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HTC One S review

 Review: April 2012  

Last updated November 2012

Rating: 4 stars

In a nutshell: The HTC One S is an ultraslim yet high-powered smartphone with a large 4.3 inch display and a dual-core processor, but reports of signal problems and switching off can't be ignored.



The HTC One S sits just below the One X in HTC's new One series of phones. You could think of the One S as a slightly cheaper alternative to the X. But a better way to look at it is like this: the S is the Beauty and the X is the Beast.

For the One S is HTC's thinnest phone yet. At just 7.8mm, only phones like the Motorola RAZR and Apple iPhone 5 can out-thin it in the smartphone world. And while not a featherweight, at 119g it's not at all heavy for a device of this calibre. But so much for numbers - the story of how the phone casing is made is just as interesting. HTC take the aluminium unibody and subject it to a kind of torture called micro arc oxidation. The aluminium is placed in a plasma field and electrocuted, making it as tough as ceramic. Ouch. We haven't tested one to destruction (it's already suffered enough, surely?), but HTC have, and they claim it's 5 times stronger than a conventional stainless steel casing.

The phone is a good size to hold and it packs in a large 4.3 inch display. It's not a HD display like the One X, but with 960 x 540 pixels, it comes close and is a higher resolution than the Samsung Galaxy S2. It's a Super AMOLED screen too, making it very bright and easy to see outdoors.

The processor runs at a rapid 1.5GHz, which is the same as the flagship One X, although the One S has a dual-core processor instead of the record-beating quad-core version in the One X. It's still very, very fast, mind you. A full 1GB of RAM makes demanding apps and multi-tasking a breeze. The memory available is 16GB, which is modest, especially when you consider that there's no microSD card slot. But to compensate, you'll get 25GB free Cloud storage via Dropbox, which is integrated into the user interface so you can easily access all your media and data. Just as long as you have a good internet connection!

The One S is running Android version 4.0 (or Ice Cream Sandwich) out of the box. It also comes with the latest HTC Sense 4.0. The new user interface works well with the new operating system, providing a more refined and customisable experience, but one that won't cause older users of Android any problems. There are new gadgets too, like the famous face unlock feature.

The photographic capabilities of the One S are the same as the One X and are outstanding in every way. The main camera has an 8 megapixel sensor and is capable of recording in full HD 1080p resolution. It uses an unusually large f2.0 lens which enables it to operate in low light conditions and has a 28mm wide-angle lens. A smart LED flash provides lighting depending on the distance of the subject. HTC ImageSense, which is part of Sense 4.0, gives you the option of taking a still photo whilst simultaneously recording HD video. A continuous shooting option is also available if you hold down the shutter button. And thanks to the dual-core processor and a dedicated imaging chip, image capture is very fast indeed - typically 0.2 seconds to autofocus. Slow motion video recording is also available. The only difference between the One S and the One X is that the One S has a VGA front-facing camera for video calls instead of a HD one.

Like the other high-end phones in HTC's range, the phone comes with Beats Audio software and a customised Beats headset, for an optimised audio experience.

Connectivity includes fast Wi-Fi, Bluetooth 4.0, USB, quadband GSM and very fast HSPA 3G.

The 1650 mAh battery sounds large, but a big screen and a dual-core processor means that the device is hungry for power, and given that there are so many features available, this isn't a phone that will nestle at the bottom of a bag waiting to be used. We guess that most users will be charging every night, but hey, most modern smartphones are the same.

We originally awarded the One S 5 stars, but persistent reports of signal problems, Wi-Fi problems and of phones shutting down mean that we have to deduct one star, even though these reports are rare.

The One S is a mid-range phone, available now for around the £15 per month level. For similar amounts of money, you could also choose between the Samsung Galaxy S2 and Sony Xperia S, both of which are outstanding phones.

HTC One S features include:

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HTC One S user reviews

Love this product? Hate it? Please share your experiences to help other people choose the product that's best for them. Please do not review this product if you have not used it, and please ask questions in our User Questions section above. Please do not use swear words or offensive language, and please, no advertising!

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Average rating from 24 reviews:

Reviewed by Vishnu from India on 23rd Oct 2013
I own the HTC One S for last 6 months. Before buying, I was worried of the Helicoptor Bug and Chipping Issues from some users. But, now, I would say, I made the right decision buy buying this beautiful phone.

1. Excellent Camera. Low light shots are pretty good.
2. Burst Mode is very good. I enjoy taking pictures of my kid.
3. On average use, I get about 20 hours battery life which is decent.
4. Very slim and beautiful.
5. In day to day operation, I don't find much lag.

1. Only 9+ GB space available. So, you have to keep transferring the pictures and videos to your laptop.
2. Though it has smaller dimensions than One X, it is still not easy for one handed usage like Xperia P. But, that is the case with any 4.3" phone.
3. Front Cam is VGA, which gives very average quality.
4. The camera lens protrude little bit. So, use a CASE to avoid any damage to the lens.
5. The display is very nice. But, cannot compare to the likes of Lumia 625, Galaxy S3 or One X.

Reviewed by Ryan from Mauritius on 10th Mar 2013
Hi to the guys from S21
Thought I'd share my knowledge...The users of HTC One S suffering from helicoptering isdue try to update to Androide version 4.0.4 and this should fix the issue...Hope it helps :)...

Reviewed by Spraggaranks from UK on 6th Feb 2013
I have only had the HTC One S for one week and the only two (major) problems I have is exactly what has already been reported: difficulty in obtaining and maintaining a signal, and it really is quite fiddly to turn the phone off! Smaller issues lie with the battery life, which could be much better too but that said it is a powerful phone! Also, having used HTC Desire S for several years, I am surprised that the One S screen's touch-sensitivity is not as intuitive and responsive as it's predecessor! This is especially annoying when texting. If there were an option I would give the One S a 'very good' rating, certainly not excellent.-Spraggaranks.

Reply by Ryan from Mauritius on 18th Feb 2013
Try a software update it might solve your touch sensivity problem or if update not available then u'll have to wait...Hope it helps...

Reviewed by Bob Jones from UK on 28th Dec 2012
This is such an amazing phone. It is the thinnest of any phone in the world, the fact in somehow even subtlety concaves inwards towards the centre is a source of marvel everyday.

Beautiful phone.

Reviewed by JonnyH from UK on 9th Nov 2012
Ive had this phone for about 6 months now. This phone would be brilliant, if it worked properly as a phone. The phone is lightening quick, excellent screen, nice camera good WIFI data speed, hardly ever crashes, although mine is rooted & running a custom rom. There are however 2 massive problems with it. I have had numerous Android smart phones & never had one with as poor a signal reception as this One S. It is truly appalling. I only get a signal upstairs in my house & hardly any signal at work. I can not rely on this phone to make calls or send texts. The 2nd massive problem is the HTC One S touch button issue or 'helicoptering' as some people call it, where the home button goes mental and seems to operate automatically without any user interaction. The only way to stop it is to lock the screen. This problem is well documented on several forums including XDA Dev and up until recently HTC denied the problem even existed. It rendered my phone unusable until some top developer released a script to disable the home button. If this phone were not to have these 2 issues it would be the best phone I have ever owned. It is super thin and has a premium feel but as a I wont be buying HTC again after this experience.

Reviewed by gary from UK on 21st Oct 2012
You can get a bad phone whatever make you choose, just the luck of the draw. Ive had Nokia since 1993, not anymore!
This HTS one S is the best phone ive ever had. Owned it now for about 3 months, no problems what-so-ever!
A superb handset, cant fault it.

Reviewed by Alan from United Kingdom on 17th Oct 2012
Worst phone I ever had was ok for 2 weeks after that the software was crashing twice a day wi-fi never ever worked properly after 4months I changed to a Samsung

Reviewed by Christine from England on 7th Oct 2012
I've had this phone for a month now and truly love it.

There is nothing this phone struggles with or lacks. Initially I worried the lack of SD memory slot may be an issue but all my photos & videos upload directly to Dropbox which I can then access from my PC/laptop/any other device. I have my music stored on the phone itself as I didn't think dropbox was functional enough and there's still loads of space left.

The camera is amazing - I can take shots straight after each other with hardly any delay.

It's a beautiful phone to look at and the screen is surprisingly durable (no scratches yet despite my 'chuck in a bag' habit. The display has got to be one of the clearest I've ever seen. Trying not to have a dig at iPhones but even the iPhone5 looks inferior next to it - I'm not sure why anyone would test them side by side in a shop and plump for a more expensive iPhone (in fact even they were the same price I'd choose this).

I'm trying to think of something negative for balance but I just can't. Love it.

Reviewed by Jack from Spain on 10th Sep 2012
I chose this phone in stead of the Samsung Galaxy III, and I think it was a mistake.

In the initial setup only, the phone switched off, and since then, the phone sometimes switches off by itself, even with battery charged.

Also it has got signal problems. In places were my HTC Desire S and my BlackBerry Curve has perfect signal, this phone has no signal or very poor one. It has even lost signal in the middle of a conversation.

I can't recommend this phone at all, it theorically it's a great device, but in practise it's not. Sorry!

Reviewed by Rick K from UK on 16th Jul 2012
I renewed my T-Mobile contract and the only real offer they gave me was a Desire C - having read the reviews of that phone I decided to send it back immediately, I may as well have kept my Wildfire S. Found another deal with T-Mobile which meant the One S comes free, they wanted me to sign up to an expensive upgrade or pay for the phone on my old contract! The phone is an excellent replacement for the Wildfire, much bigger obviously but so much more capable. Just love the big display and the processor speed. Superb radio system connected to stations around the world. Still finding out exactly what it can do but one thing I am impressed with is battery life, better than the Wildfire S and I really love this phone. Who wants a i-Phone 4 when you can have an HTC One S?

Reviewed by Graham from UK on 14th Jul 2012
Upgraded from a Desire. If only this phone had a good signal. Where my Desire has 4 bars, this has 1 sometimes 0, consistantly losing the signal completely. Even tried my sim in an old Nokia 3310 and get 5 bars, Sony C902 gets 4 bars. I even have a signal repeater in my house and everybody, friends and family get 5 bars throughout the house. Mine gets 2 at best!!!!!!!! Very frustrating. Everything else on this phone is awesome, second to none, but what use is it if I can't even make or receive a phone call. Its going back for repair next week but I have a funny feeling it won't make any difference. The Vodafone forum seems to be full of similar complaints but the phones are returned with no improvement. Could so easily have been 5 stars. All singing and dancing but HTC forgot the most basic function, signal reception!!!!!!!!!!
I'll update when the phone is returned.

Reply by Graham from UK on 31st Jul 2012
Refurbed One S landed yesterday and guess what, still a very poor signal reception. Sim has now gone back into my C902 with 5 bars. I'll send it back one more time and if the signal problems still aren't sorted then my nearest vodafone shop is gonna get it with both barrels. Whether they'll swap it for a different manufacturor is anybodys guess. Very disappointed.

Reply by Lee Kelly from Ireland on 7th Aug 2012
There is actually no industry standard for what the strength show on the signal bar indicator means or how it is measured so a Nokia 5 bar signal may be equal to Samsung 3 bar or an iPhone 1 bar all indicating the different levels for the same signal. It merely for window dressing.

Reviewed by peter t from uk on 23rd Jun 2012
very fast phone ( compared to my old samsung wave s8500)i would reccomend this phone to everyone a good all rounder

Reviewed by GSXR Nick from UK on 16th Jun 2012
The only issue I have with it is the 3G & H data icons constantly switching back and forth. Don't know if it's designed like that or if it's a fault with the phone though.

Apart from that I would recommend this phone to anyone.

Reply by Balazs from Hungary on 18th Jun 2012
When there is data traffic then it shows H, other than that it shows 3G.

Reply by Alan Moore from UK on 11th Jul 2012
My Desire does the same - it's just telling you what speed it's connecting at. It often tries 3G first then slips back to H when the 3G signal is poor (as it often is, even in London).

Reply by Kevin from England on 18th Jul 2012
Sorry, but I was always under the impression that the H stood for HSDPA seeing as it's faster then 3G

Reply by Balazs from Hungary on 24th Jul 2012
H is HSDPA and it's faster than 3G.

Reviewed by JimmyW from UK on 6th Jun 2012
For me this is a brilliant business phone. Slim, light, excellent screen and with good battery life. I don't carry much music or personal photos but I do need a reliable phone with solid build qualities, good internet access, general connectivity and a good camera which I use extensively for business.
Best thing is the speed of this phone. Superb. Also the reception for calls is the best I've had (and I have had many different phones over the years).
If you carry huge amounts of music and photos then maybe the X or SG 3 would be better but for business users this is very hard to beat.

Reviewed by JC from UK on 2nd Jun 2012
I upgraded last week from a Desire S to this. For me a phone has to be a phone first and foremost when you need it, then 10 odd texts a day, an hour of music and wifi stuff, with facebook twitter and emails set to 4 hour refreshes. The Desire did this, it lasted quite comfortably for two days, and I don't have access to a charger during the day.
The camera has become more important to me, I now use that a lot, instead of just a fun thing to use it's a serious camera and this phone has a great camera on board.
It is big though, same size roughly as a galaxy II although it doesn't look it, it is. I find it cumbersome and it feels like it's going to break if it goes sideways in your jeans pocket.
The screen is also a vast imporvement over the Desire S, it is visible more than clearly in the sunlight, very visible, which the desire S isn't, it really does have a real clarity and vibrancy about it.
Battery just about lasts two days, same usage, no different to how I used the Desire S, but after two days, it's down to 5% of an evening (Desire S would often be around 30-40%)
As for the Android 4 (ICS), if you're me, and you want functionalty rather customisabilty then it's a step back from Gingerbread - ring tone and message alert volume are linked, and if like me you like an increasing ring, and a reasonably loud message tone, this is awful, not a big issue you may argue, but it's emblematic of the problems with Android 4, it tries to be too clever. Yeah sure you may be able to change lots of settings, but it just isn't as easy to use!
Vibrate is also useless, you won't feel it.
I hope that in 12 months time this phone's spec are in a smaller handset, I don't want to watch media I have a TV and a laptop for that.
Plus points
- Very clear screen
- great camera
- The actual functions (messaging, phonebook etc) look great

- Too big
- Battery is iffy
- Too complicated, doesn't do the simple stuff well enough
- build quality

Overall I prefer my Desire S, nice size, competent at everything, usable and functional

Reply by oneeoe from Spain on 27th Nov 2012
I find it difficult to understand some human beings. This guy said all sorts of negative things about One S yet gave it a resounding 5 star general. Incredible. so what is he or she saying at last, a superb phone or a ...

Reviewed by AnnC from UK on 31st May 2012
I received this phone as an upgrade a few days ago and had to return it the following day. Numerous problems:

Signal strength - I live in a poor reception area, however, my HTC Desire always had some signal. I had emergency calls only with the One S - no signal at all - even switching to 2G did not help.
WiFi - Again - no wifi problems with my old phone but with the One S wifi dropped each time I tried to use any internet application.
Weather App - Every time the One S went into sleep mode this app disappeared from the screen and had to be enabled again (hard when no signal or wifi).
Reboots - A couple of times the phone rebooted itself when just scrolling through the screen - so frustrating.

Trawling the internet, I found I was not alone in having these problems.

Phone was returned and I am now back to using my old HTC Desire. Such a shame, but I will wait until HTC iron out the problems with the One S and may then consider getting one again as it is a beautifully designed phone, just full of technical glitches.

Reply by Chris P from UK on 15th Jul 2012
Maybe you got a rogue phone? The One S is a fantastic phone, and in my opinion (and theirs) even better my colleagues Galaxy S3 and iPhone 4S. Faster (check out processor comparisons, it beats the current quad core phones), smarter - (yes Siri is good but install the Skyvi app for free and you have a similar thing). Camera superb and audio great - although I would recommend dropping 'beats' audio and installing the full version of Poweramp. For the princely sum of three quid you can turn your phone into a device that produces studio level sound quality - that is if you invest in a decent pair of ear phones(Soundmagic E10's @ 30)and ditch the stock ones, or the dreadful 'beats' ones if the phone came with those. Superb phone.

Reviewed by Michael from N. Ireland on 30th May 2012
Had this phone for about a month now and I honestly can't find any reason why you shouldn't buy it. The screen is gorgeous, the camera is amazing and ICS is fantastic with Sense 4.0. It's very fast too and an overall joy to use!

Reviewed by Vlad from England, London on 18th May 2012
I'm the owner of this beautifully crafted mobile phone, quality of built is really stunning, screen is absolutely amazing to look at as everything is so sharp ( size of a screen is 4.3" with 540 x 960 resolution, much better than my Samsung Galaxy SII ) fast user interface and new Sence 4.0 is a real treat combined with latest Android 4.0.3. Plenty of useful apps: flashlight, notes, pdf viewer, Polaris office etc...
Best thing about is rich, clean sound when listening your favorite music, I don't own Dr Dre headphones but my Sony ones are more than enough to enjoy too.
One negative thing about this device is that comes with limited memory in this case 16GB ( you end up only with 9GB ) but still enough to store your favorite music, videos etc.
Another thing is that also comes with not user replaceable battery, but I hope that is not a problem as I am sure it will last minimum 2 years or more.
Fast internet browsing, very easy to type your text messages and emails, call quality very very good..."one hell of a mobile phone" is the last thing I should say about it!

Reviewed by kev from uk on 10th May 2012
up graded from htc desire and the htc one is simply amazing i have the internet on all day the battery still good after 15 ish hours.
the lack of sd card aint a problem i got 100's on photos and music plus a load of apps and still got a bucket load of memory.
the speaker quality is pretty good as well
i recommend this phone 100%

Reviewed by Lydia from UK on 6th May 2012
I got this phone about 4 weeks ago and think it's fantastic! My previous phone was the HTC Wildfire, so quite a leap for me in terms of the specs.

The clarity and size of the screen is superb and the speed of the phone is very impressive. I've not used the camera a great deal so far, but the quality of photos I have taken have been very good. The combination of the latest version of HTC Sense and Android provides a very easy to use interface; customising the phone is quick and enjoyable.

Battery life is great. I'm getting 3 days out of it even with a fair bit of use of the camera, internet, calls/texts, games etc. I've read some complaints about the lack of a micro SD card slot and the phone only having 10GB of usable memory, but I think that's plenty, especially as I don't want to put a huge amount of music on the phone. I use an iPod for listening to music when out, and that's perhaps why I get a lot more out of the phone's battery than people who get no more than a day's use.

And to top it all, the phone looks gorgeous! I have the black version and also haven't had any problems with the surface, like the reviewer before me. Very glad that I chose the HTC One S.

Reviewed by John from England on 4th May 2012
Had this phone for two weeks and I am extremely impressed. Really like the slim form factor, the scratch resistant body and the screen. Had no problems at all with the surface finish problems reported on some early black version of the phone (I don't use a case).

It seems much faster than the Motorola Defy (which I liked a lot) that I had previously.

Only slight negative for me is that signal reception does not seem quite as good as my Defy, despite being on same network.

Overall - very highly recommended.

Reviewed by Craig from UK on 29th Apr 2012
Had this phone for a week and it's superb. What impressed me most is the battery life, which is a damn sight better than the Desire HD I had more than a year ago. The 1.5GHZ dual core processor keeps it churning along nicely too. The only slight drawbacks are the screen quality and the camera, which could have been better.

Reviewed by Rob from England on 14th Apr 2012
I got my HTC One S a week ago. I was undecided between the Sony Xperia S and this phone, but the manager in the shop told me to go with the HTC, as they were having a lot of returns with the Sony. I have not been disappointed. The screen is brilliant, in both ways - good and bright. ICS is smooth and the phone is fast and responsive. I have tried the GPS and there isn't a problem with it. The battery lasts a fair while for a smart phone, longer than my old HTC Desire. I got up yesterday at 6:00am and at 5:00pm I was still on 81%, my Desire would have been around 45%. The camera is a vast improvement over the 5Mp on the Desire and even on a computer screen the pictures seem sharp and clear. The handset looks pure quality and it feels well balanced in the hand. I was concerned that I might be disappointed that it didn't have a 4.7" screen like the One X, but I can honestly say that after using it, it is the biggest screen I could cope with for one handed operating. The 4.7" screen would need two hands.

Incidentally, I read a review last week that said that in tests the One S is the fastest phone on the market at the moment, faster than the One X and has better battery life, something to do with the duel-core Snapdragon processor being better than the Tegra in the One X even though it is quad-core

All in all this is a good quality, fast, responsive phone that you won't be disappointed with

Reviewed by Paul B from Englannd on 13th Apr 2012
I bought the HTC One S and a replacement for my faulty Sony Xperia S that had a major fault with the GPS (see review). I was tempted to go for the One X but the size put me off a little. I was also very tempted to go back to the tried and tested Galaxy S2 but the lure of ICS and a new handset swayed me! Right, the screen. Superb. Bright, very clear, can be seen easily in sunlight and is just the right size in my opinion. The processor speed is very fast and I can honestly say that it seems quicker than my Galaxy S2. The storage is a little small in my opinion as there is no SD slot to expand. I can get all my music and most of my previous camera roll on there but that's about it. You do get (apparently) 25GB of Dropbox Cloud storage but when I signed up it was saying that I only get 2GB. Maybe a "user error". Although the handset quotes that you get a 16GB storage it's actually around 12GB. The HTC Sense software that's embedded works very well and is pretty seamless in operation. The handset itself oozes quality. It's thin, light and looks the business. The camera is really good and is comparable to the Xperia S even though it has less pixels (I realise it's the quality of the lens). The multi-burst is a good feature as is the ability to take shots whilst in HD video mode! All in all I am very impressed with this handset. I haven't used the GPS/Maps yet so lets hope that works OK or we'll be popping to the high street again!!!

Reply by Dan T from England on 13th Apr 2012
Hi paul, in order to receive your 25gb allowance you have to complete all the 'getting started' sections using a computer. Hope that helps.

Reply by Paul B from Englannd on 13th Apr 2012
I've now got my 25GB allowance from Dropbox so that'll be handy, especially as the built in Dropbox software on the handset can be automatically set to upload photos as soon as they're taken.

Reply by Paul B from Englannd on 15th Apr 2012
Another quick update....... The battery performace seems to be stunning. I have no battery saver apps (don't believe in them) and at present, under moderate use with GPS, auto-sync, wifi, Bluetooth and auto brightness switched on, it is on 57% after 27 hours of use!!! Amazing.

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