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HTC One S review

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Reviewed:

Summary

Our Score:

8

User Score:

Pros

  • Beautiful slim but strong design
  • Dazzling and colourful screen
  • Incredibly fast processor
  • Feature packed camera

Cons

  • Matt black finish doesn't wear damage well
  • Screen has iffy viewing angles and isn't as sharp as the best
  • HTC image quality still isn't brilliant

Key Features

  • 4.3in, 540 x 960 pixel AMOLED screen
  • 1.5GHz dual-core processor
  • Fast 8MP camera with 1080p video
  • Manufacturer: HTC
  • Review Price: to be confirmed

Read the review of the HTC One M8

Following swiftly in the footsteps of the HTC One X, the HTC One S sits in the middle of the company's new trio of One branded Android smartphones. But while it may not be feature packed enough to perch at the top of HTC's pile, there's still potentially enough here to make this one of the choice phones of the moment.

Design

Chief among the One S' features is its design. At just 7.8mm thick, it's the thinnest phone HTC has ever produced and it holds a candle to the best of them in this regard. However, far from being a flimsy phone that's compromised by its slenderness, the metal chassis used here gives it a reassuring solidity.

As well as giving strength, the metal body looks great. The aluminium that makes up most of the back and that wraps round the edges has been bathed in a plasma field. This etches the surface, giving it a matt black (it's more of a dark grey really) appearance, and a feel that's similar to sandblasted metal finishes, though it's a little rougher. Rather than being just a cosmetic process, though, this method of etching creates a surface that is four times tougher than traditional anodised aluminium, something that is immediately noticeable.

Some people have reported this finish as being overly slippery, and while it is quite smooth we haven't found it any more difficult to handle than most other phones with a matt finish. Also, when flat on a surface the soft touch plastic bottom section provides a pretty good purchase so it won't slip off – it's a shame the camera lens sticks out in this regard.

However, while tough, this finish can't perform miracles so for instance when we received our review sample there were already a few scuffs around the microUSB socket where the steel plug of the microUSB cable has scratched it. And during our time with the phone it picked up a large scratch on the back just from rummaging around in a bag. Clearly bad fortune played a considerable part here but it's still a little alarming how easily this scratch was obtained and moreover how noticeable it is thanks to the contrasting silver of the aluminium shining through the matt black.

You can also get this phone in a graduated anodised finish. This looks just like a standard sandblasted, anodised finish but the colour fades from light to dark. It's a beautiful effect, though you do miss out on the extra toughness of this plasma-blasted (micro-arc oxidised is the technical term) finish. Then again, what scratches it does pick up may be less noticeable.

It's almost a shame then that the metal must be broken up by two sections of soft-touch plastic: up top around the camera lens, and at the bottom around the speaker. However, this is required to let the various wireless signals out, and overall it still looks very nice indeed.

On the front, HTC has performed a neat trick that gives the impression the screen curves round the sides of the phone, when in fact it's a perfectly flat panel. They've done this be extending the strip of shiny black plastic that surrounds and protects the edges of the screen down the sides. It's a bit of a cheat but it both looks and feels good.

Features and Connectivity

Features wise, up top you've got the headphone jack and power button while the left edge is home to the microUSB socket and on the right is the volume rocker that is finished in a matching matt black. Joining the main camera on the back is a single LED flash, and there's a front facing camera too. And finishing things off are the three touch sensitive, backlit navigation buttons that sit under the screen. The whole lot throws up few surprises and ticks all the right boxes. However, our bugbear of not being able to unlock the screen without stretching to reach the top edge power button rears its head once again. That said, as the One S is a smaller phone, the problem isn't as bad as on the HTC One X and you soon get the hang of it

Under the hood there has been one potentially major slip up, though. Prize off the small plastic section at the top (something that is easier said than done) and while you can add in your microSIM, you can't add anymore storage or replace the battery. And with only 16GB of built in storage, this could instantly kill the appeal of this handset for many people, especially as only about 10GB of it is available to the user.

Carrier pricing updates & information supplied by WhistleOut

ShaunB

February 27, 2012, 6:58 pm

This was my big hope to replace my trusty, if ageing, Desire when its contract is up in a month. But no SD slot and only 16GB!!! No chance. It sounds like a fantastic phone but I need >32GB for my media library so I'm gonna have to look elsewhere :-(

jgsm

February 27, 2012, 11:07 pm

ShaunB - I think you're heading for a world of pain of you're looking for a new phone with expandable storage. The only one that I've read about so far at this year's MWC is the low-end HTC One V. i think this feature is very much on the way out, as much of a shame as it is.

ShaunB

February 28, 2012, 1:30 pm

Tell me about it! But I'm sure I won't be alone. My phone gets used most on my long daily commute. Cloud storage really is pure vapour on a 70 MPH train going through tunnels! On board storage is a must.

Chris

April 16, 2012, 8:24 pm

All of these new handsets with non-removable storage are configured to have the same partition accessible to both user storage and to system storage. The advantage of this is that it does away with the limited app space issues common to Android phones of old. It also improves security, with support for features like full disk encryption, and it improves reliability as crucial system data can't be physically removed from the device.

It seems that all of the phone makers have followed Google's lead and decided that usability and security trumps versatility. That's not a surprising choice - I'd bet that most users don't even use 8GB of storage, let alone 32GB, and the manufacturers know it.

As jgsm says, non-removable storage appears to be the future of Android. This is sad, really. I'd like an SD card slot *on top of* my 16GB of internal storage please, even if it's just for storing media. I know, I'm demanding, but I'm a consumer.

ElectricSheep

April 16, 2012, 11:12 pm

I feel your pain.

I seems as if the most the mobile technology world is regressing slightly at the moment; mobile data is getting more expensive and more limited, micro SD cards are vaporising from spec sheets, battery life is stagnant at best (and more often than not, non-user replaceable) & handset prices are just obscene. (compared to what £4-600 can buy you in other areas of technology).

Just as a teacher can only teach as fast as the slowest child, markets will respond to the greater sales. So, I blame iPhone buyers. ;)

Best getting an unlocked SGS2 in my opinion, or if you can wait a few months, maybe the SGS3 or 'New' Galaxy?

Bugblatter

April 17, 2012, 12:19 am

I'm glad I'm not alone in bemoaning the demise of expandable storage.

As long as one high-end phone offers it we can vote with our wallets ans show them they need to give us the choice.

When no-one offers it we're stuffed.

If they're trying to improve stability then I wouldn't mind if apps could only go to internal storage. I do however want as much storage as I can get for my media.

piesforyou

April 17, 2012, 7:41 pm

The GS2 has no problems with having external storage.

Marky1

September 12, 2012, 6:27 pm

Anyone who is thinking of buying the HTC One S, i urge you to visit this website:
http://forum.xda-developers.co...

… or just google 'HTC One S home screen button problem'.

I have had two handsets, both have been affected by this problem. The phone become unusable in low signal areas. Hundreds of others have been affected but HTC has done nothing about it.

Please look in to this before buying the phone. I wish I had!

Domain Rider

September 18, 2012, 3:31 pm

I love this phone, with some very minor reservations about battery life and its ability to function in weak signal areas. It feels good, has a great screen, it's fast and smooth in operation...

I would give it 5 stars if it wasn't that it has a crippling bug, known as the 'Home Screen Button Problem'.

This bug appears, seemingly at random, in weak signal areas, when the phone is switching between signal types, and causes the home screen button to act like it's being pressed repeatedly. This kicks you back to the home screen from whatever app you're using, and disables the capacitive buttons until you manually lock then unlock the phone. The main annoyance for me is that it makes using satnav apps while driving a complete lottery - if you get out in the country with low signal coverage, you'll be stopping every few minutes to get the satnav back after this bug strikes.

Many users have returned their phones for repair or replacement, but find the phones they get back begin to suffer the same problem after a few weeks. It's a great shame, but this is a fatally flawed phone at present.

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