Acer CloudMobile S500 review

Will this cloud-connected phone do enough to win us over?

Acer CloudMobile S500
Cloud and proud

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Acer CloudMobile S500 review

The Acer CloudMobile S500 comes with a bewildering array of media options.

It's a bit of a surprise too, given that in many ways the handset seems aimed at business users, for whom media wouldn't likely be a high priority.

First up there's a selection of Google offerings in the form of Gallery, Play Music, Play Books and Play Movies & TV.

These are all available from Google Play anyway, but it's nice to have them bundled with the handset.

Play Movies & TV contains any videos that you've bought or rented from Google Play.

Acer CloudMobile S500 review

But it can also be used to play any other video files on the Acer CloudMobile S500.

Videos are displayed as thumbnails, along with their name and run time, and you simply tap on one to play it.

In the case of videos from Google Play, there's also an option to download them to the device, though if you prefer you can stream them.

It's a basic player, with options to play, pause, jump forward or jump back in a video, as well as an option to share it via MMS, Bluetooth and more.

But that's all you get - there aren't any settings to tweak.

Play Music is a slightly more full featured offering.

You can make playlists, sort music by recent, genre, band, song or album, and turn shuffle on or off, but that's about it.

Acer CloudMobile S500 review

Once a song is actually playing you can pause it, jump forwards and backwards or skip to the next track.

There are also music controls on the notifications bar and lock screen so you don't have to stay in the app.

You can access Dolby Mobile from the notifications bar once a song is playing, and this enables you to change the treble and bass levels, as well as picking an equaliser setting.

Dolby Mobile is on by default, but you can turn it off altogether - not that you'd want to, since it provides a noticeably richer audio experience.

Playing music through headphones gives you access to an extra screen of options, with equaliser, bass and surround sound settings that seem independent of Dolby Mobile.

Acer CloudMobile S500 review

Gallery gives you access to all of your photos. You can make albums, and since it's a Google app, it can be synced across multiple devices, so you need never worry about losing pictures.

The final Google offering, Play Books, is an attractive e-book reader.

You can purchase books from Google Play, and the app enables you to use bookmarks, a choice of themes and the option to have a book read aloud.

While a phone is never going to be the ideal device to read a book on, the stunning screen on the Acer CloudMobile S500 makes it better than most.

Beyond Google's offerings, Acer has included some of its own apps. There's Video, which is perhaps even more basic than Play Movies, but it gets the job done.

It gives you a list of all the video files on the device, and you can play them by tapping on them, and... that's about it.

Acer CloudMobile S500 review

Then there's Music, which - you've guessed it - is a basic music player.

It enables you to sort music by artist, album, genre or song and create playlists, but there aren't any settings to speak of.

It doesn't even give you access to the lock screen or notifications bar music controls - those seem to be restricted to Play Music, which is a bit of a pain.

However, you can still tweak the Dolby Mobile settings.

Continuing the theme, Photo is a basic gallery app. It presents you with thumbnails of all your images, which you can tap on to pull up.

You can also play a slideshow, share them and delete unwanted ones, but that's it, and once again there aren't any settings or editing tools built in.

Acer CloudMobile S500 review

Though the Video app doesn't have any editing tools built in, you can find these elsewhere, in the form of Movie Studio.

This enables you to splice videos, images and audio together, to for example create a long, multiple scene video or simply add music to a clip.

It's fairly basic in terms of functionality, but not bad for a bundled free app.

The Acer CloudMobile S500 also comes with the standard YouTube app, giving you full, easy access to the millions of videos available on the popular streaming service.

Additionally there's an HD Channel app, which simply pulls HD content in from YouTube.

It's a good way to find videos that make use of the handset's gorgeous screen, but YouTube itself is a much more fully featured app.

Acer CloudMobile S500 review

There's also an FM Radio, which has a basic visualiser to jazz it up.

But more importantly it enables you to choose whether to play music through headphones or the handset's speakers (though headphones need to be plugged in either way).

You can also auto-tune stations and save favourites.

It's a good-looking, easy to use app, but as with most of Acer's offerings it's pretty basic.

You can't record, there's no information on what's playing and no integration with Shazam or anything similar. It also crashed once while we were using it.

Finally, there's Equiview, which if you happen to have an Acer projector will enable you to wirelessly stream images from the phone across to it.

It's an app that definitely has business users in mind, but since it's limited to Acer projectors, it will probably be useless to most people.

Acer CloudMobile S500 review

All in all, the Acer CloudMobile S500 has an impressive number of media apps and options. But it becomes less impressive once you delve into them and find that a lot are pretty basic, and that in many cases multiple apps do the same thing.

Still, there are always more options on Google Play, and the Acer CloudMobile S500 is a great device to experience media on.

With its fairly large, high resolution screen, videos and photos look stunning, while Dolby Mobile ensures that music sounds pretty decent. The curved edges make it comfortable to hold for extended periods, too.

And with support for MP3, WAV, WMA, eAAC+, DivX, XviD, MP4, H.264, and H.263 files, it should be able to play most of the media you'd want to throw at it.

And there are always plug-ins and other apps from Google Play to cover any files that it won't play. It also supports DLNA streaming.

The only real concern is the lack of built-in storage. The 8GB will fill up fast, and for a phone of this price we'd expect 16GB, to be honest. The microSD card slot makes expansion possible, but it's still a shame that there isn't more storage onboard.

James Rogerson

James is a freelance phones, tablets and wearables writer and sub-editor at TechRadar. He has a love for everything ‘smart’, from watches to lights, and can often be found arguing with AI assistants or drowning in the latest apps. James also contributes to, and and has written for T3, Digital Camera World, Clarity Media and others, with work on the web, in print and on TV.