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HTC Desire S - Interface cont, Messaging and Web

By Edward Chester



  • Recommended by TR
HTC Desire S


Our Score:


Other tweaks to the interface include the notifications drop down that in one clear view shows your running apps and notifications, and with the tap of a tab, brings up a quick settings menu for turning on/off Wi-Fi, GPS and such like.

Pinch your two fingers together on the homescreen, or press the home button, and the interface zooms out to reveal a set of thumbnails representing all the homescreens. Called Leap this interface is quite a nicely executed concept, though again we don't actually find it all that useful.

One change we're not sure we're keen on is the app launcher, which has been broken up into vertical pages, with each one requiring a quick flick to move past. We can see the logic but it doesn't seem any easier to use than the default of one long alphabetical list. The same sort of applies for the tabs along the bottom for accessing favourites and downloaded apps. We can see how they'd be useful but surely the whole point of a customisable homescreen is that you can put your favourites where you want?

The changes continue as we look at some of the core apps like the gallery and music player. The former includes tabs for Facebook, Flickr and media server photos while the rest of the interface is a fairly typical arrangement of lists and thumbnails, which is quite nice to use. The music player meanwhile defaults to a now playing view with a CoverFlow-esque interface for flipping through tracks. You then have to tap an icon to get to the Artist/Album navigation. Again, it's fairly superficial stuff that neither particularly enhances or degrades the experience, though.

When it comes to playing back videos, there's nothing too clever here though DivX and Xvid are supported along with mp4 and avi. We tried a variety of clips and found that most 640 x 480 avi files were fine but move into HD territory or more obscure formats like mkv and you're out of luck, with the player either not coping or not even recognising the files. You can of course download alternative players but regardless of what software you use we're not quite at the stage where you can play Blu-ray quality files on your phone.

Looking at the messaging services, you get an entirely typical SMS interface that arranges your messages neatly into conversations. There's also GoogleTalk on hand for instant messaging while you get the standard Gmail interface as well as a customised email inbox for any other accounts. This provides quick access to email conversations, favourites, unread emails, and attachments by using the tabs along the bottom. It's nothing revolutionary but is a simple and effective way to keep on top of your messages.

Typing on the onscreen keyboard is also a breeze. HTC has again customised things slightly, and again we're not entirely convinced all the tweaks are needed but it's still very nice to use. We particularly like the text editing feature. Simply hold down your finger on some text and like the iPhone a little magnifying glass pops up to help you place the cursor, then cut, paste and copy the text.

While most reasonably high-end Androids are able to play Flash content in the web browser once you've downloaded the app, it's nice to see HTC has gone to the trouble of installing Flash for you so you can get straight down to watching embedded videos and interacting with other flash elements on your favourite websites. Multi-touch is also supported so you can pinch to zoom, or you can double tap to zoom in and out. We also like how, when you zoom in, text is re-wrapped so that it fits to the width of your screen, along you to read a large block of text without need to scroll left and right. As with the rest of the interface, it feels really snappy, though flash content can slow it down somewhat.

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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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