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.
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.
NEXT PAGE: Original PCWorld review >>