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HTC Incredible S review

Niall Magennis



Our Score


User Score


  • Great screen, good camera
  • Fine performance
  • Sense interface enhancements work well.


  • Ugly design.
  • Doesn't feel like a next generation handset.

Review Price free/subscription

Key Features: 4in touchscreen; Runs Android V2.2; 1GHz Snapdragon processor; 8 Megapixel camera

Manufacturer: HTC

When the word 'incredible' is used to name your handset, you're leaving it with a lot to live up to. However, the original HTC Incredible did quite well in the US, so HTC obviously has high hopes that the Incredible S will perform just as well in the UK.

Nevertheless, one thing that’s certainly sure to spilt opinion is the phone's design. Although some people may like the slightly industrial look, just as many others will find it rather off putting. Our main bugbear is the rear of the phone. Rather than having a flat back like most of today’s smartphones, the rear is thin at the edges before giving way to a large hump in the shape of an oversized SIM card. It's somewhat reminiscent of the Motorola XT720 in this quirky regard.

This hump is used to cover the battery as well as some of the handset’s other circuitry. Not only is it a visual oddity, but it also makes the Incredible S feel strangely lumpy to hold, though not unpleasant. However, the rubberised finish does at least make it very grippy, so you’d need to be pretty clumsy to let it slip from your grasp.

From the front, on the other hand, the phone looks positively stylish, if a little same-old. As ever, we're pleased to see a single glass sheet covering the whole front, which really gives a nice minimalist look and emits a sense of quality. Naturally, most of the space is given over to the large screen, but there’s a long thin speaker grill at the top and integrated into this you’ll find a tiny LED that turns red when you’re low on battery power or blinks green to draw attention to new emails or messages, which is a nice touch

Another nice addition is the way the four touch-sensitive buttons below the screen only light up when the phone’s screen is on, disappearing into the blackness of the bezel when off. Also they have a clever party trick whereby the symbols on these buttons automatically rotate when you swap the orientation from portrait to landscape.

The only other controls are the power button on the top and volume rocker on the left-hand side. There’s no dedicated camera button, for example, which is a bit of as shame (though depressingly typical), but you do get a top-mounted standard headphone jack and a micro-USB port on the side for charging and syncing.

If the design doesn’t universally live up to the incredible in the handset’s name, then the screen certainly does. Like Samsung’s Galaxy S, which this phone aims to challenge head on, it boasts a large 4in screen with a razor sharp resolution of 480 x 800 pixels. The display uses traditional TFT technology rather than the OLED used on the Galaxy S, and while it might not offer as deep blacks as Samsung’s model, colours are impressively rich and vivid, and so pictures and videos look stunning.

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March 23, 2011, 1:34 pm

Why visit the "NEW beta site" when an overdose of orange can now be had here? Be careful TrustedReviews, you are getting closer to losing this regular visitor.


March 23, 2011, 1:36 pm

What the main difference with this and the Desire HD? I know the screen is smaller here and has a front facing camera, but otherwise the specs look the same, form factor aside. And does the average score of this phone versus the Desire HD show how far this end of the market has progressed in the last 6 months?


March 23, 2011, 1:38 pm

@Ripsnorter: ?


March 23, 2011, 2:28 pm

@Ed - Scroll down the page(s) to the bottom of the text and the large orange bars, headers and sub-headers suddenly assault the retinas! I have nothing against anyone redesigning their website but as you and others have hopefully noted from the many comments in that particular item, the new look is not exactly finding favour. I am a very regular visitor and admirer of TR, but am concerned design is taking precedence over content to a detrimental effect and, for me, that reduces the TR experience. I mean, isn't it better to tell your wife / girlfriend she's getting fat rather than waiting till she asks, "Do I look fat in this?"?


March 23, 2011, 2:49 pm

We've had the Recombu mobile comparison widget for months and I would strongly argue that it's been very well implemented. It fits in neatly with the current site design, is clean and simple and doesn't encroach on the content. I'll concede that there's a fair amount of orange, and we could perhaps have used a bit more grey, but it has always been our company colour.


March 23, 2011, 2:55 pm

The Endaget review was far more positive about this phone. They said that while it didn't really offer much new the experience was extremely polished. Although there isn't a dual core processor the new graphics card is supposed to make a very noticable difference.


March 23, 2011, 4:22 pm

@Rav that would be the same engadget reviewer that was mostly positive about the LGx2 in his review and on the Podcast only to give it a 6/10? Now it could be argued that it deserved to be marked down harshly due to the buggy software but then the idiot wrote 'Dualcore' as a CON! Nuff said. Vlad is off my list on reviewers I would listen too.

HTC really seems to be struggling waiting for Qualcomm to get that new 1.2Ghz Dualcore chip out. American will be seeing such handsets soon. Best to wait and not buy a 'Stop-gap' like this.


March 23, 2011, 5:18 pm

I don't get it... this phone is supposed to be a step up on the Desire HD, better battery life and gets a low score based on... lack of innovation ? And what if it would be dual core ? Probably wouldn't be any faster as the OS doesn't optimize for dual cores yet so it's a big of a lost argument.


March 23, 2011, 6:54 pm

Lol. I missed that one since LG handsets are on no interest at all to me but it does sound worrying. However the Incredible S review was fairly well written. I didn't mean to criticise this review. I just find it interesting that the conclusions seems quite different.


March 23, 2011, 10:47 pm

On reflection we feel that some of the language in this review is perhaps a tad harsh and we've adjusted some of the text accordingly. We've also bumped the design and overall scores in recognition of the fact that some people won't mind the protrusion.


March 24, 2011, 2:06 am

ED - where does that leave the site now? There will be an inevitable deluge from some users around certain products, thinking that they can influence reviews. This has the potential to cause a major loss of credibility.


March 24, 2011, 2:40 am

@Greg: It's not unprecedented. We've tweaked our reviews before when we've felt it appropriate. Sometimes things slip through the editorial net and we need to have a rethink. After all, we're not here to make ourselves stand out from the crowd, we want to help our readers make the right purchasing decision.


March 24, 2011, 3:22 am

Will you be reviewing the Xperia Arc?


March 24, 2011, 3:24 am

A question for the folks here, I currently have an HTC Desire, the first one. I find it a brilliant phone but am constantly running out of internal memory, in order to install new apps I have to uninstall some of the big phone memory hoggers like Adobe Flash or Google Maps and then reinstall once the wanted app is safely on board. Having a phone with a 32GB SD card which is permanently telling me I'm low on memory (below 15MB free) is really bugging me, how does this phone compare in this regard?


March 24, 2011, 3:31 am

I think it's great that you tweak reviews! Should do it more often, especially when obvious errors in judgment appear.
Just hope that we won't be seeing HTC Incredible S ads on TrustedReviews any time soon, now that would be a serious loss of credibility.


March 24, 2011, 4:24 am

Thanks for replying Ed. It is akin to posting a retraction on the next day front cover, but equally there will be many that don't understand the process of marking, and equally the language normally used, especially for a freelance report.

If freelanceers are used, could it be possible within editorial guidelines to let us know - flag it up?

Items such as this do bring the whole ratings into account. For example, there are rarely ratings under 5/10 (rarely, not never) published here, but 5/10 should be average. Otherwise, if you're just operating in 5/10 to 10/10, you may as well adjust.

Does the site therefore only publish reviews of items which have a minimum standard, or does it not really use the range 0/10 - 5/10. This always bugs me on review sites, no matter how intelligent the write-up.


March 24, 2011, 12:49 pm

@myst: We most certainly shall - I loved that phone when I saw it as CES.

@Rocklett: The Incredible S has 1.1GB of internal memory, which is double that of the Desire, so you should less frequently (indeed seldom) run out of space for apps.

@Greg: My pleasure, we're always happy to have a dialogue with our readers.

It's less an issue of freelancers per se but one of who's editing, how much time there is to edit, etc. The same issues can arise from in-house content - things sometimes get missed.

As to the scoring, the whole thing is a bit of a minefield as we have to consider what is average, what we'd expect for the price, whether expectations have shifted, etc. You're quite right that we could've scored this phone 5/10 or 6/10 across the board for essentially being a fairly average smartphone, which is what Niall was originally erring towards, but we also have to consider the impression that leaves and how it compares to other phones of similar performance that are still available but that were reviewed a short time ago and scored highly. Anyone walking away from this review seeing those scores would consider it a device not worth considering whereas, in fact, it's a perfectly nice phone.

As for not publishing reviews of poor products, it's for three reasons. 1. There aren't that many truly bad products that aren't already clear bargain basement knock offs. 2. Trying to get hold of crummy products is difficult as manufacturers know they're rubbish so don't want to hand them over. 3. Readers don't want to hear about poor products, except for a bit of a laugh. They want to know what's best to buy, not countless things to avoid.


March 24, 2011, 4:15 pm

I think it would prudent to avoid the pitfalls of criticising a single core phone for lacking a second core until the benefits of dual core chips have been proven. As of now, there's little to differentiate single core phones from their dual core brethren. It would be a shame to see perfectly good phones marked down for no good reason. Future proofing is all well and good, but no-one should expect their handset to remain state-of-the-art 18 months after release, and it may take even longer than that before multi core chips become relevant.

Adam Foreman

March 24, 2011, 7:28 pm


I used to have an HTC Desire, my advice to get around your issue if you wish to keep it and your technically capable is to ROOT your HTC desire and install CyanogenMod 7 (Gingerbread 2.3) using a recovery such as Clockwork Recovery and then use Rom Manager from the market to create an EXT3 partition on your SD Card and install and use Simple2Ext (also from the market) to manage applications to install to it.

I'm obviously over simplifying things above, but it will give your HTC Desire a breath of fresh air and life again.

If nothing else, it will tidy you over till the new 3D Sense versions finally arrive.


March 24, 2011, 8:54 pm

I would't recommend running a journaled filesystem like Ext3 on an SD card as they lack wear levelling, you'll lose your data eventually.

Better to set it up as Ext4 in non-journaled mode ( tune2fs -O ^has_journal )

Howto here: http://forum.xda-developers.co...


March 25, 2011, 4:18 am

@Ed @Adam & Gk.pm thanks for the replies and advice.

I've rooted 3 Orange San Franciso's and installed Japanese_Jellyfish_RLS9 using Clockwork Recovery etc. over the last few weeks, but they were not for me. I guess the time has come to do my precious Desire as well.


March 25, 2011, 11:53 am

Ed - appreciate the replies. It is interesting to see the results of the experiences you've built up over the years when reviewing, especially about not publishing the negative reviews.

What would be a great insight would be to see what products you're actually reviewing, whether or not a review makes it - if not in name at least number.


March 25, 2011, 12:27 pm

@Ggreg: Just to clarify, we never hold back a review because it's bad - if we've gone to the effort of obtaining, testing and writing about something then we'll publish it - it's just that we seldom get bad products in for the reasons mentioned above.


March 28, 2011, 3:56 pm

Interested in this phone but not coming with gingerbread out the box is a downer to me. Plus HTC seem to be slow in updating older handsets too. Makes me with the Nexus S had better hardware. Might wait a bit longer for the Samsung Galaxy S 2 instead.


April 11, 2011, 2:42 am

There's on thing I like about this phone: the look. I think the Original desire was the ugliest, ugliest, dullest looking phone to be released in this premium bracket. This looks sleek in comparison.

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