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HTC Desire S - Apps, Camera and Battery

By Edward Chester



  • Recommended by TR
HTC Desire S


Our Score:


Social networking is taken care of by the standard apps for Twitter and Facebook, both of which are really nice to use, and there's the aforementioned tie-in with your contacts. If you want access to any other platforms you can of course jump into the Marketplace where you're bound to find the appropriate app.

As well as the standard Google navigation tools of GoogleMap, Latitude, Navigation and Places, HTC has also added Locations which is a 3rd party sat nav and points-of-interest app. It can do both directions for walking and driving and presents them in an easy to read manner. It's a nice addition that has some definite advantages over Googles alternatives, though we wouldn't be surprised if most people stick to what they know.

HTC has also added an e-book reader, which works almost exactly as you'd expect with a library interface for choosing your books and a simply interface for reading the words therein. There are no fancy page turning animations but thanks to the sharp screen it's a nice enough reading experience.

Other preinstalled goodies include SoundHound, for helping you name that tune, QuickOffice for viewing and editing Office documents, Mirror that utilises the front facing camera to help you put your makeup on, and Car Panel. The latter gives you a car friendly interface for accessing some of the phone's key functions that you may need when driving, like tying in with the Locations sat nav app. It's a nice touch but most of the features it links to aren't also optimised for use in this situation.

All told, as you may have gathered by now, HTC has gone to town on modifying the Android installation to take what is already the most capable and feature-rich smartphone platform to another level. Some of it is very welcome whereas other bits seem a bit unnecessary but overall this is still a device that should please any and all comers.

In something of a turn up for the books, the speaker on this phone is actually quite good, which isn't what we've come to expect from Androids. Call quality is also good, though not the absolute best.

We've only had the phone a day or so, so can't make a definitive judgement on battery life quite yet but with us having used the phone a lot over the last 24 hours the phone's 1450mAh battery has held up well and we expect it to deliver a fairly typical two to three days of average usage. We'll update the review accordingly when we've had a few more days to judge.

Sadly it didn't take log for us to realise the front facing camera is particularly poor quality, at least in poor lighting conditions. It suffices for video calling but notably the iPhone delivers a much more natural picture. The same can be said to a degree about the rear 5-megapixel unit. It gets the job done and the LED flash comes in useful but there are no records being set here – our sample shots look particularly nice simply because it's such a lovely day.

Finally we come to look at price and its here that the Desire S really starts to make sense. Priced at only £399 SIM free, it's a full £100 cheaper than most similar handsets. Obviously contract deals will vary but we would also expect to see this saving reflected in your monthly rate or upfront cost.


The HTC Desire S certainly isn't the flag bearer for a new era in super fast smartphones, with it lacking the headline dual-core processor. However, it is a well crafted, elegant, easy to use, fast and very capable smartphone that thanks to HTC's tweaks stands it apart from the Android crowd. Where it actually falls down is on a couple of mundane extras, namely the lack of a physical button for the camera, the quality of said camera and the lack of an HDMI output. Thankfully, these omissions are made up for in its price, which while not bargain basement is very competitive.

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 HTCsense.com 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.

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