T-Mobile HTC One S Review and Hands-on Video

July 10, 2012
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T-Mobile has had it tough over the last couple of years, culminating into a failed takeover bid by mobile networking giant AT&T.

The No. 4 network carrier in the US has since jumped on the LTE bandwagon, while also attempting an image re-branding and focusing on its fast 42MBps HSPA+ network, until the LTE network is ready to roll out in 2013. Strategic marketing aside, the best way to get back into the consumers’ good graces is to provide devices and plans that users actually want.

With this in mind, T-Mobile has added and will continue to add some hugely popular Android devices to its line up, such as the HTC One S, the Samsung Galaxy Note, and now the Samsung Galaxy S3. Today we take a look at one of T-Mobile’s flagship Android devices, the HTC One S.

Form Factor

Whatever complaints users may have about HTC’s One series lineup (no microSD, non-removable battery), the Taiwan-based manufacturer has gone all out in creating elegant and beautifully designed devices. While most manufacturers are leaning towards cheap, glossy plastics for their device bodies, the HTC One S features an unique aluminium unibody design, which was created by the much-talked about “micro-arc oxidization treatment.”

A glossy blue ring surrounds the camera lens at the back of the One S. On removing the SIM card panel, you can see that the blue color extends into the “internals” of the phone as well. There’s only a small cover that is removable at the top of the device for the SIM card. Granted, this means that the battery is non-removable, but it does add a touch of elegance to the design. The AMOLED display protected by a curved Corning Gorilla glass sheet extends into the body and gives a feel of  “all screen.”

The One S is HTC’s thinnest device, at only 7.8mm thickness and is very light, weighing only 119.5g. While we’re seeing a shift to radically larger screen sizes, the 4.3″ display of the One S is optimal in my opinion. This makes one-handed use of the device very easy, and is a huge plus point for the device. The design is minimalist, with only the camera lens grabbing any attention. For me, simple and elegant has always been the key, and HTC has certainly stepped up with the design of the One S.

Specifications

Although the middle brother of the One series, the specifications of the One S is nothing to scoff at. Specs include:

  • 4.3″ qHD super AMOLED display
  • 960×540 resolution
  • 1.5 Ghz dual-core Qualcomm Snapdragon S4 processor
  • 1GB RAM
  • 16 GB internal storage, no microSD expansion
  • Android 4.0 with HTC Sense 4.0
  • 1,650 mAH battery
  • Beats Audio

Display

The HTC One S features a qHD Super AMOLED display, with a resolution of 960×540, which is a notch lower than big brother One X, which features a super LCD 2 display, with a 1280×720 resolution. The debate of AMOLED vs LCD will rage on, but in the case of the One S, the display is bright with (mostly) sharp colors that really pop. Overall, it’s a pleasure to gawk at.

Software

The HTC One S, like all of HTC’s recent devices, features Android 4.0 with HTC Sense 4.0. Let’s take a look at some of the software highlights:

  • Not many people prefer manufacturer UI overlays, but if I had to choose one, it would be the HTC Sense 4.0. The latest iteration of Sense allows for a lot of customization, with multiple options for skins and scenes. HTC has also tweaked a lot of stock ICS features, such as the method for closing recent apps, to give a more consistent feel. Also featured is a new lock screen that allows you to directly open up to 4 apps, as well as folders, directly from the lock screen. Beautiful animations and a much faster and lighter feel make Sense 4.o one of the better UI overlays available.
  • You know there is a lot of bloatware when you have 4 pages of apps in the app drawer, and only 3 have been downloaded from the Play Store (see video). Apart from the HTC and Android pre-loaded apps, the T-Mobile device includes a lot of additional apps from the carrier, such as 411 & More, Game Base, Lookout Security, T-Mobile Hotspot, My T-Mobile, More for Me, T-Mobile Name ID, Polaris Office, and Where’s My Water. As usual, most of these pre-loaded apps cannot be uninstalled.
  • Tapping the Home capacitive button or using a pinch gesture opens up a “top view” of all panels. From there, you can set which panel will be your homescreen and also add panels, if required.
  • The Task Manager features RAM management and allows you to end all tasks at once. Settings include Automatic Startup and Memory Use notifications.
  • Browser features include “View desktop site” mode, enable/disable flash player, HTML 5 support, and a convenient tab management system.
  • Beats Audio integration across the board, for all audio and video needs. Unfortunately, can be used only with headphones.
  • Multiple add-on widgets, elegant scrolling and other animations, task management options, easy folder creation, user customizations and tweak options, and fast performance combine to create an amazing user experience.

Performance

The dual-core Snapdragon S4 processor by Qualcomm is the SoC featured in a lot of top devices these days, and in every LTE-capable smartphone released in the US. Although, this is primarily because of the incompatibility issues with LTE radios, the dual-core S4 performs really well in in benchmark tests. The HTC One S features 1GB of RAM, which already seems dated with 2GB RAM becoming the new “minimum” requirement, but does not take away from performance in any way.

As you can see from the Quadrant benchmark, which is a CPU, I/O, and 3D graphics benchmark test, the HTC One S scored a 5073. This is a fairly high score, and in-fact, by a small margin, beat the score of the quad-core Nvidia Tegra 3 powered international version of the HTC One X.

Camera

One of the best of the HTC One S features is its amazing camera technology. The One S features an 8MP BSI (back side illuminated) sensor, with a dedicated HTC ImageChip and HTC ImageSense technology. LED flash also allows for enhanced low-light performance. The One S also has a front-facing VGA camera with 720p HD video recording capability.

HTC has completely revamped the camera app, making it very easy and convenient to capture quick, high-quality images. Pressing and holding the camera button enables the burst shot mode, allowing you to capture up to 99 images per minute, with a further option to select a “Best Shot” or have the app select one for you.

Sample Image (Source: HTC)

The camera shutter button and video capture button are available at the same time, which is a time-saver and removes the need for toggling between modes. Even better is the ability to capture images while shooting video, which can also be done after a video shoot is completed.

There are numerous settings, video options, image options, and filters, that provides an amazing camera experience. Truly, with the advances in smartphone camera technology, the need for a point-and-shoot camera is slowly becoming a memory.

Video

Catch Clayton’s in-depth review of the T-Mobile HTC One S here:

Pricing and Availability

The HTC One S is available exclusively from T-Mobile in the US and will set you back $199.99 with a 2-year contract and a $50 mail-in rebate. You can buy the One S either online, from the T-Mobile website here, or from T-Mobile stores.


Conclusion

HTC has done a lot of things right with the ultra-thin and lightweight HTC One S, with its optimal screen size, elegant design, amazing display, great camera, and software enhancements to complement the powerful hardware. The One S is available exclusively from T-Mobile, but I’m surprised that other network carriers haven’t picked this device up as a mid-range alternative to the HTC One X and its variations. This means that if the HTC One S is the device for you, you will have to switch to T-Mobile’s network. But if you’re an existing customer, you should definitely check out this amazing device.

What are your thoughts? Will you buying the HTC One S? Let us know in the comments section below.

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