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In the past, HTC has been criticized for releasing too many phones that all seemed to be alike with only minor differences between each one. It seemed like every month there was another "superphone" from the Taiwanese manufacturer. While each phone was a great device in its own way, the market saturation became too much for some consumers and HTC appeared to be focusing on quantity rather than quality. In an effort to appease the people and simplify its line-up, the company recently announced a new naming scheme - One. Along with this, it announced three new phones, supposedly their flagship phones that will carry them for the next few months. The One X is easily the head honcho. With a quad-core processor and Super LCD2 display, it's the top dog. However, the One S is no slouch either. Its dual-core Snadragon S4 processor can go toe to toe with the One X and it has its own stellar hardware and amazing display. It may be the middle sibling between the One X and the lower-end One V, but there's little to complain about with this device, as you'll find out throughout this review.

 

Design & Features

In nearly every way, the One S' hardware is stunning. First, it's incredibly thin. Like I-can't-believe-how-thin-this-phone-is thin. At just under 7.9mm in thickness (that's .31 inches) I spent a good five minutes just marveling at its sleek profile. Featuring a metal unibody shell, the phone is durable but stylish. The surface material has been put through a process called micro arc oxidation that blasts it with 10,000 volts of electricity and transforms it into ceramic. This treatment makes it five times more durable than stainless steel. The model we were given for review features a different anodized aluminum finish that creates a sort of gradient effect on the metal. Overall, the phone measures 5.15-inches tall, 2.56-inches wide, and .31-inches thick.

There are a couple of downsides to having a phone this thin. In order to cut down on bulk, the 1650 mAh battery is non-removable. Also, there is no microSD card slot. Instead, you're limited to 16 GB of on-board storage. You are, however, offered 25 GB of Dropbox storage for free. The microSIM card slot (note: microSIM) is underneath the only removable cover on the phone, located on the top-back. On the top of the phone is the Power button and 3.5mm headphone jack. The microUSB port is on the left side and the volume rocker button is on the right side. There are two microphones - one on the top and one on the bottom of the phone. There is a VGA front-facing camera next to the front speaker grill. Also near this speaker grill is the LED notification light.

The phone's 4.3-inch Super AMOLED display is stunning but some may be disappointed by the use of Pentile technology. This means that pixels are discernible and the edges of text and graphics are not entirely smooth. For the average consumer, this will not be a huge down-side, but for those who can tell the difference, you will notice it the minute you turn on the display. With a qHD resolution (540 x 960), you're looking at about 256 pixels per inch - more than the Samsung Galaxy S II but less than the Samsung Galaxy Nexus and much less than the iPhone 4S which packs in 326 pixels per inch of its display. If it weren't for the pentile matrix layout, the One S' display would be perfect. Interestingly, the screen's bezel actually wraps onto the sides of the phone, almost making it look like it's floating on top. (Seriously, there are so many subtle design elements that make this phone so attractive that you may spend the first day you own it just admiring its hardware.)

 

Usability & Performance

Out of the box, you're using Android 4.0 (Ice Cream Sandwich) with Sense 4. There are a few visual upgrades in this version of Sense UI, but most of the improvements come with simply conforming it to Ice Cream Sandwich. The graphical widgets are still there, but some of the 3D effects have been toned down a bit. Additionally, these widgets are now resizable. This is probably one of my favorite new features of the UI. I've always liked Sense's widgets but since most of them took up the entire page, they simply weren't space-efficient enough to make it worth it. HTC has made a couple of customizations to Ice Cream Sandwich. The three function buttons for Back, Home, and Recent Apps are capacitive buttons on the phone itself instead of virtual buttons on the display. The multi-tasking interface has a new look and things like the app drawer, notification panel, and menu system have all received subtle color and gradient changes.

There is one problem I've noticed when working the One S, and that is the fusion of Android 4.0 with Sense 4 and apps that were designed for neither. Apps are generally blind to the UI your phone is using; however, as I mentioned in the previous paragraph, Sense 4 has been redesigned to mirror Android 4.0, and Android 4.0 has some pretty big design changes that most apps have not yet been updated to accommodate. The biggest problem is the menu button. Android 4.0 doesn't have one and all apps are designed for one (unless they've been updated). To fix this issue, a black bar will pop up at the bottom of the screen with three dots that stand for Menu. Not only is this system wildly inconsistent (when and where it pops up is random), it's also difficult to figure out. This bar will appear even when the app doesn't have a designated menu. So the bar is there, you think there's a menu, but there isn't one. I can imagine this will be extremely confusing for the average customer. However, as apps are updated for Android 4.0, it should slowly resolve itself.

As mentioned in the outset, the One S is considered the smaller sibling to the One X because the S features a dual-core processor and the X features a quad-core processor. While this may seem like a disadvantage on paper, it is not one in real-world use. The One S flies through any and all tests I put it through. With several apps running and at the same time playing games, switching between apps, web browsing - virtually anything I do - there is no lag at all. Everything is smooth as silk. This is not surprising as some people say that Qualcomm's S4 chip with the now-famous Krait CPU is just as efficient and powerful as the Tegra 3 processor found in the One X. The phone has 1GB of RAM which helps with multi-tasking. In a Quadrant Standard benchmark test, the One S scored a 4,674, blowing the competition out of the water. On the Smartbench 2012 benchmark test, it scored a 3,068 on the Productivity Index and a whopping 4,052 on the Gaming Index. These scores are higher than even the Asus Transformer Prime (which has a quad-core processor, by the way). The One S recorded 101.987 MFLOPS in .82 seconds on a single thread test on Linpack and 179.815 MFLOPS on a multi-thread test. Lastly, the phone scored a 7,111 on an AnTuTu Benchmark test.

One of the big selling points of the One S is its camera. It features a backside-illuminated 8-megapixel sensor with f/2.0 lens and captures 1080p HD video at 30 frames per second. It also boasts features like high-speed burst mode, the ability to take pictures while recording video, and it can autofocus in .2 seconds and capture a picture in .7 seconds thanks to the HTC ImageChip processor. HTC has even included a few Instagram-like filters for good measure. So basically, the phone has enough marketing terms to sell itself without you even opening the camera app. What about pictures? Picture quality was good, great even, but not what I would call excellent. The details are a bit blurry and I was surprised by the over-saturation of bright colors once the picture was processed. Yellows and reds appear so robust that there's hardly any detail in the object itself. Cooler colors like greens and blues do okay, but brighter colors seem to be bleeding off the page. Pictures taken in low-light settings didn't suffer from this problem as much, but the noise was more evident and you can forget about taking close-up shots as the flash will make the object appear as one big blob. These problems are replicated when capturing video. Detail is great but not excellent and bright colors are extremely saturated. Audio quality was actually great, a change for HTC. Noise cancellation worked very well and the sound was pretty clear.

The One S features another bonus feature you won't find on a lot of other phones: Beats Audio integration. It's a shame that HTC decided to stop including Beats earbuds with its phones, but the software works just as well, I suppose. The nice thing about this integration is that it works in third-party music apps, not just HTC's native music player. So you can listen to your music through Pandora or Slacker and still get the same audio improvement. Now, whether or not you feel that Beats is a gimmick is up to you, but there's no denying that it does add a little "umph" to your music. I immediately noticed it and enjoyed its presence. (You can easily turn it off in the settings.) You're not going to be fooled into thinking you're using $300 headphones (even $100 headphones for that matter), but it's a nice little feature that makes music sound somewhat better.

The unit I'm testing is an international version. I popped in an AT&T microSIM and got no network connection. A T-Mobile microSIM worked but this means that I got EDGE speeds which are not great for a review. Therefore, I can't give any solid info on what data speeds may be like. I had no problems connecting the phone to my home WiFi network and data speeds were okay once that was set up. I generally get download speeds of about 30 Mbps on a PC and averages of 10-20 Mbps when using a smartphone. However, with the One S, I could never get above 5 Mbps, no matter what I did. Obviously, data speeds when not connected to WiFi were pretty slow, about 50-1,000 kbps. The phone can also act as a WiFi hotspot.

Not having a typical data connection also means that battery test results may not be the most accurate, though having it connected to WiFi all day may account for something. With normal to heavy use (playing a few games, syncing email and Twitter every 15 minutes, downloading apps, sending a few text messages, web browsing, taking pictures, etc.), I got 12 hours of use before I needed to plug it in to the charger. With more mild use, including leaving it on standby overnight, the battery lasted over one full day before dropping below 20 percent. Again, keep in mind that the battery is non-removable so don't buy this phone thinking you can just slap on an extended battery.

 

Conclusion

All in all, the One S is a fantastic phone and has plenty of reasons to gain your adoration. It's thin and infinitely sexy, has an amazing display, features the newest version of Android along with the newest version of Sense UI, has a lighting-fast processor, and packs some additional add-on features like Beats Audio that will be great for showing off to your friends. That being said, I wish HTC had not decided to go with a Pentile display; the fusion of Android 4.0, Sense 4, and Android 2.3 apps clashes at times; and the camera created some over-saturated photos. So which side wins - the pros or the cons? Easily, the pros win this one. Pentile display aside, the screen is stunning. Apps will eventually get upgraded and hey, who ever complained about colors looking too good? The One S is one of those phones that you can just pick up and fall in love with. International fans, I would say go with the One X since it's undeniably better than the One S, but T-Mobile fans, this one is heading your way and you won't want to miss it.

 

Wrap-Up

The Good: Android 4.0; dual-core Snapdragon S4 processor means you'll experience zero lag; extremely thin and totally sexy; good-looking display; terrific camera features.

The Bad: Pentile display; non-removable battery; no microSD card slot; camera over-saturates bright colors.

The Verdict: If you're trying to decide between the One S and the One X, go with the One X as it is better in many ways. However, the One S is no slouch and if you're locked into T-Mobile, this will easily be one of your best options.


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64 Reactions to this post

"Do you prefer the HTC One X or HTC One S?"


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Brandon Sforza
Brandon Sforza One S. I'm in the process of starting a new contract with T-Mobile to get that phone. Anyone know how's the battery life and if it takes 5 hours to charge like the Galaxy s2? Thanks
Umesh Lakshan
Umesh Lakshan one s
Oliver NormalnyClovek Vráblik
Oliver NormalnyClovek Vráblik will have the Samsung G Note the S4 processor ?
Reid Bailey
Reid Bailey X
Eduardo Ordaz
Eduardo Ordaz Getting the One X on AT&T. Like the design and like the colors of the phones and also like the UI. The 1,800mh battery won't be an issue for me cause I take care of my phones really well and gives me good battery life. Also like how thin it is too.
Brian Mayfield
Brian Mayfield X international style
Ellery Arellano
Ellery Arellano One S. It's faster than the One X with better graphics processing. The screen resolution and size is fine in my book. I have a tablet to handle the higher resolutions.
Rene Robledo
Rene Robledo Neither
L.j. Costanzo
L.j. Costanzo I've only seen the "dogfights" that featured the x,haven't paid a lot of attention to the s
Jared Prado
Jared Prado The One X.
Jerry Tan KL
Jerry Tan KL take both
Bryan Kawashima
Bryan Kawashima Don't know the difference!
Prabhath Jay
Prabhath Jay galaxy S3
Kimboi Tuboi
Kimboi Tuboi 1x
Oscar Falcon
Oscar Falcon ONE X
Abdulrahman Al-Rayaan
Abdulrahman Al-Rayaan HTC One S
Daniel Cuadrado
Daniel Cuadrado They will both be obsolete in a few weeks.
Dave Trivino
Dave Trivino The One X. But having handled the One S, it seems to be very nice also.
Colin Hart
Colin Hart Echo 4g lte
Andrew Vella
Andrew Vella one s design with one x specs ;)
Derryl Sam
Derryl Sam both have low sound on the speaker and headphone even with 'beat audio'...
Reggie Goodwin
Reggie Goodwin No brainer One x.
Tony Abiama
Tony Abiama Evo 4G LTE
Nyt Walker
Nyt Walker One X
Tyler Hell
Tyler Hell I would rather have the HTC ONE X
Carmen Jessica
Carmen Jessica One X, i love mine;-)
Dave Carton
Dave Carton One X. My sister got the One S. Was nice but once I got the X I knew I had the better phone by a mile!
Devin Martinez
Devin Martinez Neither as long as they're running android...just got a GNex & omg is android retarded. So someone tells me root it, & it's even worse AOKP my azz !
Jose Santiago Gonzalez
Jose Santiago Gonzalez You guys posted this previously. You guys love recycling lmao!!
Avi Rava
Avi Rava One S
Zach Cline
Zach Cline
Sheeraz Sarwar
Sheeraz Sarwar @miles very true i have note since novembr and i must tell u that now i cant even think of using any smartphone whose screen is less than my notes........i take on calls and enjoyed every bit of it.........my colleagues came to my room and enquire wat is this.....is this a mini computr i said yess.they were so amazed to see it were tellling me can we touch it
Larry L Roe
Larry L Roe WHAT'S THE DIFFRENTS
Kiano Pass
Kiano Pass HTC thinks that thinness is mire important than battery life sooooooooo yeeeeeeeeeeeah they kinda killed themselves
Ayo Q Sipho
Ayo Q Sipho @miles idk man but to each his own I guess. They went overboard with the size on that and should of just called it a tablet. It's like u need a fanny pack or a man purse to carry it around.
Humza Ahmed
Humza Ahmed One S
Kiano Pass
Kiano Pass GALAXY S3 DUHHHHHH
Arvydas Grušeckas
Arvydas Grušeckas ONE X
Miles Justin McNairy
Miles Justin McNairy @Quinton, unless you try putting the Note in your ear and see, you ain't going to look that ridiculous. I have a Note since February, and even if I put my phone in the ear, people still get on with me telling what is it, and want to try it out. Some though it that an iPhone lol
Jeremy Gillett
Jeremy Gillett *Sensation XE
Jeremy Gillett
Jeremy Gillett One S
Ayo Q Sipho
Ayo Q Sipho Neither. They both do the same Damn thing. Only thing u can "really" tell the difference is the sizes...on a side note lol the pple I've seen using a Note looks fun to play with but with ur talking on the phone with it, I can't help but to Lmao at u. That ish takes up most of ur face and looks dumb....just saying
Matic Poznic
Matic Poznic One x ;) but the one s isn't bad too ;)
Asif Iqbal Shaik
Asif Iqbal Shaik I prefer HTC One S. Better SoC with new architecture and has better battery life, also the size is manageable. Only fail thing is screen resolution, atleast it shouldn't have been pentile. Otherwise perfect product with its ceramic body.
Fred Chiang
Fred Chiang one x doesn't have micro sd or removable battery so it could be slim. like the droid razr
Joanna Enrique Ramos
Joanna Enrique Ramos I prefer none I love my Samsung galaxy note!!!!!
Romeo Valentino
Romeo Valentino HTC One X
Shawn Poling
Shawn Poling HTC one X
Arthur HyeClever Ekmekchian
Arthur HyeClever Ekmekchian One X
Alex Resiga
Alex Resiga HTC One X is better.just my opinion.
Patrick Jackson Jr.
Patrick Jackson Jr. Neither. I prefer my amaze 4g. I like having expandable memory and a removable battery.
Jones Robert
Jones Robert ...neither because the GALAXY S3 cometh.
Mike Wagner
Mike Wagner No sd card slot and you cant take battery out. Not for me
Wasis Waskito
Wasis Waskito Is this yes no question or Wh question or . . . . . .mmmm hahaha
Cameron Lovell
Cameron Lovell I like the metal back on the one S and I like the bigness on the one X. It is like a toss up but I will get the one x because it's on AT&T and I am on att
Jose Be Julme
Jose Be Julme Neither. No removable microSD or battery, smh FaIl.
Steve Christopher
Steve Christopher I have always thought HTC was the must have phone. But since ive had s samsung galaxy s2 there is no turning back.
Szilveszter Barbul
Szilveszter Barbul Both are nice. I prefer both. ;)
Nora Tomljanovic
Nora Tomljanovic One X
Tabib Rehman
Tabib Rehman I would be happy with one s only if it had a hd screen
Biggs Kranffel
Biggs Kranffel One X, strong piece!
James Gustavo Hidalgo
James Gustavo Hidalgo yes? wth? how is that an answer to this question? loll
Tyler Saddington
Tyler Saddington Hmm I prefer HTC Mozart!
Benny Taylor
Benny Taylor Yes




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