Is the HTC One S T-Mobile's savior?

T-Mobile USA is struggling to hold on to customers as subscribers ditch it for carriers with the iPhone and other cool Android handsets. But the HTC One S may finally offer something worth staying for.

T-Mobile USA may not have the iPhone or a slew of other cool Android phones, but next week it will start selling the HTC One S, one of HTC's premiere smartphones that may finally give its subscribers a phone that excites them.

The new HTC One S will go on sale in T-Mobile stores and online April 25 for $199.99 with a two-year contract. The smartphone, which was unveiled at Mobile World Congress in Barcelona in February, is the first on T-Mobile's network to sport the latest Android 4.0 Ice Cream Sandwich software. It also supports the latest version of HTC's homegrown Sense 4.0 software.

With a 4.3 AMOLED screen, the device is smaller than the HTC One X that will soon appear on AT&T's network, but it offers many of the same features, such as an 8-megapixel camera with rapid shutter speed that allows users to take several pictures by pressing and holding a finger on the picture icon. It also supports Beats audio, which enhances the sound quality for music as well as video that's played on the device.

And even though T-Mobile doesn't offer 4G LTE service, it does offer enhanced 3G service called HSPA+, which delivers 4G-like speeds. The latest version of technology T-Mobile is using can theoretically offer download speeds up to 42 Mbps. And the new HTC One S will operate on that network where it's available.

CNET Reviews editor Brian Bennett was so wowed by the device, he called it the "best phone you can get on T-Mobile (for now), wrapping Android 4.0, 4G data speeds, and a beautiful 4.3-inch AMOLED screen into one svelte package."

There's no question that T-Mobile has been in sore need of cool new phones on its network. While AT&T and Verizon Wireless announced devices like the Motorola Razr Maxx, Samsung Galaxy Nexus, and Nokia Lumia 900, T-Mobile subscribers have been left in the cold.

The No. 4 U.S. carrier is also the only major wireless operator in the U.S. to not offer the iPhone. And executives at the company recently acknowledged that not having the iPhone has hurt its sales and caused many customers to flee. In the fourth quarter of 2011, T-Mobile lost 526,000 customers. This compares to a gain of 126,000 customers during the third quarter. Executives blamed the subscriber loss to the fact that it didn't have the iPhone.

While consumers can use unlocked iPhones on T-Mobile's network, they don't get the best experience since the iPhone's 3G service is optimized for a different band of wireless spectrum. So even though people can pop in a T-Mobile SIM card, and the phone will work on T-Mobile's network, it will only operate at 2G speeds.

T-Mobile says it would happily add the iPhone to its device lineup, but executives say the decision is up to Apple. And so far Apple hasn't said why it isn't giving T-Mobile the chance. It also hasn't said whether T-Mobile will get a chance to offer the next new iPhone that will be released later this year.

Even without the iPhone, T-Mobile is finally beefing up its offering with cool alternatives that may satisfy those looking for a high-end smartphone experience, similar to what the iPhone offers.

"We're not trying to compare the One S with the iPhone," said Matt Bybee, product manager for handset marketing at T-Mobile. "But everyone who I've let use this device hasn't wanted to give it back to me. It's a great phone, and I think it will appeal to a lot of different people."

The HTC One S isn't the only cool new phone that will soon be coming to T-Mobile's network. Samsung is also rumored to preparing a version of its Galaxy S III for T-Mobile. The new device, which is expected to be announced at an event in London on May 3, is one of the most anticipated smartphone announcements of the spring. That phone along with the HTC One S could finally offer some T-Mobile subscribers a reason to stay.

 

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