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Caption by: Sandra Vogel
Over the years, HTC has produced some of the best Android smartphones available. As well as delivering attractive hardware, HTC's Sense user interface overlay sets the standard for other vendors to beat.
The original HTC Desire was, for many, the premier high-end smartphone of 2010, and despite plentiful competition it remains a hard act to follow. Has HTC done enough with the new Desire S to knock its predecessor off its perch? Our review sample came from Clove Technology.
The HTC Desire S looks similar not only to many other Android smartphones but also to the original HTC Desire. The original Desire measured 119mm by 60mm by 11.9mm, weighed 135g and had a 3.7in., 480-by-800-pixel screen; the new Desire S is very slightly smaller and lighter (115mm by 59.8mm by 11.63mm and 130g), but offers the same screen size and resolution. The only real difference is the screen type: the Desire S has a Super LCD display rather than the original Desire's AMOLED.
The 130g Desire S has a 3.7in. Super LCD screen with a resolution of 480 by 800 pixels; above the screen is a VGA-resolution camera for video calls
There are some design differences. The Desire sported physical buttons beneath the screen alongside a small optical trackpad that, for a while, was a popular HTC feature. Both are gone, with more conventional touch buttons beneath the screen accessing Android's Home, Menu, Back and Search functions.
The bottom edge of the chassis has an upwardly curving lip that's more pronounced than in the original Desire. Its function is difficult to fathom: it keeps the screen off a table when the handset is face down, but that's about it.
There's also a front-facing VGA-reolution camera sitting above the screen. This supplements the rear-mounted 5-megapixel camera with LED flash — the same spec as on the original Desire.
The Desire S's chassis is made from a single metal sheet with, on the back, a rubbery plastic camera surround and a removable cover for the battery, SIM card and microSD card slot compartment made of similar material. In this respect the design is reminiscent of the HTC Legend.
This cover is a little fiddly to get on and off, and once we succeeded we were disappointed to find it impossible to hot-swap microSD cards. To change a microSD card, you habe to open an internal cover that dislodges the battery and powers the HTC Desire S down.
The use of the bottom edge of the chassis for the battery cover means that the microUSB slot for charging and PC connection can't be here. It's on the left edge, alongside the long volume rocker. The bottom and right edge are both clear, while the top houses the power switch and 3.5mm headset jack.
The HTC Desire S ships with an AC adapter, a Micro-USB-to-USB PC connector cable, headphones, a printed quickstart guide and an 8GB microSD card.
HTC powers the Desire S with a 1GHz Qualcomm Snapdragon processor. With dual-core processors making their first appearance in the LG Optimus 2X, this could be seen as behind the leading edge. Still, it remains to be seen how much dual-core processors really add to the smartphone experience.
The Desire S has 768MB of RAM but only 1.1GB of ROM, relying on a supplied 8GB microSD card to augment the internal storage. As smartphones are used for more and more media-rich activities, and are also expected to run plenty of third-party applications, this paucity of internal storage could become an issue.
Wireless connectivity is excellent, with HSPA supporting up to 14.4Mbps down and up to 5.76Mbps up. This is a considerable improvement on the 2010 Desire's 7.2Mbps down and 2Mbps up. Wi-Fi (802.11b/g/n), Bluetooth (2.1) and GPS are also present and correct.
The operating system is Android 2.3 (Gingerbread) — the only other smartphone we've seen with this latest version has been Google's Nexus S. One of the benefits of Android 2.3 is support for SIP-based VoIP, but there's no native application on the Desire S, so this is more a feature for the future.
Android 2.3 also supports Near Field Communication (NFC), which should make for some interesting applications in due course — but not with the HTC Desire S, as HTC doesn't seem to have included the appropriate hardware.
HTC's Sense user interface continues to impress, and it's bulging with applications here. Among the newer offerings are Amazon's MP3 store, a Connected Media app for sharing music, photos and video to DLNA-compliant devices, HTC's Reader application and an updated version of its flagship Weather application, complete with a range of new sound effects.
HTC also provides a Car Panel interface, which is designed to transform the Desire S into an in-vehicle personal navigation device. The 6-icon grid of shortcuts gives access to HTC's navigation application, which you have to pay for after a 30-day trial. Google Maps is here too, of course, but there's no link to it from the Car Panel. As we've mentioned before (most recently in our review of the HTC Incredible S), we're less than impressed with this system of locking Google Maps out of the in-vehicle user interface.
Performance & battery life
HTC says the 1,450mAh battery in the Desire S is good for up to 435 minutes of 3G talk, 590 minutes of talk on GSM and 455 hours of 3G standby or 430 hours on GSM.
These figures mean relatively little for a handset that's designed to spend much of its time performing media-rich activities. We found, as usual for a higher end smartphone, that we needed to administer a power boost during the afternoon to feel happy about getting through a full 24-hour period. You could get this length of use from a single charge, but only if you steer clear of battery-sapping features such as GPS.
HTC has successfully pushed the smartphone envelope in recent years, and the company has set itself high standards. The Desire S is definitely an advance on the original Desire, but not a huge one and there might not be enough here to tempt you to upgrade.
Caption by: Sandra Vogel