Sunday, 22 April 2012 13 comments


Strangely, it’s been a while since we’ve seen a top-shelf Android powered smartphone for T-Mobile. Yeah, the carrier has been blessed with quality devices such as the Samsung Galaxy S II and HTC Amaze 4G, but they’ve been available for some time now – with nothing particularly “fresh” put out by them in the last few months. Now that spring is in full swing, the wait for something special will soon be over, as the highly anticipated HTC One S is set to shake things come April 25th.

Over the big pond, our friends in Europe have been taking pleasure in experiencing the beauty and wonder surrounding the middle child of HTC’s One family. And soon enough, T-Mobile customers will be able to partake in it as well – thus, delivering a device that boasts the most up-to-date version of HTC’s Sense UI on top of Android 4.0 Ice Cream Sandwich. Priced at $199.99 with a 2-year contract, some might question and wonder if it’s valid enough to accept wholeheartedly, even more when Sprint’s beefier HTC EVO 4G LTE is confirmed to flaunt the same price point. Regardless of that, let’s dive in and find out what all the commotion is all about surrounding this bundle of joy.

The package contains:

  • microUSB cable
  • Wall Charger
  • Quick Start Guide
  • Product and Safety Information


Simply put it, T-Mobile’s version of the HTC One S is an exact facsimile to the European one we reviewed recently – well, the sole difference is the T-Mobile branding it’s sporting below its earpiece grill. Aside from that, the anodized aluminum unibody design of our review unit remains intact to the tooth, and more importantly, it’s remarkable that HTC has managed to produce something so skinny (0.31” thick) and lightweight (4.22 oz) without compromising its choice of materials. Of course, we’re mesmerized even further by its streamlined construction, though, its overall styling reminds us of a pancaked Google Nexus One – since it employs some familiar design traits from the original Nexus.

Overall, it’s extremely comfortable to hold in the hand, thanks to its chassis boasting a fairly narrow and elongated profile. Without question, we’re blown away to by the compact look for a device donning a large 4.3” display, and easily makes previous offerings like HTC Amaze 4G appear spaced out and chunky in overall size. All in all, the HTC One S is just one of those devices that looks beautiful as a rendered image, but as it makes its transition to a physical object for us to hold and touch, we’re emphatically impressed to see the wonder and intrigue still intact.

The HTC One S is extremely comfortable to hold in the hand

Becoming a standard with HTC’s set of Android smartphones, the One S opts to employ a trio of capacitive buttons beneath its display – as opposed to being a part of the interface, much like other ICS devices.Above the display, micro dots line up in unison for its narrow ear piece grill, while a front-facing VGA camera sits next to it ready for those occasional video chatting sessions.

Unfortunately, its dedicated power button and volume rocker are a tad bit too flat for our liking, but at least they exhibit a reasonable amount of tactility when pressed. Also, around its sides, we find its noise cancelling microphone, 3.5mm headset jack, microUSB port for charging/data connectivity, and standard mic.

Volume rocker (justify)          3.5mm jack and power key (top)         microUSB port (left)

The sides of the HTC One S

Around the rear, its 8-megapixel auto-focus camera juts out from the surrounding surface and its lens is outlined with the same blue accent. Being one camera friendly device, it features an F2.0 aperture lens, backside illuminated sensor, LED flash, 1080p video recording, and the ability to snap photos while shooting a video. Prying off the top plastic cover surrounding the camera, we gain access to its microSIM card slot. On the opposite edge, another set of micro dots converge together to forms its speakerphone grill. Just a reminder to you folks, this beauty lacks both a removable battery and expandable microSD slot.

Speaker grill          Rear camera           microSIM card slot




The One S is among those rare few phones whose design moves the whole mobile industry forward. In chronological terms, this is just a higher-spec successor to the 4.3-inch HTC Sensation, but its look and feel are wholly fresh and original. The side-mounted Micro USB port and qHD display resolution are the only remnants of yesteryear’s handset.
Everything has been rethought, optimized, and streamlined: the aluminum unibody case is now an incredible 7.8mm thick, the speaker grilles have been micro-drilled into the overall shell (rather than fronted by discrete metal plates), and the black One S variant has even been treated with a super-futuristic process called microarc oxidation. That’s something usually reserved for satellites having to endure the inhospitality of space, and involves plunging the aluminum into a plasma bath and electrocuting it with 10,000 volts, thereby carbonizing the material and converting it into a ceramic. The One S as a whole won’t survive reentry into the Earth’s atmosphere, but part of it might.
The phone’s sides curve in from the rear toward the display, which reciprocates by sloping off the lateral edges toward the back. The overall effect is one of coherence and unity — something sorely missing from the patchwork-like rear cover of the Sensation. I’m reminded of minimalist running shoes by the gentle curve along which the One S’ display and aluminum case meet. Having the glass reach out to the edge of the phone and beyond makes it look sumptuously modern, while also softening that edge and improving feel in the hand.
Conversely, the top edge is a little too sharp, and although the One S is styled almost identically to the larger One X, it feels harsher and less welcoming. That’s in part down to the aforementioned microarc oxidation treatment, which gives the surface a rougher feel. Despite being 1mm thinner and 10g lighter than the One X, the One S isn’t more pocketable or portable. The difference in height is also negligible — the One S has plenty of vertical bezel — but it’s the narrowness of the One S that makes it an easier phone to handle than its bigger sibling. 4.3-inch phones have been growing in usability ever since HTC introduced the first of them in 2009 and the One S keeps that trajectory going. You might not fall in love with its austere metallic surface or some of its edges, but there’s no denying that its ergonomics are as good as we could previously expect from 4-inch devices and below.


Htc-one-s-cover-offHTC’s emphasis on thinness with the One S leads to a number of internal sacrifices. The battery is enclosed and not removable by the user, there’s no microSD card slot, and the SIM card required is of the Micro SIM variety. Swapping Micro SIMs can actually be done without having to reboot the phone, but good luck trying to open up the compartment where the card resides. Every time I’ve managed to pry it open, the act required a lot of force and felt like I was breaking the phone.
On the plus side, Qualcomm’s all new Snapdragon S4 is the dual-core chip powering the One S, whose centerpiece is the 28nm Krait CPU that should ensure this handset’s 1.5GHz of power will go further and last longer than previous generations of chips. There’s also 1GB of RAM, 16GB of built-in storage, an MHL / Micro USB port, Bluetooth 4.0, DLNA, 802.11n, Beats Audio integration, an 8-megapixel camera with f/2.0 lens, 25GB of free Dropbox cloud storage for two years, and a couple of kitchen sinks sourced directly from Peter Chou’s Taipei office suite.



The HTC One S comes with a Pentile Matrix Super AMOLED display. The "Super" part of the name is what allows HTC to fit all those components behind the screen — it denotes that the touchscreen digitizer and AMOLED panel have been fused into one, which together with the lack of a backlight (unnecessary with self-illuminating OLED displays) makes the screen supremely thin. It’s the Pentile Matrix aspect that most people have a problem with.
"Pentile" has become a dirty word in our industry because it describes a pretty shady practice: using an RGBG (red, green, blue, green) subpixel arrangement instead of the standard RGB to build cheaper, but also lower-quality, displays. The main problem with RGBG is that you get color fringing on high contrast edges (e.g. white text on a black background), which tends to get in the way of displaying crisp edges and fine detail.
Most icons on the One S exhibit a fine sliver of green subpixels on their left edge and a similarly slender string of red subpixels on the right. Admittedly, you’ll have to look closely to spot these inaccuracies, but once you do, they’ll be impossible to unsee. It’s the same thing as noticing you can hear a weather presenter’s intakes of breath — once you’re aware of it, the only thing you’ll be paying attention to is his next breath, not what he has to say.
Other phones that feature Pentile displays include Samsung’s Galaxy Nexus, Nokia’s N9 and Lumia 800, and the Droid RAZR / RAZR Maxx from Motorola. The Galaxy Nexus manages to hide its shame by having much higher pixel density, whereas the Nokia handsets’ use of the accursed technology is more (though not entirely) forgivable because of their age.
The One S might very well be using the same panel as found in the RAZR — both phones have 960 x 540 resolution and measure 4.3 inches diagonally. That means you’ll see rich color saturation and great viewing angles, but also a blue-green tinge when you look at the screen off-center and a consistently inaccurate color temperature. The latter issue is most starkly felt when you place the One S next to the One X. Whites and grays on the X unit’s 720p Super LCD appear as they should, whereas the One S shows them with a hint of blue that’s characteristic of AMOLED screens.
Overall, the One S’ display seems like it was built for a showroom. It will wow casual onlookers with its vibrancy and brightness, but long-term users will quickly find it deficient in a number of important areas.

Viewing angles

Beats Audio:


Those two questions have been unfailingly asked by every person to whom I’ve shown the HTC One S and / or One X. The Beats label is an understated little marking on the back of the phone, but it’s also the only insignia it carries besides HTC’s own logo. Beats integration is a big deal for HTC.
My answer, as consistent as the question, has been simple: it’s a marketing gimmick. Beats Audio boosts the bass and volume on whatever you're listening to, but doesn't actually make it sound any better. And if it's not better, why bother doing it?
While the bass is most noticeably amplified, there are also some tweaks to the high end, which resulted in a couple of odd spikes in songs like The Chauffeur by the Deftones. I wouldn't say the Beats Audio processing is unpleasant — the popularity of the standalone Beats headphones is based almost exclusively on the modern listener's preference for exaggerated bass — but they just seem to make the music different, not better. If you want the most natural and realistic rendering of your music, you'll probably be keeping the Beats setting switched off.
That would be a massive shame in HTC’s estimation, after it worked hard to make Beats Audio compatible with any audio-generating app, including third-party streaming services like Spotify and Vimeo. I’d have more sympathy for the company, however, if the branding exercise had some real substance behind it. Jimmy Iovine’s blusterous promise of "music as the artists intended it" is nowhere near being fulfilled by these Beats Audio handsets and HTC is running the risk of alienating users by selling them a feature of dubious value.
As to the question of audio hardware, the loudspeaker on the back is neat and unobtrusive thanks to the clean new design, but its output is pedestrian. Sadly, the Beats Audio crew haven’t yet figured out how to "reengineer" speakers. HTC also throws in a nondescript pair of ear buds with an in-line mic, which is a change of course from its previous habit of including higher-quality Beats-branded ear buds. My best advice for the ones in the One S box is to leave them in the box.

Battery Life and Reception:

Running a 28nm Snapdragon SoC may help efficiency, but if you’re going to record 1080p video as this phone is capable of doing, you’ll find a battery of that size running out of juice pretty quickly. Sure enough, the Android
 battery-tracking chart fell off a cliff while I was doing my camera testing, which was a mix of still and video capture with the screen kept on most of the time. Nonetheless, even with a 40-minute photography session included, the One S managed to go a full 24 hours between charges for me, which is reliable endurance by anyone’s smartphone standards. Just be warned that pushing that 1.5GHz dual-core processor to its maximum won’t take you as far as other, less powerful, phones might.
Both the HTC One S and One X impressed me with their data connectivity. In a spot where I would typically get 5.4Mbps download speeds with the Nexus S, the One S consistently generated 6.4Mbps, reaching as high as 8.2Mbps on occasion. On the other hand, a couple of my speed tests showed the One S dipping to 4Mbps as well, so its performance was definitely better, but also somewhat mercurial. T-Mobile's HSPA+ network offered the same experience: at points incredibly fast, but wildly inconsistent. Over the course of a day of network testing, I saw download speeds as high as 14Mbps and upload speeds up to 13Mbps, but far too often speeds fell into the 75-100Kbps range. Normally we'd blame the network, but across different countries and carriers it's a little troubling, and it gets really frustrating waiting 90 seconds for a page to load when the last one loaded instantly.
This was also borne out by my experience with voice calls. When the connection is good, audio in both directions is loud and clear, however there were a number of instances when the One S failed to maintain a clear line in areas where I'd expect it to. Calls were never dropped, but sound quality deteriorated badly.


Rejoice T-Mobile fan, that’s because you’re finally getting in with a device sporting HTC Sense 4.0 on top of Android 4.0 Ice Cream Sandwich. Getting the notoriety of being the first device to offer it on T-Mo’s lineup, we’re certain people will appreciate all of the incremental improvements and visual eye candy littered throughout the interface. Naturally, we won’t be spending too much time talking about it, since you know, we’ve gone through it in great detail already with the HTC One X. As a whole, we’re favorable to the overall cleaner approach taken by HTC this time around. However, it isn’t necessarily a great departure from previous versions of Sense – therefore, veteran users will easily adapt to this one. 


The main goal for HTC in terms of the interface has been to simplify it. Indeed, previous versions of the UI had so much options and personalization stuff, that it could easily throw the more inexperienced users into confusion. Indeed, we do find Sense 4 to be significantly streamlined. Well, you still get the characteristic weather clock and big widgets, taking up a whole homescreen page, but HTC wanted to remain recognizable among the ocean of Android handsets on the market. However, gone is much of the eye-candy that was present in the previous version of the software. For example, you no longer get the spinning carousel when you energetically switch between homescreens.

Home screens of the HTC One S 

The main menu is also different now – the apps are arranged in a 4x5 grid pages, which are scrolled horizontally, instead of vertically as in previous versions of Sense. The new experience is probably simpler this way. The good thing for us is that the handset is moving pretty swiftly now, with no hint of lag or choppy animations. We're not sure how much of this is to be attributed to the optimizations done to the interface, or the Snapdragon S4 processor, but anyways – the result is a perfectly smooth UI, and that's what we care for.

The main menu 

No doubt its on-screen keyboard layout pales in comparison to the one found with the HTC One X, but despite that, we still find it bearable to type messages – though, the set of directional keys seem to clutter things up. Of course, we’ve always been fond of the Sense keyboard, seeing it provides us with some numbers and punctuations directly from the main layout by performing a long press.  Consistently typing at a fast pace isn’t a problem, but we sorely wish for those directional keys to disappear entirely. 

On-screen keyboard 

Of course, every way of using email known to humankind is available on the HTC One X. In addition to custom POP3/IMAP accounts, you can also easily set-up Exchange ActiveSync, Gmail (now, that's a surprise!), Yahoo! Mail and Microsoft Hotmail.


Processor and Memory:

The lighter HTC Sense feels rather peppy now, powered by the latest dual-core 1.5GHz Qualcomm Snapdragon S4 chipset with “Krait” cores, in its MSM8960 reincarnation with HSPA+ radio and the new Adreno 225 GPU. Exactly like the European version, the phone has the usual 1GB of RAM, which enables it to run flawlessly with most tasks. Running a few benchmark tests, T-Mo’s version of the HTC One S establishes average scores of 4,867 on Quadrant, 7,019 with AnTutu, and 60.7 FPS running NenaMark2. For the most part, the scores reflect the same results we saw with the European version, but most importantly, the handset simply runs extremely swift.

Quadrant StandardAnTuTuNenaMark 2
HTC One S4867701260,7
HTC One X48481102447,4
Samsung Galaxy S II3113607651
Samsung Galaxy Nexus2000550324

As we’ve pointed out already, there’s no expandable memory with this one – meaning, you’ll need to be more conscious in what you load, seeing that storage out of the box breaks down to 9.93GB for phone storage and 2.21GB strictly for apps.

Internet and Connectivity:

As expected, the HTC One S delivers a tasteful web browsing experience that’s capable of appeasing even the most demanding users out there. Finding all the same features and miniscule quirky things with it, such as the flickering that goes on when adjusting the zoom level, we’re content by its high level of performance. Not only do pages load up in a timely manner under T-Mobile’s HSPA+ network, but the experience is further complemented by its buttery smooth navigational operation – and even better, it doesn’t stutter in the wake of Adobe Flash content.

The HTC One S delivers a tasteful web browsing experience 

With this particular version of the HTC One S, it’s outfitted to set sail on T-Mobile’s specific AWS band – where it’s theoretically capable of getting speeds as fast as 42Mbit/s. Besides that, it packs the same set of connectivity options such as aGPS, Bluetooth 4.0, DLNA functionality, 802.11 b/g/n Wi-Fi, and mobile hotspot functionality. Sadly though, it lacks an NFC chip inside of it – much like its overseas sibling.


Calling all trigger-happy photographers out there, the HTC One S is stocked to the brim with features and various modes to draw out that wannabe professional shooter inside of you. As we’ve mentioned in our review of the European version, the HTC One S features an 8-megapixel camera with LED flash and a dedicated HTC ImageChip, which circumvents the default chipset manufacturer’s DSP. The result is an extremely snappy, sub-second camera, when we refer to the amount of time it takes to start the app, focus and take a picture. Additionally, we also have a number of new Instagram-style effects and different scene modes, like Group Portrait and Closeup to choose from, as well as HDR, panorama, face and smile detection modes, and geotagging, making the One S a pretty versatile shooter.

Camera interface

Armed to the teeth with its expansive shooting modes, we’re left a bit underwhelmed by the handset’s image quality. Now don’t get us wrong, it produces some acceptable shots worthy enough for printouts, but when compared to other photogenic handsets on the market, it doesn’t quite exhibit the qualities we deem as above average in the category. For starters, shots tend to display some noticeable over-sharpening, while macro shots are a nightmare since it has the same difficulty focusing on close objects. Even though it maintains the same fast focus and shutter times under low lighting, details generally appear to be a bit too grainy for our tastes – albeit, the LED flash compensates things thanks to the new brightness setting of the LED flash, which is based on measuring how close the subject is.

Camera samples made with the HTC One S

Strong                                           Medium                                Low light
3ft                                                  5ft                                                 7ft
Darkness with flash
Indoor samples

Previewing our 1080p video recording, we’re flattered by the results, but not entirely compelled by it – mainly because it’s plagued by the same idiosyncrasies we’ve witnessed on other recent HTC smartphones; like the Titan II. Of course, we do like that it shoots at the smooth rate of 30 frames per second outdoors with great lighting, while balancing things out with its good contrast level and accurate colors. However, it’s plagued by some recognizable levels of artifacting when panning – despite having activated video stabilization. On top of that, we notice the results being a bit over-exposed, with details being of the soft side – so yeah, it’s a valiant effort, but not a home run.

HTC One S for T-Mobile Sample Video:


The music player sports a polished interface with the works – cover art, tunes categorization, equalizer presets and visualizations. Since the HTC One S is a Beats Audio phone, we also get the plumped base sounds when listening to music through the headphones. Conversely, the internal speaker lacks the oomph to its punch, as it clearly sounds lackluster and on the flat side.

The music player sports a polished interface

As far as video playback goes, the One S ran everything we threw at it, DivX/Xvid included, out of the box, and at up to 1080p definition – so yes, it’s a pleasure to watch videos on. Yet again, we’re treated with the same set of features as before, which consists of brightness adjustment, screenshot capture, locking the controls, and has a sound enhancer mode, where you can choose from HTC presets, including Beats Audio in headset mode. Oh yeah, did we mention that there’s a basic trimming option as well?
Video playback

For those of you with DLNA compatible devices, you’ll surely appreciate the wireless option of sharing multimedia content. Oppositely, we like that a wired option is available as well with the aid of an optional MHL adapter, which of course, you’ll need to purchase separately. 



Htc-one-s-chrome And now, to the main event. As with cameras and image quality, smartphones are judged primarily on the quality of user experience they offer, which starts and ends with the software. HTC is building atop a fantastic base with the One S by using Google’s latest version of Android, Ice Cream Sandwich. The Galaxy Nexus has shown how blindingly fast and fluid this OS can be, and there are already significant app-related advantages to being on the latest platform. Google’s updated Gmail app and the Chrome for Android beta are both available only to users of Android 4.0.


If you ask us, HTC should ship ICS in its bone stock variety, only adding legitimately worthwhile alterations like ImageSense where their value is easily demonstrable. Alas, HTC operates in a world where hardware differentiation alone won’t suffice and, like every other major Android manufacturer, the company goes to the trouble of sculpting out a comprehensive software skin for Android, which it calls Sense.

Sense 4 has been formulated as a direct response to the public outcry against Sense 3.x, which was too frilly and ornate. Gone are the superfluous animations and flourishes, the chrome has been trimmed down, and most of the faux 3D effects have been dispensed with. When viewed as a solution to the troubles of the previous Sense, this new software can be classified a success. But you know what solves all the problems of the older Sense? Ice Cream Sandwich. 

It’s not impossible to improve on Google’s Android 4.0 UI, it’s just that HTC hasn’t done it. The company has taken a modern, harmonious piece of software that finally offers a level of polish heretofore unseen on Android and is dragging it back to the dark ages of 2011. The dialer is unnecessarily convoluted, the icon design clashes aesthetically with both ICS and internally within Sense, and instead of onscreen software buttons, we’re given the old capacitive keys. No big deal, you say? Well, the soft menu button still needs to make an appearance now and again, which it does discreetly on the stock Ice Cream Sandwich and crudely on HTC’s version. Because there’s no software key bar for it to show up in, the menu button generates the entire bar for itself, with its three vertical dots stood stranded in that vast expanse of space. It’s an untidy eyesore that doesn’t need to exist. 

Htc-one-s-kbAnother salient example of taking a step forward for Sense and a step back from ICS is the onscreen keyboard. The Sense 4 keyboard is the best HTC has yet offered on a touchscreen device, thanks in large part to the widened second row making for a more comfortable typing experience than on previous versions. It has decent haptic feedback and reprises the T9 Trace input option available since Sense 3.0. Those are its good aspects. The bad is that the lower left corner is still occupied by an inexplicable button for pulling down the keyboard and a language-switching toggle. I happen to text in multiple languages myself, yet have never felt such a sense of urgency about alternating between English and Bulgarian as to desire a dedicated button. That’s an option you could easily relegate to the settings menu without alienating your users, which is the route taken by most phone makers and Google’s stock keyboard.
Other than the praiseworthy ImageSense camera suite, HTC does two further things well in the Sense 4 software. The first is the switch of the multitasking menu from the vertically scrolling one available in stock ICS to an isometric card view that can be scrolled horizontally. It works identically to what you’ll find on the Galaxy Nexus, but gives you a different view unto the apps. This sort of superficial modification fits right into the overall theme of Sense 4, which has been designed to duplicate what’s already in Android 4.0 with an added coat of HTC paint.
The other, more tangible, software enhancement is HTC’s gesture-based DLNA interaction. Once you pair your One S with a nearby DLNA-capable TV (or one connected to HTC’s Media Link HD wireless adapter), you can send data to it from the phone via a simple three-finger swiping gesture. You can stream video off the phone wirelessly and simultaneously continue using it for other purposes, and a three-finger downward swipe will nullify the connection when you’re done. It’s a useful capability that can easily become a favorite for those who like to store media on their phone.
Although ImageSense and the DLNA gesture control are laudable, both could have been introduced without the ruination of Google’s Android 4.0 design language. And HTC didn’t just make ICS look worse, it’s thrown in a couple of usability problems of its own. Among the most basic is the fact that app icon labels don’t have enough of a shadow behind their white text, resulting in light backgrounds making those labels unreadable. Another is that the lock screen habitually shows the weather widget even when I’ve quite deliberately set it to not do that. The weather widget still features an unwanted animation and, more importantly, obscures the usual four-icon launcher that lets you unlock the phone directly into one of those apps.
The only changes in T-Mobile's variant of the device come in the form of bloatware — lots and lots of bloatware. The carrier preloads nearly a dozen apps, all identifiable by their pink icons: from "411 & More" to "T-Mobile TV," plus a few third-party options like Polaris Office, Where's My Water, and an app for the Amazon Store. Most are unlikely to get much use, and nearly all are impossible to remove; you'll just need to train your eyes to not see pink icons in your app drawer.
In summary, HTC has rejected Google’s latest Android aesthetic in favor of a tired UI design whose iconography is over two years old in some parts, it has layered in change for change’s sake, it has made some aspects of the UX worse, and it’s brought no substantial improvements to the experience of using an Android phone.

Carrier branded apps

Preloaded apps on the HTC One S


In spite of shooting itself in the foot with classically dubious skinning decisions, HTC hasn’t been able to prevent the combination of Ice Cream Sandwich and Snapdragon S4 from working like a dream. UI lag is nowhere to be found and apps pop open with a satisfying quickness. Even the most basic tasks like loading up the camera and taking a quick snapshot, browsing through your galleries, or finding a destination in the Maps application are tangibly improved by the One S’ combination of software and hardware. Google’s latest OS is simply much more responsive than anything that’s come before it and Qualcomm’s newest processor generation is equally ahead of the company’s earlier efforts. The benchmarks below bear out my experience with the One S in full. 
A few quick notes are merited with respect to the benchmarks used herein. Firstly, GLB stands for GLBenchmark, which, like all the other tests, is available from the Play store. Biases and limitations exist in all of these scores: Quadrant runs its 3D tests at the device's native resolution (favoring the lower-res One S), while AnTuTu is partially constrained by the 60fps frame cap on the phone (limiting its final score). Vellamo is also a Qualcomm-produced benchmark, so it should come as little surprise to see the Snapdragon leading the pack there. Taken as a group, however, these data points provide enough evidence to reliably conclude that the HTC One S and One X share the crown as the fastest Android smartphones out today.

Wrap Up:


When it comes to first impressions, the HTC One S is an instant winner. It marries thinness with a subtle, exquisitely refined design, and its AMOLED display is exactly the sort of vibrant eye-catcher that attracts people in stores. It almost sounds like the perfect premise for a device that's all style and no substance, but that's not the case with the One S. Sure, on closer inspection that Pentile display can drive you to distraction, but I'm learning to forgive that downside for the rich upside on offer from the dual-core Snapdragon S4, ImageSense camera suite, and Ice Cream Sandwich OS.

This wouldn't be an Android phone review, however, if I didn't bemoan the state of HTC's custom skin. Sense 4 is an improvement on the company's previous efforts, but that's not saying much. The skin sits like a lumpen deformity atop the sleek Ice Cream Sandwich and breaks up the otherwise quick user experience with frustrating design choices and a few instabilities all its own. The One S' qHD screen resolution is also quickly going out of style and rather lets down the rest of the top-notch spec sheet. 

If all you want is the best HTC phone you can own today, the easy answer is the One X and its superlative 720p display. There's a reason why HTC prices it at €100 more, after all. But if you're after the best Android or overall smartphone user experience, you'll have to look to the familiar suspects: Google's Galaxy Nexus and Apple's iPhone 4S. Until Android OEMs wise up and stop handicapping their products with ill-advised skinning efforts, we'll be stuck repeating this mantra. 




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