HTC is one of the flagship phone-makers for Windows Phone 8. The HTC 8S is the mid-range model in the company’s line-up, with the HTX 8X being the flagship model. It is far cheaper than Nokia’s middle of the road Nokia Lumia 820, selling for around £220 SIM-free. It doesn’t have the giant screen and oodles of features link on the top-end phones but its keen price makes this 4-inch, dual-core mobile an excellent alternative to a mid-range Android phone.
The HTC 8S is officially called the Windows Phone 8S by HTC but HTC 8S seems to be the term most people are using so that's what we're going to stick with for the rest of this review.
We were suitably impressed by the design of the HTC 8X, thanks to its bold styling, excellent build quality and comfortable, curvy chassis. However, it did look perhaps a little too similar to Nokia's Lumia designs. The HTC 8S is a different. Its curves owe a debt to the Nokia Lumia handsets, but overall it has a style all of its own.
The cutie-pie HTC 8S is all about two-tone design. The bottom of the phone, and the rims that surround the earpiece speaker and camera lens all have a brighter tone than the rest of the handset. Most of the combinations aren't exactly subtle - Luminous green and black, white and black - but we rather like the bold statment they make. Plus, there are a few choices if you do want something a bit less garish.
The light and dark blue combo HTC treated us too looks fantastic to our eyes. It’s eye-catching without being loud, clearly carefully designed and refreshingly removed from the oh-so-serious looks of most top-end phones like the Samsung Galaxy S3. It’s a friendly-looking phone. And unlike the Nokia Lumia 920, it’s not a whopper – just a shade over 10mm thick and 113g.
The welcoming vibe bleeds into the HTC 8S’s ergonomics too. The back of the phone is largely a single curved piece of soft-touch plastic. A soft finish and absence of hard edges make the phone a joy to hold - the single bodywork seam lies between the lighter and darker sections of the phone.
The lighter plastic strip on the rear of the HTC 8S can be pulled off to reveal the microSIM slot and microSD slot. It’s obviously not designed to be taken off and on daily, but its fit is easily solid enough that it should survive if you were too, plus it won’t accidentally slip off.
Having a memory card slot is an important feature of the HTC 8S because there’s just 4GB of internal memory, and only 1.2GB of it is accessible once the Windows Phone 8 system and HTC’s custom apps have had their way with it.
The HTC 8S lets you store videos and music on an SD card, but you’ll need to use the internal memory for apps and games. That gigabyte and change won’t go far, either. If you’re a huge gamer you may want to look for a phone with more memory.
Another common casualty of the price cuts needed to make a mid-range phone is screen size. However, this brings with it some real benefits too. The HTC 8S is petite enough to let your fingers reach all the hardware buttons with one hand.
The power button up top and the volume rocker on the right edge are all perfectly accessible. The HTC 8S’s one other button is the camera shutter key, also on the right edge. It rests under the palm of right-handed folk, but we found that accidentally pressing it wasn’t a problem – it would be a humdinger if it was, as Windows Phone 8 automatically launches the camera app when it’s pressed.
Windows Phone is keen on little ease of use tweaks like this, and one that we’re glad to see implemented in Windows Phone 8 is the ability to simply drag and drop files to the HTC 8S’s internal memory. Hook the phone up to a computer with a microUSB port – the socket is on the phone’s bottom edge – and the HTC 8S’s file system will pop-up, along with folders for music, video, pictures and documents. There’s no need to hook up to a bespoke piece of software, as you have to do with an iPhone 5 or Windows Phone 7 device.