With their enormous bright screens and stunning looks, HTC's latest lineup of smartphones created quite a splash when they were announced at this year's Mobile World Congress.
The HTC One S is marketed as being the sleek and sexy younger sibling of the widely praised HTC One X. It’s hard not to agree; the curved edges, minimalist details, massive glossy screen and matte finish make the handset impossible not to fumble through your fingers before even booting up.
From the moment you switch the handset on it is obvious that a great deal of thought has gone into making this phone as user friendly as possible. Once past the initial setup screen, the One S enters a tutorial mode with charming hand-drawn style arrows and instructions overlaying what you are seeing on the screen. This may seem like a small thing, but to those baffled by Android’s ludicrously ‘flexible’ customisation these brief tutorials make your first moments with the phone considerably less intimidating.
The One S, much like its bigger brother the One X seems to be primarily set up for those who want to shoot great quality pictures and videos with little effort. The phone comes equipped with an 8 megapixel camera and an F2.0 lens which takes fantastic pictures in daylight, whilst in lower lighting the phone’s BSI sensor and LED flash ensures great colouring and tone. The camera also records in HD at 1080P. The phone’s onboard editing software isn’t enormous fun to use when compared to that of the iPhone, however with the new Instagram Android app this hardly matters for images.
The phone runs Android Ice Cream Sandwich wrapped up in the new, less complicated HTC Sense skin, which to anyone with half a braincell is the most user-friendly and accessible incarnation of the Android operating system.
HTC Sense is not only usable, but full of visually attractive features too, for example when you are scrolling between app screens and pages the screens glide into one another in three dimensional images. Again, this may sound like a small thing, but when you are spending several hours of your day glaring into this thing, small touches like this make a huge difference.
Next there’s the display. Near enough everything looks absolutely stunning on this device, which is a big plus for those who want to use streaming services and unlike on the iPhone, the 4.3 inch screen is just about big enough to make something like SkyGo worth using.
All pretty good so far, but there are some downsides.
HTC have annoyingly made a huge song and dance about their smartphones now using Beats Audio. Although on paper this looks as though it may have its benefits, unless you are an audio nerd of such proportions that you have specialist audio equipment in place of real friends, the chances of you noticing the sound quality being any different to that of any other smartphone are minimal. In the model used for this review the headphones sent were standard HTC, which were terrible at best.
Then there’s the lack of buttons, with icons on the touch screen replacing physical keys. Although this is the way that all smartphones are going, the home key is annoyingly close to crucial virtual buttons in quite a lot of apps, meaning that when you are trying to upload something onto Instagram you find yourself thrown out of the app and back to your main panel. After a while, this really starts to grate...
However, the biggest problem the phone faces might be its unspeakable beauty. Recently many who have bought the phone have been reporting that the state of the art shelling which is supposed to be as durable as ceramic chips easily. This is a serious problem for a device being sold on its looks.
That said, the phone’s positives outweigh the negatives: this is a brilliant handset which is available on a number of competitive tariffs starting at around £26 a month.
If you are a casual user who wants to browse Facebook and upload pictures, the One S does this as well, if not better than any other phones in its price range. If you are a high-end user interested in streaming videos, music and being constantly attached to all your social networks, it's hard to think of any task that this handset would struggle with.
The HTC One S is undoubtably one of the best performing smartphones currently available and for those looking to upgrade now should be high on the list. But there is the phone's second major problem - with the imminent UK release of the Nokia Luia 900 and rumours growing daily about the new iPhone, there is a niggling concern that for this generation of HTC smartphones the clock is ticking on their being state of the art.