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Home > Android Phone Reviews > HTC One S



Editor's rating (1-5): rating starrating starrating starrating star
Carrier: T-Mobile
Manufacturer: HTC
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What's hot: ICS, stunning design, lovely display, HSPA+ 42 Mbps support.

What's not: Battery not removable, no storage expansion.


Reviewed April 18, 2012 by , Editor in Chief (twitter: @lisagade)

The HTC One series of Android 4.0 Ice Cream Sandwich smartphones are the first step in HTC's reinvention of their product line and brand. They're returning to higher end phones, at which they've excelled for years, and have cut back on the sheer number of phones released each year. You've got to admit that 2010 and 1011 were crazy years for Android smartphones, with up to 10 new models coming out each month on US carriers.


The One S is the smaller of the higher end HTC One line, but that doesn't mean it's a second class citizen. In fact, T-Mobile and AT&T have priced their respective phones, the One S and One X the same: $199 with contract. While the One X has a 4.7" 720p LCD display, the One S has a 4.3" qHD Super AMOLED display. In the US, they share the same 1.5Hz dual core Qualcomm Snapdragon S4 CPU, a gig of RAM, 16 gigs of storage, a capable 8MP camera and a unibody metal casing. The One S has universal Beats Audio, a front video chat camera and 42 Mpbs HSPA+ data.

Design and Ergonomics

The One S is HTC's thinnest phone yet. At 7.9mm, it's pushing the limits of what could almost be described as too thin. For appearance's sake, that slimness is a grand thing; but when holding the smartphone or trying to pick it up there's precious little real estate to grasp. The gray anodized aluminum casing is a thing of beauty and thoroughly fits in with HTC's style and design language. Think of it as a thinner and more refined HTC Sensation 4G (a great phone in its day, and still pretty good today). The One S looks classy, expensive and solid. Thanks to the unibody design, it is solid. The finish is complex with a gentle gradation from lighter silvery gray to dark gray, and the plastic antenna caps organically integrate into the design. Since the casing is one piece of metal (even the earpiece holes are drilled into the casing, they're not a separate panel), there's no access to the battery. The top rear section pops off to reveal the micro SIM card slot (that's right, it's not a full sized SIM card), and there's no microSD card slot. Storage is 16 gigs and not expandable.


The phone feels good in the hand thanks to comfy curves, though the thin sides can bite into your palm. The HTC One S is tall relative to its width, and surprisingly isn't that much smaller than the 4.7" One X. The metal sides taper away from the black Gorilla Glass for a stunning look, though we worry a bit about the exposed glass edges catching a nick.

The power button is up top and the volume rocker is on the right side. When powering up the phone, it takes a long six seconds before the screen lights up and the device boots, so don't worry: the button does work. The micro USB port is on the left and the 3.5mm stereo headphone jack is up top. All controls work well and aren't easy to accidentally activate. The 3 front capacitive buttons handle the Android back, home and recent apps button. Though Android 4.03 Ice Cream Sandwich works with buttonless designs, HTC went with capacitive buttons and we aren't complaining: they don't waste screen real estate and they're easy to see and touch. They're also masked in white for good contrast so you can see them in dim lighting without activating button backlight.



Some folks love Super AMOLED displays, while others complain about the visible pixel grid in its Pentile Matrix. Since Samsung has sold millions of Super AMOLED smartphones, we suspect more folks like them than hate them. If you're a fan of Super AMOLED's impressive contrast, deep blacks and hyper-vivid colors, you'll be thrilled with the One S' display. It's bright, has better than life colors and excellent contrast. Color balance is more natural and neutral than some of Samsung's Super AMOLED phones that have a distinct cool color bias. Whites look blue on those Samsungs but don't look terribly blue on the HTC One S.

At 4.3" and 960 x 540 pixels, text and images look sharp without visible pixelation to my average eyeballs. It doesn't have the wow appeal of the HTC One X's 1280 x 720 display, but the One X has almost a half inch more space to fill with those pixels.


Deals and Shopping:



HTC One S Video Review

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.


Quadrant: 5102
AnTuTu: 7011
Sunspider JavaScript Test: 1825
GLBenchmark 2.1 Egypt Offscreen: 51 fps
GLBenchmark 2.1 Pro Standard: 60 fps

  Quadrant GLBenchmark 2.1Egypt Offscreen AnTuTu Sunspider JavaScript Test
HTC One X 5001 56 fps 7074 1617
HTC One S 5102 51 fps 7011 1825
Samsung Galaxy S II 2176 N/A 5107 2437
Samsung Galaxy Nexus 2753 N/A 5985 2175

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.

Battery Life

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














The HTC One X and HTC One S.


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Display: 4.3" capacitive multi-touch Super AMOLED display. Resolution: qHD 960 x 540, supports both portrait and landscape modes via accelerometer. Has an ambient light sensor, proximity sensor and gyro. Supports HDMI out via optional MHL adapter.

Battery: Lithium Ion rechargeable. Battery is not user replaceable. 1650 mAh.

Performance: 1.5GHz Qualcomm Snapdragon S4 Krait dual core CPU (28nm) with Adreno 225 graphics. 1 gig RAM and 16 gigs internal storage with approximately 12 gigs available.

Size: 5.15 x 2.55 x 0.31 inches. Weight: 4.22 ounces.

Phone: GSM quad band with triband 3G/4G HSPA+ 42 Mbps (1700/1900/2100MHz).

Camera: VGA front camera and 8 megapixel rear main camera with LED flash, BSI and f. 2.0 lens. Can shoot 1080p video.

Audio: Built in speaker, mic and 3.5mm standard stereo headphone jack. Has Beats Universal Audio (works with any brand headphones).

Networking: Integrated WiFi 802.11b/g/n and Bluetooth 4.0.

Software: Android OS 4.03 Ice Cream Sandwich with HTC Sense 4 UI.

Expansion: None.


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