The Acer Liquid Jade Primo runs on Microsoft's latest Windows 10 Mobile. The company is so committed to making it work, that its CEO once said that if no other manufacturers are willing to make Windows phones, Microsoft itself will. Well, Acer for one, is willing.
The new OS (well, it should be in a sort of adolescence already) builds upon the established principles of Windows Phone 8, but comes with an entirely new OS core, very similar to the one inside the full-blown desktop Windows 10 and the Xbox One's Windows 10. This is part of Microsoft's strategy of unification among its device lineup and should help developers easily deploy apps across the different devices.
On phones that means a Live Tile homescreen, the all apps list, the action center with toggles, and a tightly organized settings menu. It's practically the same as on one of Microsoft's own Lumias, perhaps without a few proprietary features. But then, Windows 10 is pretty consistent from one desktop to another, so why should it be any different on mobile?
One thing that Acer omitted is the glance screen, the screen is entirely blank in standby. The lockscreen is business as usual - five apps can show you quick status (notifications), and you have the option to let one app display detailed status updates.
Windows Hello is built into Windows 10, but since the Liquid Jade Primo lacks fingerprint or iris recognition, the only option for sign-in security is a PIN.
Windows 10 Mobile supports only two homescreens, just like Windows Phone 7 and 8. The main screen has all your live tiles, static icons and folders, while the second screen has a scrollable list of apps. You can resize the tiles as usual, pinning a tile is very easy.
The Tile screen supports two types of backgrounds - behind the tiles (full screen) or on-tiles. Naturally you can choose the tile grid from settings (big or small) and there is a new option for tile transparency, which is really cool if you are using a full-screen wallpaper.
You can also change the color scheme of the interface (black and white are available) and pick from a number of possible accent colors.
The Action Center is what the quick toggles and notification shade are collectively called in Windows. On the Primo you get 5 toggles in a row in three rows total. It works just like on Android OS - you access it by pulling down from the top of the screen, dismiss all notifications key is available. You can expand all toggles as well.
Microsoft likes Apple's way of handling apps running in background - most of the apps are suspended upon hitting the Windows key and will be resumed once you bring them back. There are others, of course, such as Navigation, Cortana and Battery apps, which will continue to run in background unless you specifically kill them. So, any app, which needs to run in background, will do so, while the rest would get suspended.
It's not the best implementation then, to summon the task manager with a long press on the back key - long presses take time, and it's not very logical to be forced to wait so long for an action that you're supposedly going to be doing constantly.
Which brings us to one issue we experienced with the Jade Primo - tapping the capacitive navigation keys in their bottom part often doesn't work. You need to hit them squarely, and erring on the upper side results in tapping on a tile. And with the huge bottom bezel you actually tend to be tapping low, rather than high. We never quite got used to that.
One-handed mode is another area where Microsoft might have taken a hint from Apple - tap and hold the Win key and your entire UI will drop down at your fingertips.
Microsoft's Cortana does what Apple's Siri and Google Now do - it recognizes your voice commands and questions in natural human language and gives you spoken replies and feedback. It shows a very nice summary of your day upon launch (the weather, events and meeting, important news, sports scores), based on your location, search history and predefined interests (in your Notebook, which you can edit any time).
Cortana can fully interact with your phone and carry out all kind or commands related to it. Cortana can also track various news topics, makes suggestions for cooking and dinner, plan trips, find places and make reservations, make jokes, among other things.
We like where Microsoft is heading with Cortana - it may have been around for a short time, but it has already catch up quite impressively.