HTC One S

Battery life is the Achilles' heel of the HTC One S, hampering an otherwise sleek and solidly performing smartphone, and making it one for light users only.


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Good things come in threes, or so they say. HTC has three phones in its One-series range: the top-end One X, the low-end One V and the piggy-in-the-middle HTC One S. But, as it is with all middle children, the One S struggles to stand out.

Design

Did you road test the One X in a phone shop recently, but walked away concerned that the screen was too big? It's probably the most common refrain from people handling this year's batch of smartphones, especially those who are used to the considerably smaller iPhone. HTC and Samsung are arm wrestling for your Android interest, and the size and quality of the screens is one of the key battlegrounds. Both the One X and the Galaxy S III have screens in excess of 4.5 inches diagonally, and, for some users, this is just too big.

Enter the HTC One S. It mostly shares the physical design of the One X, but packs it into a slightly smaller package. The screen here is 4.3 inches in size, which in turn shaves 5mm off the height and width of the handset, compared with the larger One X. The screen is also lower resolution, down to a qHD (540x960-pixel) panel, and makes use of AMOLED screen technology, rather than Super LCD. While it is hard to notice the drop in pixels with the naked eye, the shift in screen technology is far more pronounced. Colours displayed on the One S are bold, bordering on appearing over-saturated. This will bother some people, but only as much as it will be seen as evidence of how great this screen is by others. Our test video content looks amazing on the AMOLED screen, and its off-axis viewing angles are outstanding.

HTC opts for a aluminium chassis on the One S, with a small, detachable portion at the top on the back of the handset. Below this, the user can find a micro-SIM slot beside the phone's 8-megapixel camera lens. The battery in the One S is non-user accessible, like the One X, and there is no micro-SD card reader to expand the handset's internal 16GB of storage — of which only 12GB is available for users to store personal content on.

User experience and features

For the most part, the user experience and pre-installed features on the One S are the same as those we saw earlier in the year when we reviewed the One X. This handset runs on Android Ice Cream Sandwich (our review unit was on version 4.0.3) with HTC Sense version 4.0 over the top. This includes Beats Audio software, the HTC Watch movie-rental service, the time-stamped HTC Notes app and plenty more.

For richer details as to what you can expect, especially if you are using an older HTC device, check out our One X review.

Performance

So much of the One X and One S is the same, but differences appear below the surface. While the top-shelf One X runs on Nvidia's quad-core Tegra 3 processor, the S is powered by the seemingly slower dual-core Qualcore Krait chip, clocked at 1.5GHz per core. We say "seemingly slower", meaning you could confuse cores with speed, but this isn't necessarily the case.

In our performance benchmarks, the One S held its own admirably. It's BrowserMark results are in proximity of those when the test is run on the Tegra 3 hardware, and our OpenGL 3D-rendering test places the One S among the best phones we've seen this year. This tests don't hold too much water, in our opinion, but they at least indicate what you'll see in everyday use; that the One S offers a smooth, pleasurable user experience.

As it was with the HTC One X, battery life is a concern with the One S. HTC does a decent job of preserving juice when the phone is in standby mode, but when the screen is on, the battery life is among the lowest we've seen this year. This means that light to moderate users won't be too concerned; if you don't have one long sessions browsing the web each day, you shouldn't notice the battery running short. But heavy users will definitely need to look elsewhere for a phone that can handle their usage patterns.

Battery life (time)

  • Wi-Fi browsing
  • 720p video playback
  • 5h 45m7h 8m
  • Samsung Galaxy S3
  • 3h 54m4h 27m
  • Sony Xperia P
  • 2h 50m3h 50m
  • HTC One S
  • 3h 21m3h 47m
  • HTC One X

(Longer bars indicate better performance)

Camera

Though it sounds very similar on paper, the camera in the One S isn't as impressive as the one we saw in the One X, or the Samsung Galaxy S III, for that matter. That said, it is still a very capable shooter, with burst shooting and high dynamic range (HDR) settings, fast auto-focus and decent colour reproduction. We did find that too many of our test images came out a little soft and blurry, though, so you will have to make sure that your hands are steady when shooting with the One S.

(Credit: CBSi)

(Credit: CBSi)

(Credit: CBSi)

Overall

Crammed between the One X and One V, the One S is a phone with middle-child syndrome. It has a good design, solid performance and some excellent features, but so does the One X, with it's larger, 4.7-inch screen. Battery life is a big concern, too, and while we appreciate that HTC is consciously putting the slim-line design of its handsets first, we are hesitant in recommending a phone with battery-drain results like those we saw when we put the One S through the CNET Australia labs.

In theory, the One S should be a cheaper version of the One X flagship model, but Australian customers won't benefit from a difference in price, with Optus offering both HTC models on the same AU$50 plan. If you really can't stand the larger screen on the One X, then the S is a reasonable alternative, but so too would be the Galaxy Nexus, Sony Xperia S or last year's now-cheaper Galaxy S II.



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ipefix
2
Rating
 

"Nice phone IF there was not that VERY SERIOUS BUG"

ipefix posted a review   

The Good:Light, strong, elegant, good battery, fast, excellent cam, ...

The Bad:Home button issue not taken care of by HTC

Pros:

- Light, but strong

- Slick and elegant

- Battery ok (with some tweaking it lasts me a fair day with about 3-4 hours screen on time, with stock software it still does 15 hours runtime)

- Good Audio

- PERFECT CAM!!!

- Very good screen

- Fast!

Well, then there is this:

Nice device, but be aware that numerous users are experiencing a SERIOUS ISSUE whenever carrier signal is weak:

The phone will then switch homescreen/multiple screen view on its own in very quick succession, and disable all the capacitive buttons. It will keep doing this until you find a spot where the signal is better (if you're lucky). In the meantime, you will not be able to do anything at all: call, pick-up, use apps, whatever. Basically, you then completely loose control over your phone.

This issue has been reported to HTC by many users SINCE APRIL 2012, but no patch or update has been released yet as to (successfully) address the problem. So keep this in mind if you want to purchase this device... You have been warned.

I also highly doubt there will ever be a software-fix that will adress this adequately as there had already been three attempted fixes which failed to cure most if not all devices.

Various threads on XDA forum are currently discussing this issue, gathering testimonies from hundreds of users and organizing a communication campaign to inform the masses. Don't forget to check them out before you invest in this phone:

Discussion thread: h t t p://forum.xda-developers.com/showthread.php?t=1679649

Campaign thread: h t t p://forum.xda-developers.com/showthread.php?p=31609784

HTC, please FIX THIS ISSUE! Thank you...

Guillaume
1
Rating
 

"Great phone... when it's working"

Guillaume posted a review   
United Kingdom

The Good:I love the design of the phone and the performances are great.

The Bad:This phone is plagued by the infamous "home button" issue.

The infamous "home" button issue has completely ruined my experience and caused the phone to be unusable for most of the time.

When this happens, the home button keeps getting pressed randomly sometimes a few times per seconds and it can lasts for minutes. It is impossible to turn off the phone...

I had been in situations where I can not even terminate a call and end up being connected for many long minutes without been able to do anything about it.

HTC sent me a replacement which is having the same issue. I know that many other HTC One S users are experiencing the same issue.

Think twice before buying this phone.

SchneakyG Facebook
1
Rating
 

"If it wasn't for some serious Issues, this phone would be A DREAM"

SchneakyG posted a review   

The Good:Amazing Cam, Speed, Looks, Feel. Makes the iPhone blush and run away.

The Bad:Home Screen Issue, Paint Chipping Issue, average battery, average audio.

"A Dream Of A Phone" if it wasn't for the issues...

Nice device, but be aware that numerous users are experiencing a SERIOUS ISSUE whenever carrier signal is weak:

The phone will then switch homescreen/multiple screen view on its own in very quick succession, and disable all the capacitive buttons. It will keep doing this until you find a spot where the signal is better (if you're lucky). In the meantime, you will not be able to do anything at all: call, pick-up, use apps, whatever. Basically, you then completely loose control over your phone.

This issue has been reported to HTC by many users FOR SEVERAL MONTHS NOW, i started filing it with them in June, but no patch or update has been released yet as to address the problem. HTC released 2 updates since then, claiming those would fix it but they only shifted the issue's symptoms to locked buttons, close apps to home, random vibrations, etc. So keep this in mind if you want to purchase this device... You have been warned.

Various threads on XDA forum are currently discussing this issue, gathering testimonies from hundreds of users and organizing a communication campaign to inform the masses. Don’t forget to check them out before you invest in this phone:

Discussion thread: http://forum.xda-developers.com/showthread.php?t=1679649

Campaign thread: http://forum.xda-developers.com/showthread.php?p=31609784

HTC, please FIX THIS ISSUE! Thank you...

 

ThomasH1 posted a comment   

Very nice device, but be aware that hundreds of users, including me, are experiencing a SERIOUS ISSUE whenever carrier signal is weak: The capacitive Home Touch Button sometimes likes to press itself. When in an app or the home screen without or with the finger near the home button it seems to spaz out as if the home button gets pressed a few quick times in succession. Basically, you then completely loose control over your phone. Just google "HTC one S touch button issue" and you'll see many times many posts about it.This issue has been reported to HTC by many users FOR SEVERAL MONTHS NOW, but no patch or update has been released now as to address the problem. So keep this in mind if you want to purchase this device... You have been warned.HTC, please FIX THIS ISSUE! Thank you...

RonL5 Facebook
8
Rating
 

"Great phone"

RonL5 posted a review   

The Good:Screen, usability, camera

The Bad:battery life

Used the HTC One S for a couple of weeks now. The screen is sensational and the camera compared to my earlier HTC and the iPhone is great. The phone is fast, great profile so I can put it in a belt pouch. Had one issue with battery life so far but was from using the phone as a hotspot for 4-6 hours without charging - won't do that again. Best phone I have had and much snappier than the Samsung S3 (who provide the worst customer service in the world) and the larger HTC phones

 

seamus6971 posted a comment   
Ireland

I thought that was a very poor review. Internet browsing is excellent. Battery life is actually quite good. I know as I have one. My only gripe is the wifi antennae, and that is being rectified at the moment.

It is a very snappy phone and Htc sense is smooth compared to previous version.

Camera is excellent. There is tons of storage with 16gb being offered, what do you need, an extensive movie collection . With Dropbox and Hotmail cloud storage.

I live in Ireland and I am very surprised with this review, as every where else has this phone in the top 5 of 2012.

 

BonH posted a comment   

Yeah even the official Australian HTC site all but states that the processor packed
with the local phones are the overclocked S3s.

www.htc.com/au/smartphones/htc-one-s/#specs

As you can see 1.7 GHz instead of the S4's 1.5 GHz. I've ordered mine from overseas because I was scared that an overclocked cpu would ruin the battery life. Looks like my concerns have been validated!

 

Will1505 posted a reply   

thats a real shame, it is such a good looking phone

 

Will1505 posted a comment   

I'm really surprised about the battery life here. Smaller screen than the OneX, way more efficient processor than the OneX too. However other battery test show the OneS being really good for video playback but awful on web browsing.

I suspect the colourful nature of HTC sense is the killer given the AMOLED screen. In comparison to Samsung Touchwiz with in mostly black when texting and navigating.

I wonder how much of a difference putthing the screen from the old sensation into the OneS would have made.

 

Im Batman posted a reply   
Australia

Last i heard, the processor in the One S had been changed from the efficient S4 (Krait) to last generations S3 due to supply chain issues.
The S3 would show poorer battery life.

you could be right about the colour scheme that HTC have used for Sense 4 not being the right choice for an AMOLED screen.

@ Joe... looks like you have to many cores on your mind "..dual-core Qualcore Krait chip..."

 

Will1505 posted a reply   

It would be a shame if they did get rid of the S4, that thing is a beast.

Yeah i heard last week, snapdragon has asked samsung to start making the S4 too to keep up with demand




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User Reviews / Comments  HTC One S

  • ipefix

    ipefix

    Rating2

    "Pros:

    - Light, but strong

    - Slick and elegant

    - Battery ok (with some tweaking it lasts me a fair day with about 3-4 hours screen on time, with stock software..."

  • Guillaume

    Guillaume

    Rating1

    "The infamous "home" button issue has completely ruined my experience and caused the phone to be unusable for most of the time.

    When this happens, the home button keeps getting pressed ..."

  • SchneakyG

    SchneakyG

    Rating1

    ""A Dream Of A Phone" if it wasn't for the issues...

    Nice device, but be aware that numerous users are experiencing a SERIOUS ISSUE whenever carrier signal is weak:

    The pho..."

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