competing Android handsets, despite featuring lower end internal components. So in theory the Liquid M220's use of a 1.2GHz dual-core processor and 512MB RAM could be forgiven, although during our hands-on we did notice a few performance issues.
Testing the handset, we found it could at times stutter or take a fraction of a second longer to respond to commands than we'd like.
We didn't get a chance to benchmark the handset or see how it performed tasks with demanding tasks like 3D gaming.
Hopefully our performance issues were due to software bugs that will be ironed out come the Liquid M220's full release.
Acer has loaded the Liquid M220 with 5MP and 2MP cameras. Looking through the demo units app list we found the Liquid M220 only features Windows Phone's bare-bones camera application and doesn't offer any of the custom settings seen on Acer's Android handsets.
This is a little disappointing as the manual camera controls Acer added to its Android phones, which let you control things like the ISO and white balance, were very useful.
Snapping a few shots on the MWC showroom floor, we found picture quality is what you'd expect from a 5MP rear camera. While usable for blogging or social media purposes, images were often slightly fuzzy.
Though again, being fair to Acer, we find this is the case with most sub-£100 smartphones.
Storage and battery
We didn't get a chance to battery test the Liquid M220. In terms of storage it comes with a barebones 4GB built-in storage but further space can be added using the Liquid M220's microSD.
The Liquid M220 will launch in Europe in April with pricing starting at €79. Acer is yet to give it a firm UK price or release date.
While we noticed some issues on the demo unit we used, our opening impressions of the Liquid M220 are positive and a sign Acer is moving in the right direction.
By confirming the Liquid M220 is "Windows 10 ready" Acer's shown it's starting to understand the need to future-proof its devices - something it's been slow to do for its Android range, which regularly aren't upgraded to new versions.
Combine this with the Liquid M220's super affordable price, which targets a currently underserved segment of the market, and we can see the Acer Windows Phone being a solid choice for any business looking for a mass rollout device.
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