With a 5-megapixel camera and LED flash, the HTC 8S lands right in mid-range territory. There is no front-facing camera, though, which is a real shame, ruling-out being able to video chat with friends across the globe.
Windows Phone mobiles have generally excelled at making their cameras easy to use – much like an iPhone. You simply tap on the part of the scene you want in-focus and the HTC 8S will both try to focus on that object and take a snap, or of course you can use the hardware shutter button.
It is simple to use, but autofocus is slower than most higher-end Windows mobiles. HTC has never quite been able to perfect its phone cameras in the way Samsung has, and the HTC 8S doesn’t change matters.
Image quality is respectable among its mid-range peers, with pleasantly vivid colours providing lively-looking shots. The level of detail captured isn’t anything special, though, which is no surprise when the phone rocks a mere 5-megapixel sensor (although the phone’s optics are also to blame).
Additional features offered by the HTC 8S camera app are also sparse. There are no fun filters beyond the basics like Negative and Sepia, no HDR mode and no Panorama. When these are considered standards by rival systems, it’s disappointing that they’re left out of Windows Phone 8.
HTC includes its own photo-fiddling app called Photo Enhancer. This offers a host of Instagram-like filters, but is a pretty basic, fluffy piece of software. The HTC 8S camera’s video capture maxes out at 720p too, and without stabilisation the quality of video it pumps-out is nothing of note.
It’s not a great gaming phone, or a great camera, but the HTC 8S does make a relatively good media player. One of our favourite upgrades here, over former Windows Phone 7 devices like the HTC Mozart, is that you can easily transfer media files. You’re no longer tied to the Zune sync software – both the memory of any inserted SD card and the internal memory show up as drives within your computer.
The slick interface of Windows Phone 8 makes flicking through a music library quick and easy, with neater-looking transitions than either iOS or Android. You can easily keep music playing when you’re not in the music app proper, and playback controls appear on the lock screen too.
Codec support has seemingly not improved since the last version of Windows Phone, though, so you won’t be able to play audio enthusiast formats like the lossless FLAC. This is a Beats-branded phone, which means it bears the Beats logo and has the Beats Audio DSP mode.
This mode tweaks the sound when you plug-in headphones, ramping up the bass and treble presence. However, it can clog up the upper bass a little with some headphones, so isn’t really something that’ll put a smile on the faces of audio-holics.
Video support has been ramped-up a notch. Don’t expect miracles – MKVs still won’t play without an additional app – but basic DivX and Xvid files will.
The HTC 8S also has access to the Windows music store, which sells albums for around £6.99 and songs for 99p. There’s no companion movie store, though.