Review: HTC One S (T-Mobile)
The Good -
- High-quality, beautiful design
- Smooth performance
- Great Camera
- Decent battery life
The Bad -
- Battery is not removable
- No SD card slot
- Sense 4 is still not as good as stock Android
- Back of the device is slick and easy to drop
- Uses a micro-SIM
HTC really hyped the One series, and it was well worth it. The One S is an amazing device. Its build quality is amazing. HTC did not cheap out at all with the device. The Snapdragon S4 performs great, as well. As with any Android phone, there are some downsides though. Sense 4 is nice, but still not as clean and simplistic as stock Ice Cream Sandwich. There are also a few software quirks and annoyances that get on my nerves. Lastly, HTC pulled an Apple on this one. Not only did it neglect to include an SD card slot, but it also made the battery sealed into the device, meaning it is not user-removable.
Dimensions: 130.9 x 65 x 7.8 mm
Screen: 4.3 inches Super AMOLED qHD Capacitive
Processor: 1.5GHz Qualcomm Snapdragon S4 dual-core
Android 4.0 (Ice-cream Sandwich) OS
8MP auto focus camera with LED flash
1080p video and image recording at 30 FPS
1.3 MP front facing camera
16GB Internal storage, 1 GB RAM
Battery : 1650 mAh
Weight: 120 grams
HTC’s 2011 numbers were not pretty. They learned the hard way that you have to keep innovating even if you think you have a strong hold on the market. Samsung quickly cannibalized HTC’s sales, so HTC decided to launch a lot, or devices in order to regain the lead and they didn’t. Then earlier this year, they announced a new group of employees dubbed “Studio.” This group is working directly with CEO Peter Chou to regain HTC’s hold on the market.
When we look back to the 4th quarter of last year, we simply dropped the ball on products. If we compare some of the products that we have launched, (especially in the U.S., LTE products) with some of our competitors products, you’ll see thicker form factor for example. And LTE at this point also has some compromises, like battery life. So we simply need to do a better job on both the design, and also the internals and the components of products. And these are the various areas where we will be working on. From the design point of view, from the choice of components, having a lot more open mind as to what components we use, and using the most appropriate components for the phone. By having a more focused approach to our product strategy, and having the organization behind the product strategy to support it. I think I have told some people when talked about the creation of this Studio, which is a department within HTC that reports directly to Peter (Chou, HTC CEO). And this group of people comprise the team from design, the team from engineering and etc; working on a cross disciplinary approach, and reporting directly to Peter. It has a lot of focus, is spending a lot of time on the key products that we are going to launch this year. And I think from these various perspectives, organization more focused on strategy and having a more open mind on components, choosing the best components, will allow us to regain the edge in products.
Basically, HTC wants to focus on one series of devices, not 25 different devices. That series is One. We saw the first device in the One X last month, and now we are taking a look at its little sister, the One S. My thoughts on that device? Read on!
In its devices, HTC usually uses Super LCD displays, but that is not the case with the One S. With the device, HTC used a Samsung Super AMOLED display. While not HD, the One S’ display is nothing to slouch at. The device is packing a 4.3-inch display with a qHD resolution (960×540). The display is great. Colors are vivid and bright and text is sharp.
The panel is optically laminated to Gorilla Glass to reduce space between the glass and screen. Because of this production change, the viewing angles on One S are great.
Sadly, HTC uses a PenTile Matrix on the One S. The RGB layout offers better color reproduction, sharper images and higher subpixel density. Instead of the standard pixel being composed of three subpixels (one red, one green and one blue), individual pixels in a PenTile Matrix layout share subpixels, yielding a much lower subpixel count – roughly 33 percent fewer. Basically, the PenTile Matrix causes major discoloration in high contrast situations. This is most notable on white.
I’m also dissapointed in the direct sunlight performance of the device. This is due to the Super AMOLED panel and is a common issue on a lot of Samsung’s devices.
One element in which HTC made the device look better is how the glass that covers the display also flows over the sides.
HTC has produced another device that stands apart from the competition with the One S.
The One S is gorgeous. Let’s start by saying it is a lightweight phone considering its size. The build quality is spectacular compared to previous HTC phones we’ve reviewed and doesn’t have a chintzy feel like the Galaxy Nexus did. From the matte back and stunning Gorilla Glass 2 screen, it just screams sexy, slim and stealthy.
On the top of the One S is the power button and 3.5mm headphone jack. While the volume rocker is on the right near the microUSB port. Under the display you’ll find three capacitive buttons, home, back, and multitasking.
The device is made out of aluminum and feels great. It is light and thin, while also sturdy. One negative about the device is the back is very slick. I nearly dropped it multiple times.
The One S is a beast. It is powered by a 1.5GHz dual-core MSM8260A Snapdragon S4 processor with an Adreno 225 GPU and 1GB of RAM.
How does the S4 stack up against the Tegra 3? In my testing, it performed just as good, if not better, than Nvidia’s processor.
The One S is by far one of the smoothest and fastest phones I have ever used. I rarely experienced any stutter or lag.
Games performed flawlessly. Loading times were quick and just like in every other instance, I experienced no lag.
As I do in all of my reviews, I put the One S through several Quadrant Standard tests. Quadrant is an app, available on the market, that puts your phone through a series of tests, such as 3D and 2D graphics. Quadrant was just updated for multi-core and Ice Cream Sandwich support.
The One S averaged a score of 4,500, which is an amazing score. The Galaxy Nexus, on the other hand, averaged about 2,300.
In March, HTC came out and said that from version 1 of Sense to version 3.5, they added way too many features that just made the O.S cluttered and bogged down the hardware. The company also said that their main goal with Sense 4 was to make it more minimalistic and lightweight. Which they achieved.
The user interface is a lot cleaner than previous versions, but there are also a lot more features.
Clean and Simple
Sense 4 presents a simplified, streamlined user interface that offers intuitive touchscreens and reduced visual clutter when compared to stock ICS software.
Considering that your phone is the most personal gadget you own, Sense 4 offers HTC Sense widgets that are more powerful, interactive and have and improved look and feel in comparison to stock ICS widgets. HTC Sense widgets help you personalize your device to suit your needs and quickly access your most important data. Just a few examples of the many widgets you can add to customize your HTC device include Mail, Music, and Friend Stream.
Text Input and Spell Checking
Although Sense 4 adopts a similar spell-checking functionality as ICS, it offers greater accuracy in word prediction and is a notable improvement over stock Android software – delivering improved spell correction, word completion and replacement words selection. The input method editor featured in Sense 4 supports more than 25 languages and provides better prediction accuracy – which will help you get the words you want instead of the words you typed.
Sense 4 accelerates, updates, and reorganizes the web browsing function, thereby allowing for a more seamless connection. Featuring the latest version of Flash, fast web rendering, and supporting HTML5, you’ll find that Sense 4 offers a more complete, functional browsing experience in comparison to stock ICS.
Sense 4’s Auto Text Reflow in the HTC internet browser provides an optimal mobile browsing experience. HTC’s Pure Content Reader removes ads and banners, re-lays out articles, and presents a more pleasant reading experience. When you’re pressed for time, Sense 4’s new Browser Bookmark Widget will enable you to save web pages to read later, even when you’re offline. Video can also be bookmarked for later, when you have time and connectivity.
Easier Transitions Through Apps
Sense 4 enables the new HTC UI for Recent Apps and allows you to quickly access recently used apps and switch between them.
As an avid hater of UI overlays I will give Sense 4.0 credit for its minimalistic tone HTC has taken; don’t get me wrong, once a custom Vanilla ROM is available I will be on that quick. Using the running app manager takes some getting used to as the only way to kill an app is to swipe it upwards (instead of left or right). Using the One S connected to a monitor with a bluetooth keyboard and mouse is smooth and a great alternative vs. paying for a laptop on top of having a phone.
HTC signed a huge deal with Beats Audio last year,and the whole One series will take advantage of the technology. It use to be that when you played music through the built-in Music app, a Beats logo appears in the status bar — this is your cue that the phone is running some proprietary processing on the signal, and it makes the output sound much “bigger.” In Sense 4, the technology has been updated to work with third-party apps, such as Spotify and Pandora. Which is huge in my opinion.
One downside is that HTC no longer ships the $99 iBeats earbuds with the device, but rather a cheap pair of standard headphones. HTC claims that accessories like headphones do not factor in when consumers purchase a smartphone. I don’t think that is true, but oh wellz.
HTC said their main focus with the One line was the camera. They introduced a new technology called ImageSense. “ImageSense” is designed to give you “perfect shots — every time,” and is capable to taking a photo in just 0.7 seconds with a 0.2-second autofocus. HTC has also made mode switching unnecessary and added a faster burst mode. HTC claims this new camera technology will deliver good results even in very low light conditions.
Also in Sense 4, HTC introduced a variety of new camera effects, ala Instagram.
- Depth of Field
- Vintage Warm
- Vintage Cold
The 8MP shooter on the back is not to slouch at. It shoots 1080p full HD video and has what HTC calls “Double Shutter”, meaning the One S can snap stills while shooting videos without interrupting the video capture. The f/2.0 lens aperture and the BSI sensor should fix the problems plaguing HTC cameras of old.
As an avid camera user this phone destroys everything else out there. Better focus and stabilizer, coming from someone with a shaky hand the Galaxy Nexus was atrocious to use. I can feel confident leaving the point-and-shoot at home and go into the city and be able to take great photos. Low light, bright light, fast action this camera just performs.
One of the biggest questions about the One S was battery life. The device ships with a 1650mAh battery, which doesn’t seem all that big, but was actually decent. I’d say battery life is on par with the One X. I was able to get through a day with moderate usage.
HTC did not make the battery removable, which really makes me mad. So keep that in mind if you are not near a charger and like to carry a spare with you.
Data and Phone Quality
The One S receives most of its marketing through the same feature that many phones nowadays do; data speeds. The One S runs on T-Mobile’s 4G HSPA+ network. The One S is capable of reaching theoretical speeds of up to 42 megabytes/second. That won’t happen, unfortunately. I was getting around 6MB/s with full coverage. T-Mobile did a great job with making download speeds on the One S fly, but I feel like their marketing could’ve targeted realistic speeds instead of theoretical speeds.
HTC has gone all out with the One series. The One X was great and the One S is no different. Its display is great, as is the performance. The best thing though is the camera. Pictures taken with the device were outstanding. Sadly, the battery is non-removable and it uses a microSIM. The microSIM is not a huge issue if you don’t switch phones often, but I do and it’s hard to change between a full SIM and microSIM.
Overall, the One S is the best bet for T-Mobile customers looking for an up-to-date, speedy phone.