HTC Desire S

HTC's Desire S isn't the king of the hill in the way that the original Desire was. As an evolution of the Desire concept, it's still a very nice phone, but it's not a world beater.


8.8
CNET Rating
7.8
User Rating

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Design

It's no secret that the original HTC Desire was one of our favourite phones in 2010; despite many other models launching last year, it remained a solid option for any smartphone buyer, seeing off a raft of competition. The updated version, the Desire S, has seen its most significant change in the design arena, grabbing the unibody design style that HTC first used in the Legend last year, and applying it to the Desire idea. The result is mixed. We like the style of the unibody Desire S for the most part, and the fact that it's thinner and smaller (59.8x11.63x115mm to the original Desire's 60x11.9x119mm) makes it easier to hold in the hand than the original did, although that'll vary depending on your hand size. If you found the Desire HD to be too much physical phone to handle, the Desire S may suit your needs well. Then again, the Incredible S' back-bump heavy design felt even better to our hands, so it's well worth giving it a grip road test before buying, in any case.

Something old, something new: the Desire and the Desire S.
(Credit: CBSi)

The Desire S' 3.7-inch SLCD 400x800 display screen looks fair, but having dug out our test Desire, the difference in quality between AMOLED and LCD screens quickly becomes apparent. It's not the kind of difference you'll spot unless you do stick them side by side, but the LCD screen is slightly more washed out.

Again, tastes may vary, but we do miss the inclusion of actual physical buttons that the Desire had but the Desire S lacks. We can't say the same for the lack of optical trackball; while it seemed like a neat idea at the time, a year down the track we can't say we ever used it for much.

The rear of the Desire S houses a 5-megapixel camera with LED flash set off slightly from the central position that the camera had on the original model, next to the speaker grille. As with the Legend, the bottom of the back houses the battery and SIM compartment slot. The unibody design of the Desire S means that it's got two distinct plastic bumps on the back, compared to the smooth back of the original. The upside of this particular design decision is that it's an easier phone to hold.

User experience

There's a simple rule for HTC phones; if you buy one, you're going to get HTC Sense, no matter what the underlying operating system actually is. The Desire S doesn't buck this trend, offering up HTC Sense 2.1, identical to the recently reviewed HTC Incredible S. At this stage, Sense feels rather like a set of comfortable old slippers, even though HTC insists that there's more than two hundred changes between the Sense you get on the Desire S and the Sense you got on the original Desire. It's worthwhile noting that when we quizzed HTC on these exact changes, things got rather evasive as to specific detail. Still, Sense is a key differentiator for HTC's phones, and the ability to personalise your phone, quickly skip through application types and access recently used applications is a plus in the increasingly crowded Android market, where there are still a lot of phones that offer little in the way of applications beyond those that Google offers anyway.

Speaking of applications, as a Telstra exclusive, there's also a range of Telstra applications covering services such as Foxtel and WhereIs. As you might predict, they're forcibly installed and can't be removed without rooting the device.

Camera

We loved the original Desire to bits ... except for the camera, which was a notable weak point. HTC's cameras have never been a really strong focus for the manufacturer, but the Desire S carries the recent trend of offering up decent, but not great, camera options. Putting the Desire S through its paces against the original Desire is a little unfair, but we did it anyway. Undeniably, if you were stepping up from the Desire you'd notice the camera difference straight away with greatly improved colour and shadow depth in most shots. Put it up against a more capable smartphone shooter, however, and the Desire S' shortcomings become slightly more apparent.

(Credit: Alex Kidman/CBS Interactive)

Click here for a larger version of the image.
(Credit: Alex Kidman/CBS Interactive)

Performance

The Desire S is HSDPA-capable, offering download speeds of up to 14.4Mbps depending on network conditions. Our experiences with Telstra's network suggest that you're more likely to hit higher speeds than on some other networks, but that's still a highly variable matter; in our ad hoc testing with the Speedtest.net Android App we hit averages in the 3Mbps-6Mbps range, testing in the Sydney area.

The underlying guts of the Desire S are identical to the Desire HD, and indeed the Incredible S; you get the same Scorpion Snapdragon 1GHz processor, 1.1GB of internal storage and 768MB of RAM. As such, its core benchmark scores in Smartbench 2011 and BrowserMark follow those phones pretty closely indeed, although its BrowserMark score was a little lower than we'd like.

BrowserMark benchmark results

  • HTC Desire S
  • Sony Ericsson Xperia Arc
  • HTC Incredible S
  • Samsung Nexus S
  • Longer bars equal better performance 30323 37971 36946 36458

What this comes down to in real-world usage is that the Desire S is a moderately snappy performer for most smartphone tasks. In our testing, we rarely hit application lag, and we found that the phone responded well to our commands. Again, though, we did miss those physical buttons, finding the touchscreen buttons less friendly; your preferences may vary.

In terms of battery life, the Desire S' 1450mAh battery doesn't buck the trend of smartphones to last around a day and not much more. We found that (not shockingly) if we used the hotspot feature to feed data to other devices extensively we could rather quickly exhaust the battery and warm our pockets quickly at the same time, but otherwise, sensible, normal usage should see you through the day without too many problems.

Overall

When we first set eyes on the Desire S, we were concerned that it might play something of a second fiddle to other HTC phones such as the Incredible S, and that's an impression that's stuck with us for the most part. The Desire S is an evolution of the Desire concept, but against phones such as the Incredible S, it struggles somewhat to stand out. Where last year the Desire was the leader of the pack for a surprisingly long time, this year the Desire S sits more in the middle ground, especially against the new wave of dual-core Android phones that are just starting to hit the market. The pricing of the phone, both in contract and outright purchase, reflects this reasonably enough; it's not priced like an absolute top-end smartphone, so expecting one would be unwise.

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hibbqwe
1
Rating
 

"shocking how bad it is"

hibbqwe posted a review   
Australia

The Good:none

The Bad:everything

Janave
3
Rating
 

"Wish It worked for me..."

Janave posted a review   
Australia

The Good:Great camera and video recorder, slim, easy to use, wide range of apps

The Bad:Battery runs out in 6 hours without use, reception cuts out in middle of conversation/immediately when person picks up where I live (no other places)

I wonder if something is wrong with my phone, I have put it in for repair 2 days ago and I'm hoping that it will fix the "bad" list. My (about) 10 year old Nokia 3210 has perfect reception in my house and backyard (with my telstra sim card - it didn't with my Virgin Mobile sim card). My Telstra, Next-G, HTC Desire S mobile cuts out continuously and I can't really use it at home. I can't find one "good" spot to stand within the house or backyard, I have to go to the front street. I wish I could say differently, but everyone I spoke to in the shops and on the phone were less than helpful. One said I have to pay $1500 to get out of the contract, so may as well keep the phone. No, I cannot exchange the phone for a cheaper one, or for the same one. One option they gave me is that I can output more money to buy a blue tick phone (which a lady recommended, even though telstra coverage is meant to be perfect where I live), and then pay a high $59/month for a phone with no features. One lady recommended an antenna website. Everything but admit that they are selling bad/faulty phones! You can sense my frustration.
According to one call-centre lady, this bad reception is common to the HTC's! I am really annoyed, because I like this phone alot, if I weren't having these problems I'd give it a 9, and i want it to work.

But I think that if you go to a store saying you are having reception troubles (like I did in the Telstra shop), you don't sell somebody a phone known for it's bad reception. In addition, being a "NEXT G" phone, you would think it's internal antenna would be BETTER than the one in my ancient nokia. Just really frustrating, I can't talk to anybody on my phone when I'm home, unless I go out onto the front street in the cold wind. I would advise to steer clear of this phone if you are having reception troubles.

SaliyaG Facebook
9
Rating
 

"Fantastic phone overall."

SaliyaG posted a review   
Australia

The Good:Beautiful screen, HTC sense, gingerbread OS, audio quality

The Bad:Battery life, slippery outer surface, touch sensitive buttons, camera quality

This phone is an absolute dream. Perfect size for everyday use. The phone functions well in making phone call. Good voice quality over the air. Bluetooth works well. Managed to pair, first go with the car stereo, without any dropouts noticed so far.
However, the phone antenna does not seem to be powerful enough. It fails to register a live phone signal in places my nokia E71 had no trouble with. However, overall connectivity is good.

It's a pitty HTC doesn't provide an actual free, full function navigator. The one on board was a trial version. Nokia scores in this department.

The most impressive of all, is the speed of the browser. Connected to wifi it is lightening fast, nearly comparable to a desktop. On HSDPA connection, it's still quite fast, with videos downloaded with minimal buffer time.

The battery life is quite disappointing. I have GPS off, wifi off, and 3G off most of the day and still struggle to get the battery to last longer than 1.5 days. I guess the background apps need a lot of juice to run.

The touch sensitive buttons are easy to press by mistake. Very annoying when browsing in landscape mode, where the right thumb easily glides over these buttons, closing the running app.

Got the phone as a Telstra Next G unlocked handset to use on Vodafone's upcoming 850MHz network. Tried out the new frequency the last time I was in Melbourne. It is quite fast!!

The unibody aluminium design makes the phone rigid and classy, but at the same time makes it very difficult to hold the phone comfortably as it is slippery. This is one problem not seen in the original desire. Adding a rubber case solves the issue, but makes the phone too bulky to mount on the HTC car kit. !!!

Overall this is a lovely phone, practical, smart and convenient.

Highly recommended!

SaliyaG Facebook
9
Rating
 

"Fantastic phone overall."

SaliyaG posted a review   
Australia

The Good:Beautiful screen, HTC sense, gingerbread OS, audio quality

The Bad:Battery life, slippery outer surface, touch sensitive buttons, camera quality

This phone is an absolute dream. Perfect size for everyday use. The phone functions well in making phone call. Good voice quality over the air. Bluetooth works well. Managed to pair, first go with the car stereo, without any dropouts noticed so far.
However, the phone antenna does not seem to be powerful enough. It fails to register a live phone signal in places my nokia E71 had no trouble with. However, overall connectivity is good.

It's a pitty HTC doesn't provide an actual free, full function navigator. The one on board was a trial version. Nokia scores in this department.

The most impressive of all, is the speed of the browser. Connected to wifi it is lightening fast, nearly comparable to a desktop. On HSDPA connection, it's still quite fast, with videos downloaded with minimal buffer time.

The battery life is quite disappointing. I have GPS off, wifi off, and 3G off most of the day and still struggle to get the battery to last longer than 1.5 days. I guess the background apps need a lot of juice to run.

The touch sensitive buttons are easy to press by mistake. Very annoying when browsing in landscape mode, where the right thumb easily glides over these buttons, closing the running app.

Got the phone as a Telstra Next G unlocked handset to use on Vodafone's upcoming 850MHz network. Tried out the new frequency the last time I was in Melbourne. It is quite fast!!

The unibody aluminium design makes the phone rigid and classy, but at the same time makes it very difficult to hold the phone comfortably as it is slippery. This is one problem not seen in the original desire. Adding a rubber case solves the issue, but makes the phone too bulky to mount on the HTC car kit. !!!

Overall this is a lovely phone, practical, smart and convenient.

Highly recommended!

LukeB1 Facebook
8
Rating
 

"All round good phone i love it"

LukeB1 posted a review   
Australia

The Good:Great too many thing to say but just great

The Bad:none

all round it is great. i love it. it does take some time to get to no but now i have it is great a lot better than my iphone tat is for shore

SamW1 Facebook
9
Rating
 

SamW1 posted a review   
Australia

The Good:HTC Sense, music, google navigation, Android 2.3

The Bad:Camera could be better, capacitive buttons, battery life.

This is my first "smart phone" and so far I'm loving it! Still getting used to the touch screen keyboard, but that comes naturally enough.

Great size, light weight, and quite strong. I came from a indestructible Nokia 6300, and so far the Desire S has held it's own. I'll probably get a case or a pouch soon.

Cameras auto focus is occasionally a hit and miss, and colours can be a bit washed out. But its a camera in phone!! I shouldn't compare it to my Canon 500D!
HD video quality is actually surprisingly good!

As usual, battery life sucks. I'm lucky to get 36 hours from it with light use (though my office is a black hole with Optus). Be sure to charge it every night.

 

Will1505 posted a comment   

The Good:design, camera software, HTC sense

The Bad:HTC battery grrrrr, needs more internal memory

just had a play with one. the screen is nice and HTC sense is still great. the camera is very good, takes photoes instantly. played with the atrix at the same time and the camera was crap in comparison.
why ohhh why can't HTC make a battery?

 

"Which is better HTC DesireS or HTC Incredible"

Gulfstream posted a comment   
Australia

The Good:HTC DesireS or HTC Incredible

The Bad:HTC DesireS or HTC Incredible

Hello Joseph Hanlon. I need help as I had been holding out for the new Desire S but I%u2019m now confused as to which phone is better or what the differences there are in-between the HTC incredible and Desire s. I have read both reviews and you guys have said the phone are the same just named differently. Which one is better?

 

Anneke posted a reply   
Australia

As they have now 2.3 Gingerbread update for the HTC Desire HD you should have got the Desire HD. Great phone. Yea , the battery life could have been a bit longer, but I just put them on the charger as soon as I see that it is gettin low. So not a real problem for me. I love my HTC DESIRE HD. :-))

ChrisS1 Facebook
9
Rating
 

"Brillant"

ChrisS1 posted a review   
Australia

The Good:Sense UI

The Bad:Nothing yet

I have just purchased this phone in Singapore. I love it, this is my first android phone. My last phone was a N900 which I liked but it was clumsy. Couldn't simple things like MMS. So far so good. But the true test will be when I get back to Aus. On the box it states 850MHz which I think is Next G?

Speeder
9
Rating
 

Speeder posted a review   

The Good:Battery life, Unibody

The Bad:Camera is standard HTC

Very nice, difficult to choose between this and the Incedible S.


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User Reviews / Comments  HTC Desire S

  • hibbqwe

    hibbqwe

    Rating1

    ""

  • Janave

    Janave

    Rating3

    "I wonder if something is wrong with my phone, I have put it in for repair 2 days ago and I'm hoping that it will fix the "bad" list. My (about) 10 year old Nokia 3210 has perfect reception in my ho..."

  • SaliyaG

    SaliyaG

    Rating9

    "This phone is an absolute dream. Perfect size for everyday use. The phone functions well in making phone call. Good voice quality over the air. Bluetooth works well. Managed to pair, first go with ..."

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