HTC has not been having a good time of it lately. The company recently posted that first-quarter profits for 2012 were down 70 percent on the same quarter in 2011. The smartphone sector is very competitive, and HTC needs to pull something impressive out of the hat to regain momentum.
A lot is riding, then, on the new HTC One series. There are three handsets, the One V, One S and One X. I'll be reviewing the quad core-toting One X in full shortly, and the affordable One V has yet to appear. Although the HTC One S is the mid-range model, it's actually a pretty high-end Android smartphone: it costs around £420 SIM free.
The HTC One S features a dual-core Qualcomm processor running at 1.5GHz, supported by 1GB of RAM and has a 4.3in. screen with a resolution of 540 by 960 pixels. It runs Android 4.0 (Ice Cream Sandwich), with the latest HTC Sense skin, Sense 4.0, sitting on top. It supports micro-SIM cards, which seems to be the way handsets are going this year.
The One S has a thin and stylish body design, and a strong range of internal features. Among them are DLNA and HDMI, the latter delivered via the mobile high definition supporting Micro-USB connector. Near-field communication (NFC) is not supported, though.
There is an 8-megapixel camera with some interesting tweaks, including the ability to shoot stills while recording video. This is achieved thanks to buttons for both being always present on-screen while video is being recorded. You can also shoot multiple images in burst mode, and then select just one to keep.
HTC adds plenty of applications to the staple Android complement, including Polaris Office for editing and creating Word, Excel and PowerPoint-compatible documents, 7 Digital, the Amazon MP3 store, a specialised home screen with large icons for in-car use, FM radio, HTC Watch (HTC's relatively new video store for movies and TV shows) and more.
Sense 4.0 has been overhauled, and is a less 'blingy' affair than before. Not every tweak is an improvement, though. I'm irritated that moving through the seven home screens is no longer a circular process. When you get to the end home screen, scrolling no longer wraps around —instead you have to scroll backwards. It's the little things, and in this case an apparently pointless change, that can sometimes annoy the most.
Battery life seems to be very good with both of my review samples — a black version from Clove and a grey version from Vodafone — managing to last a day between charges. But the battery isn't removable, which will annoy some people.
The biggest irritation, though, is that the HTC One S doesn't support microSD cards. Microsoft seems to have pioneered this move with Windows Phone, and HTC is following suit with the One series. It certainly irritates me, as I like to swap in microSD cards to load music onto a handset, but it will also annoy anyone who wants lots of on-board storage.
The One S comes with 16GB of internal storage, and HTC has partnered with Dropbox to offer 25GB of cloud-based storage for two years. It's even possible to configure the camera to automatically back up stills and video to Dropbox.
This might all sound quite reasonable, but what most reviews don't seem to be commenting on is the fact that the internal storage out of the box is actually just 9.9GB as the rest is used for preinstalled apps and data.
This may or may not affect the popularity of the HTC One S, but it seems to me that HTC is closing a door prematurely by eschewing microSD cards, and that's a shame.