HTC sent us their latest device for T-Mobile (announcement is coming shortly from NYC) the One S. This device is part of “the new HTC” a return to form by the Taiwanese company after a devastating 4Q 2011. After an onslaught of very similar models across the “high-end” of the Android OS market the brand was becoming diluted. Last year saw (in the US) the launch of Thunderbolt 4G, Evo Shift 4G, Droid Incredible 2, Merge, Sensation 4G, Evo 3D, Status, MyTouch 4G Slide, Rhyme, Hero S, Wildfire S, Amaze 4G, Evo Design 4G, Vivid, and lastly the Rezound. 16 phones, nearly half of which were considered high-end devices. HTC Chief Financial Officer Winston said “We simply dropped the ball on products in the fourth quarter.” Q1 2012 was a huge disappointment as our sister site TheDroidGuy reported two weeks ago.
So, how about the One is it “the one“?
Beginning with the first touch I thought, this feels like their mid to low-end devices – SPECTACULAR. I mean that in all sincerity. I loved the quality and construction of both the Status AND the Radar 4G (Windows Phone 7) devices. They were constructed out of solid pieces of aluminum. I was baffled why two of the best devices were made of this amazing metal but not the “halo” devices like Sensation 4G, Amaze 4G, or Evo 3D. The screen is a 4.3″ SuperAMOLED qHD (960×540) resolution*. It comes with Android 4.0.3 (Ice Cream Sandwich) and Sense 4.0 HTC’s custom UI overlay. The phone is powered by a Qualcomm Snapdragon S4 CPU, 1GB DDR2, and it operates on T-Mobile’s HSPA+ (42 Mbps) network. It also comes with Bluetooth 4.0, Wi-FI 802.11 b/g/n, and HDMI via MHL connector (not included). The storage is non-expandable 16GB (available space is split into 2.2 GB system and 9.9 GB external partitions). HTC has teamed with Dropbox to provide an additional 25 GB of “free” storage – if you don’t include data usage, that is.
The battery, which you cannot remove, is 1650 mAh. This is significantly smaller than the Motorola Droid Razr 1780 mAh (another device without a removable battery). It remains to be seen if this was a mistake or a HUGE mistake on the part of HTC. I’ve never personally owned a HTC device without owning at least one additional battery for it.
One of the top selling points for this reviewer is the new HTC ImageSense which “improves every part of the camera including the lens, the sensor, the software, and integrates a new custom HTC ImageChip. Inside it has an 8MP lens with f/2.0 aperture capture. The Rezound shipped with a f/2.2 aperture (smaller is “better”). The camera can be used to simultaneously shoot both video and still shots which I’ve tested extensively. It works amazingly well and is flawless during video playback.
HTC also focused on the sound output in the One S using Beats By Dre Audio to handle the processing of audio. Unlike the Rezound the One S did not come with Beats headphones. The Beats audio has been made available across the range of listening situations that I have used it for. The Rezound’s Beats output was limited to HTC Music and HTC watch. I was severely disappointed with that experience on the Rezound and appreciate that HTC addressed that issue.
HTC launched the One series with Android’s latest 4.0.3 ICS (Ice Cream Sandwich) and their custom UI Sense 4.0. I somewhat jokingly and somewhat seriously commented about my feelings regarding (the unofficial) Sense 3.6 leak for the Sensation 4G a few months back in this video (no need to watch, honestly). I won’t lie – I hated it. I still have a very strong dislike of Sense 3.6 but I’ve come to love Sense 4.0.
Sense 4.0 has followed the lead set by ICS yet still maintains a very familiar feel to the Sense that people have grown accustomed to. When you first turn on the device and the home screen loads the ubiquitous HTC Sense Clock widget greets you at the top of the screen. It looks, refreshed, almost different but isn’t. Well, it is ever so slightly different, it is now using the Roboto font (I believe) – if it is not Roboto then it is a different font than it always has been. The full suite of widgets are pre-loaded from HTC.
So far I’ve truly enjoyed the HTC One S in the short time that I have had it. I only received it on Monday so I cannot, in good conscience, give a full review. I will say that this is one of the fastest phones I’ve used to date, both in benchmarks and in real-world use. There have been very few cases of the phone ever stuttering or seeming to be unresponsive, swiping from home screen to home screen is fast and fluent. Music playback is great, I have yet to playback any video, web browsing is quick. It’s impossible to judge battery life in such a short period of time and to do so would be unfair because of the amount of use it gets. I will say that I have been relatively impressed with battery life so far. I used it a lot yesterday and I only needed to put it on charge one time towards the end of the day.
Mini Review thoughts:
Weight and Thinness are nearly perfect (clearly personal opinion)
Camera is spectacular (incredible in low-light situations)
*INTERESTINGLY the resolution shows up as 540×888 in my favorite app for system information Elixir 2 – this application has NEVER been wrong before, so I’ve pinged the developer for some insight. Also it is a PenTile display: The use of a SAMOLED screen means that my biggest gripe with the Galaxy Nexus (though less noticeable here, surprisingly) is the use of the pentile matrix for the pixel layout. I’ll do a separate post regarding PenTile displays tomorrow.