The matte black body of the Incredible S is well-made, but the slight protrusion on its back cover gives it a slightly awkward look. The new SLCD screen is bright and clear, and the auto-rotating touch-icons for home, search and so on are a nice touch
HTC's Sense interface is as friendly and intuitive as ever, with an excellent setup menu on startup that prompts you to set up social networks and email accounts so you can get started right away
The full smartphone lineup is present - sat nav, email, web and social networking all check off. A new 1GHz processor keeps multitasking programs smooth, while the eight-megapixel camera with dual-LED flash is the highest-spec on an HTC device
The touch-screen is responsive and accurate - though super-fast typists might notice a tiny lag in the virtual keyboard - and the phone is top of the class for social and web features. If you use Gmail, it's nowhere better implemented than on a high-end Android device like this
A larger battery than previous HTC phones allowed the phone to go for over 15 hours with Wi-Fi, HSDPA and A-GPS running
Review by Sunetra Chakravati,5/13/2011 10:00:28 AM
Look and feel
Ease of use
Excellent social integration, full-featured video, classic intuitive HTC Sense interface, upgradeable to Android 2.3 Gingerbread
Camera is rather average for such a high-end handset, no native task manager app, lack of support for NFC could outdate the phone by year-end
The problem with HTC phones is the sky high expectations. The Incredible S is a Euro-friendly, slightly sped up version of the HTC Droid Incredible which launched to great fanfare in the US last year. An Android 2.2 Froyo handset with a newly pin-sharp SLCD disp, it will be upgradeable to the new 2.3 Gingerbread, and already packs the full lineup of smartphone features. It's a good phone by any standard, but with only incremental improvements amid a slew of next-gen superphones announced for summer, it could feel dated by year-end.
HTC has never been one to shy away from a leftfield look - just look at the Teflon-coated Hero and Desire, or the brightly coloured inner chassis of the Trophy or HD Mini. The matte vibe makes a comeback in the Incredible S, which also has a brand-new design quirk: a raised rectangle over most of the rear, presumably to make enough room for internal parts while keeping the very edges of the phone slim. If the Hero had a distinctive (and screen-protecting) chin, the Incredible S is an early-stage hunchback - though like the Hero, this polarizing feature does sort of grow on you. The four-inch WVGA touch-screen wastes little space, while a touch-sensitive strip at its base houses the four Android touch-areas - home, menu, back, and search. In a neat trick with the screen LEDs, these rotate when you turn the phone on its side so the glowing icons are always right side up. The display has had a spec bump to a hyper-clear S-LCD screen which has even better visibility in daylight than LCD version sported by the recent Desire HD. Like all of HTC's recent range, the build quality of the Incredible S is impeccable, with a solid feel and classy finish.
The Incredible S is an Android phone skinned with HTC's latest Sense interface, which in addition to excellent social and email integration, involves a comprehensive startup screen that prompts you to enter Facebook, Twitter, Flickr and email account details. New on this phone is an additional screen that asks if you want to transfer your data from your old phone - though at review time, newer models such as the iPhone 4 weren't supported. Of course, most smartphone users already have their contacts synced to webmail or Microsoft Exchange email, and everything else on a microSD card, so this feature is just a nice addition for users making the first move to a smartphone.
It takes about six seconds from pressing the power button for all the homescreens to load, which is pretty fast. Logging on to Wi-Fi and 3G networks is also quick. The Sense interface comprises seven homescreens that you can customise with app shortcuts and widgets. Simply hold down on any homescreen to pop up a personalisation menu divided into display, homescreen and sound options. It's not just intuitive, it actually makes you want to play around with the phone. If you can't be bothered with all this tweaking tomfoolery (trust us, you will be), there are several default homescreen combinations - or 'Scenes' - to choose from, based around the apps and widgets HTC thinks you might most need for, say, 'Work' time, or 'Social' time.
The touch-screen is of the high-end capacitive sort and supports multi-touch. You can pinch to zoom in any homescreen to view all seven from a bird's eye view. The virtual keyboard is quite responsive and accurate, but there is sometimes a microscopic lag that would bother a really keen, faster typist. If we had to draw the comparison, we'd say the iPhone 4 still easily takes the crown for virtual keyboard.
HTC's calling card is its social syncing. The Friend Stream widget pulls together feeds from the social networks you've synced to the phone. You can also sync contacts from these networks to the contacts book - either all of them, or only the ones whose phone numbers you have - for a hyper-powered phonebook that shows each friend's number, email, Facebook status, tweets and photos they've posted. The deep integration of most Android social apps also means that new apps you download, such as Skype, will sync contacts with the phonebook.
Email is the standard Android offering - a separate Gmail app that offers an interface exactly like the desktop, with all other email, including Microsoft Exchange corporate mail, inexplicably streaming into another app. This mail app supports a universal inbox, which, if you use it, will frustrate you for not including Gmail. Android might be the alterna-option but sometimes Google doesn't seem such a world from Apple's rigidly protected products. If Gmail is your primary, this might matter less.
Web works well too, with a full HTML browser that lets you pinch to zoom and copy-paste.
Here we have the highest-spec snapper HTC has ever put on one of its devices - an eight-megapixel camera with dual LED flash and software adjustments including exposure, contrast and sharpness settings. So why is still so average? Default settings produce over-exposed photos in daylight; in low light, the flash is too strong to take a natural looking photo, particularly of people's faces. So, okay, we can tweak the settings (which doesn't quite jibe with the ready-to-go vibe of everything else). We got the best results lowering the exposure by one level and fiddling with the contrast depending on the light available. There was still a touch of blur and the colours are a little dull, but it's better than the blare of brightness you get on default.
On the plus side, the shutter is quick to snap, so you don't need to keep the camera too steady to get a sharp photo, and the preloaded photo effects let you add cool tints to pictures, a la the Hipstamatic app on iPhone.
There is also a 1.3-megapixel front-facing camera for video calls - only there's no native video calling feature and the biggie, Skype, doesn't support video calls on Android. Fring and Tango are two alternatives downloadable from the Android Market, but you'll need friends on these services to use it.
One special feature is the video player that supports DivX, among other file formats. Most high-quality, especially HD, video downloaded off the internet (with the notable exception of the iTunes Store) is compressed in this format, making the Incredible S an excellent and future proof video phone. The SLCD screen displays high-definition gloriously, with sharp, true colours.
The biggest surprise about the Incredible S is its battery life, thanks to a higher capacity battery than its predecessors. Where the Desire HD couldn't go half a day without a charge, we pushed the Incredible S to just over 15 hours with Wi-Fi and HSDPA on, downloading apps and Spotify playlists, and doing a spot of GPS-assisted navigation too. This basically means your phone won't die overnight if you miss a charge (and crucially, nor will its morning alarm that gets you up for work). There's a prompt to adjust power settings when you hit 15% remaining battery life, while the power meter shows you where you're losing the most juice (that gorgeous SLCD display was the culprit).
We found multitasking to be smooth and fast, though things got jerky when the battery ran down and we had a few high-load apps running in the background. You can switch between open programs by holding down on the home key, which brings up the multi-tasking apps bar. Annoyingly, you still can't shut down programs here - and in fact, there's no way to shut down programs at all, without digging deep into the Settings menu. There are myriad task manager apps downloadable from the Market, but a) you'd have to be pretty techie to think of doing that and b) why on earth hasn't HTC gotten around to preloading one, never mind actually building in a native task managing ability?
A-GPS and Google Maps make the Incredible S as capable a sat-nav as HTC's other phones, with a Car Panel app that makes the phone more suitable for driving navigation.
Other speed bumps from its US doppelganger are the 1GHz processor which is a newer, more efficient Qualcomm MSM8255 model, and support for faster 802.11/n Wi-Fi versus the older 802.11/b and g protocols.
The Android 2.3 Gingerbread update will be available to the Incredible S in the summer, though one of the biggest new features - NFC tech that would allow contactless payments to be made using the handset - won't actually be supported, since the Incredible S lacks the physical NFC chip itself. NFC is currently unused by phones (it's how your Oyster card works, though), but with Vodafone, O2, Orange and T-Mobile getting behind it and a few upcoming smartphones confirmed to pack the required hardware, that's likely to change this year.
Here's another highly capable handset from HTC, with all the same issues Android has been lugging around since the beginning: inexplicable separation of Gmail and all-other-mail, no native task manager ability, mediocre camera. None of these are dealbreakers - and there are fixes for the latter two - but for techies and early adopters, here's what would be: the lack of NFC support. This could outdate the phone before the two-year contract you buy it on is up. On the plus side, it's top of the class in social networking and video, and at free from £25 per month, is pretty good value. Bottom line? A solid buy if being the first in line for new tech matters less than the mainstays of social, web and email.
The HTC Incredible S is available exclusively from The Carphone Warehouse.