HTC One S Review: Sturdy, Speedy And Sharp, But With Some Shortcomings

HTC One S Review: Sturdy, Speedy And Sharp, But With Some Shortcomings

The old HTC is dead. Long live the new HTC, with fewer products and more attention to detail. The HTC One line heralds this new day. We’ve already seen the HTC One X here in Australia, but over in the US, the first phone they’ll see is the HTC One S.

Giz AU Editor’s Note: This is obviously a review of the One S as it works on US networks. There’s no specific carrier announced yet for the One S in Australia, but it is available outright through the usual direct importers.

What Is It?

It’s a 4.3-inch phone on T-Mobile’s 4G network. It runs the Android 4.0 (Ice Cream Sandwich) OS, with HTC’s Sense 4.0 interface.

Who’s It For?

T-Mobile users who want a zippy, no-nonsense Android smartphone that excels at taking photos like those in the gallery below.


It’s beautiful and rock solid — super thin at 7.8mm, and light at 119.5 grams, with smooth edges and a brushed aluminium body.

Using It

Against a comparable Android 4.0 phone, Samsung’s Galaxy Nexus, the One S wins a speed trial on basic moves through the user interface. The camera software is clear, quick and versatile.

The Best Part

Qualcomm’s 1.5GHz dual-core Snapdragon S4 processor dishes out the speed and does well with power management. The camera opens up to f2.0, so it works well in low light (see gallery below for test shots).

Tragic Flaw

The Snapdragon processor does not yet support some of Android’s best games (or vice versa). Current HD screens kill this one. No NFC is a shame. The 1080p video stinks. T-Mobile’s network isn’t as fast at LTE 4G.

This Is Weird…

HTC Sense doesn’t suck anymore! Amazing, but true. Things like HTC’s own calendar app are worse than stock Android 4.0 OS features, but the unlock screen and the app switcher are better on the Sense skin.

Test Notes

• The camera’s still photos often came out brighter and sharper than the iPhone 4S, especially in low light. It can record 1080p video and shoot stills at the same time.

• Video quality is not nearly as good as the stills. It lacks detail, has all kinds of problems with motion, and suffers from strange oversaturation.

• The Samsung Galaxy S II has been the king of the Quadrant Standard benchmark, with speeds averaging around 3000. The HTC One S averages 5000. Yowza.

• Battery life usually lasted a whole day without needing to be charged. Sometimes, there was an unexpected, steep drop-off, though.

• T-Mobile’s HSPA+ 4G network averages around 8Mbps download and 1.5Mbps upload speeds. (Verizon’s and AT&T’s LTE networks have hit speeds of 20Mbps down and 14Mbps up)

Giz AU Editor’s Note: Australian “4G” networks are a different kind of beast; if you’re buying an imported model, it’s not likely to work on Telstra or Optus’ 4G offerings for now.

• No expandable memory is a bummer.

Should You Buy It?

If you’re already on T-Mobile, seeking an upgrade, then totally. It’s fast, sleek and pretty excellent. If you’re in between contracts, then it’s not worth switching over for. The HTC One X on AT&T and the HTC Evo 4G LTE on Sprint are both better phones, with better screens, plus LTE and NFC. That said, most who buy it will likely be happy with it.

HTC One S Specs

• Network: T-Mobile • OS: Android 4.0 with Sense 4.0 • CPU: 1.5GHz dual-core Snapdragon S4 processor • Screen: 4.3-inch, 540×960 pixels Super AMOLED • RAM: 1GB • Camera: Rear: 8MP Front: VGA • Storage: 16GB • Price: $US200 with two-year contract