Calling and Data
The HTC One S supports T-Mobile's 42 Mbps HSPA+ data network, which the carrier calls 4G. It's not as fast as LTE on average, but it's pretty darned impressive. We've seen download speeds as fast as 15 Mbps on some T-Mobile 42 Mbps smartphones and 1-2 Mbps up (T-Mobile limits upload speeds to allow more bandwidth for downloads). Our One S (now properly provisioned) averaged 9Mbps down and 1.8 Mbps up. That's just a tad slower than the aptly named Samsung Blaze, which averaged 10.6Mbps down. The One S is a quad band GSM world phone with EDGE and it supports 3G on T-Mobile and 2100MHz for overseas use as well. It has the mobile hotspot feature so you can use the phone as a high speed wireless modem for your laptop or tablet.
Initially we had issues with voice quality, but it turns out our pre-release review unit wasn't properly provisioned. Once T-Mobile provisioned our phone properly we enjoyed excellent incoming and outgoing voice. Voice on both ends was very clear with average volume and good ambient noise rejection.
The phone supports WiFi calling, and this worked well in our tests. When WiFi is turned on, the phone automatically enables WiFi calling. When you turn WiFi off or exit the hotspot's range, the One S switches back to T-Mobile's cellular network for voice and data.
Performance and Horsepower
Wish you had a quad core Tegra 3 in your smartphone? Stop pining now. Qualcomm's new 28nm Krait with Adreno 225 graphics kicks some serious bits and bytes. It's a low power and low heat design that's a significant improvement from the older 40nm process used in previous generation Snapdragon CPUs and it competes well with the 40nm Tegra 3. In synthetic benchmarks, the 1.5GHz Snapdragon S4 dual core runs close to the quad core Tegra 3. In actual usage it feels very fast, and that speed doesn't degrade battery life.
The phone can play 1080p high profile MPEG4 video handily (you'll want to connect an optional MHL adapter for HDMI output to really enjoy that resolution). Adobe Flash is responsive and demanding games play fluidly. The OS with HTC Sense 4 running on top is smooth and as Android phones go, the One S is quick.
The One S has a gig of RAM and 16 gigs of internal storage with approximately 12 gigs available. Storage isn't expandable since it lacks an SD card slot.
GLBenchmark 2.1 Egypt Offscreen:
GLBenchmark 2.1 Pro Standard:
Android 4.0 Ice Cream Sandwich and HTC Sense 4
You know the drill: if you want a vanilla pure Google experience, get the latest Nexus phone. Most other Android smartphones run their respective manufacturers' UI customizations, and in the case of HTC, it's Sense 4. Some of you hate Sense and others love it. We like it quite well, and HTC has done a good job of letting some elements of the new ICS user interface shine through. Compared to the beta ICS with Samsung TouchWiz on our Samsung Galaxy Skyrocket, Sense 4 on the HTC One S has a much lighter touch. ICS' new top right menu control remains intact, as do the web browser menu options, system settings and the new side-swipe UI for Gmail and more.
HTC's turned the multitasking screen into a cover flow style affair rather than a stacked list of mini Windows, and their popular widgets like the weather and clocks are here. You'll access widgets the old fashioned way (by pressing and holding the home screen) rather than seeing them listed as a separate tab in the app drawer. As with prior versions of Sense, your apps are separated into 3 tabs: all, frequently used and downloaded apps (you can customize these tabs). Overall, Sense 4 adds an element of friendliness and continuity that should please the average user. Android enthusiasts may prefer their own custom launchers, and you can use those if you like.
T-Mobile loads on their usual heap of apps: T-Mobile TV (streaming TV shows), 411, Game Base, Bonus Apps (an app portal), More for Me (more app portal stuff), My T-Mobile, T-Mobile Mall, T-Mobile Name ID and Visual Voicemail. You can't uninstall these, but you can disable them thanks to ICS' new disable app feature.
HTC's been serious about cameras lately, so we had high expectations for the 8MP rear main camera with its BSI (backside illuminated sensor), fast f. 2.0 28mm lens and dedicated imaging chip. We're mostly very pleased with the camera, though we're a little spoiled after using the excellent 16 MP HTC Titan II for a few weeks. Images are sharp and colorful with excellent detail and little noise or artifacting due to sharpening. We noted good color balance but sometimes overzealous contrast in auto mode. One thing stymies the camera: the color red. Red is often a problem with digital cameras (not just camera phones), but red roses, red vans and any other large expanse of red induce color bloom that removes detail in that red subject. Pink, purple, green and blue: they're all good.
The camera UI is excellent (watch our video review to see it in action). There are plenty of features to entertain a serious shutterbug, and one that's unique to HTC's One series phones: you can take photos while simultaneously recording 1080p video. Now that's cool, and also useful. Shutter times are quick at all times and you can tap to focus or rely on the camera to select the focus point.
1080p video recording quality is excellent. We're actually more impressed with video quality than photos. Action is smooth, there's relatively little blockiness and contrast and colors are pleasing. We noted that if we moved the phone to pan around, it sometimes took a moment or two to refocus in low light situations, but we have no other complaints.
The HTC One S has a front VGA video chat camera for Google Talk, Skype and other video chat apps.
The HTC One S has a 1650 mAh Lithium Ion battery that's sealed inside. That's not a huge capacity battery, but the One S manages excellent runtimes for a high powered smartphone. It easily lasted us through the day with moderate use; in fact we had power to spare after 16 hours of uptime. It can play locally stored video for 8.5 to 9.5 hours depending on screen brightness.
The HTC One S is one of our top picks among Android smartphones. Not only is it one of the few to run Android 4.0 Ice Cream Sandwich, we also like the evolution of HTC Sense. The gorgeous, elegant and durable anodized aluminum unibody casing, impossibly thin profile and attention to detail are hard to beat among Android phones and the Super AMOLED display is super colorful and sharp.
Price: $199 after rebate with a 2 year contract, $599 without contract
Websites: www.t-mobile.com, www.htc.com/us/