The HTC One S is the second handset in the Taiwanese manufacturer’s new One Series of devices, occupying the mid-point between the flagship One X and budget One V. Essentially and update of the Sensation that preceded it, the One S is slimmer and more compact than its bulkier cousin and sports a smaller screen and lesser specced processor. Despite this, the One S could well prove to be a less cumbersome alternative to the expansive One X owing to some impressive features (as well as that svelte design).
- Android 4.0
- HTC Sense 4.0
- 1.5GHz dual-core processor
- 1GB RAM
- 4.3-inch touchscreen
- Super AMOLED capacitive touchscreen with 16m colours
- 16 GB internal memory
- 8 megapixel camera
- Li-Po 1650 mAh battery
Design and Build
Upon first glance of the One S, it’s evident that the familiar HTC styling is present and the design takes its cues from some the company’s recent products. It’s incredibly thin at only 7.8mm but manages to avoid feeling flimsy and instead gives the impression of being a sturdy, well-built phone capable of taking a few knocks. A metal chassis keeps the One S’ innards concealed and comes in either a matte black, ceramic finish or smooth gunmetal, both of which add to the durable feel and help the handset to pull off the feat of being both sleek and rugged. Despite the materials used, the device is somewhat lighter than the One X, tippings the scales at just 119.5g.
The screen has been scaled-down too, although the super AMOLED effort it’s fitted with is still quite big at 4.3 -inches. The 540×960 pixel (256 ppi) resolution isn’t the most impressive you’ll see on a smartphone but that pixel count is high enough so that the graphics don’t appear blocky. Whilst the display does have room for improvement, colours do look good and you can easily view what’s on it from any angle. The touchscreen is accurate and responsive too and the Gorilla Glass from which it’s constructed ensures it’s well protected.
Under the Hood
As far as the processor goes, it seems to be a case of less-is-more. The quad-core of the One X is markedly absent, but the 1.5GHz dual-core in situ is well up to the task of handling all that is asked of it by way of multitasking. With the scaled-down screen and lower pixel count there isn’t as much for the processor undertake, and as such, it’s given space to concentrate on the really satisfying things like opening apps and loading webpages quickly. Navigation is incredibly fast and smooth, in many ways making up for the slightly lacking display. Apps can be opened and switched-between with no lag whatsoever and the phone’s different screens and widgets can be accessed without any delay at all. Online performance is just as impressive with webpages loading in very little time and we noticed that the Maps app loaded the most close-up, detailed view of a whole city within seconds.
There’s one drawback in terms of memory however – there is no slot for a microSD card which means that you are limited to the 16GB of internal storage. Fortunately for those with reams of digital content, HTC offer 5 GB of cloud storage through its partnership with Dropbox, although this capacity is only free for 2 years. After that period is up, users must either subscribe to the paid-for service or upgrade to another HTC device to take advantage of the offer for a second time.
Operating System and User Interface
The One S runs the latest version of Google’s operating system, Ice Cream Sandwich. Running on top of the OS is HTC’s Sense 4.0 user interface, an updated, more streamlined version of its predecessor.
Some of the features from the older version of Sense have been scaled-back to increase its performance, with HTC seemingly concentrating on building something that gets the job done and dispenses with unnecessary flourish. Sense 4.0 works very well and in many ways suits the One S – the less flashy interface allows the dual-core processor to do its job quicker just as the lower pixel count of the screen does.
Fewer animations (the homepage weather widget being a noticeable casualty of the streamlining process) place less of a strain on the CPU and the design of the UI as a whole pulls off the trick of being simpler without appearing to be a backwards step.
The app tray at the bottom of the homescreen is now fully customisable and users can drop any app icon they please into it for quick access – a stark contrast to HTC’s Gingerbread devices which only allowed these to be pinned to the homescreen, with the dock restricted to housing messaging, dialpad and customisation tabs. The standard Android onscreen keypad is still present but it feels a little fiddly to us, especially compared to keypads on other phones with smaller screens. However, the responsive touchscreen on the One S makes it easy enough to use without any real problems.
With the this handset running Ice Cream Sandwich, there is also the added bonus of being able to download the mobile version of Google’s browser, Chrome. This is specific to the latest Android iteration and could prove to be a good addition.
Camera and Video
One of the main selling points of the One S is its camera and HTC aren’t being unrealistic in pinning its hopes on it. At 8 megapixels it might not seem like the most spectacular lens on the market but it is capable of producing some good results if used in the right conditions. Images might not look as good on the One S’ display as they would on similar devices like the iPhone 4S but they are clear and crisp and the colours come out well.
As well as overall image quality, the camera has some handy shoot modes to aid your photographic endeavours. The autofocus function works very well but the manual focus, which allows users to tap the screen to focus in on a specific part of the image, performs especially well. As with many recent camera apps, effects can be added to photos but the One S allows you to see what the effects will look like before taking a photo. There are also separate on screen shutter buttons for taking pictures and video, allowing the capture of still whilst recording footage, negating the need to toggle between the two modes.
Performance and Verdict
The One S continues the good work HTC were doing with its Sensation series and the resulting handset is one that offers performance and style in a functional package. It seems that the manufacturer has decided that trimming-off some of the flashier aspects of its designs is worth it to improve performance and this shows in the scaled-back features of Sense 4.0. The slimmer, less cumbersome design could be better suited those who want something that fits a bit more comfortably into a pocket and although the display on the One S doesn’t match up to that found on the flagship One X, it still makes for a satisfying multimedia and photo-viewing experience.