• Recommended by TR
HTC Desire S


Our Score


User Score


  • Elegant design
  • Brilliant screen
  • Well built
  • Easy to use


  • No camera shutter button
  • Not dual core
  • Camera fairly poor

Review Price free/subscription

HTC has produced a whole raft of great smartphones over the years with its more recent Android models picking up our recommended awards like they were free memory sticks at a tech trade show. Its latest offering is the HTC Desire S that doesn't pack in a headline grabbing dual-core processor, fancy camera, or ginormous screen but is a beautifully made, classy smartphone that should be high on your wish list.

As ever with HTC devices, the Desire S makes an unassuming entrance in its plain white box but as soon as you clap eyes on the device itself you know you're in for a treat. Largely wrapped in an aluminium frame, and with a sizeable slab of glass adorning the front, it just exudes class. Not that this is anything new for HTC, with its Desire, Desire HD, Desire Z, Legend and 7 Mozart, to name but a few, having proved the Taiwanese company knows how to make beautifully crafted handsets. Like the Desire HD, there are a few gaps here and there where you can see through to the circuitry below, which is a bit unnerving but we doubt this should cause problems in normal use.

Said aluminium is finished in an anodised black while two soft-touch black plastic sections on the back allow the internal aerials to do their job. Set into the top section of plastic is the camera, its flash, and the speaker while the bottom section slides off to provide access to the battery, SIM slot, and microSD card.

Due to the way this housing works, you can't hot swap SIM or microSD cards, so you will have to power down the device every time - a small grievance but a grievance nonetheless. The phone comes with a decent 1.1GB chunk of internal storage for storing apps on while the 768MB of RAM will help to ensure you seldom run out memory.

It's not just the overall design that pleases with the Desire S, it's the little touches as well. The bevelled edges that surround the earpiece and front facing camera have a touch of class while the silver strips that are the power and volume buttons feel solidly planted yet have a wonderfully light but defined action. On the left edge you'll also find a microUSB socket for hooking the phone up to a computer or charging via an adapter, while on the top edge is the now obligatory headphone jack.

Just below the earpiece cut out, and set into the glass surface, is a small LED that glows red when charging and flashes green when you've got a new message of some sort.

Below the screen, and also incorporated into the same sheet of glass as the display are the four standard Android buttons. Sadly they don't have the funky rotating feature of the HTC Incredible S, whereby they flip round to match whichever way you're holding the phone, but they're tidy and responsive. One slight inconvenience is that, because they're not physical buttons, you can't press one of them to activate the screen, leaving you having to always stretch to the power button to unlock the phone.

There are a couple of further slip ups as well. The lack of a dedicated button for the camera is the big let down as it means you're left to prod away at the screen when taking shots, which isn't always the easiest action to perform while maintaining a firm grip on the device. Also missing is a miniHDMI socket for piping video straight out to your TV. Frankly, the latter is not something we would miss as we don't really see the point of it but it's something some rivals, such as the Motorola Milestone Xt720, do offer.

Next page
Carrier pricing updates & information supplied by WhistleOut


March 25, 2011, 10:04 pm

So no extended batteries then with the new back design ?? 1450Mha is too little for power users


March 25, 2011, 10:25 pm

What I'd like to know is how the display of Desire S compare to the one in Incredible S?


March 25, 2011, 10:28 pm

Ooh that's a surprise; I thought this would come with 2.3 Gingerbread. It doesn't seem so greatly different to say the Incredible or the Desire HD; except for its size they are nearly all the same. Choice is certainly gonna be tricky nowadays as the original Desire is getting cheaper and other new powerhouse phones like the Atrix and Optimus 2X are coming soon. Particularly the giant-killing (on paper and hopefully price) ZTE Skate.


March 25, 2011, 10:34 pm

Does this device has the website feature with it?

Francis Phillips

March 25, 2011, 11:02 pm

Android 2.2?? All the advance publicity said 2.3. I also note that the HTC website now classes all its new phones as just running Android whereas slightly older phones state the version. Are they having problems with 2.3??

I know its a different size phone but in pure spec terms, including processor, this phone doesnt seem to have gained anything over the Desire HD which was launched 6 months ago.

Zero 1

March 25, 2011, 11:05 pm

Why does HTC keep making same phones and then re-naming it.... yawn!!!! Btw before anything trying to bash me, I don't use iphone either.


March 26, 2011, 4:25 am

2.3 is supposed to be coming for a lot of HTC phones around June. I think the Desire/HD/S/Incredible should all be getting it.


March 26, 2011, 4:47 am

It's called refinement. They could reinvent the wheel, but how do you update a fantastic product? You make it a little bit better. It's testament to the brilliant design team that few changes need to be made. Radical changes would lead to a new HTC series. (Note how they sell more than just one type of phone?)

I like the way they decided to take the excellent touch based keys of the wildfire and put them on the desire. I used a desire and did not get on well with the physical buttons. They were incredibly stiff and slow to navigate with.

Roll on HTC.

Tony Young

March 26, 2011, 3:41 pm

I had the original Desire until I left it in a million pieces on the A1009 (don't ask).

I've used HTC phones since the original Touch Dual (my current 'replacement with Win6 - yuk!) and including the original HD.

I have a Desire S on pre-order with Orange and having read your review I'm not minding waiting for dual-core as I'm not a gamer (apart from Angry Birds and Flight Control).

It's clear that there are some useful improvements, even though it must have been tough to do that AND reduce the price of the original. Strange that 2.3 isn't present, but can't wait to get the new one, aly body and all!


March 26, 2011, 11:41 pm

Sorry, but why do Nokia C2-01 deserve a video review and this phone don't?


March 27, 2011, 12:37 am

@Randy: Dont worry there's one coming.

Philip Angell

March 28, 2011, 1:58 am

Can I ask what the sound quality is like using a pair of in-ear monitors? I have an HTC Hero at the moment which is so awful (very loud background hiss) that I can't use it at all to listen to music on - I've got a Sansa Clip + for that. I'd really like to get rid of the extra gadget though (even if it is tiny). I previously had a Nokia E52 which sounded fantastic, but its firmware was so full of problems that it put me right off Nokias.

Michael McG

March 28, 2011, 12:05 pm

what i'd like to see is a comparison of this to last years HTC desire.. i have the desire and from this review there wouldnt seem to be a compelling reason to upgrade..


March 28, 2011, 3:50 pm

Seems like a good phone but dont think id upgrade if i already had a Desire. Maybe the Incredible S would be the better option.. Oh and i agree about not that much improvement with these phones. Why didn't HTC use dual core CPU and NFC for these? Surely the original Desire, HD and Z would have kept people happy for a few more weeks/months till the dual core models roll out?


March 28, 2011, 8:31 pm

I'm glad this isn't dual core. The price of the Galaxy S II is pretty steep in comparison. Under £400 for a unibody phone with great build quality and screen is a relative bargain, not to mention the cost of the iPhone 4 which is also single core.


March 28, 2011, 8:42 pm

@Philip79: Sound quality is fine with no obvious hiss like you mention. It's not the most refined performance as compared to a dedicated mp3 player but is a perfectly satisfactory listen.

@Michael McG: Better screen, faster graphics processor for smoother interface and better looking 3D games, slightly better battery life.

@JayBoy: There's an argument for making the new Desire a more convincing upgrade to the original but in terms of delivering what the market needs/wants, the Desire S does pretty well. After all, as the Desire has proved, we're already at the point where day to day performance is perfectly adequate. The S simply tweaks things and is cheaper. Sounds good to me.


March 28, 2011, 11:14 pm

I wondered if anyone had any news about the release of the Desire S with Three? I know 'April' was suggested on a previous article...but anything firmer than that? Also - anyone have any opinions on what the price is likely to be? Will they up the prices they're charging for a standard Desire, or will they simply replace it with the upgrade and keep the price the same? No idea how phone companies go about dealing with this sort of incremental upgrade.

David Walker

March 29, 2011, 1:18 am

How come CNet's review model had Android 2.3?


March 29, 2011, 1:54 pm

The review for the Incredible S lacks a specs page so could I ask what the headline differences between the Desire S and Incredible S are please?


March 29, 2011, 2:16 pm

I have the original Desire, and I have also noticed the background hiss on the audio when listening with headphones. Not bad enough to make me carry another device for music, but slightly annoying anyway.

For those wondering about dual core goodies, rumours from other sites are that HTC will have some out later in the year.


March 29, 2011, 2:21 pm

@David Walker: Because I misread an email and was lead to believe it was 2.2. With HTC having modified things so much I didn't have cause to double check. Our unit is in fact 2.3.3 as well. I shall update the review accordingly. Many apologies - a careless mistake.

@DanielNB: I shall add a specs page. Headline differences: Incredible has a larger 4in screen, an 8megapixel camera with dual flash, funky twisting touch buttons and that's about it, aside from the design. It's also more expensive of course.


March 29, 2011, 2:23 pm

@DanielNB: Oh, and does in fact run Android 2.2 currently.


March 29, 2011, 3:20 pm

@All: I've updated the article to reflect our further thoughts on battery life as well as correct the Android version. I've also added more pictures. A video review will be shot tomorrow so hopefully should be up on Thursday.

I've also added a specs table to the Incredible S review.

Francis Phillips

March 30, 2011, 12:36 am

Does this phone have noise cancelling microphones as I wonder what the 2 holes are in the plastic cover that houses the camera. Also you say it has NFC support or are you talking about Andoid 2.3.3 generically and not about this phone?


March 30, 2011, 3:59 pm

@StevenW: I was told that the phone would be available on three either this or next weekend, but this comes from an instore drone so no idea if that's official or not.

comments powered by Disqus