Acer CloudMobile S500 £290

3rd Sep 2012 | 12:10

Acer CloudMobile S500

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

TechRadar rating:

3.5 stars

Like:

Stunning screen; Great for video; Good build quality; Impressive audio; Fast and powerful;

Dislike:

Disappointing cloud features; Only 8GB internal storage; Poor contacts system; Not stylish; Poor battery;

Introduction

Despite being a known name, Acer is still a relatively small player in the smartphone market. It keeps dipping its toes in but its output is dwarfed by the likes of Samsung and HTC, and it is yet to find much success.

Its latest foray is the Acer CloudMobile S500, and rather than relying purely on specs, Acer is hoping the handset will stand out thanks to its cloud storage options. Cloud storage is such a big feature of the phone that it has even put it in the name.

Making use of the AcerCloud service, it enables you to upload documents, photos, music and videos and share them between the Acer CloudMobile S500, your PC and any other Android phones or tablets you might happen to have.

Acer CloudMobile S500 review

It's increasingly hard for smartphones to stand out purely based on their specs, so a unique selling point like this is definitely a good approach.

Priced at around £290 (around AU$450/US$466) SIM-free, the Acer CloudMobile S500 is sitting pretty close to the top of the pack in terms of price.

It's a fair bit cheaper than an iPhone 5 or a Samsung Galaxy S3, but it's around the same price as the still-pretty-powerful Samsung Galaxy Nexus or HTC One S.

Acer CloudMobile S500 review

It's fortunate then that Acer isn't relying on its cloud service alone to tempt people to part with their hard-earned cash. Sure it's the headline feature, but even ignoring its cloud credentials this is a decent handset with solid - though not world-beating -specs.

With a 4.3-inch 1280 x 720 display, a 1.5GHz dual-core processor, 1GB of RAM, an 8 megapixel primary camera and 1080p video recording, the Acer CloudMobile S500 certainly ticks a lot of boxes on the spec sheet, easily matching similarly priced handsets.

Acer CloudMobile S500 review

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It also has a front-facing VGA camera and comes with Android 4.0 Ice Cream Sandwich out of the box. If only it had come with Android 4.1 Jellybean it would be that much more compelling, but Ice Cream Sandwich is still a great and relatively up-to-date operating system.

Rounding out the package, there's a slightly disappointing 8GB of internal storage included. But unlike the Samsung Galaxy Nexus, the Sony Xperia S and the HTC One S, which make up three of its closest competitors; the Acer CloudMobile S500 comes with a microSD card slot for cards of up to 32GB.

Acer CloudMobile S500

At first sight, the Acer CloudMobile S500 doesn't exactly set hearts on fire. It's undoubtedly a premium handset, but it looks smart rather than stylish. For the most part it's black and grey, and the end result is very plain.

A silver trim and curved edges class it up considerably, but it could still never be accused of being stylish or cool.

Acer CloudMobile S500 review

It wouldn't look out of place in a conference room, and that's probably no accident. The AcerCloud service seems to be primarily aimed at business users, enabling them to access their work remotely and easily sync it and back it up.

Once you pick it up, impressions improve considerably. The mottled back cover provides a reassuring amount of grip, while its curves ensure it fits snugly in your palm.

Acer CloudMobile S500

With dimensions of 127 x 65.8 x 9.9mm (5 x 2.6 x 0.4 inches), it's a fairly dinky phone considering it's rocking a 4.3-inch screen.

That's probably down to the complete absence of any buttons on the front of the handset. There's very little wasted space, and other than the front camera lens and the word 'Acer' stamped across the bottom, it's almost all screen.

Acer CloudMobile S500 review

The only other thing on the front is the speaker, which is hidden in the decorative silver bar at the top. On the other hand it's not the thinnest phone around, coming in at more than 2 inches thicker than the iPhone 5, but it doesn't feel chunky.

Turn the phone over and you'll find the main camera lens near the top and a hands-free speaker near the bottom, with the 'Acer' logo printed in silver across the middle.

Acer CloudMobile S500

On the left side there's a micro USB port for charging it or connecting the handset to a PC, while on the right there's a volume rocker.

At the top there's a 3.5mm headphone port and the power button.

Acer CloudMobile S500

Finally at the bottom there's a microphone that's visibly nothing more than a little dot.

You might have noticed that we've neglected to mention any sort of physical home button, and that's because there isn't one. As we noted above, the front of the handset is button-free, and it's a great look, keeping it as sleek as possible.

Acer CloudMobile S500

While the lack of a physical home button can be a bit jarring at first, you quickly get used to it, and it's likely to be a design decision made by more and more handsets going forward, since recent Android builds don't require one.

A little indent in the back cover enables you to pull it straight off, and while it's quite flimsy it's certainly more substantial than some that we've come across.

Acer CloudMobile S500

Underneath you'll find the 1460mAh battery, a micro SIM slot and a microSD card slot.

We were happy to find that the microSD card slot is accessible without removing the battery, meaning that cards can be swapped more easily. Because there is a relatively small amount of internal storage, this becomes even more appreciated.

Acer CloudMobile S500 review

Interface

Acer CloudMobile S500

Prepare to be wowed when you first boot up the Acer CloudMobile S500, because the screen is stunning. While it's not small at 4.3 inches, it's also not huge, but that's not what makes it so impressive.

The resolution is the real marvel here. At 1280 x 720 it has a 342ppi pixel density, giving it a sharper display than even the iPhone 5.

You might be hard pushed to tell the difference between the two handsets displays in practice, but that's only because they're both so incredibly good.

Compared to most phones, it's night and day, with the display on the Acer CloudMobile S500 being so crisp that individual pixels are for the most part totally imperceptible.

The first screen that you'll generally be met with is the lock screen. This can be set with a wallpaper of your choice and displays the time and date at the top in crisp white lettering. Swiping downwards from the top edge on the lock screen pulls the notification bar down, and swiping left or right takes you to your home screens.

At the bottom of the Acer CloudMobile S500's lock screen, there are icons for your dial pad, text messages, camera and Gmail, and if you slide any of these across the screen it will launch them.

Acer CloudMobile S500 review

In a neat addition though, these are just the defaults - with the built-in 'My Style' app you can change the shortcuts to anything you want. Or if you'd rather have an uncluttered lock screen, you can get rid of them altogether.

Once on the home screens, it seems like a pretty standard implementation of Android 4.0. Swiping left or right moves between your screens, and doing so is very smooth.

The Acer CloudMobile S500's 1.5GHz Qualcomm Snapdragon dual core processor doesn't seem to struggle at all with general operation, giving it silky smooth performance that could almost rival the quad-core power of the Samsung Galaxy S3. Even when you throw more demanding tasks at it, such as HD games, it still seems to handle them effortlessly.

There are five home screens initially available, but there's an option hidden away in the 'My Style' app to increase it to seven or drop it to three.

Acer CloudMobile S500 review

Each of these screens can be filled with applications, folders and widgets, while a dock at the bottom holds icons for your dial pad, text messages, web browser, camera and app drawer.

With the exception of the app drawer, these can all be changed or removed.

At the very bottom of the screen there is a black bar with a home button in the middle, back button on the left and multi-task button on the right.

They're all pretty self explanatory even if you haven't used a handset that features them before.

The Acer CloudMobile S500's home button acts like a physical home button on other handsets would - simply taking you to your home screen.

Acer CloudMobile S500 review

The back button cycles back to the previous screen or menu that you were on. And the multi-task button brings up a display of all your active apps and enables you to switch between them with a tap or close them with a swipe.

Swiping down from the top of your screen brings down the notifications bar, which lists any uncleared messages, emails, reminders, missed calls or other events.

There's a tab here for setting alarms, one for accessing music controls (which is only accessible when playing music through the 'Play Music' app) and one to turn connections on and off.

From the connections tab you can then access the Acer CloudMobile S500's main settings menu, which is the standard Android offering with options for everything from connectivity to screen brightness to storage, security and more.

If you don't want to have to go into the notifications screen to access your settings you can also add a shortcut to it on one of your home screens.

Acer CloudMobile S500 review

At the top of each home screen there's a Google search bar that we initially assumed was a widget, but it's present on every home screen and doesn't seem to be removable.

Though it says 'Google' in it, the bar can also be used to search for things on the phone.

A lot of Acer CloudMobile S500 users will likely find this useful, but it would be nice if there was the option to remove it for those of us who don't want it.

Other than that there are a few standard widgets included on the home screens from the start.

There's one for the weather, one with a clock and one that displays nearby places, but all of these can be removed if you'd prefer.

Acer CloudMobile S500 review

The app drawer is the standard Android 4.0 one - you swipe left and right to scroll between the various screens of apps, causing them to appear and disappear like cards in a stack.

Tapping an app will open it, while holding it enables you to add it to a home screen or delete it.

You can also view available widgets from here and place them on home screens in the same way. Finally at the top-right there's a button to access Google Play.

The Acer CloudMobile S500's whole interface is, with a few exceptions, exactly what you'd find on many other Android 4.0 handsets, and as such it's quite intuitive and highly customisable.

Contacts and calling

Acer CloudMobile S500 review

Unless you move things around, the contacts screen on the Acer CloudMobile S500 can be accessed from either the lock screen or the dock on your home screen by tapping on the phone picture.

Once you do, you'll gain access to not just your contacts list, but also to a dial pad and a call log.

These can be flipped between by tapping their corresponding tabs at the top of the screen.

The dial pad is pretty standard, but it supports smart dialling, so if you start dialling a number it will bring up numbers from your address book that match it, saving you the effort of typing out the whole thing.

More usefully, you can also type out somebody's name by using the number that corresponds to each letter in their contact profile, and it will bring up their phone number, so you don't need to be able to remember the number you're calling, luckily.

Acer CloudMobile S500 review

There's also a voice command option available here, and it was reasonably accurate, but all it does is bring up contacts from your address book.

So if you want to call someone you'd have to speak their name, then tap it on the speech screen, which takes you to their entry in your contacts list.

From there you still need to tap their number, so it's questionable how much time it saves.

The Acer CloudMobile S500's call log is even more straightforward. As you'd expect, it's just a list of missed and received calls.

Tapping on one enables you to see the exact time and duration of the call, and from there go to the caller's contact card or to the messaging screen to text them.

Alternatively, you can tap a button to the right of any call in the log to call them back.

Acer CloudMobile S500 review

The contacts list is a bit crowded. At the top it shows all your favourites, with large thumbnail pictures for them, and then below that it has a list of all your contacts.

Most phones put favourites on a different screen, and it comes across as a bit messy having them all together.

On the other hand it does keep everything contacts-related in one place, so it comes down to a matter of preference as to whether this is a good or a bad thing.

Personally we kind of like it, since the favourites screen can get a bit forgotten about, so this keeps it front and centre.

Delve a little deeper and it gets slightly more convoluted though. Because although Acer has created its own contacts screen, the CloudMobile S500 also includes Google's 'People' app, which is basically a contacts list/address book itself, and the two are linked up.

Acer CloudMobile S500 review

In fact, clicking on a contact's details on Acer's list brings up their 'People' contact card. It's not a big deal, but it gives the feeling that Acer left its own offering half finished.

Where it becomes slightly more confusing is where there is an option to assign contacts to groups, which is something that we've come to expect.

But at first we didn't realise the option was there, because it's been omitted entirely from Acer's own contact list and is only accessible from the 'People' app.

You'd think that Acer could have added a tab for it in its own contacts screen, even if it was just a link to the groups section of the 'People' app.

Acer CloudMobile S500 review

There's a small amount of social network integration on offer. You can opt to view Facebook friends in your contacts list, which will show you any email addresses or phone numbers that they have in Facebook.

You can also access their Facebook profile from their contact card, but that's as far as it goes.

Adding a new contact to the Acer CloudMobile S500 can be done by tapping a button at the bottom-right of the contacts screen, and options are as plentiful as we've come to expect from Android.

You can add a name and numbers of course, but also multiple emails, IM details, addresses, websites and notes.

Once you've created a contact, going to their contact card gives you additional options such as assigning a custom ringtone or displaying a QR barcode that friends can then scan to get their details.

You can also access a call settings screen from any of these tabs.

Acer CloudMobile S500 review

The settings include things such as call forwarding, call barring and voicemail settings.

Notably there's no support for speed dial.

When a call comes through, you're limited to accepting or refusing the call by sliding a green or red phone icon respectively.

Once you accept a call, you're greeted with a big picture of the caller (if you have one assigned to them), with the call duration and the caller's name above it.

A pause symbol next to their name enables you to put them on hold, while at the bottom of the screen there are options to bring up the dial pad, activate the speaker phone, mute the mic or add another person to the call.

Acer CloudMobile S500 review

Pressing the home button will take you back to your home screen but doesn't end the call, so you can navigate your phone while still talking.

Getting back to the call screen is as simple as tapping the phone icon or pulling down the notifications screen and accessing it from there.

When you do want to end the call there's a big red hang up button near the bottom of the call screen.

Calls come through loud and clear, and even in low signal areas we found them to be impressively audible.

We didn't have a single dropped call in our time with the Acer CloudMobile S500 either.

Messaging

Acer CloudMobile S500 review

The text message screen on the Acer CloudMobile S500 isn't a million miles away from the stock Android offering.

The main screen displays a list of all your conversations with the name of the other person, their picture, a snapshot of the last sent or received message and the date or time of the last message.

Tapping a conversation takes you into the message thread as you might expect.

Long-pressing one enables you to delete it, and tapping on a person's picture displays their phone number and enables you to call them or go to their contact card.

At the bottom of the screen there are options to search through your messages for a specific word or phrase, send a new message, pick a recipient and then type a message, delete all conversation threads or access the message settings screen.

Acer CloudMobile S500 review

The message settings screen has options for delivery reports, notifications, ringtones and the like.

Once in a message thread you'll see that it is laid out like a conversation, with messages from you appearing in a grey bubble and messages from anyone else appearing in a blue one.

There's also a picture of the sender next to each message, which is a nice touch that too few phones feature.

At the top of the screen there are options to call the person you're messaging, add a picture, video or sound to the message, add a subject or contact info or access the settings screen.

Tapping the bottom of the screen brings up the keyboard to type a message, and as you start typing you can see how many characters you have left before it will become two messages.

Acer CloudMobile S500 review

The Acer CloudMobile S500's keyboard itself is very accurate. It's the standard Android keyboard, and typos are rare.

It also features haptic feedback, which gives a sensation more akin to hitting an actual button.

The keyboard does a decent job of bringing up suggestions as you start typing a word, saving you the time of typing the whole thing out.

But it doesn't go so far as to predict what word you want next before you start typing (which some alternatives from Google Play do).

It also doesn't seem to learn new words based on what you type.

There is, however, an impressively accurate voice input option if you're too lazy to type.

Acer CloudMobile S500 review

Our one complaint is that in portrait mode it's a little on the small side. The screen on the Acer CloudMobile S500 is big enough to support a bigger keyboard, and it would certainly feel more comfortable.

But it's only very slightly too small, and despite the size, mistakes were rare. If it really gets to you, there are always alternatives available on Google Play anyway.

In addition to the standard Android keyboard, the Acer CloudMobile S500 also comes with Swype.

As the name suggests, this enables you to swipe across letters rather than tapping them. It takes a bit of getting used to, but once you do it's accurate, and potentially faster than typing.

As well as sending text messages, you can also email contacts from the messaging app, though the emails are sent as an MMS that the recipient then needs to download from their email account to read, so it's not ideal.

Despite the fact that they can be added to a contact's details, social networks and instant messengers are totally absent from the messaging app, sadly.

Acer CloudMobile S500 review

Beyond text messaging there are of course also email apps on offer on the Acer CloudMobile S500.

There's one for Gmail and one for everything else, and both of these are the stock Android apps, so if you've had an Android handset before it's likely that you've come across them.

They both work very well, enabling you to easily compose, send and read messages. You can also get push notifications to inform you of whenever a new email arrives.

The only downside, beyond the fact that they haven't been combined into a single app, is that messages aren't resized to fit the screen, which means you'll often have to scroll a bit to read them.

Internet

Acer CloudMobile S500 review

In addition to 3G and Wi-Fi b/g/n, the Acer CloudMobile S500 can be used as a Wi-Fi hotspot.

It's impressively fast too, loading mobile optimised pages in around three seconds and desktop sites in around six seconds over Wi-Fi.

It takes roughly a couple of seconds longer in each case to load over 3G.

It uses the stock Android browser, which will be familiar to a lot of people, but experiencing it on the Acer CloudMobile S500 still manages to impress.

Sites are readable even when zoomed out, thanks to the incredibly sharp screen.

You can pinch or double-tap the screen to zoom and pages don't lose any of their crispness when zoomed in.

It makes browsing on the handset very pleasant and minimises the chance of eye strain.

Acer CloudMobile S500 review

The Acer CloudMobile S500's screen is a decent size for browsing too, and the accurate keyboard ensures that it's a breeze to enter web addresses and post to social networks.

The browser also supports text reflow, so wherever possible pages will be resized to fit the screen.

When in the browser you'll find an address bar at the top, and to the right of that is a button that takes you to a display of all your open windows, enabling you to switch between them, close unwanted ones or open new ones.

At the far right there's a drop-down menu with options to access your bookmarks, bookmark the current page, save the page for offline reading, share the page or access the settings screen.

There's also an option from here to wirelessly print pages with Acer Print if you have a compatible printer.

Acer CloudMobile S500 review

The Acer CloudMobile S500's settings screen contains a wealth of options, from remembering form data, to clearing cookies, to changing your home page and enabling plug-ins.

The bookmarks screen displays thumbnails of all your bookmarks, along with your browsing history and any saved pages.

Bookmarks can also be synced to your Google account, making them accessible on other devices.

All in all, the browser is accessible and intuitive.

If you don't get on with it, there are always other options available on Google Play. But whatever browser you go with, the Acer CloudMobile S500 handles web browsing well.

Pages load quickly, text and images are pin sharp and the screen is a good size for viewing them on.

Camera

The Acer CloudMobile S500 sports an 8 megapixel primary camera, putting it on a par with the similarly priced HTC One S and even the higher end Samsung Galaxy S3 and iPhone 5. But of course, megapixel count isn't everything.

You can change the scene mode, though the options are rather limited, with just panorama, HDR, low light and continuous shooting on offer.

Acer CloudMobile S500 review

You can also change the white balance, brightness, contrast, saturation and sharpness and turn the flash on or off. There aren't any options for manually adjusting the ISO, though.

Beyond that there are a variety of effects to play with, such as Watercolour, Cartoon and Sepia. Some of them have fun results, but in general they won't be very useful for taking proper pictures.

When taking a picture you can either tap to focus or have the camera automatically focus, and there's a slider to zoom in on a subject.

Acer CloudMobile S500 review

What really struck us when using it was just how fast it is - standard pictures are taken almost instantly, enabling you to fire off loads in quick succession.

This is great when you want to catch something time sensitive or just want to take a lot of photos.

Even in panorama or HDR mode it's generally pretty speedy, taking no more than a few seconds before it's ready to shoot again.

You can also take pictures while filming, which is a feature that has started to filter into high-end phones but still isn't commonplace.

It can be really useful, though, if you want to capture both photos and video of something.

Picture quality on the Acer CloudMobile S500 is generally pretty good.

It's not up to the standards of the iPhone 5 or the 12 megapixel Sony Xperia S, but it beats the similarly priced Samsung Galaxy Nexus and seems fairly comparable to the HTC One S.

Acer CloudMobile S500 review

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Landscapes are quite detailed, with neither the foreground nor background suffering too much.

Acer CloudMobile S500 review

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Colours can sometimes appear a little muted.

Acer CloudMobile S500 review

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The camera can focus quite well even during close-ups, avoiding much blurring.

Acer CloudMobile S500 review

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Fast moving objects can become a little blurred, but considering there's no sport or action mode, the Acer CloudMobile S500 doesn't do too bad.

Acer CloudMobile S500 review

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Using the software zoom is as underwhelming as you might expect.

Acer CloudMobile S500 review

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The camera struggles in the dark and the resulting images are noisy, but not a total write off.

Acer CloudMobile S500 review

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Images really pop out of the screen when shot with HDR mode on.

Acer CloudMobile S500 review

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Panoramas are handled well and are quick and easy to take.

Acer CloudMobile S500 review

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Bright artificial light gives the image an unpleasant yellow tinge.

Acer CloudMobile S500 review

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Without flash, dark rooms come out noisy and blurred.

Acer CloudMobile S500 review

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Flash considerably improves dark images, but noise is still present.

Acer CloudMobile S500 review

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Watercolour mode

Acer CloudMobile S500 review

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Cartoon mode. These effects are fun, but of limited usefulness.

Video

Shooting in 1080p Full HD, the Acer CloudMobile S500 takes a decent stab at video.

Settings are rather more limited than they are for photos, though. You can turn the light on or off, record a YouTube video, put it on a timer and turn audio on or off.

YouTube : http://youtu.be/Zk5mWPzD5h4

Settings aside, the video camera puts up a solid but unspectacular performance.

Media

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.

Battery life and connectivity

The battery in the Acer CloudMobile S500 is rather on the small side, at 1460mAh. To put that into perspective, the similarly priced Samsung Galaxy Nexus comes with a 1750mAh battery, and we weren't exactly bowled over by that.

With that in mind, it's no surprise that the Acer CloudMobile S500 fails to deliver on the battery front. We were regularly reaching for the charger halfway through the day, and heavy 3G use can run the battery down in just a few hours.

Acer CloudMobile S500 review

Acer hasn't published what the battery duration is for calls or standby, but it's not likely to be very impressive for either. Doing anything on the phone drained its battery fast, and if you plan on anything more than light use you'd be advised to carry a charger with you.

For a phone that seems aimed at business users, this is all the more disappointing, since you really can't afford to run out of juice if you're relying on your phone for work.

Acer CloudMobile S500 review

In our own battery test we fully charged the phone, turned the screen to full brightness, put Wi-Fi on, turned on push notifications on all email accounts and social networks, and then ran a 90 minute video.

By the end the battery had dropped to 56%. That amounts to just over three hours of video on one charge, which just isn't good enough.

Sure you can extend that by turning the brightness down, but it's still a poor performance compared to most of its competitors.

On the connectivity front, the phone gives you Wi-Fi b/g/n, 3G, Bluetooth 4.0, micro USB 2.0, NFC, DLNA and Wi-Fi hotspot support.

Acer CloudMobile S500 review

It's a good selection of options, and they're all pretty easy to set up. Combined with its cloud support, it gives you about as much connectivity choice as you could hope for in a package this size.

Connecting the handset to a PC is a simple case of plugging it in with a micro USB to USB cable. Once done, it mounts itself as a drive and you can just drag and drop media on and off the phone.

If you're using a microSD card then another option is to remove it from the phone and plug that into the PC, which again enables you to access it like a hard drive.

Of course, plenty of things can be downloaded straight onto the handset from Google Play and other sources, while many cloud services are supported too.

Maps and apps

Acer CloudMobile S500 review

The Acer CloudMobile S500 ships with the standard Android mapping options, which is to say it comes with Google Maps.

That almost goes without saying really, since we'd be shocked to find an Android device that didn't.

The reason we'd be shocked, beyond the fact that Google make both Android and Google Maps, is that it's just such a good service.

It would be madness to release an Android device with anything else.

It's accurate and detailed, with listings for businesses and landmarks, traffic information, transit lines and terrain and latitude information.

It's got detailed routes for pedestrians, motorists and public transport, and it even has built-in access to Google Street View.

Acer CloudMobile S500 review

But you probably know all this, because there won't be many people reading this who haven't accessed Google Maps in some form or other.

It also comes with Google Navigation - again that's pretty standard, but worth mentioning.

Because although it's still in beta, it's an impressive sat nav service that so far hasn't failed to get us where we want to go.

The Acer CloudMobile S500 also seems to have a very fast GPS signal, locking onto our location in no time.

There are a number of alternative mapping and sat nav options available from Google Play if you want them.

Acer CloudMobile S500 review

These include premium services such as TomTom, but for most users the bundled apps should more than suffice.

The out-of-the-box apps experience on the Acer CloudMobile S500 is a bit of a mixed bag.

On the one hand it comes with a huge number of media apps, which we've covered on the Media page of this review, but on the other hand it's dropped the ball a bit in other areas.

There isn't much in the way of other apps, just basic things such as a calculator, alarm clock and calendar (which can, in its favour, be synced with your Google calendars).

There's no notes app, which we came to miss almost immediately, and there's no timer or stop watch either.

As with everything else, you can always download one, but these are basic things that we'd expect it to come with.

Acer CloudMobile S500 review

What it does have is a whole suite of cloud services, which in Acer's eyes is seemingly its main selling point.

But even that is something of a bittersweet experience.

Documents, pictures, videos and music can all be synced with your AcerCloud account, enabling you to access them on a PC or other Android device.

That sounds great, but in practice it's rather problematic.

Take documents, for example - there's a cloud-connected Docs app that enables you to view documents, presentations and spreadsheets on your phone, but you can't create them there.

Acer CloudMobile S500 review

Instead you have to create them on a PC and then sync them across.

Given that there are numerous fully featured office suites available for Android, it's frustratingly limiting that you can't create new documents with the Docs app, or sync documents to it if they were created on the phone.

In fact, the Acer CloudMobile S500 even comes with Polaris Office, which is a competent suite of tools for viewing, creating and editing documents.

Polaris even supports Dropbox and other cloud services, yet because the documents haven't come from a PC, they can't be synced to AcerCloud.

Other media isn't quite so limited, but it also didn't always seem to sync up properly, and there doesn't seem to be any way to manually sync things from the handset - either they get uploaded automatically or they don't, and you have to make do without them.

Oh well, it's a bit hit and miss, but at least you can generally access things you've done on a computer on the go.

Acer CloudMobile S500 review

But hold on a minute, you are running Windows 7 right?

Because if not then (unless it's an Acer PC) the cloud service isn't compatible, rendering the syncing of documents obsolete (since you can't sync documents without a PC), and hampering all its other uses.

Heaven help you if you've got a Mac, because Acer certainly won't.

If you do have compatible devices, then when it works it works quite well, but with Dropbox, Box, Evernote and other cloud services already supporting Android and many users already entrenched in their services, Acer's offering becomes a hard sell.

Looked at as a nice extra or simply a bullet point on the box it makes sense, but as the key selling point of the Acer CloudMobile S500 it really doesn't.

It's too little too late. Maybe if Acer makes it more widely compatible and more reliable it could become a compelling service, but for the moment it hasn't tempted us to jump ship from our other cloud accounts.

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Acer CloudMobile S500 review

Acer CloudMobile S500 review

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Acer CloudMobile S500 review

Acer CloudMobile S500 review

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Acer CloudMobile S500 review

Verdict

With the CloudMobile S500, Acer seems to be making a genuine push to compete with the major smartphone players.

It's got an absolutely gorgeous screen, a formidably fast processor and a premium build. Not only that, but in an effort to stand out from the crowd, Acer has heavily integrated its AcerCloud service into the handset, making it more connected out of the box than most other phones.

All that and a price tag well below the likes of the Samsung Galaxy S3 and the iPhone 5.

But it's not a flawless effort. The battery stops it in its tracks, while AcerCloud isn't quite all we hoped it would be. Add to that a fairly insubstantial 8GB of internal storage and a contacts screen that stinks of laziness, and there are suddenly quite a few caveats to any recommendation we could make for it.

We liked

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The Acer CloudMobile S500 has one of the best screens we've ever seen on a smartphone. It's incredibly sharp and really shows up the competition.

It's also very fast and powerful, and looks like a premium handset through and through. This is Acer's flagship phone, and in these areas it really shows.

The great screen also makes it brilliant for web browsing and watching videos, while Dolby Mobile helps with the sound quality, making it an admirable music player too.

It's got an accurate keyboard, a decent camera and a few nice extras such as Polaris Office and video editing software.

We disliked

The battery is easily the single biggest problem with the Acer CloudMobile S500. It's just not very good, and will really struggle to even get you through to the end of the day. That's a serious issue, since a smartphone with a dead battery is just an expensive paperweight - at least until you find a charger.

AcerCloud is also a real letdown given that the handset is called a 'CloudMobile'. As a bonus feature it's fine, but just don't buy it expecting a complete cloud solution, because you won't get one, and you might still find yourself heading to Dropbox when it comes down to it.

Only having 8GB of internal storage is a bit of a shame too, when other phones at this price tend to come with 16GB, though at least it supports microSD cards.

Also, while it's undoubtedly a premium handset in look and feel, its appearance won't be to everyone's tastes, ultimately coming off as slightly bland.

Final verdict

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The Acer CloudMobile S500 is a fairly impressive handset. The screen is absolutely stunning - one of the best around in fact, and certainly better than others in its price range.

The dual-core 1.5GHz processor can tackle pretty much anything you throw at it. The phone looks expensive and feels good in the hand, and it comes with a pretty solid 8 megapixel camera.

But it's not all good news. The battery is a huge letdown and Acer really dropped the ball with its cloud service, particularly given that it's the headline feature.

It's a shame, because both of these seem like easy fixes - ship it with a bigger battery and remove some of the restrictions from the cloud service and suddenly the Acer CloudMobile S500 becomes a real powerhouse, worthy of the name.

But that's not what happened, so the phone we got is good, but not great.

The screen is the star of the show here, and while the Acer CloudMobile S500 drops the ball in a couple of key areas it's still an impressive handset. Just make sure you keep a spare battery in your pocket.

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