When the HTC One series first made its debut in Malaysia, the One X and V were met with much adoration and no shortage of praise. However, something was missing. Where was the elusive 3rd member and “angah” of the family, the HTC One S? Despite being late to the party, like a rebellious middle child would, the HTC One S eventually sauntered into the Malaysian market with a swagger that most can only dream of rocking, that boyish cockiness may ultimately be the One S’ undoing. Ask a mobile phone junkie and they will tell you that we got the short end of the stick with the Malaysian version of the One S as instead of the SnapDragon S4, we got the one with the older S3. Despite being the middle child, the One S somehow commands a price tag closer to its older sibling the One X.
So the One S clearly thinks it’s all that, hit the jump to see if it can walk the talk or if it’s just another phone that’s full of hot air.
First Impressions And Exterior
Out of the box, the One S exudes quality and class with its unibody construction, brushed metal finish, thoughtful & purposeful lines as well as a design worthy of any award available. Safe to say if you like the One X’s design, you will probably love the One S. It’s 7.9mm thin body and 4.3inch screen quickly grew on me, making my quest for the ideal screen size that much more complicated.
On the sides of the One S, you will find the charging port as well as the volume rocker, no surprise if you’ve used a HTC handset before. Another non-surprise is the power button on the top right and the headphone jack on the top left. Readers who have followed my other reviews in the past will know I’m a big fan of having the power button up top, but my time with the One S may have just changed my mind completely about that. Too often I found myself accidentally pushing the power button (which is easy to depress) while putting it in my jeans pocket, leading to series of pocket tweets and the draining of my battery.
The rear of the One S is a great example of sexy unibody construction with only the top panel coming off to reveal the microSIM card slot amidst an interesting blue contrasted background. The rear cover is the only piece that is removable on the phone, the battery being built in and lacking room to upgrade your storage with a micro SD card. The biggest gripe I have with the One S’ design is the fact that they let the lens element for the camera protrude out like an errant pimple on prom night.
The HTC One S won’t be breaking any speed records with the 1.7GHz Dual-Core Snapdragon S3, but throughout my use of the phone, I didn’t see a time where I thought that “Boy, I sure wish I had the Snapdragon S4 instead!”. Even so, you can’t help think about how your user experience would improve if you did. Sense 4.0 performed beautifully on the One S, but I AM a little biased because I do believe it is possibly the best out of all the manufacturers OS’ versions (with an exception for vanilla android of course). One concern I have about the phone however is the rightmost capacitive button is set to view current open apps (or recently open) in a pseudo multitasking window. I can’t help feel that instead of a smaller context menu on screen, why not have that as the rightmost button instead. Thankfully HTC is coming up with a patch to fix that in the coming weeks.
Looking at the 4.3Inch qHD Super AMOLED display at max brightness I have no qualms with it. The screen holds its end up very well under direct sunlight and is as crisp as a shirt coming back from the dry cleaners. Readers will know that I’m not a huge fan of Super Big Screened phones like the Galaxy Note. The arrival of the SGS3 and One X swayed me a little, but I think I have found the ideal screen size in between the SGS3 and the iPhone 4. The screen had a great resolution of 540×960 which was more than enough for me. The Gorilla glass coating on the screen did its job well, despite being abused by the rigours of day-to-day use by a tech journalist. Keys and coins were no match for the mighty screen.
The camera is where the One S both shines and disappoints in my view. The 8MP f/2.0 camera is a very good one, let me get that out of the way first. The quality both in Macro Mode and A mode (advanced mode of course =p) were extremely good. The One S’ camera resolves the finer details and gives a pretty good contrast to images. In low light, I honestly didn’t find the extra fraction of a stop that important and to be honest, the results were nothing to write home about. The depth of field with the f2.0 lens wasn’t great either. This brings me to my biggest gripe about the camera and possibly Sense 4.0 as a whole.
The camera software just isn’t that great. It’s not intuitive, it’s not fully featured and it’s most of all not very fun or easy to use. The software on the Samsung Galaxy S3, iPhone 4, Sony Xperia S and even the Motorola Razr Maxx are better than the HTC Series of phones. You can’t easily toggle between front and rear camera (not like you will use the front camera, it stinks compared to some others out there), you can’t touch the screen to take an image (making it very hard to camwhore without a physical button) and to be honest, using the burst mode, I have yet to get a picture I really do like from it. No matter how good this camera is, I feel that the software lets it down, bad. It’s like cooking the best meal of your life for the hottest girl/guy you know and serving it to him/her on a old, flimsy paper plate, standing up, with a toothpick. No matter how good the food is, most of it is going to end up on the floor.
The HTC One S to me is like the Kanye West of mobile phones. Kanye is possibly the biggest douche in hip hop with his new girl Kim K, his ugly Yeezy 2’s, the whole Taylor Swift incident and let’s not forget how he talks about himself. By right, who the heck would listen to his music! Then when you actually do listen to Ni**as in Paris, Otis or even older songs like Touch The Sky, you CAN’T help but love the man. Kim K suddenly looks like the big tushy-ed goddess you always wanted, the Yeezy 2’s become the most desirable RM4,000 kicks ever, Taylor Swift deserved it and what he said is all true.
I wanted to hate the One S for giving me such a ridiculous price tag of RM1,838 at launch, the slower S3 processor and that smug beats branding which frankly does nothing for me, least of all when it was bundled with those godforsaken headsets at RM2,199! For that price, I’d much rather get a One X, which is the flagship model. But the more I used it, the more I was convinced that the HTC One S is possibly one of the best phones I’ve used in recent times. The combination of sexy build and finishing (a big deal for me), decent performance, good camera (when you get it to work) and Sense 4.0 outweighed the price, the older processor and the stupid beats logo on the back of the phone. I would not hesitate to recommend this phone to anyone, especially because telcos are giving the phone out on quite good deals. You won’t get a phone with better rounded features and balance than this on the market today.
Kanye, I also bought your album with Jigga. Damn you.