HTC Incredible S Review


WhistleOut
17 June 2011

The HTC Incredible S might not look like much when compared to its contemporary brethren, but appearances can be deceiving. At first glance the change in approach to case design taken by HTC is obvious. Instead of the usual heavy brushed stainless steel frame the Incredible S sports a monotone soft-touch case that gives the device a plastic feel. The shape of the case itself is basically just a sized-down Desire HD. The back of the device sports a “unique contoured design” that really isn’t anything special when compared to the intriguing rear plates of the Desire HD or HD7. All in all it isn’t an ugly device, but it isn’t an overly stylish one either.

The Incredible S is comfortable to hold in the hand and against the ear. The soft-touch material that encompasses most of the device makes for a sure grip when pulling in and out of the pocket that we found quite assuring. Surprisingly we discovered that the almost symmetrical design of the phone – both in shape and in balance – caused us to pull it out upside-down more than once. It wasn’t a huge problem, although it did become frustrating at times as the lock button can be a bit fiddly to press even when you’re holding the phone correctly. As a result we occasionally found it difficult to figure out which way we were holding it by feel and had to look at it. It doesn’t sound like much but when you’re on the go and just want to change songs or spend as little time staring at your screen as possible it’s a noticeable annoyance.

Funnily enough despite the power/lock button being a bit tricky for our fingers we discovered that pockets seemed to have no problem with it. More than once we would pull the Incredible S out to do something and find ourselves in the middle of calling a random contact or opening some unwanted app. A similar problem was encountered with the volume rocker, which sticks out just a bit too far and can thus be accidentally activated very easily.

Starting Up With the HTC Incredible S

Once you get past the exterior and turn the Incredible S on it’s a different story. The initial startup is the same simple setup that we always encounter with HTC. Just a few short, easy prompts and you’re off. We suggest hooking the Incredible S up to a computer to check for any software updates, but as it stands right now it runs on Android 2.2 (Froyo) without any updates we’re aware of.

Setting up email accounts and social media integration is extremely easy as well. Once again just follow the simple prompts in either Mail or the Friend Stream and everything else is taken care for you.

Hardware

The 4 inch Super LCD screen is crisp and clear. Being an sLCD it doesn’t quite have the same level of brightness about its colors or starkness with its blacks, but with a resolution of 480 x 800 it certainly gets the job done without any complaints from us.

Just below the screen are those capacitive buttons we’ve begun to become tired about lamenting over. While capacitive buttons certainly add a finer finished look to a device we find them far less practical than their mechanical cousins. They cannot be felt out easily in the pocket and they’re far too easily brushed against by stray fingers causing you to occasionally jump between screens without warning. However, whether or not the pros outweigh the cons is totally up to opinion when it comes to capacitive button technology, so you’ll have to make your own mind up about that one.

The 1GHz processor handles the Sense UI well. There is minimal lag when opening and closing apps and scrolling between home screens is smooth. We did experience a couple of software crashes with some of our games and once or twice in the browser, but they were few and didn’t cause us too much concern during the week we were messing around with it.

Unlike with the Desire HD and Desire Z, battery life is actually pretty standard; lasting a full day at medium to heavy levels of use. More if you’re not a chronic phone-abuser like we are.

Camera

The 8MP camera takes great photos outside during the day. In dim light, however, you’ll definitely be relying on the dual LED flash which can, truth be told, be a bit bright at times. However, with the flash night-time shots still come out pretty well.

Video capture was a little disappointing for a 720p recording. The images came out grainy and the film had a tendency to freeze whenever we panned too quickly or got in too close to an object. It was still quite passable for a phone camcorder, but we didn’t see too much different between it and a standard 5MP camera.

Media and Apps

Speaking of videos we have to say outright that the Video player on the Incredible S was nothing but frustrating. It barely worked at all, even with the pre-loaded demo videos. We’d usually get one or maybe two plays of the demo vids done before the entire list would crash and start refusing to load any of the clips. More than once it crashed to such a degree that we had to force-close the album app and start again. Add to that any video with a higher than 720p resolution can’t be displayed on the screen. This sounds like it makes sense but we expected better, considering there are plenty of screens and displays out there that can run full HD movies without supporting higher than 720p resolution.

However, when the videos actually did work they were actually very good. The lack of bright colors on the S-LCD screen did become noticeable here but we became accustomed to it quite quickly. Edges were sharp, movement was smooth and the entire image was very clear. It’s a shame that we had so many issues with the player itself because it seems the hardware is definitely more than capable of handle video with ease.

The music player was great – just your standard Sense UI media player. It arranged our albums well, gave multiple options for arranging them and it was generally just pleasant to use.

App support is fantastic on Android nowadays. The Android Market has literally hundreds of thousands of apps on it. You won’t find yourself starving for lack of options for entertainment, news or funky little functionalities to add to your device. The best part is that Android has gone with a theme of advertising, rather than paid apps. That means you can usually find your apps for free as long as you’re willing to suffer a small banner across the top or bottom of the screen during use. We found that after a while we didn’t even notice them anymore.

Web Browsing and Tethering with the Incredible S

Like with most modern HTC devices web browsing on the Incredible S was a breeze. The standard browser works quickly and efficiently on 3G networks and Flash support is always a welcome perk. We had no complaints whatsoever about the way internet browsing was handled here. Even YouTube seemed to load more quickly than on our own personal handsets and, due to the aforementioned clear video quality, HD video streaming was fantastic (although we did only use this function over Wi-Fi).

Tethering to desktops seems to be one of the strengths of Android devices. Depending on your provider or manufacturer the experience tends to differ a little, but with the Incredible S we found the same experience we always have.

Upon connecting to a computer and unlocking the handset we were greeted with 5 familiar options.

  • Charge only: Just charges then phone without sharing information with the computer.
  • HTC Sync: Syncs your contacts and calendar.
  • Disk Drive: Mounts as a USB disc drive. This option is fantastic, easy to use and extremely useful as it effectively eliminates the need to use USB keys and makes for extremely easy media transfer.
  • USB tethering: Shares your phone’s data connection with your computer or laptop.
  • Internet pass-through: Shares your computer’s internet connection with your phone, saving you money on data costs and increasing internet speed while tethered.

The WhistleOut Opinion

Apart from the Video Player issues we actually found the Incredible S to be an overall solid device. It wasn’t anything particularly spectacular when it came to design or functionality but it certainly handled general day-to-day use very well.

We were very pleased with the reliable battery life, web browsing and UI experience. We’d recommend the Incredible S for anyone looking for a solid last-gen device. Just remember that if you’re the kind to watch videos on your way to work you might want to look elsewhere. We can’t speak for every Incredible S out there but we certainly had our fair share of problems with this one in that department. You might also want to take in to account that the next gen of Android devices is just starting to hit the shelves, so it might be wise to wait a month or so if you’re after this one, as prices are likely to fall once the Galaxy S II and HTC Sensation hit the shelves.


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