HTC's Incredible S attempts to bridge the gap between smartphones with very large screens such as the 4.3in. Desire HD and smaller devices with screens around the 3.5in. mark. The sweet spot is arguably a 4in. screen, as this means the device remains pocketable while offering great multimedia potential.
Of course the specifications and ergonomics need to be right for the whole package to work well. And with the Incredible S coming in at £499.95 (inc VAT; £416.62 ex. VAT), you have to be sure you're getting value for money too. Our review sample came from the Carphone Warehouse.
The HTC Incredible S measures 120mm by 64mm by 11.7mm, and we found it quite large for our (small) hands — it was impossible to reach all the way across the screen for one-handed use. If you need to use your smartphone while standing on public transport, this may be an issue.
HTC has made the chassis appear thin by using a shaped backplate. This design was first seen in the Droid Incredible, which was released in the US last year. It has a raised centre section that accommodates the battery housing. The illusion of thinness is only visual though, and there's no escaping the fact that this is a sizeable, and at 135g relatively weighty, handset.
HTC's Incredible S has a shaped backplate that accommodates the battery pack; the phone is quite bulky and weighs 135g
The backplate has a rubbery finish that's easier to grip than a shiny plastic one, and is also more resistant to blemishes. Plasticky finishes seem to scratch quickly, while rubbery ones are more resilient.
HTC has taken a minimalist approach to the front of the chassis. The shortcut buttons are touch-sensitive and only appear when the screen is on. These access Android's usual Home, Menu, Back and Search functions.
In a clever move, HTC has engineered the buttons so that they swivel when you turn the Incredible S on its side to use the smartphone in landscape mode. It's not difficult to see what the touch buttons are for when they are wrongly oriented so this doesn't boost usability a great deal, but it's a neat trick. Unfortunately it only works when you rotate the handset anticlockwise: rotate it clockwise and the icons stay put.
HTC has abandoned its optical trackpad, so the only way to navigate the screen is via touch. For the most part this is OK, although we did find it tricky to select sections of text for editing in the email client.
The screen itself is a high-quality 480-by-800-pixel Super LCD. It isn't quite as sharp or bright as an AMOLED and in bright sunlight it can be difficult to read, but that's not unusual.
The Incredible S is not cluttered with buttons. There's a long volume rocker on the left edge that we accidentally pressed quite frequently when removing the device from a pocket; we'd prefer this a little shorter. The MicroUSB connector is on the left edge too. The on/off switch and a 3.5mm audio jack are at the top. There's no camera button, but you can easily place a shortcut on the home screen if you need quick access to this feature. The back carries pins for what looks like some sort of dock, but there's nothing available at the moment.
The HTC Incredible S ships with an AC adapter, a PC connection cable, headphones and an 8GB microSD card.
HTC has chosen Android for the Incredible S but it's Android 2.2 (Froyo) rather than the current 2.3 (Gingerbread) release. An update to Android 2.3 is on the cards, but if you like your new smartphone to be at the cutting edge right out of the box, then you'll be disappointed.
The 1GHz processor is de rigueur for a high-end smartphone, and it's backed up by a generous 768MB of RAM. There's just 1.1GB of internal storage, though: out of the box, with no applications installed, our review sample reported 1.05GB of memory free. Fortunately the Incredible S comes with an 8GB microSD card.
All of the expected connectivity options are present: quad-band GSM/GPRS/EDGE, HSPA (14.4Mbps down, 5.76Mbps up), Wi-Fi (802.11b/gn), Bluetooth (2.1) and GPS.
The headline grabbing features are the two cameras. There's a 1.3-megapixel front-facing camera sitting above the screen, to which you can switch from the main camera. This will shoot stills at 1,280 by 768 and 640 by 384, and video at four resolutions up to 640 by 480 pixels. The front camera is best suited for video calling, but there's no client on the phone.
The main camera has a resolution of 8 megapixels and is capable of 720p HD video recording. It has a dual-LED flash that can also be used as a torch, plus a reasonable array of features including touch-focus when shooting video as well as stills. The camera menu has been tweaked to make it easier to access features and settings than before.
As usual, HTC has added its Sense user interface to Android. You get seven home screens to populate with widgets and application shortcuts, people, web bookmarks and other material. HTC has tweaked Sense to make it easier to apply skins — effectively allowing you to set up a completely different seven-screen environment — for different situations. Home, work and holiday are three obvious scenarios.
The Incredible S supports HTC's HTCSense.com cloud service. This brings a range of feature to HTC's smartphones, but the most useful for business users are probably remote ring — helping you to find a misplaced handset — and remote wipe, which will prove invaluable if the handset is lost or stolen.
We're nonplussed by HTC's decision to stick with its own mapping solution, which is subscription based, as the only mapping solution accessible from its in-vehicle appropriate Car Panel user interface. Google Maps is on the handset too, but you can't get to it from the Car Panel. We're inclined to think this makes the Car Panel redundant, but time will tell.
Performance & battery life
The HTC Incredible S performed well during testing. The processor was not troubled by the tasks we threw its way, and the 4in. screen made the ergonomics of text entry for mobile email and SMS very comfortable. Web browsing and video watching were also a treat.
Battery life could be an issue, though. The screen requires a fair bit of battery power, and the Incredible S's feature set encourages high-volume data uasge. We found that daily charging was a necessity and heavy GPS use, in particular would require a mid-day battery boost.
The HTC Incredible S has a definite appeal thanks to its large screen and high-end specifications. The front-facing camera may be useful for video calling, and the screen is great for text entry and web browsing. But if you're looking for innovation, look elsewhere: the Incredible S is not, actually, all that incredible.