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

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For those friends of yours who are bound to say: "Oh well, it's not an iPhone", show them the media section of the HTC One S and watch their jaws drop. Or at least look a little bit intrigued that a company other than Apple has managed to make a phone with a top-notch media experience.

We should start by pointing out a large flaw: only 16GB of onboard storage and no option for expansion, and some of that space is taken up by the OS, which means serious music lovers will be left with the same amount of storage as a basic iPhone 4S.

HTC One S review

We're sorry – but this is less a disappointment and more disgrace. What on earth are you thinking, HTC? Are you crazy? By all means, cap the memory at 16GB but at least give us the option of expanding it ourselves if that's the case.

Had this been an entry-level device, we'd understand. But this is a premium handset and we just don't understand it. Yes, HTC tries to soften the blow by pointing out you get loads of space on its new friend Dropbox for the life of the handset, but it's not an elegant or speedy solution by any means.

HTC has really shot itself in the foot because any music lovers who don't want an iPhone and don't want to carry around something as big as the HTC One X in their pockets have been frozen out here.


HTC has arranged all of its music elements into a hub, appropriately called Music. In there, you'll find a 'My Phone" icon which takes you to your personal library as well as Soundhound, the excellent TuneIn Radio and 7Digital.

HTC One S review

Any other apps that you download with a musical leaning will also appear automatically, such as Amazon MP3. The major formats all appeared to be supported in our tests.

It's all presented well with your most recent songs also available on screen. Go into the 'My Phone' section and you're given a gorgeous album art display which really shows off your tunes. And when you actually play a song, it's all integrated with the other apps. So you can choose to look for that song on YouTube or elsewhere.

Soundhound is also integrated here and gives you some really cool options from looking up lyrics (it actually just does a Google search rather than consulting some huge database of its own) as well as letting you look for tour dates for the artist you're listening to and go off on a tangent into other things.

You'll definitely never get bored waiting for the bus here. It even brings up a Google Map showing you where you conducted your search from. Which will be handy if you're in the boot of a car having been kidnapped. But we can't see how else.

There are so many other nice touches too. You can update album art automatically. Or queue songs rather than creating playlists. HTC has done a – frankly – excellent job here.

Adding to the experience is the Beats Audio tie-in. This appears to be HTC's pet project at the moment but, having invested something like $500m for a 51% stake in Dr Dre's music solution, it's safe to say Cher Wang and Co are pretty serious about it.

Firstly, the disappointment. Depending on the network you go with, you might not get a pair of Beats Audio headphones in the box. You'll have to save up for them yourself.

But, the good news is that you still get some benefit without them. Beats Audio doesn't work with the speaker on the back of the HTC One S but just try streaming music via Bluetooth to a car stereo (as we did) or listening with bog standard headphones and you'll definitely notice its far superior sound.

We'll not dress it up – it's not like having the Black Eyed Peas singing to you in person – but it's certainly clear and gives you a bit more bang for your buck. Oh, and you get an FM radio too! Bonus!


As for video, HTC hasn't bundled its own player and there isn't really an all-singing all-dancing version in there, either. Yes, you can access them through the gallery but it's hardly the same.

HTC One S review

Google offers you a Play Movies app which ties in nicely with its own sales and rental store. You can play personal videos through this but we'd describe the experience as passable rather than remarkable.

As we stated in our original HTC One X review, it's not designed for giving the most information if you're watching a TV series and you're probably best hunting out a third party market solution.

HTC has also brought out the new Media Hub HD, with dedicated integration to the One Series. This means that no matter what you're up to, you can flick three fingers up the screen and the phone will search for the little dongle.

Once found you can stream YouTube video, mirror the display, share pictures swiftly or browse the internet on a larger screen. It's definitely quicker than the original Media Link, but it's not useful in practice.

We tried to stream YouTube, play a game using the phone as a controller or just flick through photos, but each time we got horrendous buffering, or in the case of gameplay, terrible frame rates. We hope this will be sorted by future updates, but right now, we wouldn't recommend it.

HTC Watch is also bundled in and provides an alternative to the Google store. It's been about a year since this launched (initially on the Sensation) and whilst, it's not bad, it's not amazing. You'll find something in there if you're really bored but Lovefilm or Netflix, it aint.

However, HTC has begun something called '5p Weekends', allowing you to download movies for, you guessed it, 5p (around seven cents). There are some decent titles on there too, and got us actually using the service too.

At least, if you do have something worth watching, the One S will not tire out your hands due to its shape and weight. But be warned again, you're likely to drop it. So make sure you wrap it up.