HTC One S review
Hiding in the shadow of its bigger brother lies one of the best Android phones to date
The HTC One S is standing in the shadow of its larger sibling the One X. Is the One S an inferior little brother or does it deserve an equal amount of the spotlight? Hop on in to find out.
The HTC One S is an interesting device. Its quite similar to the One X but it is different enough to make sense. The most obvious differences come in terms of physical size as its 4.3″ display is not quite as massive as the 4.7 inch screen on the larger One X. Comparing them side by side, the difference in overall physical size is not that overwhelming, though for some the line defining whether or not you can carry the phone in your pocket might be drawn somewhere between the two.
But enough with the One X comparisons, lets move on to the One S itself.
Hardware and Design
The hardware is what I feel defines an Android phone. The software experience tends to be rather similar across devices from the same time. Hence I will be giving the hardware aspects a lot of attention here.
The One S certainly looks great. The illusions of a a slightly curved display looks elegant and modern. The metal body has gotten some attention before but I am happy to report that my device has not suffered from any of the chipping issues others have reported. What Im left with is a construction that feels great in hand. Not only does it feel solid but the phone is cold to the touch which feels very nice and exclusive. Much more so than the One X I feel and in terms of design I would certainly go for the One S. Its not perfect though, especially the plastic cover hiding the SIM card slot fails to live up to the quality of the rest of the construction.
I will never understand why phone makers continue to have the camera lens sticking out on the back, exposing it to physical abuse. When the phone is lying on its back, its basically resting on the camera lens. The good news is that the red details on the black version of the One S looks cool. Anyways, moving on..
Screen types have been heavily debated lately. Many claiming pentile displays, such as the one featured on the One S and the Samsung Galaxy SIII, are ancient and look terrible compared to the alternative offered by the HTC One X. However, reports have also shown that this isnt necessarily the case. Most people wont be able to spot much of a difference either way, so unless you are obsessed with screen technology or find yourself with your nose mashed into your screen in order to spot pixels, no need to worry with the One S. I personally prefer AMOLED displays for their superior representations of black. The downside is that the screen drains a lot more power when showing white, which you do a lot on the internet.
The star of the One S is the new 28nm Dual-core Krait processor that runs the show. In my opinion it outdoes the 48nm Tegra 3 and I am certainly happy the One S sports the former rather than the latter. Performance is arguably superior and its smaller size equals less heat and power consumption. Win win! What matters though is that the Krait is exceptionally able to handle anything you throw at it, so performance-wise, the One S is no little brother.
The camera optics are identical to that on the One X. Its good but not great. Colors look a bit bland and the responsiveness isnt quite up to par with what you get with the iPhone 4S, but what you do get is the ImageSense chip that allows you to take pictures without holding up the image sensor, meaning you can take pictures while recording videos as well. Neat! You can see some pictures I took with the HTC One S compared to slightly similar pictures taken by the iPhone.
HTC was generous enough to give the One S Android 4.0.3 yet they still insist on plaguing us with HTC Sense. Now to be fair, I think Sense is the best shell for Android out there and certainly outruns TouchWiz and its competitors by a long mile. In the end though, the stock Android ICS experience is very tough to beat and its unfortunate that most people never get to experience it as they are covered from it by various shells such as Sense. The good news is that Sense is lighter, faster and snappier than ever though it still takes up a good portion of your RAM while its just sitting there. Its less bloated than previous iterations of Sense, but it still is bloated. HTC’s gallery app is still inferior to the Android stock counterpart, and that goes for many of the other software offerings from HTC as well.
Luckily, there are already some custom ROMS out there, and AOSP-based flavors are in the making as well, giving those who want a true Android experience the option to get it.
Great news in the battery life department. Simply put, its very good compared to other Android devices. Its always hard to give numbers on battery life time as everything is relative, but it gets me through the day, which is more than I can say for the One X, and most other Android devices out there.
The One S is a fantastic device. It might even be the best Android phone out there for those who feels the larger 4.7+ inch devices become to big for comfort. Performance is top notch, battery life is solid and build quality is for the most part exceptional.
The One S does have it faults though. Storage capacity could be more generous than the 16GB offered. The plastic cover on the back could be a lot better and some would probably appreciate the screen resolution being bumped up just a tad bit more.
For those of us who enjoy Android device development though, the One S carries with it a rather significant downside, at least for now. The bigger brother, the One X seems to be stealing most of the attention and at least at the time of writing, the One S doesn’t have a very large developer community behind it. That said, there are still a handful of people working on the One S and with the kernel sources hopefully right around the corner, anything is possible!