HTC One S Review

We’ve already reviewed HTC’s flagship handset the HTC One, and while it’s an amazing phone, it’s probably too big and too powerful for your average smartphone user.

Today we’ve got our hands on their middle-of-the-road handset, which is likely to be HTC’s most popular handset of 2012. Its got a sensible 4.3-inch screen, very capable camera and comes with Beats Audio. While it’s not going to worry any quad-core handsets out there, it will run rings around almost every Android handset from last year and quite a few from this year too. Each of HTC’s new handsets for 2012 has been given a particular focus. The One X is all about power, touting a quad-core processor. The One S is more focused on its camera and sound. By giving each handset a focus it should allow consumers to choose a handset that most suits their needs.


The HTC One S may well be a middle of the range handset for HTC, but that doesn’t mean it’s a slouch in the tech specs department. It comes with a snappy dual-core processor, 16GB of on-board memory (although, can’t be supplemented with SD cards for more memory), 8-megapixel camera, capable of shooting 1080p video (the same camera you’ll find in the One X) and a 4.3-inch Super AMOLED touchscreen, with a resolution of 540×960 (256 pixel density). The only real difference between the One S and X is size, obviously, and the quality of the screen and the processor.

Looks and build quality

The most striking thing about the new line of HTC’s is that they are all now uni-body designs. What this means is the battery can’t be removed, this means that build quality is far better than previous HTC’s – but there are some drawbacks; you can’t replace or remove the battery – for some this will be unforgivable. The other downside is with this new design is HTC have decided to do away with SD-card support – again – for many this will be unforgivable. It’s not much of a problem for the One X as it comes in a three storage sizes, unfortunately the One S only comes with the option of 16Gb of storage. So, if you carry a load of music on your handset and like the odd app or two, the One S might just be too small for your needs.

Looks-wise the One S is a continuation from the styling of the Sensation. It is the thinnest handset HTC has ever made, measuring just 7.8mm, and when you hold it in your hand you get the feeling it’s the toughest, most rigid handset HTC has produced. Style-wise the handset it finished in the rather bleak, matte black plastic. The only splash of colour comes from the red ring around the camera, but other than that’s it’s a bit disappointing. It might feel like plastic, but the body of the handset is made from aluminium with a micro oxidation finish to give it ceramic feel rather than a metal one – but in the end it looks and feels like plastic.  The back panel is non-removeable, aside from a small section at the top for the micro SIM, so it’s less creaky than most Android handsets – which is something we’ve been wanting for a while now, take note Samsung.


The One S is one of the first handsets from HTC to be designed for Android 4.0 from the ground up, and from early impressions nothing has really changed from last year’s handsets. It’s still the same Sense UI you’ll be accustomed too, but its been simplified in many areas after HTC conceded that Sense had become a bit too complicated over recent years.

There are a multitude of customisable home screens, which can be populated with apps, widgets and wallpapers. Any ideas that Ice Cream Sandwich was going to revolutionise Android has been misplaced. It’s almost as if Google is intent on doing the complete opposite to Apple. Apple is a famed for simple, intuitive ease of use. Android is all about customisation, customisation, customisation. It’s not a bad plan, but when you make the jump from iOS to Android, you need to be aware you’re making the move from a simple life to a slightly annoying and convoluted one.


The screen on the One S is an impressive one, it measures 4.3-inches and uses the same AMOLED screen tech that you’ll find on the Samsung S2. It’s bright, but when compared to the iPhone 4S the whites just aren’t clean or as bright. From our trained eye you can see the honeycomb texture of the screen when it’s on and it just doesn’t come close to its Apple or Samsung counterparts. The resolution is on the lower end of the spectrum, especially for the price. It has resolution of 540 x 960 gives it a pixel density of 256ppi. It’s not class-leading by any means – the Sony Xperia S has 342ppi, the iPhone 4S 326ppi and the HTC One X 312ppi – but it’s reasonably impressive all the same.


The HTC One S comes with an admirable dual-core processor that pushes the handset along at a fair old lick, it’s obviously not as snappy as the One X, but you’d be hard pressed to actually notice the speed difference, both handsets run Android ICS like a dream. Its dual-core CPU, dedicated graphics processing and 1GB RAM mean you can skip between apps without any annoying lag, and apps run butter smooth.

When compared to any Android handsets from 2011, the One S beats them all hands down on our benchmarking tests – beating the likes of the Galaxy Nexus, S2 and even Galaxy Note. The camera is its finest glory, mainly because it’s the same snapper you’ll find in its top of the range handset the One X. Shutter lag is almost none existent and the when the photos and, especially, videos are outputted to a decent TV – you’ll definitely see the benefits. As with all camera phones it doesn’t perform all that well in low-light conditions – but ultimately it’s a triumph, especially considering how thin the handset is.  The One S features a sealed battery, so you won’t be able to change it yourself, but thankfully it’s a decent 1650mAh power plant that’ll last at least a working day with heavy use.


The HTC One S is a great phone. For the money you’re getting a powerful, yet incredibly thin, handset that comes with Ice Cream Sandwich out the box (ahem, take note Sony) – throw in a very good camera, very solid build quality and music-enhancing Beats Audio technology  and you’ve got a recipe for a great handset. It’s not without its faults, though. But if you can live with the storage and inaccessible battery you can’t go wrong with One S for you’re next Android handset.


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