Being a Google Android handset the HTC One S of course comes packing GoogleMaps as well as Google Navigation. The former is as good as you would expect with excellent satellite and map views, the latter of which includes isometric views of buildings in those locations that support it. You can also add traffic and terrain layers to really get to know the area you’re in. Meanwhile Navigation provides a free competent sat nav interface for providing directions while driving.
HTC Locations, not so much.
However, HTC annoyingly forces its own Locations app on you when following address links from a contact or email. Locations is a reasonably competent app that usefully provides offline maps – you don’t need an internet connection to use them – but it’s certainly not the app we’d recommend as a default. Thankfully you can switch back to GoogleMaps with the help of this app.
Other extra apps include HTC’s video download service, Watch. It’s not a class leader in its field and of course requires signing up to yet another account but it has a surprisingly good selection and is offering a regular roster of films for just 49p at the moment.
Other positive additions include integration of the online storage service Dropbox. Not only does this allow you to access your Dropbox files through core apps like the Gallery but it also means you can upload straight to the service. In fact, you can even set it to automatically upload all your newly snapped photos as you take them. What’s more you get 25GB of storage space free for two years, where the standard free amount is only 2GB. It’s one of the best value-adds we’ve seen in this recent age of manufacturers slapping extra services onto their handsets.
When it comes to downloading extra apps, the Android MarketPlace… sorry, Google Play Shop, is getting better and better. Not only does the new interface make finding apps even easier but the selection is very impressive. The vast majority of core useful apps like Dropbox and Instagram and many of the current gaming favourites (Where’s My Water?, Draw Something, Angry Birds Space) are available. There are still a few holes, and iPhone still tends to get stuff first but equally the openness of the Android platform means there a many, many more things you can do with an Android phone that an iPhone or Windows Phone can’t.
With no microSD slot you have to plug the phone into a computer to load it up with your media files. Thankfully HTC doesn’t make this a chore by forcing any extra software on you – Motorola take note – so you can just drag and drop. There is an option to install HTC’s sync manager if you like, though, and it’s a perfectly decent way of backing up your phone content while adding your multimedia. You can also either share your phone’s 3G connection with your computer via USB (though you’ll have to have the option enabled on your contract) or use your computer’s connection on your phone.
Out of the box, support for esoteric media file types is limited, so for instance mkv files won’t play. But with the help of the plethora of video and music playing apps available (DICE player and MX player for instance), you can pretty much slap any file on this handset and it’ll playback smoothly. Something that remains a huge appeal of Android over and above iPhone and Windows Phone, where it’s much more of a chore to do this.
Given the dazzling screen and fast processor, playback quality is excellent. There’s still an argument for saying the screen’s a little small for using as your primary media player on a long haul flight, for instance, but we happily watched a movie on it.
Google’s Play service also provides easy access to movie and book downloads with a comprehensive and reasonably priced selection of both.
As for music, the 7Digital download service has been added, which is among the better download music offerings going. We particularly like how the service is, along with SoundHound (a service that listens to the world around you and identifies songs that are playing) and TuneIn internet radio, integrated into the main music app, for quick access. As with most Android handsets, and notably not on the iPhone, you get an FM radio too.
Of course we couldn’t finish talking about this phone’s audio capabilities without mentioning the Beats Audio branding. Well, actually we just about could because it does very little. It’s just a software EQ setting that’s only applied when using headphones or a Bluetooth connection. The profile just adds a load of bass, and you can’t customise it. Just buy some decent headphones, we say. On some contracts you may be able to get a bundled free pair of Beats headphones, but it’s not a guarantee. Oh, one final thing. HTC, please make it so earphones/headphones don’t crackle when you unplug them or plug them in!