HTC's mid-range Android smartphone is the HTC One S, smaller sibling to the company’s top-spec HTC One X. The One S is a premium handset but with a slightly lower specification than the One X. We found it outclassed the flagship phone in a number of areas – read on to find out where. 

HTC One S: Design 

The HTC One S has a smaller screen than the HTC One X at 4.3in rather than 4.7in. However, the body of the phone is only a few millimetres smaller. But it is a very thin and light phone at just 8.3mm and 120g.

The two phones look similar from the front but have a different design on the rear. The One S has an aluminium chassis and a small plastic removable cover at the top that hides the Micro-SIM slot. The back is flat instead of curved but the One S still feels mostly comfortable in the hand.

We like the stylish and sleek design – apart from two small elements. Firstly the removable cover is a tricky customer to remove; and the top edge of the phone is quite sharp to the touch which doesn't feel nice when using the on/off button. See also: Group test: what's the best smartphone?

HTC One S: Build quality

To put it simply, the build quality of the One S is excellent, with a premium feel from top to bottom. The one-piece aluminium body makes the handset very strong and durable. It's clear that a lot of attention has gone into the device with the screen sitting perfectly flush to the aluminium and precision cut holes for the speaker and ear piece. 

We were glad to find that we were unable make the screen ripple when squeezing the sides of the handset. This a flaw we found on the One X.

See also: Group test: what's the best Android phone? 

HTC One S: Hardware

Being a mid-ranged smartphone the HTC One S isn't equipped with a quad-core processor like the One X. Instead it’s fitted with a 1.5GHz dual-core chip with 1GB of RAM. So on paper it would seem not as fast as its bigger brother.

However, the One S should not be written off. In a side-by-side race we found it outclassed the One X when opening some pre-loaded and third-party apps and rendering websites with the same speed. 

We found overall performance to be excellent - everything from basic apps to web browsing and video playback operated smoothly and without lag. 

In the Geekbench performance test, that measures processor and memory speed in a given OS, the HTC One S scored an average of 685 points. This compares well with the quad-core HTC One X which averaged 592 points in the same test. 

The HTC One S has 16GB of internal flash storage which could be limiting depending on how much you need to store locally. In-line with the One series and many other smartphones these days, there is no microSD card slot for expansion.  

This could be a hindrance but HTC has partnered up with Dropbox to offer its customers 25GB of cloud storage to expand on that fixed limit. The free storage promotion is time-limited to 24 months only though.

Unlike the One X which has, in our experience, a slightly too-large screen at 4.7in across, the One S has a more manageable 4.3in display. Its quality is not quite as impressive but it's still respectable with a resolution of 540 x 960. This is narrower than the iPhone 4S’ 640 x 960 and stretched across a bigger screen. This gives a pixel density of 256ppi rather than 326ppi of the Apple smartphone and 312ppi of the One X.

Detail is still high but you can make out individual pixels at the edges of text for example so it doesn't give the breathtaking view its rivals.

Connectivity is good, with Micro-USB, Bluetooth 4.0 and 802.11n. It also supports Digital Living Network Alliance (DLNA). However, it doesn't have near-field communications (NFC) technology like the One X. As expected the One S comes with Beats Audio which boosts the volume and bass of your music.

HTC One S: Camera

Most people appreciate a good camera in their smartphone and the One S delivers good results in this area. It has an 8Mp rear-facing camera with 28mm lens, backside-illuminated (BSI) sensor for better low-light performance, an f/2.0 aperture and a dedicated imaging chip. The 640 x 480-pixel front-facing camera produces an adequate but grainy image for video chat.

HTC has done a great job with the camera app which it calls ImageSense. The app is speedy and easy to use. We liked the attention to detail such as hitting the video button to begin recording instead of needlessly switching to a video camera mode.

Our test photos and video came out very well. We found the auto-focus effective apart from some occasional troubles in macro mode. Images were sharp with vivid colours. The camera app is able to shoot video up to 1080p resolution and take still photos whilst recording.

A burst mode can continuously take photos and there are numerous built-in effects which can be used in real-time.

HTC One S: Software

Software is an area that HTC has excelled in with its smartphones and the One S is no exception. The phone uses Google's Android 4.0 (Ice Cream Sandwich) operating system combined with HTC's Sense 4.0 user interface. The combination works very effectively and provides a smooth, good-looking and intuitive user experience.

There are plenty of widgets to choose from for customising the seven home screens, an efficient lock screen which provides information like weather and quick access to four user-defined apps. There are many apps pre-installed such as Facebook, Twitter and Dropbox. 

Android 4.0 comes with features like Face Unlock and data usage management which are handy but HTC has changed the way you can browse recent apps into a separate window, for no apparent reason. It normally appears over the top of whatever is being displayed on the screen.

HTC One S: Battery life

Battery life is a dull yet fundamental element of a smartphone and something we wish would improve. HTC has equipped the HTC One S with a 6.11Wh battery and we were impressed with the results. 

Once again the screen took most of the juice but we got a weekend of light usage out of the handset followed by most of a full working day, using the phone more regularly. 

Like so many smartphones now, the battery is sealed inside so buying a spare for a quick swap over is out of the question. 

Review sample from clove.co.uk

NEXT PAGE: Original PCWorld review >>

The HTC One S packs a high-end camera, the latest version of Android, and a powerful dual-core processor in a swank, superslim design. Among its few drawbacks is the absence of a microSD slot; in addition, we had some issues with the call quality, although that is more about the network than the phone. See also Group test: what's the best Android phone.

HTC One S: Design and Display

The models in HTC's One line of phones have three common features: a high-quality camera with HTC ImageSense, built-in Beats Audio, and a premium design. We've always praised HTC phones for being both easy on the eyes and well-constructed, but the HTC One S takes phone design a step beyond that, with a classic aluminum unibody design that incorporates contrasting slate and blue-gray panels.

The aluminum body has been given a "micro-arc oxidization treatment," which is apparently the same treatment that NASA uses on satellites. Besides making the HTC One S supertough, it gives the phone a futuristic look. According to HTC, the One S is so tough that you won't need a protective case, but I'm going to counter that. You always need a protective case for your phone, no matter how tough the manufacturer claims it is. Furthermore, that satellite aluminum is slippery and difficult to get a grip on when you're holding it in landscape mode. Several times while I was using it to snap photos, I felt as though it was about to slip out of my grasp.

The camera lens has a bright blue ring around it, a stylish touch that makes the HTC One S stand out. And when you remove the SIM card cover, you'll see more of that blue inside the phone. Little design touches like this are what make HTC phones stand out from the legions of all-black rectangular smartphones.

One downside to the design is that the battery cover is completely sealed. As with the iPhone 4S, you can't remove the HTC One S' battery. Let's hope that your battery stays intact throughout your two-year contract, because replacing it might be a big pain.

T-Mobile said the One S is the carrier's thinnest phone yet (in the UK the HTC One S is available on O2, Orange, Vodafone and 3, too). The HTC One S measures 65x131x8mm. The One S is thus slightly thicker than the Motorola DROID RAZR MAXX but a bit thinner than the Apple iPhone 4S. HTC's minimalist design leaves no unused or excess space. The Gorilla Glass, which protects the display, goes almost to the edge of the phone's chassis, with a small space for the phone's speaker. Below the display, you'll find the three standard Ice Cream Sandwich touch-sensitive buttons: Back, Home, and Recent Apps.

The HTC One S' 4.3-inch qHD display (540 by 960 pixels) has the same resolution as the HTC Sensation 4G. This resolution is lower than 720-by-1280-pixel Super IPS LCD 2 display on the top dog of the One line, the HTC One X. The Super AMOLED technology makes colours look bold and details sharp, for the most part.

In our colour bar test, I detected a fair amount of oversaturation. Colours bled into one another, and it was hard to distinguish one colour shade from the next. Super AMOLED fares better than LCD displays in sunlight, but it was still hard to see the One S's display. See also: Group test: what's the best smartphone?

HTC One S: Ice Cream Sandwich With Sense 4.0

Love it or hate it, HTC Sense - the manufacturer's user interface over Android - is here to stay. Android 4.0 (Ice Cream Sandwich) has, by far, the best-looking interface of any version of Android. I understand why manufacturers slapped on overlays in the early days of Android: The underlying interfaces were ugly. And HTC Sense is undeniably pretty. But those animations and colourful widgets have a tendency to bog down the operating system.

Perhaps my idea that manufacturers might leave Android 4.0 alone and just add a few customized widgets was just wishful thinking. To HTC's credit, Sense 4.0 is much subtler than previous versions of the interface. The company has cleared out a lot of unnecessary icons and text that cluttered older versions of Sense. You can still pinch the screen to see all seven of your homescreens, and you get that handy customizable lock screen that we saw with Sense 3.0.

Still, Android purists might take offence at a few changes. The Recent Apps UI has been tweaked in typical Sense fashion. Rather than displaying your apps or websites as a list with thumbnails, it displays them as pages that flip as you flick through them. The Sense widgets are a bit too busy and garish for my liking, but you can easily remove them.

HTC puts a bunch of extra software on the HTC One S, which is unsurprising given that bloatware - er, added software - seems to be the norm these days for smartphones. I could disable most of the uninvited apps, but not all of them. See also: Group test: what's the best Android phone?

HTC One S: 8-Megapixel Camera with ImageSense

As I mentioned earlier, HTC emphasizes camera technology in its One smartphone line. All One phones have the HTC ImageChip, which supports an f2.0 aperture and a handful of different shooting modes, including High Dynamic Range (HDR), Macro, and Panorama. HTC also claims that One cameras have an almost no-lag shutter speed. In my hands-on tests, I found the no-lag claim to be pretty much true. My photos taken in automatic mode looked excellent, with good colours and crisp details. Most of the shooting modes worked quite well, too, especially the marco mode.

HDR made my photos look a bit funky - I prefer the HDR mode on the iPhone 4S's camera. You can also add Instagram-like filters to your photos, but I don't think they look very good. A better bet would be to add a third-party app like, well, Instagram or Pixlr, which has even more filters.

Overall, HTC has done a great job with the One S's still camera. It could certainly fill in for a stand-alone camera. The video camera looked just okay. My test video looked a bit shaky and it has a bit of a dark cast.

HTC One S: Multimedia

Before you start loading music, apps, videos, and other content onto your HTC One S, know this: You're capped at 16GB of internal memory. That sealed back means you have no access to a microSD slot. Expandable memory is something that most Android phones have over the iPhone and Windows Phones, in terms of hardware. So when an Android phone maker decides not to include a microSD slot, I have to wonder why. My suspicion is that HTC wanted to keep the One S as slim as possible, and that adding a microSD slot would have added some bulk.

If you can't work with a 16GB limit, there is some good news: One S owners get 25GB of Dropbox storage, which is free for two years (which may be the length of the carrier contract). Dropbox is integrated throughout the phone's user interface in apps such as the photo gallery; so, for instance, you can snap a photo and then upload it directly to Dropbox. As someone who uses Dropbox for practically everything - from moving music around to sharing documents - this is a big deal for me.

All HTC One phones have Beats audio built in. Beats audio automatically turns on when you play music, but you can opt to turn it off. I could definitely hear a positive change in music quality, especially with rock and metal music, when Beats was running. Bass sounded richer and the vocals sounded fuller. Beats audio also kicks in when you play a YouTube video. Video not only looked great on the One S's display, but it ran smoothly too.

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A great multimedia Android phone, we like the gaming capabilities, music player and camera of the HTC One S. Read the rest of our HTC One S review to find out more.

HTC One S: Performance

In my hands-on tests, the HTC One S actually crashed and restarted. The crash occurred when I was opening an attachment and taking a screenshot of it. As soon as my phone restarted, I got a message in the notifications window informing me that the phone had sent an error report to HTC. I wasn't able to replicate the error, however, and I never had any other instances where the phone crashed or froze - so hopefully this was just a one-time thing.

Otherwise, the One S was quite speedy. Powered by a Qualcomm S4 1.5GHz dual-core processor, the One S felt speedy and smooth throughout the user interface. In our Sunspider tests, which gauge Javascript performance in the browser), the One S did exceptionally well with a time of 1.8 seconds, outperforming the Nokia Lumia 900 (6.8 seconds), the Samsung Galaxy Note (3.1 seconds) and the HTC Rezound (2.7 seconds).

I also tested the One S using two different benchmarking apps. On Qualcomm's own Vellamo benchmarking app, the One S scored 2365, putting it ahead of the Samsung Galaxy Nexus, our top-ranking phone. On the third-party benchmarking app Quadrant, the HTC One S scored a 3451, again ahead of the Galaxy Nexus.

To test gaming performance, we used both the Egypt version and the Pro version of GLBenchmark 2.1. We ran the tests first with antialiasing on and later with antialiasing off, repeating both tests three times and averaging the results to produce four different scores, measured in frames per second. The HTC One S turned in average frame rates of 60 frames per second with antialiasing off and 59.6 fps with antialiasing on. By comparison, the Galaxy Nexus had average frame rates of 42.5 fps with antialiasing off and 23.4 fps with antialiasing on. In my hands-on tests of graphics-heavy games like Anomaly Warzone HD, World of Goo, and Osmos, the One S ran flawlessly. This is a superb gaming phone.

Call quality was hit-or-miss. One of my friends reported that my voice sounded "digital" while another said that I sounded very distant. A few of my friends noticed that my voice was "breaking up" a bit on a few calls. On my end of the line, my friends sounded okay, but I could hear some static in the background.

Ginny Mies

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HTC One S: Specs

  • GSM 850/900/1800/1900
  • HSDPA 850/900/2100
  • Super AMOLED capacitive touchscreen, 16M colors, 540x960 pixels, 4.3 inches (~256 ppi pixel density), Multitouch, Corning Gorilla Glass
  • Loudspeaker
  • 3.5mm jack
  • 16GB storage, 1GB RAM
  • GPRS
  • EDGE
  • HSDPA, HSUPA
  • Wi-Fi 802.11 b/g/n, DLNA, Wi-Fi hotspot
  • Bluetooth v4.0 with A2DP
  • microUSB (MHL) v2.0
  • 8Mp camera, 3264x2448 pixels, autofocus, LED flash, check quality
  • HD video and image recording
  • 1080p@30fps video
  • secondary VGA camera
  • Android OS, v4.0
  • Qualcomm MSM8260A Snapdragon, Dual-core 1.5GHz Krait
  • Adreno 225 GPU
  • HTML, Adobe Flash
  • Stereo FM radio with RDS
  • A-GPS support
  • Java MIDP emulator
  • Beats Audio
  • Active noise cancellation with dedicated mic
  • TV-out (via MHL A/V link)
  • SNS integration
  • P4/H.263/H.264/WMV player
  • MP3/eAAC+/WMA/WAV player
  • Standard battery, Li-Po 1650 mAh
  • 65x131x8mm
  • 120g
  • GSM 850/900/1800/1900
  • HSDPA 850/900/2100
  • Super AMOLED capacitive touchscreen, 16M colors, 540x960 pixels, 4.3 inches (~256 ppi pixel density), Multitouch, Corning Gorilla Glass
  • Loudspeaker
  • 3.5mm jack
  • 16GB storage, 1GB RAM
  • GPRS
  • EDGE
  • HSDPA, HSUPA
  • Wi-Fi 802.11 b/g/n, DLNA, Wi-Fi hotspot
  • Bluetooth v4.0 with A2DP
  • microUSB (MHL) v2.0
  • 8Mp camera, 3264x2448 pixels, autofocus, LED flash, check quality
  • HD video and image recording
  • 1080p@30fps video
  • secondary VGA camera
  • Android OS, v4.0
  • Qualcomm MSM8260A Snapdragon, Dual-core 1.5GHz Krait
  • Adreno 225 GPU
  • HTML, Adobe Flash
  • Stereo FM radio with RDS
  • A-GPS support
  • Java MIDP emulator
  • Beats Audio
  • Active noise cancellation with dedicated mic
  • TV-out (via MHL A/V link)
  • SNS integration
  • P4/H.263/H.264/WMV player
  • MP3/eAAC+/WMA/WAV player
  • Standard battery, Li-Po 1650 mAh
  • 65x131x8mm
  • 120g

OUR VERDICT

The HTC One S is an excellent mid-range smartphone option. It might not have the headline specifications of the One X but it outdoes it on performance and battery life. It does this in a more user friendly size, better build quality and a cheaper price tag.

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