If the HTC Incredible S were the spitting image of any phone other than the HTC Desire HD, we’d question the need for its existence, given its almost identical specs, size and software.
Of course, as every HTC Desire HD owner out there will testify, a version of that handset with a better battery life is a very, very good thing indeed. Find out if this is the new champion Android phone here in our HTC Incredible S review.
Released just before HTC’s wave of Android 2.3 phones, there’s no doubt the HTC Incredible S feels like a bit of a stop gap. But it you’re due an upgrade, you’re going to be hard pressed not to fall in love with this right here, right now. Let’s take a look.
We wouldn’t blame you if you thought you’d seen the HTC incredible S before. In fact, in shape, it’s a slightly larger version of the US only HTC Droid Incredible, right down to the raised, moulded back panel, which looks odd, but gives it a much sturdier feel than other new smartphones.
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That’s a compliment of course, and HTC has upped its game with a smooth black casing that now houses a front facing camera. On the top of the phone, you’ll find the headphone jack and the power/lock button, while the micro USB charger is on the left.
Because of the raised back, the HTC Incredible S appears thinner than it actually is at 11.7mm too. Our only complaint is that the back is extremely prone to smudging, which may come as a disappointment to those concerned with outward appearances. Otherwise, this is HTC design at its best.
Internally, the HTC Incredible S is amply stocked with hardware. As well as a 1GHz Qulacomm processor keeping things whirring, it comes with a copious 768MB of RAM, which should stop Android toppling over, plus 1.1GB of space to install all your apps on – though since it runs Android 2.2, you can install many to your micro SD card as well.
But wait, isn’t that exactly the same as the HTC Desire HD?
Very nearly. While the innards are almost identical to those in the HTC Desire HD, the HTC Incredible S is ever so slightly smaller, with a 4-inch 800×480 capacitive touchscreen, rather than a 4.3-inch display. For all but the most clumpy handed of men, you won’t notice the difference, and if anything, it’s slightly sharper – and of course, it’s just as responsive.
We can’t say that colour reproduction is up there with a Samsung made smartphone, but we know not everyone is quite as fussy as us in this regard – don’t let it be a dealbreaker for you, by any means.
There’s also one other slight change, and it’s one we love. Look closely and you’ll see the capacitive buttons for home, menu, back and search below the screen have a strange, shimmering glow to them. That’s because they’re not fixed, and the rotate 90 degrees if you tilt the phone into landscape mode. It happens so quickly you may never even notice it, but it’s a considerate touch for those who like to browse the web in widescreen.
Is Android the same too?
Yup. The HTC Incredible S’ Android 2.2 build appears to be identical to that on the HTC Desire HD (and HTC Desire Z). This is A Good Thing: HTC’s take on Android is delightfully easy to use, and handles your contacts with savvy, making a good stab at connecting Facebook profiles to phone numbers, and letting you do the rest.
On top of this, you get a whole bevy of HTC exclusive features that we love, and think you will too. While we can take or leave HTC’s media streaming app, its Locations app is handy for finding your way in areas of poor 3G signal, and its phone finder lets you hunt it down, heaven forbid you should lose it.
Our only issue is that HTC’s touchscreen keyboard is starting to get a bit stale. Once the best Android QWERTY out there, it’s since been surpassed by Google’s own native Android keyboard. Don’t get us wrong: on the HTC Incredible S’ spacious screen, you can type very quickly. But HTC hasn’t visibly changed it since 2009, and it’s in good need of an overhaul – luckily you can install your own keyboard of choice from the Android Market (Swype and SwiftKey are good places to start).
HTC’s lack of wide media support is also a thumb down, but you can open most videos and music files with one app or another on the Android Market.
Now, it’s worth saying that Android 2.2 is not the very latest version of Google’s smartphone OS. If you want to be on the cutting edge, you can get Android 2.3 right now on the superb Google Nexus S by Samsung.
In truth though, on the front end, most of these changes are cosmetic, and you’re not missing on a great deal, bar NFC support for contactless payment. HTC’s also promising an upgrade for the the HTC Incredible S to 2.3 in due course, so we wouldn’t let this be the deciding issue on this one.
Wait, what was that you said about the battery life?
Still with us? Excellent. Here’s the good news: the HTC Incredible S fixes the HTC Desire HD’s truly abysmal battery life.
It’s fair to say that the stamina of that phone was about as impressive as a cup of lukewarm tea, but through a higher capacity 1450mAh battery (and perhaps the smaller screen), the HTC Incredible S lasts noticeably longer. You can actually get through a day without it dying on you. No, really.
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In our tests, with Wi-Fi, 3G, GPS and account syncing on, we found it burned through juice at a much slower rate than our Google Nexus S, and lasted a good 14 hours, with about three hours in total spent making calls, watching videos, testing out the camera and surfing the web. By contrast, the HTC Desire HD would have tanked out after a couple of levels of Angry Birds and one episode of Doctors on BBC iPlayer.
This, for us, is the clincher. The HTC Desire HD was a near perfect phone with a fatal flaw: the HTC Incredible S fixes this without much of a change in size.
Call quality and performance
Call quality on the HTC Incredible S isn’t mind/earblowing, and lacks the crisp clarity of a Motorola handset, but those we phoned reported a decent result on their end.
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It should come as no surprise that in terms of overall performance, the HTC Incredible S absolutely blazes. Navigation is snappy, and even high quality 800kbps Flash video streaming which trips up the Nexus S is buttery smooth. Until the next wave of super phones hits, this is as fast as Android gets.
The eight megapixel shots we grabbed with the HTC Incredible S were, how shall we say, not quite incredible. Just satisfactory, with the clarity and acceptabl- in-occasional-circumstances level of noise we’ve grown to accustomed to over the last year or so (To be fair, it may well be exactly the same camera module as that on the Desire HD). There is also a 1.3 megapixel front facing camera too which you can use for stills and video, but you’ll only ever want to use it for video chat.
As for the 720p HD video recording? See for yourself: it wants for frames per second, but was at least reasonably defined for such a muggy, grey day.
We’re not quite sure when HTC first introduced this to its Android cameras, but we also noticed that the incremental digital zoom bar works in video mode too – a feature we love about Nokia smartphones. Happy slappers and casual concert recorders will approve.
It’ll be of little consolation to HTC Desire HD owners to know that a near identical model with a better battery life was waiting in the wings, but for new upgraders, the HTC Incredible S is a very tempting option indeed. In fact, for those who don’t insist on staying on the very cutting edge with Google updates, it’s the best Android phone right now, period.
Indeed, its only real drawback is the competition it faces: with the dual core, turbo charged Motorola Atrix and Samsung Galaxy S2 just around the corner, it could be worth holding out. But no one skins Android quite so sensibly as HTC, do they?
Review unit kindly supplied by Carphone Warehouse