HTC Desire S Review: In Depth

Following in the footsteps of the wildly successful HTC Desire and the equally impressive HTC Desire HD is the Desire S. The latest addition to HTC’s Desire family comes with two cameras (one for normal pics, one for video calls) and runs on the latest version of Android (2.3 aka Gingerbread). The Desire S however doesn’t have a dual-core processor, which is shaping up to be the must-have smartphone feature for 2011. But will this year’s dual-core craze end up being the next megapixel arms race? Or, in other words, will this prevent the Desire S from being a good phone? Read on to find out…

What we like

Everything about the HTC Desire S is polished and slick. From the curved metal and rubberised body that fits nicely in the palm, to the glossy high resolution touchscreen. Swiping left and right through the Desire S’s seven homescreens feels buttery smooth and the colourful animated backgrounds are very easy on the eye.

The Desire S is running on Android 2.3 Gingerbread (the latest version of Android for phones), and comes with all of the important refinements. Things like improved text selection/cut and paste (pictured) makes correcting typos in texts and emails a piece of cake.

Surfing the web through the default browser was similarly effortless and hassle free, besides the usual lags which occurred in areas with patchy 3G.

Though it’s not going to be quite as powerful in the gaming department as the dual-core Android phones, it’s perfectly fine for playing popular games like Angry Birds and Fruit Ninja. We also found that Dungeon Defenders: First Wave (a title optimised for dual-core machines) was actually pretty playable on the Desire S, though perhaps a little slow when you were up against a screen full of enemies.

So while maybe not the first Android phone of choice for a hardcore gamer, it’s more than ideal for someone who wants to while away a commute with casual games, of which there are many to download from the Android Market.

Phones with two cameras – one for taking pictures and one for videocalls/self-portraits – are set to be all the rage this year. The HTC Desire S’s main camera is a 5-megapixel jobbie while the front-facing camera is a VGA one.

When you load up the camera app there’s a little virtual control that switches between the front and back cameras. Again, switching between the two is as quick as you’d like; another testament to the Desire S’s nippiness.

As you can see from our efforts below you can have a lot of fun messing around with the various effects that come with the standard camera. This is perfect for Facebook fodder and gives the Desire S good show-off potential.

What we don’t like

There really aren’t that many things to complain about with the HTC Desire S so we’ll keep this short.

We found that the main camera didn’t always perform that well in areas without an abundant amount of natural light, even with the flash turned on. Compared to some pictures which we took outside on a bright sunny day (which were incredibly rich and detailed) some indoor photos looked a bit grainy.

Skype video calls was one thing we’d hoped to be able to test out on the Desire S, but as Skype for Android doesn’t allow for this yet we couldn’t try it out. We did make some videocalls using Tango for Android, so videocalling via Skype should be possible on the Desire S.

The internal memory of the Desire S weighs in at just 1GB. Sure, you can flesh this out with a microSD card (it can take up to 32GB extra) but the problem is that big memory cards can be expensive. Also, there are still a lot of apps out there in the Android Market that can’t be moved to the SD card. So if you want to donwload lots of apps, this 1GB could fill up pretty quickly.

If you’re interested in getting a Desire S, we’d recommend getting the biggest microSD card you can get your hands on.

Finally, it’s worth mentioning that the HTC Desire S is a single-core Android smartphone. This might not matter to people who just want a nice touchscreen phone that can do Facebook and send emails. Not having a dual-core CPU doesn’t automatically make the HTC Desire S a bad phone. It means that it could struggle to run some of the high-end games (like the aforementioned Dungeon Defenders) that will be released throughout the year, so gamers take note.


The Desire S is another feather in the cap for HTC. A really nice looking device that’s easy to use and works like a charm. The Desire S will please most looking for a high-end smartphone, but those after a bit more internal storage might want to look elsewhere. Those thirsting for some bleeding-edge Android gaming should also wait and see how the dual-core Android phones of 2011 shape up.

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