HTC One S Android smartphone
Meet the bridesmaid
Review Playing Tonto to the One X’s Lone Ranger in HTC’s new model line-up is the One S. I’ll get to Silver, the One V, when it arrives in a few weeks. For now though, we can see if HTC’s much vaunted One series makes sense from a technical, as well as a marketing perspective.
Tonto's talker: HTC's One S
In all areas, the One S is slightly less than the One X . The CPU has two cores rather than four, the screen has 540 x 960 pixels rather than 720 x 1280 and it measures 4.3 rather than 4.7in corner-to-corner. The battery is also slightly less muscular at 1650mAh though no less fixed.
Of course, the reverse of that coin is that the One S is smaller and lighter than the X. In fact at under 120g and less than 8mm thick, it's breathing down the neck of the Motorola Razr  in the thin’n’light stakes.
In terms of design the S and X are very similar the main difference being the aluminium unibody with its ever so slightly crystalline finish and the removable end cap which conceals the SIM slot.
Lock screen weather display and Sense 4.0 home screen
The smaller screen shouldn’t be seen as a drawback. In my opinion 4.3in is the sweet spot for a smartphone and the 256dpi pixel density count is more than adequate. Being an AMOLED panel, blacks look properly black while the other colours pop out at you.
Powering the S is Qualcomm’s new 1.5GHz dual-core Snapdragon chip and the user experience it delivers is pretty much identical to the quad-core Tegra 3 rig in the One X. Like the One X and the Razr, the S has a full 1GB of RAM so everything moves with a creamy smoothness, no matter how many apps are running.
AnTuTu score and less than 10GB free for files and no SD slot either
Run the AnTuTu benchmark app and you get a score of around 7,000. That’s a lot lower than the 10,500 figure produced by the One X but still the best part of a thousand points above the Galaxy Nexus or Razr. More importantly, the S will still play 1080p video smoothly. In fact the difference in performance between the One S and the One X is the same as that between being mauled by a cheetah and a grizzly bear. You end up just as dead.
Storing up frustration?
The only other important technical differences are the lack of NFC, the fitting of a VGA rather than 1.3Mp secondary camera and only 16GB rather than 32GB of storage, again with no SD card slot. Those three changes are to my mind the more problematic because I suspect they have been introduced purely to make the One X look better by comparison.
Google Books and browser
A phone like the One S should surely have more than 16GB of storage – less than 10GB is actually free for file storage after system requirements – and it should have an HD web camera and an NFC radio. If the One X didn’t exist I bet the One S would have these features.
The smaller, lower-resolution screen, reduced size and weight and dual rather than quad-core chip are enough to separate the two devices but by knocking back the One S’s spec even further, HTC is in my opinion being too parsimonious.
Other than the points I’ve covered there’s little else to separate the X and the S. Both run Ice Cream Sandwich and Sense 4.0, use micro SIM cards, have the Beats Audio sound modification system and – for the moment at least – come with excellent earbuds.
The One S also has the same fast-turnaround 8Mp camera that can shoot video at 1080p and record in H.264. Both devices also feature Bluetooth 4.0 with the aptX codec.
Despite the smaller battery, a fully charged One S will see you through more of a working day than the One X, though you will still have to charge it every 24 hours or so. In tests, I managed 6hrs of 720p video playback and 3hrs 30mins of Shadowgun – in both cases 30mins more than I notched up with the One X.
Very capable but missing a few tricks
SIM-free, the One S is around £80 less than the One X while on contract you will save about £5 a month. Given the user experience seems similar, it’s really all down to whether or not you think a larger screen, HD web cam, NFC radio and most importantly an extra 16GB of storage are luxuries or essentials.
Admittedly, I'm in two minds with the regard to the fixed storage. I've never needed more than 8GB in a phone, so the One S's 10GB of user storage is enough for me. More to the point, for some users the amount of free storage will always be an issue with handsets without expansion. Still, there are alternatives. Indeed, maybe HTC should have squared the circle by fitting a microSD card slot as Motorola did with its slightly cheaper 16GB Razr.
The One S is the Panther tank to the One X’s Königstiger. Smaller, lighter, not as visually impressive nor perhaps as iconic but at the end of the day still a fine and versatile device for use in the real world. That said it has been deliberately hobbled in some areas and of course it will forever be Liù to the One X’s Turandot. ®
Thanks to Clove Technology  for the loan of the review sample.
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