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HTC One S review

A top of the range cameraphone with an emphasis on pictures, music and connectivity. Is the One S the One to have?

HTC One S review
The definitive HTC One S review

Our Verdict

The HTC One S is a beautiful handset blessed with beautiful capabilities and is already available at very palatable price points.


  • Slim, svelte and beautiful
  • Built for Ice Cream Sandwich
  • Loads of widgets
  • Excellent battery life


  • Limited memory, no SD slot
  • MicroSIM is a pain for some
  • Keyboard has seen better days
  • Call quality can be slightly tinny:

Update: We've spent a long time with the HTC One S now, so have updated our review to represent the improved software and all round experience. Don't worry... it's still brilliant!

The HTC One S follows swiftly on the heels of the One X in HTC's new premium brand of Android 4.0-enabled handsets, bringing a svelte chassis, 7.8mm depth and a low-price of just £26 a month at launch - and only $149.99 in the US too.

First things first: the HTC One S is a cracking looking device. It's marketed this as the thinnest handset HTC has ever made. And you feel that when you take it out of the box. It's tall at about the same height as last year's HTC Sensation (with which it will draw a lot of comparisons) but a lot, lot sleeker.

Measurements come in at 130.9 x 65 x 7.8mm and weight wise, it's pretty insignificant at a shade over 119g. And that's even more impressive when you look at what's inside. GPS, HSDPA etc – all elements we'd expect nowadays and all packed in here like sardines.

HTC One S review

First thing you notice is that huge black, glossy display on the front. Resolution wise, it keeps the Sensation's 4.3-inch display with a 540 x 960 resolution - qHD to you and me, meaning a pixel density of 256ppi.

It's clearly not as sharp as that found in the daddy of the range, the HTC One X, nor the likes of Apple's iPhone 4S or the Sony Xperia S (and you will be able to discern pixels if you look too closely) but it puts in a very good effort.

HTC One S review

Colours are easily as bright and vivid as the now almost year-old Samsung Galaxy S2 even though the Super AMOLED display lacks the 'Plus' bit that the latter handset boasts of - but don't think it's not got superb contrast ratios though.

In fact, if you put the phone down on a table and look at it from a couple of feet away, that screen looks even more incredible with hues just jumping out at you and finished off with the polish of the glass.

HTC One S review

The display has been pushed even further up towards that protective glass and it really shows. This is a display HTC can be proud to push.

Although the HTC One S ships with Android 4.0 Ice Cream Sandwich out of the box, it's decided to still include three soft keys beneath the screen. They're fully responsive and we had no issues whatsoever with them.

The design is pretty minimalist. The front also houses that VGA front snapper for video calling as well as the earpiece, which actually consists of dozens of holes individually drilled into the chassis to add to the air of class.

Up top is the power/lock button and 3.5mm headset jack, the right holds a volume rocker, the left gives us a micro USB socket and nothing at the bottom other than a tiny microphone hole. The rear has little other than holes for the speaker (again, drilled in), a couple of logos and the camera with LED flash.

Completing the minimalist look, you'll see that at the back, you can only remove a small area, which allows you to add the (micro) SIM and do nothing else.

HTC One S review

No accessing the battery here, thank you. It's sealed in. Nor will you be slipping your MicroSD card in there because memory is non-expandable (don't go there – because we plan to later in the Media section!)

The chassis is made from aluminium, which has been given a 'micro-arc oxidisation treatment'...the same as they do with satellites.

It all sounds very swish and space age and sets the HTC One S up to take up a few extra knocks, which is handy since you'll probably have this phone for two years. It fact, it puts us in mind of a Nexus One from back in the day a little bit. In principle, it looks great. In practice, it can cause a couple of problems.

HTC One S review

Because this is a tall phone – and because HTC has elected to put the lock button at the top rather than at the side as some other manufacturers do – there is a certain amount of leverage to even unlock the phone.

And that's only the beginning – the HTC One S is so uber stylish, HTC seems to have forgotten about the functionality of it. With anodized metal all over, this is one slippery customer. In the first few days of having it, we wince at recalling how many times we dropped it. Luckily only into our lap, but we can see a lot of people breaking these within the first few weeks.

HTC One S review

The HTC One X, meanwhile, doesn't appear to suffer this affliction thanks to the slight curve. And despite being protected with Corning Gorilla Glass, it's not that robust.

We cared for our One S review unit like a newborn baby and still, we were dismayed to see what appears to look like a deep scratch at the bottom of the screen, which we can't explain through normal use.

Indeed, you'll need to wrap this baby up like a child in a case with screen protectors and protection galore. Maybe even take it to a church and get it blessed for extra protection. That does detract from the overall beauty