HTC One S User Review

Firstly, massive thanks to a very lovely woman, Hwei and HTC Malaysia who hooked a gadget geek (and HTC fangirl) up with this review unit.

 

If you follow me on Twitter, you’d know that I got the HTC One S more than a week ago to play with. It’s been a little over a week now and I’m happy to share with you my User Review and thoughts on this gorgeous 4.3″ HTC Android smartphone.

Since HTC unveiled the HTC One series, all eyes were on HTC One X because it was their flagship phone. However, the younger brother of this flagship phone was revealed not long after as the HTC One S. Don’t be fooled, this is no low end phone. In fact, if not for the super impressive specs of the HTC One X, this HTC One S can be very worthy of being a great mid to high end phone.

Let’s look at the highlights of the features of HTC One S:-

  • HTC’s thinnest phone yet – measuring a mere 7.8mm
  • Unique patent pending (plasma-heated micro arc oxidation process) alloy unibody design
  • 4.3″ AMOLED screen – better than the HTC One X
  • HTC One S is a 1.7Ghz dual-core processor, vs HTC One X has a 1.5 GHz quad-core processor (no biggie really, if you’re not that picky about specs)
  • Impressive 8 megapixel camera, with HTC’s very own ImageChip and a f/2.0 autofocus

Also, read about my post on the launch of HTC One S in Malaysia here.

As with all HTC phones recently, their box packaging is made of a recyclable material, held together by hologram stickers and a paper band with the HTC branding.

Inside he box, you’ll find the gorgeous HTC One S, user manuals and the usual suspects. It comes with a charging adapter (3 pin for Malaysia) as well as a micro USB charge / sync cable. Of course, the standard HTC earphones are present. Remember, HTC Malaysia are having their promotions that will allow you to purchase the HTC One S bundled with Beats headphones.

 

Hardware Overview

Here’s a quick overview (once again) of the HTC One X specifications:-

  • 4.3″ qHD Super AMOLED display
  • 1.7 GHz dual core Snapdragon processor
  • 16 GB internal memory (with FREE 25GB Dropbox storage for 2 years)
  • Available in Gradient Metal colour
  • Powered by Android OS 4.0 Ice Cream Sandwich (with HTC Sense 4)
  • 8 megapixel rear camera, 1.3 megapixel front facing camera
  • 7.8 mm thin (the thinnest HTC phone yet), weighing only 119.5 grams
  • Li-Ion 1,650 mAh battery
  • Free 25GB Dropbox cloud storage (2 years)
For more information on the features and full specifications, check out HTC website at http://www.htc.com/sea/smartphones/htc-one-s/

4.3″ screen is the perfect size that fits in your hands. Similar to the Samsung Galaxy S II (read my review here), this screen size is neither too big nor too small. Just right. But with more and more Android phones getting bigger and bigger everyday, it’s great to know that the HTC One S fits into this screen size category.

At the front, it’s a vivid 4.3″ AMOLED capacitive screen. It’s really great that HTC used an AMOLED screen here (versus a Super IPS LCD2 on the HTC One X). More on the screen difference later in the post.

At the back of the device, you’ll get to feel the matte backing of the phone that is neither slippery nor fingerprint magnet.

The build quality of the HTC One S is simply stunning. It feels so solid and good in your hands. Much like its older brother, HTC has continued to maintain its positioning of building great, solid phones. The unibody aluminium design means that the battery is non-removable.

The phone is rather minimal with it’s ports and buttons as well. At the top of the phone, you’ll see the power button along with a 3.5mm headphone jack. On the right, you’ll find the volume rocker. On the left is the micro USB charging / syncing port.

You flip off the top of the back panel (near the camera) to reveal the slots for your micro SIM slot. Yeah – time for everyone to cut their SIM or get a new micro SIM now.

Unfortunately though, there is no expandable microSD card slot on this phone. You’re kinda stuck with the on board 16GB storage, but it’s not that big a deal. Because HTC has included 25GB of Dropbox cloud storage for FREE for 2 years with this phone.

The front of the phone has only 3 touch sensitive capacitive soft buttons – for “Back”, “Home” and “Multi-tasking” only. This is rather in line with all the new Android OS 4.0 “Ice Cream Sandwich” phones today, although Google prefer no soft buttons at all, because they want to start pushing users (and developers) to start using on-screen menu functions.

Front facing camera for video call is set at 1.3 megapixel, which is decent. But the real juicy deal is the rear camera which is a nice 8 megapixel shooter with autofocus and LED flash light. HTC boasts its superior technology enhancements to its HTC One series phones and it’s present with this phone as well. More on the camera later in this post.

There is a matte blue ring lining the lens of the rear camera. This gives the phone a little nice trimming and character. But I can’t stop wondering if HTC Malaysia will bring the Gradient Black version that comes with the red ring instead. 🙁

 

Comparison with HTC One X

If you’ve not read my review on the HTC One X, you should read it now here at http://winniekepala.com/2012/06/htc-one-x-user-review/ because there are a lot of similarities with this HTC One S.

Because I am personally using the HTC One X as my primary phone, I couldn’t resist doing a hardware comparison of these 2 phones.

HTC One X (left and bottom) vs HTC One S (right and top)

HTC One X is a 4.7″ smartphone, while the HTC One S is only 4.3″. But looking at this side by side comparison. it really isn’t that obvious a difference. The former is just a tad bigger in size, but yet still feel comfortable in your hand.

Both phones have a curved body design when you look at it from the side profile. Although HTC One S is supposedly the thinnest HTC phone yet, you really don’t see a lot of difference in real life and don’t feel it so much in your hands, too.

HTC One X Super IPS LCD2 vs HTC One S AMOLED screen

At the image above, both phones are set to maximum brightness. This is where the biggest difference to the screen is more obvious. You might not be able to tell from this picture, but in person, you’d definitely notice that the AMOLED screen on the HTC One S is way brighter and more vivid than the HTC One X. And this is just from navigating on the phone…

When viewing videos and pictures, this becomes a lot more apparent. AMOLED screen somehow looks way better than the LCD2 screen where images are sharper and more beautiful.

AMOLED FTW?!

(L-R) HTC One X, HTC One S, iPhone 4

Because my hubby is still using the (ancient) Apple iPhone 4, I took the opportunity to snap this picture for size comparison.

As I mentioned before, with more and more Android smartphones coming out these days with much bigger screen size, the iPhone seems so teeny and toy-like. Good thing that there will be a refreshed version coming from Apple soon, huh?

 

Software Overview

HTC One S runs on HTC Sense 4 UI, which is its proprietary skin / theme on top of Android 4.0 “Ice Cream Sandwich” OS. It is still a rather updated version, eventhough Google only just announced Android 4.1 “Jelly Bean” OS not too long ago. Bear in mind, “Jelly Bean” OS is only currently available in Google’s own branded devices such as Nexus 7 tablet and Galaxy Nexus developer phone.

Anyways, back to the software on the HTC One S – it’s exactly the same as the HTC One X. Again, read the review of the HTC One X here so I don’t have to repeat myself.

  

After setting up your phone with the usual login and connections setup, you’ll be prompted to setup your Dropbox login as well. This is one area that I have to commend HTC for offering FREE 25GB Dropbox cloud storage with every phone. Schweet!!!

  

The “Get Started” guide immediately pops up after setup to help those who have either never used an Android phone before, or perhaps never used HTC Sense UI before, to get used to the interface and learn to navigate on the phone. This is a nice touch.

Of course, after setting up your Google account, clicking on “Android Market” will update the app into the new “Google Play” rebranded marketplace. Once done, all your apps from previous Android phones will download and sync automatically. Of course, you can always choose to stop any of these installation and/or download those that are not on auto-install.

Ahh… the beauty of Android OS, they really remember you and your usage behaviour. Me likey!

For the sake of this review, I resisted the urge to download and switch immediately to my go-to keyboard of choice, SwiftKey 3. I spent the last week using the stock HTC keyboard to be able to provide an honest feedback for this review.

Honestly, I used to love the HTC on screen keyboard. It’s one of my favourite stock keyboards, even better and more accurate than the Android stock keyboard. Until I found SwiftKey, I never looked back. So, for me to go back to using the HTC keyboard again was a real challenge for me. After a week, I got really frustrated.

Don’t get me wrong, the accuracy of the text prediction is good. It’s never caused (much) embarassing auto-corrects in my use. My gripe with the HTC keyboard is the small space bar and the cursor buttons underneath the keyboard (which I can’t figure out what it’s for?).

The tiny space bar has caused me much error in two thumb typing. Many a times, I accidentally hit “b” or “v” when I meant to hit the space bar. With my type of speed typing, I constantly have to go back to correct this multiple times. It could be personal preference, but why isn’t every Android user using SwiftKey keyboard is beyond me.

 

Camera

Exactly like the HTC One X, the HTC One S comes with an 8 megapixel read camera with a 1.3 megapixel front camera. The tehcnology enhancements HTC has done to boost the camera have been amazing, in my usage of both these HTC One series phone.

It’s not exactly zero shutter lag (meaning 0 seconds from when you press the shutter button to when the image is taken), but it’s f/2.0 aperture capability, it capture images in 0.7 seconds with a 0.2 seconds autofocus. As per its older brother, you can capture video and photo simultaneously, along with burst shot of up to 60 shots concurrently. Impressive!

Here are some sample shots from the HTC One S. Click on the image to see enlarged quality.

Indoor daytime with my doggie as my model (again)

First picture I took from the HTC One S, which I subsequently shared on Facebook and Twitter as well. Here’s the original which you can view an enlarged version. Details are good, you can see the fine hair of my doggie perfectly.

Sample shot using flash in the car at night

Nevermind the fact that I look horrific in the picture above (my tired face, no makeup, giant pimple on my chin)… but note that the flash is not too harsh.

Indoor night (no flash)

Indoor shots at night, without flash, is not too bad. For the occasional food porn pictures I take, this camera is quite good.

 

Battery Life

HTC One S comes with a 1,650 mAh battery, while the big brother HTC One X has a 1,800 mAh battery. This is not super impressive like Samsung Galaxy S III‘s  2,100 mAh battery (which is coincidentally the best on a smartphone I have seen to date).

Nevertheless, HTC One S’s battery life is decent. Although I have not been using this phone too heavily during this review period, the phone has managed to last me a full day, without breaking a sweat. In the last week, I check my mails occasionally, tweet a couple of times a day, make a handful of calls and barely took much pictures.

With this light to moderate usage, here’s how the battery have been treating me.

   

Previously, I noted that…

SGS3 can last me more than 18 hours with 15%+ battery life left with its 2,100mAh battery. HTC One X, with its 1,800mAh battery can last me about 16 hours with 15% battery life left at the end of the day.

With the HTC One S, the battery can easily last me 15 hours or more with 15%+ battery life left at the end of the day.

 

Pricing and Availability

As previously noted in the HTC One S launch blogpost here, HTC One S will be on sale at the Recommended Retail Price (RRP) of RM 1,838 at all authorised reseller and along with mobile operators’ bundled plans.

 

Should You Buy It?

To set the expectation, this is not a flagship Android smartphone like HTC One X or Samsung Galaxy S III. So, if you’re looking for a powerful Android phone, then those are your two bets.

If you’re looking for a decent Android smartphone below the flagship level, at a mid range level, you should definitely look at this HTC One S. It is a very impressive phone indeed. Forget about having quad core processors or super gigantic phones, this HTC One S is one you should look at.

I’ve always loved the build quality of HTC phones and this time, HTC didn’t disappoint again. This smartphone feels lovely in your hands and the alloy unibody design feels premium.

This HTC One S is no way a lesser brother to the HTC One X. Its specs and performance is very capable of standing strong in the market of Android phones today. In fact, it can very well be a semi-flagship phone with it’s impressive spec and perfectly pocketable and comfortable 4.3″ size and super thin and light body and great camera.

So, if you can’t, don’t want to or don’t need to splurge on an expensive quad-core flagship phone, you should definitely look at this HTC One S. In my opinion, it’s a “BUY”.

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