• Full Review
  • Specifications

Full Review

The problem for HTC is that we expect a lot from its phones now. This latest launch, the Incredible S, is actually a European version of the much-heralded HTC Droid Incredible that was released in the US last year. The handset has a new, really sharp SLCD screen and runs on Android 2.2 Froyo (although you will be able to upgrade it to 2.3 Gingerbread) and has the full set of smartphone features. While no one could deny it’s a good handset, it could well be overtaken by the next generation of superphones that are due out this summer.

Looking good

HTC has rarely gone for ordinary when it comes to design – just think of the Teflon-coated Hero and Desire, or the bright colours of the Trophy or HD Mini. HTC has gone for the matte look on the Incredible S, and added a new design feature – a raised rectangle over most of its back, which we assume is to make space inside for its features without making the whole phone too chunky. While the Hero has a chin to protect its display, the Incredible S leans more towards the hunchback look – mind you it does grow on you after a while.

The WVGA display is four inches in size, and there’s a touch-sensitive strip at the bottom where you’ll find the usual Android touch areas for back, menu, search and home. Rather cleverly, the display’s LEDs rotate when you move the handset onto its side, so the glowing icons always appear the right way round.

The screen is now a super-clear SLCD, which offers improved visibility in daylight. Like all of HTC’s handsets recently, we were wholly impressed with the phone’s build quality.

Back to basics

The phone runs on Android, which is skinned with HTC’s own Sense interface, which offers top-notch social networking integration and email setup, as well as a detailed start-up screen that allows the user to input details for Facebook, Twitter, email and Flickr accounts. Something new is the extra screen that asks if you’d like to move data from your old phone – although when we reviewed the phone it wasn't capable of doing this for newer models such as the iPhone 4. If you’re already a smartphone owner, you probably have all your contacts synced on Microsoft Exchange or webmail and have everything else stored on a microSD card, but it's a nice touch for smartphone newbies.

It’s pretty fast to load up – six seconds from pressing the power button to having all the homescreens loaded. It also logged on to 3G networks and Wi-Fi pretty quickly. HTC’s Sense interface gives you a total of seven homescreens, which can all be customised with widgets and app shortcuts. To do this, just hold down the homescreen and a menu will pop up that allows you to personalise sound, homescreen and display. If you really don’t want to be playing about with these, there are a number of default homescreen settings (also called ‘Scenes’) for you to opt for, with themes such as ‘Work’ or ‘Social’ and which feature suitably relevant widgets and apps.

The display is a capacitive touch-screen that offers multi-touch support. Pinch to zoom and you can see all seven homescreens in bird’s eye view. We found the virtual keyboards accurate and quite responsive but if you’re a really speedy typist you may experience a touch of lag. The iPhone 4’s virtual keyboard is probably just a tad better.

Social networking

HTC's trump card has always been its social networking facilities. Using the Friend Stream widget you’ll find all your social network feeds aggregated, plus you can sync your social network contacts into your contacts book – choose to show all of them or only those that have phone numbers. The advantage of most Android social apps means that if you download any new apps, such as Skype, they will also sync contacts with the phonebook.

When it comes to email you get the usual Android experience – all email (including Microsoft Exchange corporate mail) streams into one app, with the exception of Gmail that has a separate app that replicates the desktop experience. The former email app streams all mail into one inbox, but annoyingly not your Gmail messages. Sometimes it seems as if Google is following in Apple’s footsteps by jealously protecting its products.

Web browsing also worked well, offering a full HTML browser with the ability to pinch to zoom and to copy and paste.

Images and movies

The HTC Incredible S features the highest-specced camera you’ll find on any HTC device – the eight-megapixel snapper has a dual LED Flash and features adjustments for contrast, exposure and settings. And yet its results are rather average. On default settings we ended up with daylight photos that were over-exposed and we found the flash too powerful in low light, especially when it came to taking pictures of people’s faces.

Sure, you can adjust the settings, but it seems strange when everything else is set up correctly from the get-go. After some tweaking we discovered that lowering the exposure by one level and adjusting the contrast depending on the light available made a difference. However, there was still some blur and the colours weren’t bright enough. Having said that, the shutter is quick, which means you don’t need an ultra-steady hand for a sharp picture, and we like the onboard photo effects that let you add cool tints to your images – rather like the Hipstamatic app on iPhone.

On the front of the device is a 1.3-megapixel camera for video calls – however, you won’t find a native video-calling feature on the phone, and Skype doesn’t actually support video calls on Android. Yes, you can download the likes of Tango and Fring from Android market, but you’ll only be able to call friends who already have these services as well.

One bonus is that the video player supports DivX as well as other file formats. DivX is the format used by most high-quality and HD video that you will download from the web (unless it’s from the iTunes Store), so it makes the Incredible S an excellent – and futureproof – video phone. It also benefits from that SLCD screen, which displays high-definition in all its glory, with true, bright colours.

Something for the geeks

One of the biggest surprises was the battery life the Incredible S offers. Because it has a higher capacity battery than its forebears, the phone survived for more than 15 hours, with HSDPA and Wi-Fi on, while we downloaded Spotify playlists, downloaded apps and even did a bit of GPS-assisted navigation. So the good news is your phone won’t die in the middle of the night if you don’t charge it (and importantly will still be able to wake you up if you have the alarm on!) When you get down to 15% of battery life, a prompt tells you to alter your power settings, and the power meter also highlights what is using up the most juice (we found it to be that glorious SLCD screen).

Multitasking proved speedy and smooth, although it became jerkier as the power ran down if we had some high-load apps running in the background. It is possible to switch between your open apps if you hold down the home key, when the multi-tasking apps bar pops up. It’s just annoying that you’re not able to close down programs from here – you have to delve into the Settings menu instead. While there are plenty of task manager apps available from Android Market, you’d have to be a bit of a techie to even think of doing that and we asked ourselves why HTC hasn’t managed to preload one onto the handset, or, indeed just got round to creating a native task managing facility.

With Google Maps and A-GPS on board, the Incredible S makes a decent sat-nav (as do most HTC devices) and using the Car Panel app makes it even more suited to navigating while driving.
The Incredible S is speedier than its US counterpart thanks to a newer 1GHz processor (rather than the Qualcomm MSM8255 model and the fact that it supports the speedier 802.11/n Wi-Fi rather than the older 802.11/b and g protocols.
It will be possible to update the Incredible S to Android 2.3 Gingerbread in the summer, although one of the major new features – NFC technology that allows contactless payments to be made using the device – won't be supported, because the Incredible S lacks the actual NFC chip itself. While NFC is not yet being used by phones, the likes of T-Mobile, Orange, O2 and Vodafone are all backing it and it’s likely that the next generation of superphones will all feature it.

The verdict

HTC has managed to produce a very capable device, but it still has all those Android issues that have never changed – the split between Gmail and all other mail, a very average snapper and the omission of a native task manager. Okay, none of them are the end of the world – and it is possible to fix the last two issues – but early adopters may baulk at the omission of NFC support. It means that if you buy the handset on a two-year contract, it could be out of date before your contract ends. However, on the positive front, it’s a top device for video and social networking, and as you can get it free on a £25 a month contract, it’s a pretty decent deal. So, if the very latest technology is less important to you than solid email, web and email, then the HTC Incredible S is still a solid buy.

Specifications

Specifications

 

Type of phone:

Smartphone

Style:

candy bar

Size:

120 x 64 x 11.7 mm

Weight:

135.5

Display:

16 million colours

Resolution:

480x800

Camera:

8 megapixels

Special Camera features:

LED flash, auto focus

Video recording:

Yes

Video playback:

Yes

Video calling:

Yes

Video streaming:

Yes

Music formats played:

MP3, AAC+, WMA, WAV

3.5mm jack port:

Yes

Handsfree speakerphone:

Yes

Voice Control:

Yes

Voice Dialling:

Yes

Call records:

Practically unlimited

Phonebook:

Practically unlimited

Ringtones customization:

N/A

Display description:

S-LCD capacitive touchscreen

Website:

www.htc.com

SAR:

N/A

Portfolio:

N/A

Standard color:

Black

Launch Status:

Available

Ringtones:

MP3

Radio:

Yes

Operating system:

Android

Connectivity:

Bluetooth, MicroUSB, A2DP, Wi-Fi

Announced date:

February 2011

What's in the Box:

Phone, charger head, headphones, USB cable

RAM:

768MB

International launch date:

March 2011

Battery life when playing multimedia:

N/A

CPU:

1GHz

FM Radio Description:

Stereo FM with RDS

Internal memory:

1.1GHz

Memory Card Slot:

microSD

Messaging:

SMS, MMS, IM, Email

Internet Browser:

HTML

E-mail client:

SMTP, POP3, IMAP4, Push email, Attachments

GPS:

A-GPS

Java:

Yes

Games:

Yes

Data speed:

3G, GPRS, EDGE, HSDPA

Frequency:

Quad-band

Talktime:

380 minutes

Standby:

370 hours

Display size:

4.0 inches

Keypad:

N/A

Audio recording:

Yes

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