The Liquid leap is Acer’s first wearable wrist band. It is designed to provide you with the three basics of any wristband these days – activity tracking, sleep monitoring and smartphone notifications. At £79 it is a reasonably affordable choice. Has Acer made a good first stab at this market?
Design-wise Acer has not done too bad a job. The Liquid Leap is available in both black and white versions at present with other colours due to come through in the not too distant future. The white one I was sent is pretty nice to look at. There’s a tactile finish to the outside of the band itself, and it sits comfortably on the wrist. The central display is a 2.4cm 128 x 32 pixel touchscreen and this is mounted into a rigid frame with a silver bar at one end.
Once you’ve set the Liquid Leap up it will display various stats about your activity and also give you incoming texts and phone call and calendar alerts. By including the alerts capability Acer has made the Liquid Leap a price efficient alternative to the £99 alerts toting Fitbit Charge and £79 fitness only Fitbit Flex.
I’m not entirely convinced about the pair of small nobbles that fit into holes in order to hold the Liquid Leap securely on the wrist. They never failed me during testing, but I have a fear that a serious yank and they’d break their hold. I’d prefer a more secure system.
To add insult to injury I found it incredibly difficult to get the nobbles through their respective holes in order to secure the Liquid Leap round my wrist. You have to press very hard to make this happen. Acer could do with rethinking this system. At least the strap is nice and long so that it should fit a wide range of wrist sizes, and once it is on the wrist it sits comfortably.
Nor do I like much the charging system. You need to place the Liquid Leap into a plastic cradle whose hinged lid snaps down to ensure the four connectors on the back of the Leap are kept in contact with those on the charger. Then you plug in a microUSB connector. Frankly I can see many people losing the cradle or forgetting to take it with them when they travel.
Depending on how long you are away from home, you might get away without the cradle. Acer says the battery is good for about seven days. I never got that much out of it, but a weekend should be achievable. If you leave the Liquid Leap laying around unused for a few days it should retain enough charge to give you a bit of use too – though to get the most out of it you will of course need to wear it every day.
The screen responds to a mix of taps and sweeps. It is off by default, and you double tap to wake it up. Then you sweep to move through various menus.
It can take quite a few sweeps to get to where you want to be, and the double tap responsiveness isn’t great.
Now, there’s a big warning sign to take note of at this point. The app is compatible with both Android and iOS. But I downloaded the app to my LG Nexus 5 running the latest Android version 5 (Lollipop), and the app would not sync.
Turns out it is only compatible with Android 4.4 at the moment. iPhone users don’t fare any better: the app is only compatible with iOS up to iOS7. So it would not work with any of my everyday devices. I found a smartphone running Android 4.4 to use and it worked fine with that – a Samsung Galaxy Alpha.
Once you’ve got a compatible handset sorted out, pairing and app setup are both a doddle. When you switch it on the Leap displays four characters which you use to make a Bluetooth connection, and you just use that. You enter the personal details into the app and you are ready.
Of course the ability of the Liquid Leap to show alerts and such will appeal to some people, and the screen copes very well with displaying them. If you don’t want to see any alerts for incoming calls, text messages or upcoming meetings you can disable them.
Sleep logging comes in a number of different guises, and the Liquid Leap takes by far the least sophisticated approach I’ve seen. It just measure the time spent asleep. It make no attempt to differentiate between different types of sleep, and you need to let it know when you are about to drop off and when you wake up by going through a bit of a convoluted system.
First off you double tap the screen, then you swipe it five times to get past all the activity measuring screens and to the ‘apps’ area. Tap that and you have two screens to swipe. The first of these offers you sleep screen in the form of a crescent moon.
Tap, then tap again to tick that you want to use this service, and you are set up. When you wake up it’s the same system to tell the Liquid Leap that you are no longer asleep. It’s a faff, and it’s not something I’d bother with.
The first apps screen also gives you a quick route back to the activity monitoring data and to older notifications. The second apps screen gives some utilities such as battery life indicator, Bluetooth code in case you need to pair with a new handset, screen flipping (handy if you want to wear the Liquid Leap on your right wrist instead of your left), and reset. This is also where you get to the Leap’s music playback controls for your handset. Frankly I found it easier and quicker to get my handset out every time I wanted to move through music tracks.
On the activity monitoring side of things the app lets you set goals for steps, active minutes, distance travelled, calories and sleep hours. Then the band grabs data for activity as you move about and sends it to the app via Bluetooth. Simple.
You can move around the Leap’s screens with that double tap and sweep motion to see how you are progressing, or you can whip out your handset and use the app instead.
The app is a lot easier to move around than the Leap’s screen is, and like the Leap itself, it tells you how much battery is left – something I found really useful. I like that you can reorder the six info boxes just by dragging them around, and that if you tap one you get into a charts screen which gives you a progress report.
I’d like the charting to be more sophisticated than it is – at present you can only see a simple bar chart and one goal at a time. There’s no sense of cumulating data beyond the profile screen which shows your daily average and personal best performances.
There is something of a problem with accuracy. The Liquid Leap seems to under-count steps quite considerably. For example one test walk recorded 3,395 steps on my Fitbit One, 3338 on my Polar Loop and 3,036 on the Liquid Leap.
Its distances were consequently similarly out of kilter. It thought I had walked 2.08km in those 3,036 steps, while the Fitbit One had me on 2.68km. And by the way, you can’t calibrate steps on the Liquid Leap like you can on the Fitbit, so distance measures really are just an approximation that you can’t tweak. I’ve calibrated the Fitbit to my stride length, something you can’t do with the Liquid Leap, and tested it against GPS devices, and it is pretty accurate.
On another longer walk the Liquid Leap counted 12,489 while the Fitbit One thought I’d done 14,522 steps and the Polar Loop went for 14,240 steps.
On paper the Acer Liquid Leap looks like a well priced wristband with its built in notifications and music playback controls acting as nice extras. But there are quite a few issues from the difficult to fix wristband to the poor sleep monitoring which is little more than a timer and the long-winded route to music playback controls. As a first attempt this isn’t a bad device, but Acer needs to do more development on both the app and the device itself if it is to be a strong competitor in this now quite crowded market.
- Feels comfortable on the wrist
- Strong clasp
- Good battery life
- Clear information in app
- Underestimates steps taken
- Poor sleep monitor
- Chunky cradle
- App needs some refinement