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HTC Desire S review

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

HTC Desire S: Verdict

HTC desire s

The Desire S is a great phone, but it feels like it doesn't live up to its grand name. We loved the original Desire so much. It was offering an experience comparable to the iPhone 4 three months before Apple's device was even announced.

But now, 12 months later, the experience is still comparable to the original Desire. The Desire combined cutting-edge hardware and great software, but the new tech seems to have filtered to the Evo line these days.

The Desire S feels like HTC treading water, with a mild upgrade to keep the brand alive. Of course, a mild upgrade to such a great phone is still going to produce a damn good handset, but it doesn't have the gravitas its predecessor had.

We liked

HTC is well ahead of the pack when it comes to combining the power of Android with the glossiness of the iPhone. The design in some of the apps actually reminds us of HP webOS phones, such as the Palm Pre 2 more than anything, and that's a good thing.

HTC has built a clever and easy method of integration between your phone and your online world, with social networking really sticking out as a highlight.

The design and build of the handset is excellent, save for that Wi-Fi issue, which we'll come back to in a few paragraphs.

The camera is good quality, producing serviceable still and HD video that would be quite good if it weren't for the stuttering issue.

Call quality was excellent, with voices coming through crisp and clear, and it's a shame how little we get to say that about handsets these days.

The browsing experience was generally strong, with the speed that web pages load still impressing us, and Flash is taking yet more steps forward in its 10.2 guise. It was still finicky at times, but when it did work, it was fairly smooth, which is more than we could say for many Flash 10.1 single-core phones.

We disliked

Let's start with the Wi-Fi attenuation issue. It's just a bit too easy to trigger accidentally. We first noticed it because we were logging into a web server, typing our password in landscape mode, and suddenly we couldn't connect anymore.

It's a bit like the iPhone 4's issue in that if you've got a really strong signal, it'll reduce it, but probably not all the way if you're just holding the phone casually, or have it placed gently on your leg.

However, if you have a medium or weak Wi-Fi signal, you'll be down to nothing in the space of a few seconds.

Beyond that problem, there's no other major flaw with the Desire S. It's just lots of little scuffs spoiling the polish.

Contact lists that don't appear properly at first for no reason, and then don't link properly; HD video that stutters; a slow notifications bar; Android web browsing that still isn't quite as smooth as we'd like it to be by now; a screen that's hard to see in the sun; a music app with inconsistent controls and network streaming that didn't work, and so on.

None of these is a dealbreaker on its own, but when combined they take the shine off what should be HTC's leading light.

We said in our LG Optimus 2X review that dual-core power didn't really bring anything to phones yet in terms of the overall experience, since Android was already so fast on the best handsets. But it does offer an element of future-proofing, and the Desire S's issues with recording HD video brought that home.

The Desire S isn't behind with its hardware right now, but we're not far from the arrival of dual-core phones en masse, and we wonder if it won't look a little short-sighted then.

Verdict

If this verdict page comes out as being a little melancholy for a four-star phone, it's only because we had such high hopes for the Desire S. And why wouldn't we? Its predecessor sits top of our 20 best mobile phones list, after all.

The reason the Desire has kept up with everything that's come after is because it was so far ahead in the first place. The Desire S isn't. It's a great phone, and one we would wholeheartedly recommend in a vacuum. In fact, we recommend it even not in a vacuum, but we can't help but have our gaze drawn to the HTC Incredible S and the Samsung Galaxy S2.

The former is out now, and though it doesn't offer Android 2.3, it's very similar to the Desire S, but cheaper. The latter is due out before too long, and will aim at the same higher-end market the Desire S does, but with more advanced tech.

The HTC Desire led the revolution, but the Desire S could be just another member of the rabble.

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
Bluetooth StandardBluetooth 2.1
Operating System VersionAndroid 2.3 Gingerbread
Messaging TypeSMS (Short Message Service), MMS (Multi-media Messaging Service), Instant Messaging, Email
USB StandardUSB 2.0
Height115 mm
Width59.8 mm
Depth11.6 mm
Radio TunerYes
Battery Standby Time430 Hour
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