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HTC Desire S review

Can HTC's first Android 2.3 smartphone live up to its blockbusting heritage?

Our Verdict

A great phone, undoubtedly, but doesn't stand as far out of the crowd as its predecessor.

Product features

  • Built-in Memory : 1.10 GB
  • Rear Camera Resolution : 5 Megapixel
  • Battery Talk Time : 9.83 Hour
  • Screen Resolution : 480 x 800

View full specification

For

  • Fast operation
  • Slick UI
  • Excellent cloud integration
  • Stunning design
  • Strong stills camera

Against

  • Wi-Fi antenna issue
  • Frequently slow notifications bar
  • Stuttery HD video recording
  • Not cheap for its specs
  • Still some Android UI issues

All things must come to an end (or at least be supplanted by something new). The HTC Desire S has arrived to take over from its predecessor in the Android race.

In many ways, it's quite similar. We'll still be looking at a 3.7-inch 480 x 800 screen, Android overlaid with HTC's Sense UI and a 1GHz processor. However, HTC hasn't totally rested on its laurels.

You can check out TechRadar's video review of the HTC Desire S

The RAM is increased for the upgraded Android 2.3, there's now 1GB of built-in memory and it's made with a premium aluminium unibody shell.

HTC desire s

The only real disappointment from a spec point of view is that 1GHz processor – it's single-core, while its competitors slowly move to dual-core for the higher-end phones, such as the Samsung Galaxy S2.

While it lacks the processing grunt of the LG Optimus 2X, we commented in our review of that phone that the Android experience wasn't actually made any faster or smoother than the original Desire by the addition of Nvidia's dual-core Tegra 2, so it'll be interesting to see if it can be as slick as ever on one core.

HTC desire s

The Desire S also brings improvements in video recording, with 720p HD capture now supported, though the sensor stays at five megapixels.

The wireless technology has also had a welcome boost, with 14.4Mbps HSDPA 3G broadband and Wi-Fi 802.11n support both added.

The battery is also slightly larger (up to 1450mAh, which is still smaller than a lot of the competition), though HTC is claiming as much as a 20 per cent increase in standby and talk time.

HTC desire s

It's available SIM-free for a little over £400, but looks set to be free on contract from around £35.

We're told the retail version will ship with a microSD card, but the size will vary between retailers – 4GB looks set to be the average.

The HTC Desire S is classy. The original Desire was incredibly well built, but HTC is taking things to another level recently. The Desire S features a unibody aluminium shell that brings Apple to mind, but bizarrely not the iPhone.

HTC desire s

The iPhone 4's glass and steel design is flashy and eye-catching, but something like the MacBook Pro's unibody build is more discreet, though no less impressive. It's the latter that the Desire S brings to mind, being made with a similar construction process that's resulted in the same kind of gentle angles along the edge.

There's a little bit of cheating going on, because the area around the camera and the slide-off panel on the bottom are both plastic, but that doesn't even come close to marring the overall quality. It's simply a stunningly made handset as far as basic build quality goes.

HTC desire s

More than anything, it's comfortable to hold, and feels solid. There a small amount of give on the back, and you can hear it tapping the battery if you press your finger against it, but there's no give in the device otherwise – it lives up to its billing as a solid lump of metal.

HTC desire s

Looking at the front, the most obvious change is the loss of physical buttons and optical trackpad. While real buttons can be a nice thing to have, the optical trackpad won't be missed. More precise text editing is now built into the OS, making it redundant, and losing it has meant HTC could shave a little off the device's height.

It's now 60 x 115 x 11.6mm, and weighs in at a middle-of-the-road 130g. While 11.6mm isn't hugely thick, it's certainly lagging behind in the skinny war going on between Apple, Samsung and Sony Ericsson. Maybe HTC's got it right, though – let them worry about fitting the battery in, and just make perfectly good normal phones.

The Desire S doesn't feel thick – it's a nice size in the hand, and the curved sides make it quite comfortable to hold.

HTC desire s

The screen retains its 3.7-inch size and 480 x 800 resolution with Super LCD technology. The display is noticeably closer to the glass than the original Desire. It doesn't quite match the iPhone 4's printed-on-the-glass effect, but compared to the original it's certainly an improvement.

When we took the Desire S and original Desire out into the sun together, we actually found the new handset slightly harder to see with them both set to the highest brightness levels. It wasn't a major difference, but it was particularly noticeable when viewing from off-centre - which might be a big turn off for some.

Speaking of which, viewing angles are excellent, just as they were on the Desire S's predecessor. The screen in general is vibrant and clear, with text easily legible.

The touch-sensitive Android buttons (Home, Menu, Back and Search) are softly backlit, and give of a jolt of haptic feedback when pressed.

HTC desire s

At the top of the phone are the wide earpiece and the new front-facing camera. The camera's only VGA, which will probably suffice for most people.

HTC desire s

On the device's left-hand side are a silver volume rocker and a micro-USB port for charging and connecting to a PC.

HTC desire s: design and handling

On the top sit the 3.5mm headphone port and the Lock key, which is in a nicely easy-to-reach spot (unlike, say, the HTC 7 Trophy).

HTC desire s

On the back is the five-megapixel camera's lens, with the LED flash and loudspeaker grille next to it. This plastic appears to house the Wi-Fi antenna, which will become a BIG talking point later on in the review.

HTC desire s

The bottom is a slide-off panel that offers access to the SIM card slot, microSD card slot and battery. The way it curves around the phone (the Desire S still has HTC's trademark lip at the bottom) means you can end up trying to push off against your own hand, inadvertently holding it in place.

HTC desire s

Once you get it off, you'll see a couple of connections underneath. The last time we saw something like this was the Palm Pre 2, so we got excited that there might be secret wireless power capabilities in the Desire S.

There isn't. The slide-off panel is actually part of the antenna assembly, and removing it breaks the connection, meaning you'll have no phone signal while it's off.

With it off, you can get to the battery and card slots by opening a little flip-open panel. It all feels slightly over-engineered, as though HTC has employed Brains from Thunderbirds to design the battery compartment while he was high on model glue.

Tech Specs

Product TypeSmartphone
Network BandQuad Band
Input MethodTouchscreen
TouchscreenYes
BluetoothYes
Wireless LANYes
USBYes
Contract TypeSIM-free
Maximum Memory Card Size Supported32 GB
Built-in Memory1.10 GB
Built-in FlashYes
Memory Card SlotYes
Cellular Data Connectivity TechnologyGPRS, EDGE, HSDPA, HSUPA
GPS ReceiverYes
Multi-SIM SupportedNo
Near Field CommunicationNo
Integrated TV TunerNo
Cellular Generation3.5G
Cellular Network SupportedGSM 850, GSM 900, GSM 1800, GSM 1900, WCDMA 900, WCDMA 2100
Rear Camera Resolution5 Megapixel
Number of SIM Card Supported1
Front CameraYes
Memory Card SupportedmicroSD
Phone StyleBar
ColourBlack
Operating SystemAndroid
Brand NameHTC
Battery Talk Time9.83 Hour
Product ModelDesire S
Screen Size9.4 cm (3.7")
Screen Resolution480 x 800
Touchscreen TypeCapacitive
Weight (Approximate)130 g
Maximum Video Resolution1280 x 720
Processor ManufacturerQualcomm
Operating System VersionAndroid 2.3 Gingerbread
Messaging TypeSMS (Short Message Service), MMS (Multi-media Messaging Service), Instant Messaging, Email
RealtoneYes
Radio Tuner TypeFM
Call FeaturesConference Call, Call Log, Smart Dialing, Call Holding, Call Forwarding, Fixed Dialing, Call Barring
Height115 mm
Width59.8 mm
Depth11.6 mm
Radio TunerYes
ManufacturerHigh Tech Computer Corp
Product NameDesire S Smarphone
Processor Speed1 GHz
Processor TypeSnapdragon
Screen TypeLCD
Sensor TypeG-sensor, Digital Compass, Proximity Sensor, Ambient Light Sensor, Accelerometer
Manufacturer Part Number99HMN007-00
Manufacturer Website Addresshttp://www.europe.htc.com
Marketing InformationHTC Desire delivers intense brilliance, sharp contrast, and true colors on the expansive 3.7-inch AMOLED display. The 1 GHz Qualcomm Snapdragon processor makes the phone incredibly responsive as you multitask from app to app without skipping a beat, while the instinctive HTC Sense experience lets you wield the power of the HTC Desire with the greatest of ease.

Make it Mine
With the HTC Desire, it's all about your information, your entertainment, your multimedia ... your way. A multitude of HTC Sense widgets makes it easy to transform your Home screen with rich content that personalizes your phone experience.

If you're a sports junkie or simply love to keep up to date with the latest news, the HTC Desire keeps you in the know with the News application. News makes it easier than ever to collect all your favorite articles from across the web. Choose from a selection of channels that cover top blogs, news sites or sports pages, or get news updates based on the keywords you select.

Stay Close
The HTC Desire excels at helping you stay in touch with the different circles of friends or colleagues in your life. The new People widget lets you bring any group you create on your phone right to the surface for easy access to calling, messaging, emailing or simply checking up on social networking updates.

The HTC Desire simplifies the way that you tend to all of your social networks. With Friend Stream, your interaction with friends across multiple social networks like Facebook®, Twitter™, and Flickr™ are brought into a single easy to follow stream of updates, photo posts, and shared links. Friend Stream also lets you shout out your thoughts or feelings to all your online friends with a single comment that gets broadcast to both Facebook and Twitter.

Discover the Unexpected
HTC Desire offers an expansive display, a blazing-fast processor, and a great interface. On top of that, it has a lot of little design touches that make a big impact on your overall phone experience: like quick and easy access to any panel of your Home screen with the new seven-panel 'helicopter' thumbnail view, or the polite ringer that lowers the ringer volume when you pick up the phone.

Your work email, calendar appointments, and contacts, are right there on your phone - you can even look up any company contact in the global address book. The HTC Desire also has enhanced support for Exchange security features such as password protection and remote data wipe. And, if you forget to tell your colleagues that you are taking the much needed day off, you can set the 'Out of Office' status right from your phone.

Main Features
  • Android™ 2.1 (Éclair) with HTC Sense™
  • 119 x 60 x 11.9mm
  • 135g with battery
  • Bluetooth® 2.1 with Enhanced Data Rate
  • 5 megapixel colour camera with auto focus and flashlight
  • G-Sensor
  • 3.7" AMOLED touch-sensative screen with 480 x 800 WVGA resolution
  • Wi-Fi®
  • Optical Mouse
  • microSD™ memory card
  • Facebook™ integration
  • HTC Peep for twittering
Package Contents
  • Desire S Smarphone
  • Battery (preinstalled)
  • microSD card (preinstalled)
  • USB cable
  • 3.5mm stereo headset
  • Power adapter
  • Quick start guide
  • Safety and regulatory guide
  • Call center card (hotline card)
  • Warranty card
Limited Warranty1 Year