In an alternate universe, the HTC One S would the manufacturer’s top-of-the-line smartphone. The phone is HTC’s thinnest handset ever, measuring just 0.31 inches, and is HTC’s first handset to ship in the United States running the newest version of Android — Ice Cream Sandwich — as well as the newest version HTC’s Android skin, HTC Sense 4.0.
The phone was announced alongside the quad-core HTC One X, which will take the top spot in HTC’s lineup and launch on AT&T later this month.
So how does the phone’s slim design and brand new software stack up?
The first thing you’re going to notice about the HTC One S is that it’s a super-light phone. While the phone has a decent-size footprint, it weighs in at a mere 4.2 ounces and is one of the thinnest phones you can get. The One S is easy to hold and is so thin that you’ll barely notice it’s in your pocket.
The HTC One S on top of the Motorola Droid Razr Maxx
The phone’s svelte form factor and unibody design (the casing is cut from a single piece of aluminum) mean that handset doesn’t have a removable battery or a microSD card slot for extra storage. All that thinness, however, doesn’t mean that you’re getting a phone that’s going to break easily.
T-Mobile’s version of the HTC One S is colored gray, but it’s a gradient design that gets lighter along the casing. That gives the phone a distinctive look, and since it’s machined into the aluminum, it makes the handset seem like it can withstand being tossed around a bit. While some other Android phones have plastic backs that may break the first time they meet concrete, the One S seems like it could handle a fall or two with no problems.
The One S’s 4.3-inch qHD AMOLED (960 x 540) touchscreen is protected with Corning Gorilla Glass. Gorilla Glass gives the screen a much better chance of survival if it does in fact hit the sidewalk at some point in its life.
While the screen is durable, it is also a Pentile display. If you don’t know what that means, then chances are good that’s not a factor that is going to bother you. If you do, then it’s certainly something that’s going to stand out. Pentile displays are less expensive than their high-end counterparts — in this case you might see a Plus at the end of a non-Pentile screen — and display graphics a little differently.
The Pentile screen on the One S tries to give the performance of a higher-res screen with some creative pixel tricks, but it with a trade-off. When you look at a Pentile screen next to an regular LCD, the former will often look grainy, the colors may seem a little off, and icons will have a colored pixel border around them.
Pentile screen are certainly not as issue for many, but once you notice the issues they’re tough to ignore.
The phone offers 16GB of capacity (12GB of which is available for storage). Since the phone doesn’t have microSD expansion that’s the amount of storage you’re stuck with on the handset forever. That said, the One S comes with 25GB of free Dropbox cloud storage for two years. While you’ll need to be connected to the web to access that storage, it can come in handy when you find you need some additional space.
The One S comes emblazoned with the Beats Audio logo on its rear and has the audio enhancement integrated across music, video, and games on the phone. Comparable to just attaching a subwoofer to your phone, Beats Audio boosts the bass and volume on your tunes — or whatever you’re listening to — in theory making it sound better.
While audio on the One S sounds great, the specific Beats Audio feature is more a gimick than anything else, and certainly isn’t worth writing home about.
The 8-megapixel built-in camera on the One S is one of the best we’ve seen in a smartphone, including the HTC Titan II that boasts a whopping 16-megapixel resolution. The phone has its own dedicated piece of hardware HTC is calling ImageChip and works alongside HTC’s new ImageSense software.
What all that means is that you can take some pretty amazing photos with the handset that rival those you might be able to capture with a point-and-shoot camera. The camera has an F/2.0 28mm wide-angle lens giving it an advantage when capturing photos in low-light situations, and when you do snap those low-light pictures the One S has a “Smart Flash” with seven different levels of light so you get just the right amount of brightness to capture the perfect shot.
The phone takes pictures instantly, allowing for capturing a moment on the fly, and has a burst mode where you can capture multiple shots at once and select your favorite from the group (or save the series). Photos can also be captured while shooting 1080p high-definition video.
The camera also has a number of built-in effects such as Vignette, Vintage and Negative for taking artsy Instagramesque shots.
The HTC One S runs Ice Cream Sandwich, the latest version of Android. If you haven’t tried out Ice Cream Sandwich yet then it’s everything you’ve always wished Android would be. The phone’s 1.5 GHz dual-core Snapdragon S4 processor keeps you zipping along, and HTC’s updated version of Sense, HTC Sense 4.0, helps Android newbies navigate their phone.
If you currently have a phone running an older version of Sense (or an older version of Android) then the One S will be a breath of fresh air on both accounts.
Worth the cash?
If you’re a T-Mobile customer, then the HTC One S is hands-down one of the best smartphone options out there. The handset is lightweight without being flimsy, has a super-speedy interface, and one of the best camera’s we’ve seen on a smartphone.
The HTC One S lands on T-Mobile on April 25 for $199.99 after a $50 mail-in-rebate card with qualifying two-year agreement.