HTC One S review

The HTC One S is a thin, Ice Cream Sandwich-laden delight

Reasons to buy
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    Thin and stylish

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    Excellent screen

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Reasons to avoid
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    Limited storage

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    Uses a micro SIM

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    Non-replaceable battery

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The HTC One S is one of the first 'built for Ice Cream Sandwich' Android phones, as well as the thinnest handset HTC has ever produced

The dual-core HTC One S is among the first batch of smartphones to come with Android 4.0 Ice Cream Sandwich on board. It's less powerful than the brand's own Ice Cream Sandwich-toting, quad-core HTC One X, but is specced to give most current Android rivals – the Samsung Galaxy S2, Samsung Galaxy Nexus, Motorola RAZR and LG Optimus 2X – a good run for their money.

Does it match up to them – or even surpass them?

HTC One S: Build

The HTC One S looks vaguely similar to the HTC Sensation. It's skinnier, though (the skinniest phone HTC has ever produced) and slightly more understated thanks to its all black finish (the only splash of colour is the metal ring around the rear camera lens).

The One S features an aluminium body with a micro arc oxidation finish – which means it feels like a ceramic handset rather than a metal one. It's nicely grippy (not slippy), and HTC claims it's five times harder than regular aluminium – so much so that you won't need a protective case.

The back panel is non-removeable, aside from a small section at the top for the micro SIM, so it's less creaky than most Android handsets. We didn't smash the phone about to test, but it certainly feels rigid and reassuringly tough, despite its thinness.

HTC One S: Features

The HTC One S is one of the first phones to be 'built for' Android 4.0 Ice Cream Sandwich, and the new edition of the OS is overlaid by HTC's new Sense 4 interface. HTC felt Sense was too complicated, and has reworked it for ICS, but it'll feel mostly familiar to anyone who's used Android phones in the past.

There are seven customisable homescreens which can be scrolled through (you can also pinch to see them all simultaneously) and populated with apps, widgets and wallpapers.

There's a bevy of decent features on board, from an 8-megapixel camera (with 1080p video capture) to DLNA for media sharing and Beats Audio technology (essentially a bass booster). You only get 16GB of memory, however, with no room to expand – and that's disappointing. One interesting addition is Bluetooth 4.0, which is far more energy efficient than older forms of the tech.

HTC One S: Screen

The touchscreen is the same size and resolution as the HTC Sensation's Super LCD panel, but uses AMOLED technology instead. The difference is noticeable, particularly in colour reproduction and contrast: the super-saturated reds and greens leap right out at you, while blacks are suitably deep and inky.

It's fairly sharp too: the resolution of 540 x 960 gives it a pixel density of 256ppi. It's not class-leading by any means – the Sony Xperia S has 342ppi, the iPhone 4S 326ppi and the HTC One X 312ppi – but it's impressive all the same.

HTC One S: Performance

While not as greased-lightning quick as the quad-core HTC One X, the S feels powerful. Its dual-core CPU, dedicated graphics processing and 1GB RAM mean you can skip between apps without annoying amounts of lag, and apps run smoothly.

We ran the phone through the AnTuTu benchmark and found it came out smelling of roses – and scoring a fair bit higher than the Samsung Galaxy S2, Galaxy Nexus and Galaxy Note.

The camera is excellent by phone standards. Not only does it deliver good quality 8-megapixel stills, it comes with a fat side order of options and lets you snap away at high speed. Oh, and the 1080p HD video quality is superb to boot.

HTC One S: Battery

The One S features a sealed-in battery, so you won't be able to change it yourself. That will rub some users up the wrong way, but thankfully it's a decent 1650mAh power plant that'll last a working day even with heavy use.

HTC One S: Verdict

The HTC One S is a mightily impressive smartphone: it's powerful, stylish, beautifully thin and blessed with classy features including a fantastic screen, top notch 8-megapixel camera and music-enhancing Beats Audio technology.

It's not perfect – the inaccessible battery and especially the non-expandable storage are missteps (16GB runs out quickly these days) and the use of a micro SIM seems likely to wind up non-contract users – but it looks and feels like one of the best handsets HTC has produced thus far, and the fact that it's built for Android 4.0 Ice Cream Sandwich means you're getting a slick user-friendly experience (and access to thousands of superb apps) to boot.

HTC One S availability: Available now

HTC One S price: £450

Sam Kieldsen

Sam has been covering tech and culture for more than two decades, first in games journalism and later consumer electronics, streaming entertainment and photography. He has written for the likes of Wired, Stuff, CNET, GQ, Trusted Reviews and CVG, and now lives on the Kent coast – not a bad spot for a camera reviewer to reside.