The One S is pleasingly slender, but also tougher than a dozen Tom Hardys. We're confident that we could throw this phone across the room and it'd survive.
As with the One X, the Ice Cream Sandwich interface topped with HTC Sense 4.0 is smooth and intuitive, and highly customisable. A perfectly responsive screen makes navigation simple and satisfying.
HTC managed to cram tons of camera features and a dual-core processor into this dinky little frame. The 4.3-inch screen is colourful, if not particularly sharp, but 16GB of storage is rather limiting.
While lacking the One X's quad-core power, the One S can still comfortably run the latest games thanks to its 1.5GHz dual-core processor.
We hammered it for 36 hours before the battery finally died, including video, games, apps, calls, photos and more. Heavy users will love this phone.
Review by Sunetra Chakravati,2/27/2012 7:11:49 PM
Look and feel
Ease of use
Amazingly solid body, bright, vibrant screen, feature-packed camera
Screen lacks sharpness, limited storage and no expansion
The HTC One S is a more miniature version of the HTC One X, packing a 4.3-inch screen instead of a 4.7-incher, but despite its diminished size, HTC has still crammed tons of excellent features inside that slim and sexy body. Considering the One S is HTC's thinnest phone to date, that's all the more impressive. But has the reduction compromised any of the things we loved about the One X?
Hotter than the sun
You'll immediately notice that the HTC One S is moulded differently to the One X. Its unibody frame is still supremely slender at just 7.8mm, making it almost as slim as the paper-thin Motorola Razr and a decent chunk thinner than rivals such as the Sony Xperia P, but the One S sports a metallic finish that looks both smart and sleek.
If you think the One S might be weak or bendy due to its slender build, think again. The One S' body is made through a ridiculously exciting process called Micro-Arc Oxidation, which involves bathing the phone in plasma and electrifying it so it momentarily becomes ‘hotter than the sun'. The effect is instant carbonisation. This makes the body ultra-tough - not surprising, since Micro-Arc Oxidation was previously used to manufacture satellites!
We love the smooth, curvy design of the One S, which feels as great as it looks. The surprising heft gives it a solid, premium feel, and it sits comfortably in the hand, a perfect size for texting or emailing with your thumb. Instead of a soft back, the metal surface stretches the full circumference of the phone.
You can prise off the top end to access the Micro SIM slot, but once again the battey is encased in the frame and you don't get a Micro SD slot, so you're stuck with just 16GB of storage. This feels a lot more restrictive than the One X's 32GB, and a decent-sized music collection will fill it very quickly.
The One X had a beautifully crisp screen, but the One S scales down the resolution for its 4.3-inch display and HD movies suffer as a result. Our TV shows and films looked pixellated and blurry in places, and while they're still perfectly watchable and the experience is enjoyable, we couldn't muster the same excitement as we did for the phone's bigger brother.
Still, the screen is pleasingly vibrant, producing rich colours when viewing photos. Viewing angles are excellent, with minimal detail loss when the display's tilted at a sharp angle, so you can easily share a movie with a friend. The colourful HTC Sense 4.0 interface also looks gorgeous - see our HTC One X review for full coverage.
We also found the screen a good size for browsing the web, while text appears sharp and clean, making it easy to read. As expected from HTC, the touchscreen is perfectly responsive, so scrolling through even busy websites is a smooth experience. Pages update quickly when you zoom in and out. At the time of writing, Flash wasn't supported in-browser, so you can't use 4OD, iPlayer and other media-streaming websites. Thankfully the Google Play store has apps for those services, so you won't miss out.
Music fans get built-in Beats Audio, which boosts your audio to give a more full-bodied experience. Some of our old MP3s sound a little flat, but with Beats Audio turned on they sounded more powerful, and some of the distortion was gone. Bass is also boosted, perfect for those thumping dance tracks.
Brains as well as beauty
While the One S has half the cores of the One X, its dual-core processor still handled our abuse without breaking much of a sweat. Apps load quickly and even the latest games play with a perfect framerate. Aside from a couple of little quirks - such as an elongated pause when we occasionally quit out of the browser - we can't fault the performance of this phone.
Battery life is another highlight, as with the One X. We fully charged the One S and used it heavily for 36 hours before the phone finally died. That included lots of web browsing, emailing and texting, as well as snapping a few shots, playing games for an hour, messing around with a number of apps, and half an hour of phone calls. We also watched a few short videos, including some streamed from YouTube. Most phones would capitulate in around 24 hours or less with that sort of abuse, so frequent users will get a lot of mileage from the One S.
The 8MP camera does a great job capturing bright, colourful shots even on an overcast day, as you can see from our test shots.
The near and far flowers are all sharp, and the colours are perfectly reproduced
Piccadilly looking bright and attractive on an overcast, dismal day
This fast-moving bus isn't blurry, and note the rich, red colouring
Zoom in on this photo...
And you can see the excellent detail the One S' camera captures
The f2.0 aperture lens lets in plenty of light, which also helps brighten up dimly lit interiors, although some of our low-light shots came out rather grainy. Thankfully you get an LED flash, which auto-adjusts depending on how close your subject is. This helps to avoid overexposure, which even the mighty iPhone 4S and Sony Xperia S flashes are guilty of.
We were also impressed by the sharpness of our pics, and the amount of detail visible when zoomed in. Even moving objects are captured cleanly thanks to the fast shutter, which takes the photo almost instantly, as soon as you push the virtual camera button.
As with the One X, you get tons of great features too. Rapid-shot takes lots of photos in quick succession if you hold down the shutter button, and you can even take snaps while shooting Full HD video. Our movies came out well, with the lens adjusting to changes in light and minimal motion blur, although the audio quality hovers between decent and noisy.
If the beastly HTC One X is too big for you to handle, the One S is an excellent alternative. It may not pack as much power but it still performs with the best of them, and crams tons of excellent features into a solid, slimline body. It's just a shame that storage space is limited, and the screen isn't as crisp as we'd hoped.