HTC One S Review
HTC One S vs One X
The HTC One S is one of the many handsets from HTC’s One series, a range of smartphones announced in the second quarter of this year. The key feature that the Taiwanese manufacturers are plugging is the ultra-thinness of the phone’s design, which is HTC’s thinnest handset yet.
But how does the One S measure up against more recently released models such as the One X or One V? And will HTC’s attempt to close up the ever expanding gap between themselves and Samsung pay off?
At first glance, the HTC One S has a really sleek look, mainly as a result of its ultra-thin dimensions at only 7.8mm. Compared to other supposedly thin smartphones, the One S makes other models look bulky and cumbersome.
The handset’s 4.3 inch screen is one feature that sets the One S apart from the One X, which sports a 4.7 inch display. The One S also sits slightly larger than other current handsets such as the Samsung Galaxy S3 Mini and the iPhone 5, whose 4 inch screens look remarkably smaller than the One S’.
The model also feels really light, and sits easily into the palm of your hand. Despite the One S actually measuring in at 8g heavier than the Samsung Galaxy Mini, it feels remarkably lighter, most probably due to the thinness of the handset.
The steely grey casing adds to the phone’s smooth look, and the back case doesn’t feel flimsy or plasticy. However, one downside of this HTC model compared to other smartphone brands is that the back case is not removable, which ultimately means that you cannot change the battery, or extend the phone’s memory by adding an SD card.
While the overall design of the One S looks sleek, the corners of the handset are not quite as rounded as on other handsets such as Samsung Galaxy models, and I can foresee the corners becoming chipped or scratched easily. Also, the thinness of the One S means that the camera les protrudes slightly, which can catch when putting the phone in and out of your pocket, which isn’t a major design flaw, but can be a little irritating.
Phone Set Up
HTC has made the One S ultra-fast with a quad-core 1.5 GHz processor, which is remarkably higher than most smartphones of a comparable size. For instance, the iPhone 5 runs at 1.2 GHz, whilst the Samsung Galaxy S3 uses a 1.4GHz processer.
Whilst the model does not use the most up-to-date OS (it is pre-installed with Ice Cream Sandwich), it is upgradable to Jelly Bean. This is a slight downfall of HTC’s One series, as most Android phones are being released with the latest version of Google’s OS already installed. That said, the One S’s capability to upgrade deems this as only a minor disappointment.
The phone sports a 16GB memory and 1GB of RAM, which is half of that included in the later One X model and the same as featured in both the Samsung Galaxy S3 and Mini models. One main problem here, however, is the fact that the One S is not fitted with an SD card slot, meaning that more memory cannot be added to the phone. It would seem that manufacturers resolved this issue in the One X by including a 32GB memory, though, saying that, the availability of Dropbox pre-installed on the handset does allow the user to upload all items straight to their computer.
The One S, like the One X, uses HTC’s Beats Audio application to play all audio on the phone. As a result, the sound quality is very good, with and without headphones. The volume range is quite extensive, and setting the sound to half volume when listening to music with headphones makes for comfortable listening.
The phone comes with a very sensitive voice recognition system, which picks up instructions accurately. Whether you’re using this feature when in Car Mode, or just because you can’t be bothered to find an application manually, the voice recognition is of an overall good quality.
The impeccable visual quality of the One S is a feature which HTC boasts about, and rightly so. I was really impressed with the quality of the 540 x 960 pixel display, which transmitted a very clear image which was not pixelated, even when displaying flashing lights. The visual quality of this model makes the One S stand out from other smartphones, such as the Samsung Galaxy S3 Mini which only sports a 480 x 800 pixel display in comparison.
The option to choose from live wallpapers is another feature which allows you to really appreciate the excellent visual quality of the the HTC One S.
The Car mode app is a feature which I really liked, and features on all HTC One series handsets. On selecting the app, the display automatically turns horizontal, allowing you to use your phone in the same way as you might use a sat-nav when driving.
You can choose from using the Phone, Music, Google Maps Navigation or Internet Radio applications which are displayed in a large format around a regularly updated weather map and the current time. This makes the app really easy, and more importantly, safe to use whilst driving.
The user can make use of the phone’s voice recognition by speaking a destination into the navigation application rather than typing it, which is where the Car Mode app stands out from many sat-navs, where you often have to pull over to key in details of your journey in a safe manner.
The only pitfall of the One S here in comparison to the One X is the former’s slightly smaller screen which would make the icons that bit more difficult to see when sat at a short distance from the phone. That said, the visual quality of the One S’ display is of a much higher standard than most sat-navs around, meaning that this problem wouldn’t really be a major issue.
As well as featuring Google’s Navigation app, the HTC One S also comes with the Locations app, which is great for finding your way when you are walking around a new area. The app allows you to view places to eat and drink, shops, transport links, banks, medical centres, hotels, car parks, fuel stations and museums that are in close proximity to where you are located using the Nearby option. I found that this feature worked well, and the GPS positioned my exact location very accurately.
This app stood out from other maps services such as Google Maps, as the Locations app displayed the map in a 3D format, making it easier to gauge your position when locating a particular destination.
The One S features a Music app, pre-installed on the handset, which groups together all of the separate music applications that the phone offers into one app. For instance, the folder includes the Music Shop, which allows you to purchase new tracks for as little as 40p each; a My Phone icon, which lists all of the music installed on the phone itself; Tuneln Radio, which access both local and national radio stations; and also SoundHound.
SoundHound is an app which provides song recognition for all of those times when you want to find out exactly who sings a certain song that you keep hearing on the radio, for example. The app also displays an up-to-date ‘what’s hot’ list, which is perfect for discovering the most popular tunes around.
The One S manages the home screens much like any other Android. The main dock that appears on unlocking the phone includes the phone, email, message, app and camera icons, though this combination can be changed by holding down and dragging the icon elsewhere.
There are 7 home screens which the user can use to place their favourite apps and widgets, which is again pretty standard for most Androids today. However, what makes the HTC model stand out from Samsung or Apple phones is the permanent buttons located at the bottom of the handset, which allow you to view all home screens in one go, eliminating the need to scroll through all 7 to reach the screen you require. The other permanent button featured on the One S also allows you to scroll through your recently opened apps, making movement between applications even quicker and easier.
Not only does the One S give the user the option of altering the appearance of the home screens to various themes or photographs, but it also lets you change the lock screen in accordance with your personal preferences. For instance, your lock screen can display your most used contacts, the latest stocks and share figures, a friend stream (updated from social networks) , or all of your email and message updates at a glance. Although you can only choose one of these options to display on your lock screen at once, this feature reminds me of the live tiles that appear on the new Windows Phone, as they are dynamic and update in real time.
Although no games are pre-installed on the HTC One S, it is very easy to download games from a wide selection in either the Google Play Store or HTC Hub.
When experimenting with the phone, the One S really did provide a pleasurable gaming experience. The excellent quality of the visual display made the games easier and more exciting to play, especially because of the sensitivity of its super AMOLED touch screen.
Camera & Video
Considering the phone’s relatively average size for a smartphone, its 8 MP camera is a nice surprise. Similar sized models such as the Samsung Galaxy S3 Mini and iPhone 4 sport only a 5 MP camera, which makes the One S stand out in its field, rendering it more comparable with much more expensive models such as the iPhone 5 or Samsung Galaxy S3.
Taking less than a second to take photographs from start-up and about a second in between shots, I found the camera really easy and comfortable to use. The front camera is also referred to on the home screen as a Mirror app, which I particularly like (after all, what else do you use a front camera for?).
When I took the camera out for a test-drive, I found it really simple to take photos that emerged really sharp and clear. This is partly due to the phone’s 8 MP and also because of the 256 ppi pixel density. Although this is inferior to the One X’s 312 ppi, the One S still produces clear and defined images.
The camera feature on the One S also offers a larger variety of pre-production effects than usual, including aqua, posterize, solarize, negative, sepia, grayscale, vintage cold and warm, vintage, country, mono, dots, depth of field, vignette and distortion effects.
Further to these options, you can select the picture setting that most closely fits your circumstance; from HDR, panoramic, portrait, group portrait (which captures all smiles and no blinking), to landscape, whiteboard, close up and low light. Furthermore, as expected from most up-to-date smartphone a camera, the One S also includes an auto smile capture feature and face detection.
In terms of post-production options, the phone allows you to conduct the basic editing tools such as cropping and rotating. With a Share icon appearing on the screen once you have taken a photo, it couldn’t be simpler to send or post your images on social network sites or via message or email.
The zoom included in the One S camera is really easy to use and is activated by sliding your finger across a bar located at the bottom of the screen. When zoomed to full capacity, the images were very crisp and not pixelated at all.
The video camera in the One S offers HD recording and 1080p at 30fps, which is slightly better than the One X’s 1080p at 24fps.
There is also a video stabilisation feature which helps to eliminate any shaky motions which are inevitable when moving whilst recording. Like many other smartphones, including Samsung, the camera has the ability to take still shots at the same time as recording a video, which means that the One S isn’t failing to provide the camera features that smartphone users have come to expect.
When left idle, the HTC One S had a battery life of around 4 days, which is fairly standard with most smartphones. However, it isn’t often that you leave a smartphone with as many features as the One S has idle for long.
When I used the phone regularly, I found that the battery still didn’t drain too quickly, like many other smartphones do, and that I could go without charging the battery for just over 60 hours.