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REVIEW: HTC Desire S Android 2.3/Gingerbread Smartphone [with Video]
Posted by Arne Hess - on Tuesday, 17.05.11 - 18:46:07 CET under 04 - Android News - Viewed 21020x
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While the new HTC Desire S was announced as the successor to the popular and award-winning HTC Desire, it might be even more the successor to HTC's underestimated HTC Legend, which was the company's first smartphone which came with an aluminum unibody design. Like the Legend and the Desire, the Desire S is sculpted out of a single block of aluminum. It's running Android 2.3/Gingerbread and HTC Sense 2.1 and is powered by Qualcomm's new MSM 8255 Snapdragon CPU at 1 GHz. It supports quadband GSM/GPRS/EDGE as well as dualband UMTS/HSDPA (up to 14.4 Mbps)/HSUPA (up to 5.76 Mbps) at 900/2100 MHz and features Bluetooth 2.1, WiFi b/g/n, aGPS as well as an FM radio.

It comes with the Android typical sensors and compass and features 1.1 GB of ROM and 768 MB of RAM which can be expanded with microSD memory cards up to 32 GB. The device measures 115 x 59.8 x 11.63 mm and weights 130 grams - including the 1450 mAh Li-ion battery.

The Desire S is one of the smaller high-end Android smartphones by sporting a Gorilla Glass protected 3.7" WVGA Super-LCD capacitive touchscreen. However, being a high-end smartphone, for sure it comes with a 5 megapixel autofocus main camera with LED flash which even allows to record 720p HD videos and a front-facing 1.3 megapixel fixfocus camera for VoIP video telephony and chat.

Quite typical for an HTC Android smartphone are the backlight illuminated touch sensitive menu keys under the screen which feature home, menu, back and search. On the left side of the device, HTC placed the micro USB port for charging and synchronization as well as the volume rocker which also allows to control the camera zoom. On top, the Desire S is featuring the typical 3.5 mm stereo headset jack.

Being sculptured from a single piece of aluminum, the anthracite body looks and feels rock-solid. However, the aluminum design is halted by two plastic spots which hold the antennas and provide access to the removable battery, SIM card and microSD card slots.

Being an Android 2.3/Gingerbread smartphone, the HTC Desire S supports all Google typical Android services including Search, Maps, YouTube as well as it supports Google's Android Market. However, rather than using Google's original and redesigned Gingerbread user interface, the HTC Desire S comes with HTC's own user interface called HTC Sense. HTC Sense, which is used on all the latest HTC smartphones, features its own homescreen replacement including HTC specific widgets as well as it comes with its own application launcher and some HTC specific applications. While the application launcher can't be customized too much, except that the sorting can be changed, it has two extra menu tabs on the bottom which are providing quick access to frequent and downloaded applications.

While Android services like Google Maps, Gmail and YouTube are preinstalled, HTC is using some of its own HTC Sense apps instead of Google's original Android apps. For instance is the contacts app replaced with HTC's People app as well as HTC is using its own E-Mail client. However, HTC has also added a couple of own apps, like Twitter Facebook. Still very interesting, even if not new, is the way HTC is linking contacts in its People application which allows to add the Facebook and Twitter profiles out of the box as well as it supports 3rd party applications like Skype. This allows the - as HTC calls it - "People-centric Communication" which organizes all calls, messages and updates by people, not by applications.

Also not new but unveiled last year already is HTC's own mapping solution called Locations. It stores the maps on the Desire S's microSD card so they can be accessed instantly - even without any coverage and therefore also without any data roaming fees if abroad. While some maps are preinstalled or further maps are available as a free download. However, some extra features and enhancements, like routing and point of interests, have to be purchased separately. Nevertheless, these enhancements can be even rented for 30 days or one year only which makes it an interesting option for travelers. Locations provides a 2D and 3D view as well as a homescreen widget with access to preinstalled point of interests. In addition, users can add their own POIs using HTC's Footprints service.

Other than that, the HTC Desire S features many other apps like the HTC Hub, which allows to download additional widgets, scenes, skins, wallpapers, ringtones, etc as well as apps like Wi-Fi Hotspot to share the smartphone's WWAN connection with up to 8 WiFi devices and Connected Media which is HTC's DLNA application to wirelessly stream music, photos and videos to DLNA enabled devices like HTC's own Media Link.

Also the original and much improved Android 2.3 camera UI was replaced with HTC's very own camera user interface which offers a lot more features than the original Android 2.3 user interface.

It even allows to control the front facing camera for self-portrait shots.

Final Conclusion

The day I've seen the first HTC unibody smartphone, the HTC Legend, I fell in love with the design and the concept and sine then, HTC has released a couple unibody smartphones for both platforms - Android and Windows Phone 7. The HTC Desire S follows the good tradition of well designed and well-engineered unibody smartphones! However, the Legend had semi-high end specifications only but the Desire S is a high-end smartphone which might nevertheless will play the second fiddle to the HTC Sensation soon, which doesn't come up to the device. Sure, it's "only" featuring a single-core CPU at 1 GHz as well as "only" sporting a WVGA screen but just to be frank - this is good enough for most if not all users today! More is always nice but not always necessary!
The HTC Desire S has everything a great high-end smartphone needs: A large enough WVGA touchscreen, even if Super-LCD - which is already the best LCD technology - can't compete with Super AMOLED or Super AMOLED Plus displays, a great camera, a front facing camera, plus a powerful enough CPU and plenty of memory which can be expanded. All this comes in a wearable size and fantastic design. Even for media playback, the loudspeaker on the backside is surprisingly loud and clear, thanks to the SRS sound enhancement.

In terms of the software and user interface enhancements, HTC has done everything right too! While there are always users which prefer the pure Android user experience, new smartphone users will value HTC Sense and even experienced users will value it because it offers so many little surprises and enhancements here and there; there's always something more to discover. There's only one disappointment which is the apps launcher! While it became much better, compared to previous versions and thanks to the frequent used and downloaded apps tabs, it's still somewhat confusing. Also some app names are confusing me. I'm not really sure if someone, coming from a typical mobile phone, is looking for People rather than for contacts. And also Connected Media would be good to be called what it is - wireless DLNA. But all this are questions of different tastes and not typical for the HTC Desire S but for all HTC Sense enhanced HTC smartphones.

In my humble opinion, the HTC Desire S should be on the first choice list for everybody in search for a new high-end smartphone. The combination of size, design, features and enhancements makes it the perfect companion.

The Desire S is now available in anthracite across Europe and the suggested retail price without a contract is 489 Euro but many online shops are offering it cheaper.

Cheers ~ Arne

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