HTC Desire S review

Is the new Desire still our phone of the year?

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Image 2 of 4 Camera
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  • Sleek design
  • HTC Sense UI
  • Battery


  • Processor
  • Media player
  • Lack of progress

The latest HTC Desire S has great hardware and UI, but it doesn't quite feel like enough to fight off the dual-core challengers just around the corner.

Side by side, the Desire S is slightly shorter in the body, but differences are minimal. The familiar Android buttons have become softkeys, and the central optical trackpad has disappeared. The phone body is sculpted out of a single chunk of aluminium (a la HTC Legend), apart from two oblong rubberised sections on the rear – one housing the 5MP camera and LED flash, the other being the battery cover with a cunning integrated antenna.

HTC Mozart owners would recognise the latter, as well as the fiendish SIM/MicroSD internal cover and slide-in battery.Overall it’s a pleasant weight in the hand, and the build quality of the Alu case and silver detailing around the front VGA camera and headphone jack is excellent.

HTC Desire S spec

The muted good news continues here – more RAM (768mb), tweaked internal storage (up to 1.1Gb) and a newer although similar-headline-spec Snapdragon processor. As we noted in the review of the Desire S’s sibling, the HTC Incredible S, the UI is slick enough at the moment, but the competition (Motorola Atrix, Samsung Galaxy 2) has taken a giant dual-core-shaped leap as opposed to this incremental baby step. HTC is likely to suffer later in the year for this.

HTC Desire S Android 2.3 Gingerbread

The Desire S is rocking Android 2.3 Gingerbread straight out of the box, and jolly slick it is too. Of course, HTC Sense 2.1 overlays the whole experience, making it instantly familiar. An obvious innovation is an extended top bar menu, which now features a handy ‘quick settings’ tab when swiped down. We think HTC Sense is still the best skin for Android compared to LG, Samsung, Moto and SE, with excellent social networking and neat features like a customise icon.

HTC Desire S screen

HTC is still suffering from the lack of AMOLED availability, and in spite of PR offensives, Super LCD just isn’t quite as warm. Bright with good off-angle viewing, colours are a bit muted, and in low light the screen lags pretty badly and content viewed isn’t pin sharp - this is especially noticeable next to the SE Neo.

However, this 3.7 in WVGA resolution screen doesn’t entirely embarrass itself – it’s just not very exciting next to its bigger brother, the Incredible S, and the AMOLED/Retina-screened competition like the Dell Venue Pro or Samsung Galaxy S.

HTC Desire S Camera

Pictures taken in low light are noisier than rivals such as the Nokia E7, but they seem fairly sharp. However, generally on default settings the colours are far more muted than rivals, and colours really lack punch. However, this would suit someone who wanted a more natural pictures. Flash is powerful though, in spite of it’s single LED, while video shooting was pretty good, sharp with natural colours. Overall, it’s a competent performance, but not an exciting one – it’s outclassed by many.

HTC Desire S battery

Maybe it’s the power-saving SLCD screen, maybe there’s been a lot of frugal optimising done, but whichever way the Desire S battery is pretty decent. It’s nothing to get excited about, but there’s a full day here and no mistake.

HTC Desire S verdict

Yet another accomplished handset from HTC, but this isn’t an unqualified success. For current owners of the HTC Desire, there’s not a lot more here, and the competition is fierce – especially from the dual-core crew. These last are potentially the real HTC Desire S killers, and it’s hard to see anything here that will hold them off. Even the HTC Incredible S (admittedly at a higher price point) looks like a better bet with exactly the same spec but a bigger screen.

There’s a general feeling that HTC needs to do more, both on hardware and on some aspects of their otherwise solid software - their media player really needs to improve. If you’re hankering after an HTC, this is one to look at if design is your bag, but the Incredible S destroys it on specs.

HTC Desire S launch date: Out now, link HTC

HTC Desire S price: £380-£410 online, around £25 a month - T3 readers get £10 off here with code 'T3'