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HTC One S review

The HTC One S is the mid ranger, of HTC's new One smartphone series. ITProPortal has already taken a look at the flagship HTC One X. Given that the X's large format, leading light specifications and hefty price might not appeal to everyone, there is a possibility that the One S will be the handset that lights the blue touch-paper for HTC, in terms of sales.

Which isn't to say, the One S is inexpensive. It is obviously less expensive than the One X, coming in at around £420 (inc VAT) as opposed to around £490, for the One X. It is still a fair bit of cash to throw at a new handset; is it worth the money?

HTC has not gone for the quad core processor found in the One X, but the dual core, 1.5GHz Qualcomm offering here, is by no means a slouch. Internal memory runs to 16GB, which is quite generous by modern standards.

However, our review sample has just 9.9GB free, with the remainder already occupied. There's no microSD card slot in the HTC One S, so you'll have to be sure that will be enough for you. If, like us, you are a fan of side-loading media onto your handset, you'll have to find another way.

It's not difficult to do this, of course, and one possibility is to use Dropbox. Here, you get the same 25GB of storage, free, for two years with the HTC One S - as with the One X. It is also possible to set up the camera to send its shots and videos automatically, to Dropbox.

Speaking of the camera, HTC clearly thinks this is a key selling point for its smartphones, and the One X and One S are very similar in this respect. The front camera has been reduced to VGA, from 1.3-megapixels in the One X, but other than that, the similarities are many.

There's no side button for quick launching of the camera, but you can always put a shortcut on the main home page, and out of the box, there's a camera shortcut on the launch bar that adorns all seven home screens.

With 8-megapixel stills shooting and 1080p video capture, the camera is no slouch, and there is a variety of effects to apply, as you shoot. These include fairly standard offerings, such as negative and solarise, in addition to more adventurous ones, like vignette, dots and distortion.

There's also a continuous shooting mode that keeps on going, as long as the shutter is held down - and then you choose to keep the best shot from those you've taken, while deleting all the rest.

And there's the much vaunted ability to take a still, while you are shooting a video. This is made possible by putting both the video and stills buttons, on the camera interface screen, at the same time.

All these features do make using the camera quite enticing, but we found shutter speed too slow, to capture fast-moving subjects, and the small LED flash isn't particularly good in low-light conditions. As with other smartphones, the HTC One S isn't a permanent replacement for a separate camera.

The HTC One S is smaller than the One X. The difference isn't huge, but it is enough to allow the One S to sit much more comfortably in the hand; we could just about reach across the screen, for one handed use.

The One S is thin, even thinner than the One X's 8.9mm body - at just 7.8mm. And it is light, at 119.5g, albeit a bit on the tall side. Given that it accommodates a 4.3in screen, rather than the One X's 4.7in display, the height of 130.9mm is remarkably close to the One X's 134.4mm. It's not a big issue, but the One S does feel a bit tall in the hand.

The HTC S comes in two colour variants, grey and black. Having seen both, we prefer the black, but neither has the panache of the white HTC One X. HTC has taken a minimalist approach to buttons and connectors, with a top-mounted headset slot and on/off switch, right side-mounted volume rocker and left-side USB slot, being all that there is. HDMI out is supported via the USB slot, and you'll need to buy an adaptor to take advantage of this.

We were impressed with the screen on the HTC One X, and while the display is smaller and with a lower resolution at 540 x 960 pixels - it still impresses. Colours are sharp and vibrant, viewing angles are good, and the colour rendition is great. Video plays smoothly and web pages are clear and crisp. That processor gives you fast pinch-to-zoom control too, with zoomed in web pages popping up quickly.

There's a tiny removable plate on the back of the chassis, under which you pop your microSIM, though as with the HTC One X, the battery isn't removable. HTC doesn't quote battery life, but it seems much better here than in the One X. Having a less powerful processor and a smaller screen, manages to have helped - even though the battery itself is of a lower capacity than in the One X.

Whatever the reasons, we did feel much more confident about getting through a day between charges, and even with some notoriously battery sapping GPS use, the handset seemed to cope well. All but ‘power users' ought to get through a day, without the need for mains connection. We found that if in doubt, a half hour charge towards the end of the working day would see us through to late night switch-off.

The HTC One S runs Android 4 and HTC Sense 4, and the new HTC Sense skin is generally a smoother, cleaner one. There are lots of tweaks, some likeable, others, less so. ITProPortal is a fan of the new way you manage home screens. Long press on any home screen and you can see thumbnails of them all and can drag widgets, apps and shortcuts onto whatever screens you want. It's fast and easy.

However we miss the way the seven screens continuously scroll - now when you get to the last screen, you have to scroll backwards. The more we use Android 4, the more we miss both the Quick Settings for connectivity in the notifications bar and the Menu button; Menu options are now found within apps.

We really don't like what HTC has done with the Recent Apps button under the screen, either. The large, one app at a time scroller, feels fiddly. Give us thumbnails for faster use, please.

Still, there's no doubting that software-wise, the HTC One S is right at the cutting edge. Taking in all that it has on-board, the HTC One S just might have the edge over the One X. It doesn't have the top-notch specs or huge screen, but it is more pocket sized, less expensive and has better battery life. Sheer horsepower and pizazz might be great in themselves, but they aren't necessarily the best companions, day to day.


The HTC One S runs the latest Android version and is a well-made, well-specified handset. The camera has some very nice features, but some people will be disappointed by the lack of removable storage.

Pros: Well sized for the hand and pocket, with good battery life and running Android 4, the HTC One S has a lot going for it

Cons: Arguably short on internal storage, when you look beneath the 16GB headline

Manufacturer: HTC

Price: £420 - Clove

Score: 8/10


Network: HSPA 850/900/2100, GSM 850/900/1800/1900

Processor: Qualcomm MSM8260A Snapdragon 1.5GHz dual core

Memory: 16GB user memory

Memory expansion: None

Display: 4.3in, 540 x 960 pixels

Main camera: 8-megapixel

Front camera: VGA

Wi-Fi: Yes

GPS: Yes

FM radio: Yes

Battery: 1650mAh

Size: 130.9 x 65 x 7.8 mm

Weight: 119.5g attended Mobile World Congress 2012 in Barcelona this year, where we published from the HTC launch event of the One Series a hands-on walkthrough in pictures of the One S and a hands-on video.