Look and feel
Very light, smooth-backed with comfortable curves. The paintjob on this series gives the phone a distinct look, with attractive flashes of colour on the mouthpiece, speaker and camera lens. Easily one of the better looking phones on the market today.
Ease of Use
It will take a while to get your head into the the Windows Phone 8 way of working, but once you're there, it's an elegant system. Being able to group a contact's details and social media feeds into one place is a great way of staying in the loop with close friends and family, however the fact that icons look similar in size, shape and colour means it can be hard to pick out apps and options easily.
Beats Audio when using headphones gives even low-quality tracks a serious boost and WP8's excellent Kid's Corner feature means you can let little ones play with your smartphone without the fear of them deleting important info or downloading stuff they shouldn't.
Keep things simple, and you'll have no problems. However, the phone struggles a little with apps that require above-average horsepower.
Disappointing. The HTC 8S was able to stream media for less than three hours, and in the process got far warmer than modern smartphones should.
Review by Sunetra Chakravati,9/20/2012 1:18:27 PM
Ease of use
Cool two-tone design; Solid build quality; Kid’s Corner; Beats Audio (headphone only)
No front-facing camera; Very poor battery life with media use; Screen is just average; Heat levels concerning.
It’s always a disappointment when a phone or tablet with great looks doesn’t stack up in the performance department, and so it is with the Windows Phone 8S by HTC.
Just like its bigger brother the 8X, the 8S is a great-looking, good-feeling phone that HTC has clearly taken time over. When your competition is Nokia and its vibrant Lumia WP8 smartphones, you can’t just release any old black brick.
The 8S has a cool two-tone design, available in four complementary colour combinations, which makes the phone stand out from the crowd, but does so in a classy way.
Although the handset offers 4GB of storage, this can be expanded with a microSD card, which is accessed by pulling off the coloured tab at the bottom of the phone. This hidey hole is also where the microSIM lives, and where it would be nice to be able to access the battery too, but that’s not the case here.
The 1700mAh battery is deeply unimpressive, and being able to replace it would give this phone a major boost. With very careful use, we got a normal working day out of it, but its performance in our media test was shocking - the phone was able to stream video on full brightness for just 140 minutes. Not only that, but while watching videos and playing games the handset became worryingly hot. Performance did not appear to be affected by the heat, but it’s disconcerting to say the least.
Being an ‘affordable’ smartphone, the 8s has a 480 x 800px screen and 512MB of RAM; not terrible, but not great either. The phone has a dual-core 1GHz S4 processor, which flits about perfectly well in menus and handles WP8’s transition animations with ease. However, it’s a good job the Windows Phone Store doesn’t have any demanding games because the phone would almost certainly struggle, as it does in some not-exactly-intensive apps.
Ah yes, apps - one of the biggest problem with the HTC 8S (and other Windows phones).
It’s been said before, but the marketplace does not have anywhere near enough apps on offer, and many of those it does have are either poor-quality or not optimised for WP8 and its fleet of devices.
Worse still, some of the apps that are available make the user jump through hoops before they can be used. Take Twitter and Facebook, for example – the install process requests access to location information. Say no, and you are booted out - no social media for you.
It can be circumvented, by accepting and then later on disabling the setting in the app, but being pushed into sharing geo data is uncomfortable. What’s more, if you then try to turn off location settings on the device itself, access to those apps is barred.
Windows Phone 8 really doesn’t want you to leave, either. Even something as simple as signing out of Skype requires a degree of brainpower.
One of the big selling points of Windows Phone 8 is Microsoft Wallet, which allows you to store bank cards, loyalty cards and vouchers digitally. The future is in mobile wallets, so it’s great to see that Microsoft is including Wallet on all WP8 devices, however, don’t go thinking that means you can use this phone for contactless payments, because it does not contain NFC technology.
While this isn’t necessarily the handset’s fault, Windows Phone 8 isn’t half as intuitive as it thinks. Sure, it’s helpful being able to have all of a particular contact’s details and social media feeds in one place, and the ability to move apps around and change their size based on importance is cool, but it’s actually hard to zip around the phone using the OS. The uniformity of icons (in both size and colour) means it can hard to see at a glance what’s what, especially on a 4-inch screen.
Call quality is very good and the speakers do not distort speech. Like most HTC’s, Beats Audio is included, boosting even low-quality tracks, although this is not available for use with the phone’s speaker – just via headphones.
There is a dedicated camera button on the right side of the device (we wish other phones would still do this), but the 5MP camera is nothing special. It struggles a little in low light and has the habit of adding a strange haze to pictures.
Unfortunately, this is the only lens – there is no front-facing camera on the 8S, meaning Skype and the like are out of the question. With Microsoft now owning Skype and replacing MSN with the service, this seems bizarre.
At just 173g, this is a super light yet solidly built phone, with striking design that walks the fine line between being different and over-the-top.
There’s a space in the market for a well-performing, affordable Windows Phone 8 device, but while there are a lot of things to recommend the HTC 8S, the shortcomings of the app store, poor battery life and overheating issues means it’s not the right phone to fill that hole.