Announced at the same time as HTC’s One X flagship Android phone, the smaller One S sits on the top tier of the current HTC line-up as a phone boasting a nice selection of attractive features such as 4.3-inch screen, super-fast dual core processor and the latest Android 4.0 operating system with Sense 4.0 user interface. It certainly ticks all the boxes for what most smartphone customers will be looking for in a new device, but is it just a trimmed-down younger brother to the One X, or does the One S hold it’s own?
Find the best deals on the o2 HTC One S
The unlocked / SIM-free handset will cost around £400 at the time of writing.
Phones in Category
The HTC One S joins a shortlist of Android handsets including:
- HTC Sensation XE
- Samsung Galaxy SII
- Sony Xperia S
The Good Stuff:
Looks and feels great
Built for Android 4.0
The Not-So-Good Stuff:
Battery – can’t be removed
Micro-SIM will be a pain for some users
No SD card slot
Settings not exactly intuitive for inexperienced users
Rather easy to mark the battery cover
In The Box
HTC One S handset
Quick Start Guide
Front Face: On the front face is the stylish 4.3-inch screen surrounded by the polycarbonate chassis, with the capacitive buttons for Back, Home and Recent Apps along the bottom. The front speaker and front-facing camera at the top on the front panel built in to the.
Top: Along the top of the One S is the main power button and 3.5mm headphone socket, which looks rather large in such a slim phone. The real panel at the top of the One S can be removed to reveal the Micro-SIM slot.
Left Side: The MicroUSB port in on the left side of the One S, about one third the way down from the top. The position of the port is really well thought out, just like the One X. It means you can comfortably hold and use the phone when the USB cable in plugged in.
Right Side: The volume rocker button is on the right side edge near the top. It’s a low-profile physical button made from the same polycarbonate material as the rest of the chassis and looks nice.
Bottom: Small opening for the microphone. The bottom edge feels really nice in the hand thanks to the smooth rounded edges.
Rear Face: The main camera lens with it’s funky looking metallic red bezel and single LED flash are found top-centre on the rear panel. The main audio speaker is behind a grille along the bottom edge.
Google Search, Maps, Gmail, YouTube, Calendar, Google Talk, Calculator, Car, Flashlight, HTC Friend Stream, News & Weather, Navigation, Messages, Email, Task Manager, Voice Recorder
The One S comes with a Super AMOLED capacitive touchscreen with the same 4.3-inch size as the Sensation and Sensation XE, and has the same 540×960 resolution with around 256 PPI (pixels per inch). With the display turned off, the screen looks very attractive with it’s black, glossy appearance. Turn on the screen and crank up the brightness and you’ll be rewarded with bright, vivid colours that, from a short distance, seem to project out of the screen. The AMOLED technology does mean that whites are ever-so-slightly ‘off-white’, especially when placed side by side with the LCD2 display on the One X, but standing alone there’s little to complain about. Closer inspection reveals some slight pixilation around the edge of curved text which is due to the relatively low (by One X standards) resolution. It wouldn’t win a side-by-side battle with the One X, but it’s certainly far from being a poor screen, as the users of the HTC Sensation and Samsung Galaxy SII will testify.
Android 4.0 & HTC Sense 4.0
HTC have deployed their Sense launcher interface on their Android handsets for a long time now; some love it and some hate it. The main criticism has been that Sense is too bloated – on a software code level there’s too much going on under the hood which can slow things down slightly and take some of the speed and slickness out of the whole process when compared to the stock Android OS underneath. With the launch of Android 4.0 (Ice Cream Sandwich, or ICS), Google made their OS slimmer, faster, more powerful and highly functional. The good news is that HTC have done a lot to build on these improvements when creating and implementing their latest launcher, Sense 4.0.
The new launcher comes complete with 7 homescreens that you can flick through by swiping left or right, with the default screen placed in the centre at position 4. Pinch any homescreen and a thumbnail preview of all 7 screens are displayed for fast access, which is useful because there’s no longer an option in the settings to allow the endless scrolling when you reach the last homescreen. Accessing the Personalize settings gives you a great selection of options for customisation of how the phone looks and sounds, from simply changing the wallpaper to adding a complete theme or skin, with the option to download more content from HTC.
Scrolling between the homescreens is fast and nicely animated, but occasionally there seems to be a very slight lag or ‘jitter’ when scrolling between homescreens or pages in the app list. You really wouldn’t notice it unless you used the One S side-by-side with something like the One X, which suffers no noticeable lag whatsoever, but it’s there. In real terms this is something of a non-problem.
The One S shares the same capacitive button layout as the One X, with the biggest change being the lack of a dedicated Search and Menu buttons. The Menu button in particular will cause a little confusion to most experienced Android users at first, as normally the Menu button works differently in context with what is on the screen at the time, and this new arrangement will take time to get used to. The features available via pressing the Menu button are still there, but are handled differently. On the homescreen, the Menu and Settings are found by pulling down the notification bar, and within apps you’ll now see a new icon (3 dots) somewhere on the screen that performs the Menu button action. The problem is that the new Menu icon could be positioned in a different place in each app you use, so it’s a bit less intuitive as the previous method.
The app list is accessed using the familiar button in the middle of the dock icons, and there are a few interesting changes on the One S. The app list now gives you three options for managing the applications on the device labelled as All, Frequent and Downloads, accessed via the three tabs at the bottom of the apps list screen. These options give the user a useful filter when locating apps rather than scrolling through the entire alphabetical app list. At the top of the apps list is the Search button, a direct shortcut to the Play Store, and the new contextual Menu button for managing, sorting and sharing your applications. However, for some strange reason HTC have decided to make the apps list scroll left to right instead of the familiar and intuitive up and down scrolling that’s used in the phone’s Settings menus and in just about every application on the Android platform. It’s a small change, but it can be a little annoying until you become familiar with it.
The main camera on the One S is very good. In terms of performance and speed, the 8MP snapper can be taken from standby to shooting in less than 2 seconds and almost immediately it’s ready to take the second shot. The quality of the shots is also impressive and indicates that HTC have given a fairly high priority to the camera features on their latest devices. This is a good stance to take considering that most users want to have the ability to take great photos spontaneously without having to carry a dedicated digital camera. Flash duties are handled by a single, super-bright LED and this managed to shed a reasonable amount of light around the environment to capture those low-light images, especially indoors.
The front facing camera is 1.3MP VGA and produces quite good results for video calling or those essential self portrait shots! Obviously the quality can’t match the main snapper but it’s fit for purpose and works well.
But there are a couple of negative points (no pun intended). The inclusion of an on-screen shutter button rather than a hardware button on the edge of the case is a shame, which can be a bit fiddly to operate at times. There’s also a flip side to the cameras ability to take super fast shots in that the auto-focus often didn’t have time to set itself up correctly, resulting in a blurred image. Blur was also occasionally present on shots involving movement. These issues are common to practically all digital cameras so it simply highlights the need to try to compose each shot as good as you can to get the best results. A fast snap isn’t always a good quality snap.
Here’s a sample gallery taken using the One S showing the range of filters included within the HTC ImageSense camera software as standard. The first photo has no filter, and then the pics had the filter applied to the shot before each photo was taken.
Photographs below were taken in bright / slightly overcast conditions with the primary camera in the default settings with no effects or filters applied:
The One S shares the same easy-to-navigate on screen menu system, giving you quick access to the most commonly required features and settings within one or two taps of the screen. Features such as the flash mode, filters and shooting mode are instantly available, while a comprehensive range of set-up options are available a little deeper inside the menus.
One of the nicest shooting modes is Panorama (see below) which provides on-screen directions for moving the camera around a fixed point and the One S takes a series of 5 separate photos and combines them together into a single shot. Click the photo to see the original image.
The camera quality extends to the One S’s video capabilities too. The phone can be made ready for shooting very quickly – as fast as the still camera in fact – because they both share the same main camera screen. You simply choose camera or video before you take the shot. Most users will be more than happy with the 720p HD default option for video shoots, if for no other reason than to keep the saved file size to a minimum! But 1080p Full HD is also included, and both options produced rather nice footage. Image stabilisation was good rather than great and the final quality is quite dependant on the user holding the One S steady as much as possible.
The following video was shot in 720p using the default camera settings, in the same bright / overcast conditions as the still photos above:
As mentioned earlier, HTC have done a good job of improving the camera and camera software to meet the needs of today’s snap-happy smartphone users, and the same kind of philosophy seems to have carried over to the audio preparation on the One S.
My Phone takes you to the familiar music player app that contains all the music and audio files on your device, with easy to use controls for playback and navigating through your collection. The 7digital online music store lets you purchase and download new content directly to your phone, while TuneIn Radio gives you access to internet radio and podcast streams. Finally, there’s the SoundHound app which will be familiar to many users already. This app ‘listens’ to any music track you’re listening too – either on the phone itself of from any external source via the microphone – and grabs information about that track from the interwebs. It works really well too, rarely failing to identify things.
The on-board speaker is better than most and, although the sound isn’t very weighty due to the small size, it manages to do a fine job when playing soundtracks from media content such as YouTube videos and gaming effects.
Plug in a set of decent ear buds, however, and things improve significantly. The One S comes with HTC’s now familiar Beats Audio preparation and the overall playback quality through the 3.5mm jack is rather pleasing, whether it’s with a set of £50 Beats Audio buds or a budget £20 set. The HTC branded headset included in the box does an OK job, but they’re uncomfortable to wear for long periods and even a budget third-party headset of the –in-the-ear variety will usually result in improvements.
Unfortunately, there’s also a downside: the storage on the One S simply isn’t good enough for a top-end smartphone where the audio preparation has been implemented so well. Of the 16GB-or-so total storage available to the user, only about 10GB seems to be available for user content (apps excluded), which is too small for many users. And the problem is intensified by the lack of a MicroSD card slot, so there’s nothing that can be done at any price to increase the available storage.
You would expect a modern smartphone with a great screen, 1GB of RAM and a 1.5mhz dual-core processor to be more than capable of meeting the needs of the gaming users, and the One S does a fine job. It handled the fast paced mayhem that is Temple Run with no problems at all, and the presentation of graphically stunning yet less GPU stressing games like Angry Birds in the way you’d expect from a handset of this calibre.
Pictures appear crisp and sharp on the screen, and at 4.3-inches there’s enough on-screen real-estate to use the touch controls without covering up too many vital details. The accompanying audio was also well presented thanks to the good quality speaker.
The 1650mAh power cell performed rather well, and did a reasonable job of keeping all the main phone features chugging away for most of the day without needing a top up. Obviously, using the One S for video streaming or gaming had the inevitable effect of draining the battery faster, but under what would be considered ‘normal’ use conditions for a modern smartphone it was quite easy to last all day on a full charge and only plug in when it’s time for bed. Continue with the regular charging arrangements that smartphone users will already have in place and you won’t have any problems at all.
There’s a good case for not doing benchmark tests these days. If the phone does everything you want it do do, and it does it well, who cares? I doubt many users will purchase Handset A over Handset B simply because handset A has a better benchmark score, but here at Land of Droid we aim to please all our readers so, in the interests of completeness, here’s the AnTuTu scores for the HTC One S:
I carried out 5 tests in total, with the final 3 scores within +/- 40 points of the score in the above screen grabs.
Hints & Tips
The first thing you should seriously consider doing is getting a slim gel case to protect the One S. While it looks and feels excellent in it’s naked form, the rear cover seems susceptible to greasy finger prints and accidental marks from coins, keys and some hard surfaces. Keep it looking perfect, protect your handset.
There’s certainly a lot of good things to be said about the HTC One S. When it was announced at the HTC Event alongside the One X, it was tempting to think of this phone as a One X with ‘less’, for the more cost-conscious consumers. After spending time using the One S for my usual daily smartphone tasks, I’m happy to say that those initial thoughts were wrong.
The One S stands it’s ground as a top end handset and, regardless of what the spec sheets say in direct comparison to the One X, it’s hard to find any part of this phone where corners of been cut. It’s got a smaller screen, but the screen is excellent. Is has a dual-core CPU rather than a quad-core, but the CPU is excellent. It looks well, feels great to hold, and does everything you could possibly ask of it via the latest Android OS.
However, when I say it’s hard to find where corners appear to have been cut, it’s not impossible. The key issue is that woefully small internal storage for media content and lack of SD card support. For a large number of users that won’t present a problem, but for many more people it simply prevents them from using their One S as the fully-featured multi-media device they’ve been longing for. Don’t misunderstand what I’m saying – the internal storage works really well in terms of handset performance, but what storage is there just isn’t enough.
The lasting impression I have after using the One S is that it will suit some people more than the One X. Screen size, for example, governs the overall handset size, and many users (myself included) will find the narrower body of the One S a better fit in the hand, especially during one-handed operation. Screen type (AMOLED vs LCD2) is also somewhat of a meaningless spec-sheet factor in real world use cases – both the One X and One S have gorgeous screens and only a side by side direct comparison with highlight the differences. Take either handset on it’s own and they are both highly impressive.
So, should you get the One S or the One X? If you have to have the biggest and highest spec Android phone available today then the One X is probably for you. However, if you prefer the look and feel and price of the One S then get it, and smile. You’re certainly not settling for second best.
HTC One S Specifications
Our HTC One X was kindly provided by O2 UK
2G Network: GSM 850 / 900 / 1800 / 1900
3G Network: HSDPA 850 / 900 / 2100
SIM Type: MicroSIM
Dimensions: 130.9 x 65 x 7.8 mm
Weight: 119.5 g
Screen Type: Super AMOLED capacitive touchscreen, 16M colours, Multi-touch
Screen Size: 540 x 960 pixels, 4.3 inches (Approx. 256 PPI pixel density)
Screen Protection: Corning Gorilla Glass
Alert types: Vibration, MP3, WAV ringtones
Audio Output: Loudspeaker, 3.5mm jack, Beats Audio
SD Card Slot: No
RAM Memory: 1GB
Total Internal Storage: 16 GB (of which 2GB for apps, 10GB for user media)
Mobile Data: GPRS, EDGE, HSDPA, HSUPA
WLAN: Wi-Fi 802.11 b/g/n, DLNA, Wi-Fi hotspot
Bluetooth: v4.0 with A2DP
USB Connectivity: microUSB (MHL) v2.0
Primary Camera: 8MP, 3264×2448 pixels, autofocus, LED flash
Primary Camera Features: Simultaneous HD video and image recording, geo-tagging, face and smile detection
Video: 1080p@30fps, stereo sound rec., video stabilization
Secondary Camera: 1.3MP VGA front facing
Operating System: Android v4.0 (Ice Cream Sandwich)
Chipset: Qualcomm MSM8260A Snapdragon
CPU: Dual-core 1.5 GHz Krait
GPU: Adreno 225
Sensors: Accelerometer, gyro, proximity, compass
Messaging: SMS (threaded view), MMS, Email, Push Email
Browser: HTML, Adobe Flash support
Radio: Stereo FM radio with RDS
GPS: Yes, with A-GPS support
Java: Yes, via Java MIDP emulator
Battery: Standard battery, Li-Po 1650mAh, non-removable
- Active noise cancellation with dedicated mic
- TV-out (via MHL A/V link)
- SNS integration
- MP4/H.263/H.264/WMV player
- MP3/eAAC+/WMA/WAV player
- Document viewer
- Voice memo/dial
- Predictive text input