HTC Windows Phone 8S review
|Review: January 2013|
Last updated April 2013
In a nutshell: HTC's Windows Phone 8S delivers the joys of Windows Phone 8 at a budget mid-range price. Good-looking, easy to use and with all the hardware needed to deliver a good smartphone experience, it offers exceptional performance for its price.
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The more we get to play with the new crop of Windows Phone 8 phones, the more they grow on us. The only problem with the first batch of WP8 phones has been the price, so it's good to see HTC's Windows Phone 8S bringing the benefits of WP8 to a wider audience.
Design & looks
The 8S shares the same kind of good looks as its big brother, the 8X, and we love the "dipped-in paint" coloured stripe along the bottom. The choice of colours includes Blue, Red, Yellow and Silver, and you can choose a user interface colour to match your phone for the ultimate in co-ordination.
The 8S is the most compact WP8 phone released so far - quite a bit smaller than the Nokia Lumia 820 - and weighing just 113g. It has a smaller screen too, yet at 4 inches it's bigger than many mid-range Android smartphones, and is a very usable size. It's pretty sharp too, with a resolution of 800 x 480 pixels.
The phone feels well made, and should prove tough, with its screen protected by Gorilla Glass.
Windows Phone 8
At S21, we've already declared ourselves to be big fans of WP8. It's a very easy OS to use, fun and pretty in operation, yet not restricted like iOS. It's our FOSOTM (favourite operating system of the moment). On the Windows Phone 8S with its 1GHz dual core processor, the user interface is buttery smooth.
One of the most appealing features of WP8 is its live tiles, which can be moved, resized and pinned to the start screen to create a truly customisable phone. Never mind all that swiping between multiple home screens that you get with Android, or the iPhone's ranks of icons standing to attention. With WP8 you can quickly and easily build an attractive and purposeful start screen that actively brings information to you, with updates from social media, weather forecasts and messaging all constantly updated.
HTC's implementation of WP8 is pretty much the same as Nokia's, with only HTC's own weather & calendar live tile to mark it out as different.
As this is a mid-range phone, we're not expecting it to be jam packed with top-spec hardware. Nevertheless, the 8S gives us everything that we need.
The dual-core Qualcomm processor is the same as used on the top-end 8X model, but running at a more modest 1GHz instead of 1.5GHz. The RAM has also been downgraded to 512MB. As we noted though, it's still pretty fast, with only a small delay when loading demanding apps.
The built-in memory is only 4GB, however a microSD card slot is provided so you can easily add 32GB of memory very cheaply to store your music, photos and videos. You also get a free SkyDrive account to store content in the cloud and access it from any of your devices.
Music is a strength of this phone, and something that HTC are keen to push. The headline grabbing feature is Beats Audio, promising "studio quality sound". You'll want to equip yourself with a decent set of headphones to appreciate that to its fullest. The music player is fully featured and supports a wide range of digital music formats.
The photographic capability of the 8S is typical of a mid-range smartphone. The main rear-facing camera has a 5 megapixel sensor with a moderately large f2.8 aperture, plus autofocus and an LED flash. It's also capable of HD 720p video recording. A physical camera button is a useful addition, making it so much easier to snap a quick photo.
Unlike Nokia's 4G WP8 phones, this is a 3G phone. It supports dual-band 3G with HSPA for fast data downloads on the move, plus quadband GSM.
Wi-Fi enables very fast (and free) data access, and you'll find Bluetooth, USB and a headphone jack too. NFC is missing from this model however.
The 8S has a bigger battery than most mid-range phones, and consequently battery life is measured in days rather than hours. Not too many days, but you'll definitely get 2-3 days between charges - maybe even a working week if you're frugal.
Conclusion - a pleasant surprise
We weren't expecting a lot from the Windows Phone 8S to be honest. Although we like the operating system very much, the high-end WP8 phones such as the 8X had left us wanting more, considering that they are priced so high. We imagined that the low-cost 8S would cut too many corners to make it an interesting option. But we were wrong.
The 8S is one of the nicest mid-range phones currently available. If you're prepared to take a risk and choose a phone that doesn't run Android, we think you'll be pleasantly surprised with this compact yet powerful smartphone. For a phone available for less than £200, it crams an impressive set of specs into a nicely-styled and well-built package. It's very much an all-rounder with no shortcomings that we could find, and with the benefit of outstanding battery life.
HTC Windows Phone 8S features include:
- Operating system: Windows Phone 8
- 5 megapixel camera with f2.8 aperture lens, autofocus and LED flash
- HD video recording
- Display: Touchscreen with pinch-to-zoom capability, 800 x 480 pixels (4 inches) with scratch resistant Gorilla Glass
- Internal GPS antenna and GLONASS with digital compass and Bing Maps
- Music player formats: .aac, .amr, .m4a, .mp3, .wav, .asf, .wma (version 9 and 10)
- Media player formats: .3gp, .3g2, .mp4, m4v, asf, .wmv (version 9 and 10)
- Beats Audio
- Messaging: SMS, EMS, MMS, Email, IM, social media
- Internet: Internet Explorer 10, Bing
- Connectivity: Wi-Fi, Bluetooth 3.1, microUSB, 3.5 mm audio jack
- Processor: Dual-core Qualcomm S4 1 GHz
- Memory: 4GB internal storage plus microSD cards slot, 512MB RAM
- Quadband GSM (850/900/1800/1900 MHz) plus HSPA/WCDMA (900/2100 MHz)
- Size: 121 x 63 x 10.3 mm
- Weight: 113g
- Battery: 1700mAh
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HTC Windows Phone 8S user reviews
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Average rating from 7 reviews:
Reviewed by Alex from UK on 15th Aug 2013
Good phone but not enough memory, shame
Reviewed by Steve Cubbins from UK on 28th Jul 2013
Update on the lack of storage space on the 8S - after a phone reset I tried to install the phone update that it told me was available, but even the 800mb I had free wasn't enough for it to perform the update.
So if you want the latest software on this phone ... forget it.
One star simply because it's crippled by a lack of storage.
Reviewed by Steve Cubbins from UK on 17th Jul 2013
Love virtually everything about the phone - size, handling, performance, but there just isn't enough memory. After installing no more than a handful of apps you're quickly down to 100-200k left and have to do a reset and start again - and you can forget about downloading a map.
Really Microsoft should specify 8gb as a minimum.
I now have the 8X, even though I don't really need the extra speed and features, and it's just big enough to feel less comfortable in the hand.
Such a pity, and 8S with more memory would be perfect.
Reviewed by Rob from Uk on 9th Jul 2013
Have this as a work phone, and on my third in two months. Design is good but the Internet is poor and calls regularly drop even in perfect signal areas. Interface very clunky and difficult to find what you are after most of the time. Very poor effort HTC.
Reviewed by David from England on 21st Mar 2013
Bought this HTC 8S phone in Taiwan after my Nokia ??? was stolen in Beijing Airport. I am not a computer Nerd, don't play games, but love it. you also get the windows 365 office package. Its a computer!
Also purchased the extra 32meg memory, it's early days, but it is easy to operate.
Reviewed by Nathan from England on 19th Jan 2013
Bought the HTC 8S as a replacement for my Lumia 800 that I dropped and damaged beyond repair as it was the cheapest way into Windows Phone 8.
Pros: Very, very light weight without feeling cheap. Beats audio (when using headphones) does improve sound quality. Camera is very good compared to other phones in this price range. Micro SD card suppoprt (for pictures, videos and music). Battery is very impressive, lasting much longer than my previous phone (Lumia 800).
Cons: My only con would be internal storage. 4gb with around half of this used by OS, there is not enough space to download xbox games as apps cannot be stored on SD cards.
Also HTC Windows Phones do not have access to the exclusive Nokia apps such as the incredible Nokia Drive.
Reply by Rob from Enland on 5th Feb 2013
Nokia Drive Beta now available from Windows Store.
Reviewed by Rob from UK on 17th Jan 2013
Had mine 6 weeks. OS so easy to use. So much easier to see what is going on as colours are vivid and fonts clear. Call quality is very good and audio playback superb. Downsides are that occassionally it is slow to respond and battery is definately a daily charge with only moderate use. Lack of apps may bother some but I switched from Android as I used only a handful of apps and found the endless customisation tedious.