While plenty of denizens will be fighting for iOS, Android and Blackberry, there’s a small but fierce tribe of people who are turning over the Windows Phone. Maybe it’s the slick tiled interface or the love of all things Microsoft, but I have to say that I really do like the Windows Phone operating system. Yes there are a few things in it that take a bit of getting used to, but overall it’s a bold move forward for Microsoft and a far cry from their now defunct Windows Mobile operating system.
There are a number of Windows Phones that you can sink your teeth into, depending on your budget and various things like screen size, form factor, etc. The newest addition to the Windows Phone family is the humble little Acer Allegro, a phone that allows users to embrace the Windows Phone experience without surrendering their wallets.
Build quality & design
As far as the build quality goes, this phone looks sturdy but is really a marriage between matte and glossy plastic from all angles. The back of the phone thankfully doesn’t register any fingerprints (unless you’ve just tucked into a KFC meal) and generally remains dust-free with a simple wipe. The back cover has the simple Acer and Windows Phone logo, as well as a metal grille covering the loudspeaker and of course a rear 5MP camera. Funnily enough Acer didn’t think it was worth including a LED flash, but I’ll come to photography later on. At the top of the device is the power/wake button and the headphone jack, with the volume and camera button along the sides and a micro-USB port at the bottom for charging and data transfer.
Trying to get the rear cover off was initially hilarious, until I found the tiny groove at the bottom of the phone which will let you pry the cover off. The battery pops out fairly easily, exposing the SIM slot located towards the bottom of the phone. Inserting a SIM card was easy, but trying to get it out was absolutely painful. No manner of prying, shaking, tapping or fidgeting would budge the SIM card, so in the end I had to slide it back out with a pair of tweezers. If you use this phone when travelling and need to swap out SIM cards, carry a pair of damn tweezers.
As the Acer Allegro is technically a ‘budget’ Windows Phone, its specs aren’t that great. The phone runs Windows Phone 7.5 Mango, powered by a Qualcomm 1 GHz Scorpion processor with 8GB of internal storage and 512MB RAM. The screen measures 3.6” inches with a resolution of 480 x 800 which is quite enough to show off the Metro interface. Weighing in at 126g it’s certainly light enough for you to forget that you’re carrying it, though the light weight is probably due to the phone’s plastic body.
Screen, Apps, and Interface
For anyone who’s never used Windows Phone before, the experience at first can be quite educational. Where’s the notification bar? How can I swap to another app? Where’s Angry Birds? But in time and with practice, the Metro interface becomes familiar enough and you’ll be swiping your way around the phone in no time. Unlike Android, Windows Phones don’t usually come with a manufacturer’s skin or interface – it’s always the same Metro interface on any Windows Phone you pick up. The same applies here – apart from an Acer Registration app, there was nothing else bundled on the phone except the default apps. Still, you can always pop to the Marketplace to download any of the apps there, so it was a bit of a relief to find that the interface wasn’t skinned into oblivion or had annoying widgets everywhere like on so many other smartphones.
The screen was a bit of a challenge after a while – compared to other phones with better resolution the Acer Allegro was able to display bright colors and images fairly well, but did poorly when it came to more subtle and muted colors, opting instead to give them a rather washed-out look. Surfing through Internet Explorer was okay, with the multitouch gestures
The 5 Megapixel camera on the Allegro is not going to win you any photography awards, but it’s good enough for quick shots when you’re out in well-lit areas. If there’s any shadow around or it’s low light, then the picture tends to be dulled down and colors appear rather muted. Surprisingly though the camera app has a host of settings that you can tinker around with, such as Image Effects, ISO Gain, Contrast, and others. The lack of an LED flash can make it problematic to take photos at night, so bear this in mind if you’re a fan of snapping photos with your phone.
Call quality and Battery Life
Swapping the Allegro as my main phone for a few days was as bad as I had imagined it would be. With Wi-fi always on and frequent calls, Facebook, and the occasional photograph the Allegro was able to last just about 5 and a half hours before giving up and shutting down. Thankfully it features a micro-USB port so you’re bound to find someone with a compatible charger nearby.
Call quality was generally acceptable, with the loudspeaker producing a bit too much bass when I was in a conference call. I didn’t have any dropped calls or interference during my calls, and all my callers could hear me perfectly which was a welcome relief.
The Acer Allegro is great for anyone who wants to give Windows Phone a try but can’t be bothered (or afford) to get one of the higher-end models. With a cheaper build and smattering of features, the Acer Allegro is enough for basic phone functions and the occasional web surfing to Facebook, but other than that it’s just nothing special.