MWC 2015 Acer is entering the Windows Phone market, with a low-end model that will retail for just €79, making it the cheapest mobile in the vendor’s range.
The Taiwanese firm announced the Liquid M220 today in Barcelona, on the eve of Mobile World Congress. It has a 4-inch display with 233 pixels per inch, 512MB RAM, 8GB storage, 1.2GHz Snapdragon 200 processor, 5MP rear and 2MP front cameras, and is expected to be available in April.
The device runs Windows Phone 8.1, but an upgrade to Windows 10 is promised when available. Some configurations will support a Micro SD card, and others dual SIM, depending on region and operator.
Why is Acer introducing its first Windows Phone, despite Microsoft’s tiny market share?
According to Wahid Razali, Acer’s European brand and marketing boss, there are multiple reasons:
We differentiate or die. We always do that. Windows Phone is an opportunity because no one is doing it at the moment.
Second, we are very strong in Windows. We ship 20 per cent of their laptops. It makes sense to have a complete Windows offering. With Windows 10, [Microsoft] promises to have one system that runs on all platforms. With the phone, we become the OEM that has the broadest portfolio, period. It makes sense to fill the gap.
Finally, the cost of opportunity is low. We wouldn’t have made a competitor to a Lumia 930 device because of the cost of all the R&D. The one limitation of Windows Phone is it has to run on Qualcomm. Now we have the Z220 running on the Qualcomm platform. We just take it, make a few changes, tweak the RAM and make it more affordable, and then you have it.
Razali said that Windows Phone runs better on the same hardware than Android. “It’s not something I can say in front of Google. The truth is that the system is less demanding in terms of hardware,” he told the Reg. The proof is that the M220 has just 512MB RAM, rather than 1GB on the Z220, and will sell for €10 less.
What about the “app gap”, with all the best apps coming to iOS and Android? Razali claims that Windows Phone has caught up. “Now you can run your Instagram, your maps, everything you want.”
The claim falls far short of reality though, with fewer apps available, and often worse implementations of apps that are on the market. Still, the arrival of the M220 shows that Microsoft is making some impact with its universal app strategy, which will make it easier for developers to target Windows desktop, tablet and phone with the same code.
Although the entrance of new OEM partners is good news for Microsoft's mobile platform, winning on price at the low end of the market is not the ideal niche, since these customers are unlikely to be big purchasers of apps or services.
Alongside the Android Z220 mentioned above, Acer has also announced the slightly better specified Z520, with 8MP camera and upgraded audio in association with DTS.
Finally, there is a new mid-range Android phone, the Liquid Jade Z, with a 64-bit quad-core Mediatek processor and 4G LTE support. This is a 5-inch device with a 13MP camera, Gorilla Glass, and 24-bit audio. It is similar to the existing Liquid Jade S, but by trimming the RAM and using quad-core rather than 8-core, the price is €100 less at €199. ®