HTC One S Review: A Surprisingly Powerful Android Smartphone

by Reads (203,380)
Editor's Rating

Ratings Breakdown (1-10)

    • Service, Warranty & Support
    • 9
    • Ease of Use
    • 8
    • Design
    • 3
    • Performance
    • 10
    • Value
    • 9
    • Total Score:
    • 7.80
    • Rating 1 to 10, top score 10


  • Pros

    • Great performance
    • Slim design
    • Good value
  • Cons

    • Display is insufficiently sharp
    • Non-expandable memory
    • Boring design
    • No dedicated camera button

Quick Take

Not the best smartphone available, but it is one of the best on the market.

At the same time as HTC unveiled its flagship model, the One X, the company also presented the One S — a device which has often been overshadowed by its more powerful brother. The One S has a smaller display, a lower resolution, and a slower dual-core processor. However, it does come in an elegant metal casing and is currently one of the slimmest smartphones available on the market.

The HTC One S is not the fastest smartphone on the market, but it is one of the fastest. It does not offer the best screen, but its display is one of the best. Finally, it is definitely not the best smartphone at the moment, but it is one of the best available.

This review is of the international version of this handset, not the one being offered by T-Mobile. Unlike the One X, there are few differences between the U.S. and international versions of this device.

Build & Design

The body and build of this smartphone are surely one of its biggest selling points. Everyone who was thrilled by the One X, but cannot come to terms with its truly humongous dimensions, can easily shift their interest over to the One S. Truth be told — big smartphones with big displays are ideal for some things, especially when accessing the Web. However, because of their hefty size, they cannot be used with just one hand. Not even those with smaller than average hands will have this problem with the One S, whose 4.3-inch screen is located in a casing with the following dimensions: 130 x 65 x 7.8 mm.

HTC One SFurthermore, its elegant slim design makes it very impressive when held in hand, plus this phone rides easily in a pocket. This is the slimmest HTC smartphone ever built, and only Huawei has presented slimmer smartphones so far; the Ascend P1 is 7.7 mm thick and the Ascend P1 S just 6.7 mm.

The entire body is made of anodized aluminum, which gives it an undoubted solidness and robustness. This will be a source of great pleasure to everyone who wants a powerful smartphone but decided against One X, due to this expensive device having a plastic polycarbonate body, just like the competition’s flagship model, the Samsung’s Galaxy S III.

The only downside to this body boils down to uninspiring design. Aside from its slimness, the One S looks like just another HTC smartphone, not the least bit special or recognizable. Criticism should also be stated for the battery, which cannot be replaced, and there is no memory card slot or a special camera activation key.


This smartphone’s 4.3-inch Super AMOLED screen from Samsung is above average when it comes to imaging quality, but I have had the opportunity of seeing much more impressive displays in the past few months, especially among HD resolution models. The One S has a 540 x 960 pixel resolution, which offers a 256-ppi pixel density on this display size.

Using the Pentile matrix is not the best solution for this pixel density. Slanted straight lines on objects displayed on the screen (those that were drawn under a 45-degree angle) appear very jagged. This becomes less noticeable as the slope of the line reaches an entirely horizontal or vertical position, and eventually disappears altogether.

Icons or widgets on the desktop that include simple shapes look good, while those with a lot of tiny details, curves and especially sloped lines are not nearly as impressive. This screen shortcoming is emphasized when, for instance, you slowly flip through the home screens and the edges of large widgets stop being horizontal and are more and more sloped during the animation that simulates a 3D appearance. It is then possible to see the edges become more and more grainy and jagged with the naked eye.

HTC One SWith the exception of the sharpness issue, the One S’s display offers exceptionally vivid colors, a wide viewing angle, and a lasting contrast that handles various lighting conditions well. The Super AMOLED screen with this resolution and matrix (and a not too contrasting HTC Sense 4.0 user interface) offer very solid imaging when exposed to direct sunlight. The contrast is still not as good as an iPhone 4S, however. The One S can therefore be labeled as one of a few Android OS smartphones that are actually pleasant to use in direct sunlight.

Other Design Elements

The three capacitive keys are located below the One S’s screen: Back, Home and the Task Manager. The space above the display includes a front-facing camera, sensors for ambient light and proximity, as well as a tiny LED.

There is a micro-USB port on the left side of the device, which also serves as a battery charger and an HDTV connection, thanks to MHL support. The volume control switch is on the right side.

The upper part of the smartphone has a 3.5 mm audio jack, a power button and a small fingernail slot that facilitates raising the back cover for the micro-SIM slot. The lower edge includes a miniature microphone and the backside features the lens of an 8 megapixel camera and an LED flash.



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