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HTC One S review

We review the HTC One S, the ultra-thin and stylish new Android phone.

HTC’s One series may be dominated by the quad-core possessing One X, but another handset, the One S became available at the same time. The One S may be smaller and lack the One X’s leading edge processor, but that doesn’t mean it is without merit. Far from it, in fact.

The HTC One S is available for £420 SIM free and also on higher rate deals on contract. Its price marks it out as towards the higher end, and so do its specifications.

The processor, for example, is a Qualcomm 1.5GHz dual core offering, which is not to be sniffed at, and it is helped out by 1GB of RAM. There’s an 8 megapixel camera with flash which can capture a still while you are shooting a video – a rather neat trick.

The HTC One S has 16GB of on board memory. It is irritating that you can’t add more storage via microSD card, but 16GB is a pretty healthy allocation and you also get 25GB of online storage at Dropbox free for two years.

You can even configure automatic upload of photos and videos you shoot, so we aren’t all that worried about the lack of a microSD card slot in this instance.

Probably the outstanding feature of the HTC One S in terms of specifications is that it runs Android 4.0 – Ice Cream Sandwich, and of course the very latest HTC Sense software too. HTC Sense 4 is a slightly less blingy version of the Android skin than its predecessor, but it does have some neat touches.

We like the customizable shortcuts bar that sits along the bottom of all seven home screens for example. And HTC adds a range of widgets to Android, now visible as thumbnails before you select them, making it easier to pick out precisely what you want.

In keeping with its leading edge credentials, the HTC One sports a microSIM card slot. The slot is under a small cover on the back top edge of the chassis. This cover doesn’t provide access to the battery, which for some people will be a real nuisance.

We’ve been known to have to power a handset down by removing its battery – holding down the power button for 10 seconds now performs the equivalent function.

Physically this is a large handset. It has to be in order to accommodate its screen, which at 4.3 inches is big enough to render web pages, video and other visually rich media really nicely. Its 540 x 960 pixel resolution of course helps in this respect, and colours are rich and vibrant, although it does not compare to either the quality or clarity than you’ll find in the One S.

The HTC One S is perhaps a little taller than we’d like at 130.9mm – there seems to be a bit more chassis above the screen than we’re entirely happy with. It’s not significantly smaller than the One X, and that fits a much larger display into the space.

But it is extremely thin at just 7.8mm, and it does feel great in the hand. Smaller hands like ours will fail to reach all the way across the screen one-handed, though, and the screen does seem to attract fingerprints more than most.

We like the well rounded corners, and the rubberized backplate make the HTC One S an easy handset to grip. And for all its tallness there’s no doubting that at 119.5g the HTC One S is incredibly light. In fact, this is an extremely elegant handset all round, a device for those that want something sleek and stylish and are willing to forego a few bleeding edge features in order to get it.

It is interesting that with the One series HTC has done away with the menu button beneath the screen, and there are just three touch sensitive buttons there – Back, Home and Recent Apps.

It’s not an ideal choice as while Google is trying to encourage developers to move away from the Menu button, those apps that do still have them (and that is still a majority of them) will display a rather unsightly onscreen Menu button instead.

HTC is reinventing the smartphone with the One series, and the HTC One S is a nicely proportioned, well specified handset with plenty going for it. We’d have liked the S to have been a touch cheaper to put a little more space between it and the One X, but regardless this is part of what is turning into a very impressive range of phones.

Written by Sandra Vogel