HTC Desire S review: Web, apps and conclusion

So we’ve had a look at the HTC Sense user interface and the Desire S’s camera and video performance as part of our review. Now we’ll finish up the process with a look at the phone’s web performance and what apps HTC has stuffed on it, before putting together a summary for your convenience.

We are trying to do this one properly.

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There’s one immediate and very welcome enhancement on the web browsing side of things – multitouch tab viewing. Previously, HTC phones had you navigating between open browser tabs via the Menu – now you can pinch the web browser to shrink the current page and bring up a list of open tabs. It is so much better.

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The single-core Snapdragon MSM8255 inside the Desire S does a great job of loading sites and manipulating web pages. Flash Player support is in and runs the BBC’s iPlayer and other Flash content well. The Desire S is the best we’ve seen when it comes to manipulating web pages.

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What else is good? Video support! The Desire S manages AVI rips, pleasingly handling Xvid content and WMVs – but not MKV files. Plus it’s DLNA certified for streaming media to and from other DLNA devices.

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The Music player is pretty enough, with an “SRS enhancement” option that makes songs sound… different… when played through the speaker. Not better or worse, just different. It’s not particularly loud and bass isn’t great, but it’ll do. There’s a graphic equaliser if you’re listening through headphones.

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In the Music app there’s a link to Amazon’s MP3 store with a slide-up “featured” tab to encourage the buying of music, plus you get playlist support, a hotlink in the Menu to search YouTube for videos related to the track that’s currently playing and you can play/pause from the Notifications bar or a widget.

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The Desire S is also rammed with HTC apps. HTC Likes (above left) is an app recommendation engine with user voting and a nice widget. Friend Stream is HTC’s social network aggregator that also boils down status updates into a widget for you. HTC Hub (above right) is a way to download new ringtone packs, wallpapers and skins from HTC for free.

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And that’s HTC Locations. An alternate place-rating and discovery tool. You’re unlikely to ever use it seeing as the full Google suite of location apps are also on here. Oh and you can link the Desire S to an account, giving access to online security features like the ability to lock and even wipe your phone if you leave it in a taxi.

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You get an HTC-brand RSS reader, with the web browser notifying you when it picks up an RSS link on a page. Press the RSS icon beside the URL bar and it pops the feed straight into HTC’s News app. Which is nice, but you’d be better off installing the Google reader app.

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There’s an e-reader on here, which comes pre-loaded with a few classics – and includes a link to the Kobo Bookstore for buying new things. But you’d be better off installing the Kindle app.

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Calling quality was fine. Never sure how to review calling quality, as everyone seems to have ears that are different and differing expectations. But it was fine. Wi-fi connectivity was also fine. Quick and stayed on for us. GPS took well over a minute to get its initial connection, which seems to be about the norm.

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You can do EVERYTHING you might EVER IMAGINE, basically. HTC is the king of Android and this ever so finely tuned combination of proven hardware and software is ridiculously impressive throughout. Even the keyboard does a good enough job of predicting words that we weren’t hit with the urge to install SwifyKey or Swype.

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Oh yes, memory and battery life. Again, another tough area to call as use patterns vary wildly from person to person. Battery longevity seemed about the same as the old HTC Desire as far as we could tell. Maybe a little better as we do tend to HAMMER phones when reviewing them and this lasted well enough.

The good news is there’s more onboard memory than the HTC Desire, which means more app storage space. And therefore more FUN.

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Anyway. Better stop now. Starting to go mad. Here’s a coherent conclusion we wrote earlier, before going totally insane from taking all the above screenshots.

It is what it is. A slightly smaller, slightly better HTC Desire in a more solid, metallic case with capacitive menu buttons. Phone specs may well have ‘moved on’ in the 12 months since the HTC Desire launched, but this is still a stylish handset that manages to look and do everything better than most other phones.

Some of HTC’s white-on-black text widgets are starting to look a little dated, but the overall speed and feature set of HTC Sense and Android 2.3 are very impressive. Menus now fade in and out instead of jumping at you, lending it an air of calm. The flip clock animates its flips.

So fast in action it makes you wonder why the phone makers think there’s a need for dual-core phones at all. Judging by the evidence on display here, there isn’t. We’re only marking it down for having a 2010-spec camera, which is the only negative point of any note.

We were initially rudely dismissive of the HTC Desire S when it was revealed at Mobile World Congress earlier this year, with it appearing to offer little in the way of improvement over the superb HTC Desire. And that is indeed the case – only everything in here, camera aside, is a little bit slicker and a little bit better. As a result, The HTC Desire S is an undeniably fantastic phone. Using it is a joy, quite frankly.

Thanks to mobile network Three for the loan of the phone. They sell it over there on the popular “all you can eat” data plan if you want one. Any questions?


15 ResponsesLeave one →

  1. kevin

     /  April 27, 2011

    I think you missed out an important point about HTC Locations. It provides a full-on sat nav tool with preloaded mapping. Google nav is great when you have data, but when I had to detour through the Brecon Beacons last week due to an accident, HTC Locations premium navigation on my DHD got me home, with no mobile signal at all, just GPS.

    • Gary C

       /  April 27, 2011

      Fair enough. I did “gloss over” that one. Thanks.

      • kevin

         /  April 28, 2011

        Quick question. Does the Desire S have editing capabilities in Quick Office? My DHD does, but my old Hero did not. A bit dull I know . . . .

        • Gary C

           /  April 28, 2011

          Let’s see. It lets me create “Word 97-2003 Document” and “Excel 97-2003 Workbook” files. If I save them to memory card and reopen them, there is indeed an “edit” menu button that lets me start changing things again.

          Is that what you meant?

  2. Sponge Finge

     /  April 27, 2011

    Got any of Worsley nekkid?

  3. gvgrfjff
    fm fgm

  4. Tristan

     /  April 29, 2011

    Does the phone work well with MS Exchange / Outlook? How?


  6. Martin

     /  August 2, 2011

    Nice review and refreshingly honest. I would not utilise the locations though as anyone who has tried it can now only truely see what a useless piece of softweare it is. Why use that when Google maps now offers pre journey caching for route and surrounding routes prior to travel

    I may pick this one up as my main for the next year until the early dual core adopters have had their fun and the playing field settles so you can make a reasonable long term upgrade. To note Talkmobile is offering thei for £15 up front on a 12 month £25 pm deal with 1gb of data and with that ta-ra

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