HTC Desire S Review

Introduction and Design
This is a global GSM phone. It can beused with T-Mobile USA andAT&T, but without 3G.


The HTC Desire is widely regarded as one of the most pivotal handsets of recent times in Europe, doing for Android what Google had hoped their own Nexus One would, and catapulting HTC to infamy beyond tech circles and WinMo aficionados alone. In hindsight, the original hit the balance between affordability, availability, usability and attractiveness, so what's the HTC Desire S got to add to the mix? HTC have gone for incremental improvements across the board with the HTC Desire S, offering better battery life, a slimmer and lighter unibody chassis, video calling, and a good helping of Gingerbread on the inside of the phone as well as HTC Sense 2.1. Is it enough to make the HTC Desire S stand on its own two feet or was the HTC Desire just a one hit wonder?

The HTC Desire S sports the same form factor as its predecessor, only this time rolls out an aluminum unibody chassis. Undeniably robust in the hand with great weighting, in terms of design and ergonomics, HTC has come up trumps with this contender.

You can compare the HTC Desire S with many other phones using our Size Visualization Tool.
The screen is uninspiringly similar to that of the original HTC Desire, measuring in at 3.7 inches and adopting Super LCD technology with a resolution of 480x800 pixels. Nevertheless, with good viewing angles and brightness / contrast levels, this isn't a bad screen. In fact, it's still pretty good, with perfect touch registration.

Atop the screen is an in call speaker nuzzled under a sexy looking grill, next to a front facing camera for video calls. On the left of the unibody is a volume-rocker and a microUSB port and on top sits the 3.5mm headphone jack and power button with a notable absence of HDMI connectivity on the HTC Desire S. Flip over the phone and you'll find the 5MP autofocus camera and single LED flash. Sadly though, there's no shutter button, which makes taking photos a bit awkward.


The HTC Desire S showcases the latest version of HTC's Sense spread over Google's Gingerbread. The old Sense has been a favorite amongst reviewers and consumers alike for some time now, and the new version - HTC Sense 2.1, like the phone in question is a general improvement in a few areas rather than a revolution.
With 7 home screens that can be customized and pinch functionality to overview these, the core HTC Sense experience remains virtually unchanged. Where you will see key improvements however are in performance and app / setting management. Performance improvements, specifically speed and stability have to be experienced to be appreciated, but are definitely noticeable.

As for the app and settings changes, the first we'll talk about refers to the app drawer. In Sense 2.1, the app drawer isn't free scrolling, but instead scrolls down in sections with 16 apps to a screen. This doesn't feel as fluid as the stock Android experience and is more akin to the iPhone, Samsung or Sony Ericsson experiences, which is a step in the right direction.  In addition, at the bottom of the app drawer screen is a bar with three icons: "All apps" displaying - you guessed it - all apps, "Frequent" - displaying the last 16 apps used, and "Downloaded" - showing all the apps you've downloaded. This system will save you wading through your app drawer.

Also new in HTC Sense 2.1 is the status bar, which when pulled down from the top, enables quick setting amendments to be made such as toggling Wi-Fi, tethering, Bluetooth and GPS.
There are extensive customization options, in the form of bespoke HTC widgets and "Scenes" offering preset environments to swap between.

The overall Sense 2.1 experience is therefore more intuitive than Android's stock offering and in turn gives the HTC Desire S the same mainstream appeal that spring-boarded the original to success. Improvements in social networking integration (Friend Stream), and contact management only add to the phone's likability.

Organizer and Messaging:

Contacts are managed in similar fashion to past iterations of HTC Sense and can be accessed through a dedicated widget or by pulling up the dialer. Once the dialer is up, type the corresponding numbers to letters and you'll quickly get to your contact. This tried and tested system is easy to navigate around and works well.

Beyond the standard Android organizer features, you will find the same HTC customization found on other Sense devices, with the bespoke widgets such as calendar, messaging and email being amongst the most useful, both improving functionality and better enabling you to personalize your phone.

Messaging on the HTC Desire S is a well integrated part of the HTC Sense experience. The widgets make accessing emails and texts quick and easy and the keyboard makes text entry a piece of cake. The HTC keyboard is definitely among the best found on Android, taking some key strengths from the iPhone keyboard, such as magnify upon press, and adding HTC's innovations to the mix. Therefore, with the 3.7 inch screen, we reached some pretty good typing speeds.

Camera and Multimedia:

The interface of the 5MP camera is simple and easy to use. It is touch-friendly, but the icons could be a bit larger. There is a lack of shooting modes, such as macro, or a night mode, though there are a lot of filters you can choose. Shot-to-shot times are very short, and there is no lag in processing the snap before taking another one.

While shots looks smeared at times, the 5MP camera captures enough detail and color representation is accurate for the most part.

The HD videos are shot at 30fps, and captured video is smooth overall, but you may drop a frame here and there.

HTC Desire S Sample Video 1:

HTC Desire S Sample Video 2:

The gallery is a grid of thumbnails for the pictures and videos, and offers one-touch sharing. There is DLNA functionality, which makes streaming to capable devices possible.

The music player has nice visuals, reminiscent of Cover Flow, and supports track sorting by artists, albums and playlists. There is a direct link to YouTube that displays the videos available there for the currently played song. The loudspeaker is of average strength, though plugging in a headset makes things much better. There is also an FM radio which works well.

As far as video playback, the HTC Desire S runs MPEG-4 and H.264 clips at HD resolution without a hiccup.


With quad band GSM, dual band 3G, with GPS, Wi-Fi and Bluetooth on board as well as all the data sync options available on Gingerbread such as Wi-Fi tethering and exchange support, the HTC Desire S is a well connected, pocketable phone.

With 1124 MB of memory on board, the phone has double that found on the original and is expandable up to an additional 32GB. While our supplied device wasn't supplied with a card, we guess the retail version will.


With an updated processor, still 1GHz and roughly 30% more RAM as well as an updated GPU, when compared to the original, there isn't a huge amount to shout about. This is therefore the area the Desire S suffers most on paper when compared to the (dual-core) competition.

The reality is, we didn't notice any lag when putting the Desire S through it's paces, so if you consider yourself a light to moderate user, we doubt you'll find the Desire S' single core processor an issue. The question is - with dual core apps in development, is the Desire S future-proof enough?

We'd guess probably not for power users, but yes for the vast majority, especially as the Desire S comes in at a lower price point than the dual-core competition, with HTC Sense keeping everything ticking over nicely.

Reception is good with no dropped calls while call quality is average and calls picked up on the device sounded clear with no noise or interference. Our callers stated that our voice was crisp and clear on their end. The speakerphone produces some crackly tones though is perfectly usable.

Battery life is another area the HTC Desire S improves upon its predecessor.  with the 1,450mAh battery, you should expect 190 more minutes talk time, bringing the total talking time to over 9 hours with 430 hours of standby. We got a solid day out of the HTC Desire S with heavy usage and some juice left over, so could probably push two days if we held back.


Wrapping up, reviewing the HTC Desire S has been a pleasure. The phone is a testament to good evolution being better than bad revolution. With the physical tweaks, the unibody construction, the improved HTC Sense and Gingerbread being on board, the sheer smoothness of the user experience makes it hard not to fall in love all over again. That said, this isn't a revolution, and power users will probably want some dual-core oomph from their phone, in which case, the LG Optimus 2X could fit the bill. Media-centric users will want more screen - making the HTC Incredible S or the upcoming Samsung Galaxy S2 natural choices.

Software version of the reviewed unit: Android 2.3.3, HTC Sense Version 2.1 Build 1.28.401.1 CL24343

HTC Desire S Video Review:


  • Small and robust unibody construction
  • HTC Sense 2.1 offers tangible improvements
  • Bright responsive screen with good contrast / color levels


  • No camera button or HDMI connectivity
  • Camera takes muddy indoor / low light photos
  • Single-core processor may put some people off

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4 Reviews

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