htc one s senseIt was March at MWC2012 that HTC announced their new streamlined range of handsets for 2012 – the One X, One S and One V.

All three received positive feedback, but the One S at the middle of the range was the one I wanted to take a look at, so thanks to Three for sending me one to review for the last couple of weeks.

Handset

The One s is a very sleek handset measuring 65mm wide, 130.9mm high and a svelte 7.8mm thick but the uni-body aluminium casing gives it a reassuringly solid feel. It has a 4.3 inch display, larger than most previous models, but the thinness means its not awkward to hold.

The phone has a gentle curve to the back, with a nice symmetry at each end, the glass front is completely flat however, and also curves down over the edges slightly.

htc one s side view

There are compromises for this new ultra-thin design though. The One S uses the new MicroSIM format, has no expandable storage by way of MicroUSB, and the battery is not removable. The cover to the top of the handset is tricky to get off, the fear of breaking an essential plastic part the main factor.

The 16GB of storage is all you’re going to get, although HTC have teemed up with Dropbox to provide an additional 25GB of storage, free for 2 years, so as long as you have internet, you can access files stored in the cloud fairly easily. This is ok, but if you wanted to load some high quality films on board for a plane journey you’re going to make decisions about exactly what you can fit.

htc one s sim cover removed

Hidden inside, the battery is a 1,650 mAh affair, and seems to push the One S through the day without issue. The “smart push” feature intelligently reduces email polling as battery life drops, which if you have several email accounts configure like me is a smart move. I finished most days with around 20-30% battery life remaining, but this isn’t enough to avoid me charging overnight.

Performance

The One S has a Qualcomm MSM8260A Snapdragon S4 processor combining a 1.5GHz Krait CPU and an Adreno 225 GPU onto a single chip. And the One S flies, there was no noticeable lag in anything I did, I ran Netflix streaming video, email polling, video recording and numerous other functions without issue. There are reports of the phone struggling to run multiple processes at the same time, but its not something I came across.

Camera

The camera is a 8 megapixel sensor with a f/2.0 lens, a backside-illuminated 8-megapixel sensor that can shoot 1080p video at 30fps. There is a dedicated HTC ImageChip processor which makes taking pictures extremely fast, and the new software on board is a big leap forward too. You can now record video and take still images during the process (at full res) or take pick still images out of a previous recording (although this will only be at recording resolution of 1920 x 1088). This is a handy way of getting a decent quality still for Facebook or Twitter from a previously shot video.

There is an optional automatic burst mode where the phone will take images before and after you actually press the shutter button, allowing you to select the best one afterwards, perfect if you’re trying to capture children or animals or anything not necessarily waiting to be photographed.

Beats Audio

The One S includes Beats Audio technology inside. Enthusiastic marketing claims have been made about the improvements this makes, with or without a pair of BA Headphones. I’m certainly not an audiophile, but I can’t notice the difference other than a more pronounced bass note and it generally sounding louder.

It doesn’t seem to make listening to music any worse, but I wouldn’t go out of my way to Beats Audio up my experience on purpose.

htc one s apps viewAndroid 4 – Ice Cream Sandwich

The One S range are the first HTC handsets to come shipped with Android 4 (ICS). First outed in the Galaxy Nexus (check out my Nexus review here) Android 4 ICS is a massive improvement over previous versions of Android bringing improved consistent usability.

Naturally HTC can’t let their phones go out the door running stock ICS, so their custom user interface HTC Sense has been upgraded to Sense 4 too.

Sense 4 is an improvement over the previous versions, which were heavy with unnecessary animation and often slowed the phone down, but while this version is less frills its still largely the same. If you’re ok with Sense, you’ll like Sense 4, if you’re not you won’t like this either!

Other small improvements include the ability for the One S to know when its been picked up and soften the ring volume accordingly. It will also increase the volume if it detects its in a pocket or purse.

Summary

Overall the One S is a great handset, the design, size and weight are a great leap forward from previous HTC offerings, and if you’re looking for an Android upgrade this should be among your shortlist.

If you’re a screen size junkie, the One X might suit you better, and if you prefer stock ICS, then the Galaxy Nexus would be your logical choice, but for people that want a middle of the road phone that does everything well, this is your answer.

You can buy the HTC One S from Three online, or on their stores. Its available for £29 on The One Plan at £32/month for 24 months or on PAYG for £369.99.